The Second Time Around
by cocoachristy
M (R)

Hermione sat in the Potter's living room, holding her god-daughter that she had only seen once, except through pictures. "I can't believe how much she's grown! I love the photos you send of her, but I have to say, they don't do her justice. She looks just like you, Ginny! And what a friendly girl you are," Hermione said, turning her attention to Lillian as the baby half babbled and half spoke to her.

Ginny smiled at her daughter. "Yes. I wanted her to have clear green eyes, though. But her hazel ones are beautiful."

"I like the mix," Harry added. "It's a perfect mixture of the two of us."

"Yes," Hermione agreed, glad she'd been able to hide her envy. Seeing Severus today at Hogwarts, and then later at the funeral, shook her more than she'd wanted to admit. Suddenly, Ron walked in, very much at home.

"Unca Won!" Lily exclaimed, holding up her arms for him. He was her favorite man, besides her daddy. "Bwoom!"

"Ssh, kid," Ron said in an exaggerated whisper. "You're going to get me into trouble with your mum," he told her as he lifted her and kissed her mouth noisily. "Okay, Hermione?"

Hermione shrugged. "Not really, but I don't think it's quite hit me. The funeral was lovely—or as lovely as a funeral can be. I'm glad it was the same as Professor Dumbledore's."

"It's what she wanted," Harry said. "About her will…"

"Don't start," Hermione told him. "I went to have a look, and it's a huge place. Plenty of avoidance room."

"Do you think that matters to a wanker like Snape?" Ron demanded. "He's used you before, you know, when you were vulnerable and such. I say he has no scruples and will do it again."

Embarrassed, Hermione told him, "Things have changed, Ron. I know how he feels now. Besides, I'm a big girl—I can handle myself. I know that he fooled me right and proper, but don't worry. It won't happen again."

"Not just you," Ginny said. "We all thought that the two of you would be married. Him breaking things off with you seemed to come out of the blue."

Hermione shrugged, not wanting to dwell on it. "It was a long time ago. I'm well over it now," she lied. "Besides, three months isn't truly that long."

"Long enough," Harry commented. "Hermione, we know you, so we know that you really loved the wanker. Hell, you left London when he dumped you. You're vulnerable to him."

Throwing up her hands in frustration, Hermione asked, "What do you want me to do? The will made things very clear! I don't have a choice in the matter!"

"There's always a choice," Ron said loudly, scaring his niece. "Forget the stupid house-elves, Hermione!"

Ginny turned to Ron and took her baby, setting her on the floor so that she could play with the wooden spoon and pots she so loved. "Ron," Ginny said as she laid a hand on her brother's arm, "you know it's more than just the house-elves. It's the house as well."

"Yes," Hermione said. "I loved Minerva, Ron. I can't let her property be given to the Ministry that way. She would absolutely hate that."

Harry smiled. "Yeah, she would. But, Hermione, it's Snape! You still have feelings for him—I can see it, though for the life of me I can't figure out why!"

"Listen, guys, I don't want to talk about this any longer, okay? I can't change it, and right now, I want to spend my time getting to know my god-daughter better."

"But, Hermione," Ron persisted, "I just don't want to see you hurt like that again. I mean, you didn't just leave London—you left us. I've really enjoyed having you back here, even under these sad circumstances."

"Yeah," Harry agreed. "We understand why you felt you had to go, somewhat, but did you have to cut yourself off from all of us, too?"

"Yes, I did," Hermione told them. "Don't you see? I couldn't have stood it otherwise. I couldn't have born it if I had stayed, nor could I have born it if I didn't make a clean break. As much as I love all of you, and I do love you guys so much, I had to distance myself from everything to make a go of it there. If I hadn't, I never would have made it on my own."

"Not entirely on your own." Ginny teased, wanting to lighten the tension. "You did date and have at least one relationship that I'm aware of. So, you can tell Snape to bugger off—you don't care about him or what he does!"

Hermione chose not to comment on that. Severus certainly looked liked he couldn't care less about her, but she knew one thing. Seeing him today only reopened all of those doors she thought she'd closed tightly. She was not over him—not by a long shot.

OOOOOO

Severus sat in the library of the home he would occupy for the next few months. Thinking of… her. She was due today. He'd already claimed the bedroom he wanted; first come, first serve, he said. He slightly jolted when he saw her all but fall out of the Floo, and then he scowled. "Must you be so loud and messy, Ms. Granger?"

"Sorry!" she said, blushing slightly. "I never have gotten the hang of those blasted things!" she said as she jerked her thumb towards the fireplace. "I see you've settled in."

"Yes, no point in wasting time."

"Too right. Um, I've been thinking…"

"There's a surprise," he commented sarcastically, taking his bad mood out on her because he considered it her fault.

"That we should set up some ground rules," she went on as if he hadn't spoken.

"Rules? What sort? We're both adults here, Hermione. And never fear, I don't have any plans to accost you whilst you sleep."

"I never thought that you did, Snape," she told him irritably. "I realize we're both adults; that's why I want to set up some rules. I don't want to walk in, say here or the sitting room, and find you… In flagrante delicto with some woman. I would, of course, show you the same respect."

What the fuck? The same respect? "Do you and your boyfriend have these same rules set up? How does that work for you then?"

"Boyfriend? What are you on about? I don't have a boyfriend at the moment! And if I did, it wouldn't be any concern of yours," she told him defensively.

He rose and slowly walked to her. "You expect me to believe that you're not tied to someone?"

Hermione furrowed her brow, as Severus knew she did when trying to solve a complex problem. "No. I'm not tied to anyone. Why did you think that I was?"

"Well, I'd heard from the Hogwarts gossip line that you were involved, and I knew that you'd left London after we'd… Well, after. You made it perfectly clear that you intended to marry, so I assumed that you would have someone significant in your life." His heart was beating so frantically that Severus was surprised it didn't pop out of his chest.

"No, there's no one at the present time, although I do live in America. Or I did. I lost my job when I asked for an extended leave because the institute had set up a summer program that all professors were required to work at least one month of." She sighed. "After our time here is up, it looks like I'll be job hunting."

Institute? "Couldn't you just transfer to the Ministry of Magic here? Surely they would allow that. I would imagine your record is exemplarily, not to mention the fact that the Ministry here wanted you to begin with."

"I don't understand what you mean. I work at the Salem Institute teaching Charms. Why did you think I worked for the Ministry?" she wondered aloud.

His face was suddenly filled with fury. "You mean to tell me that when I—when you left Hogwarts—you didn't take the Unspeakable job the Ministry offered you? That you wasted that opportunity? Are you quite daft?"

"How did you know about that, Severus?" she asked, forgetting at the time that she meant to call him Snape.

"It doesn't matter how. What I want to know at the moment is why? That job was perfect for you, yet you threw it away! I gave you the perfect opportunity to accept it when you were no longer living at Hogwarts!"

She fisted her hands on her hips. "I was perfect for you, and you threw what we had away! I never wanted a Ministry job! If I had, I would have taken it, regardless of where I lived. I've known that I wanted to teach since helping Ron and Harry, not to mention the others I tutored, during school."

He turned from her then, defeated. What had he done? "You mean to say that you're not in a relationship? That you're working at some school teaching Charms as you would have done at Hogwarts?"

"Yes. Severus…" She was interrupted by a knock on the door.

"Severus! It's me, Carmella! I'm just dying to see your new place, love!"

Severus visibly cringed. Carmella was the cousin of Narcissa Malfoy who had moved to London about a year ago. Not knowing anyone, Cissy had set her up with Severus. Over the past year he'd escorted her to a few functions and, when they'd both wanted it, spent a few nights with her. She, of course, had met others since moving here, and that was just fine with Severus.

He had only invited her here now to throw her in Hermione's face. From the expression on his ex-lover's face, it looked as if his ploy had worked, and she was indeed upset. He sighed, wanting to curse fate and timing. If he had known that Hermione wasn't with another man… What was she going to say just now?

"Oh," Hermione said, "I see that you have company. I'll just go and unpack my things…" She looked around the room as if she couldn't find the door to leave. "I don't suppose it matters which room I take. Of course I imagine you've set yours up," she said, repeating her earlier statement.

Severus' heart ached as she rambled on. He knew she only did that when very upset or very nervous. She was undoubtedly both at the moment, and it was his fault. "I wish to…"

"There you are!" Carmella walked into the room, full of beauty and grace, with a bit of flair thrown in, and kissed Severus hard and possessively on the mouth. "Oh, this is so lovely, Severus! Your fondest wish as well, I suspect! All of these books!"

Carmella cast a dismissive glance at Hermione Granger, who she knew, thanks to her dear cousin, was an ex of her Severus'. She'd let him dally long enough, she decided. It was time for them to commit to each other. Some jumped up Mudblood was not going to waltz back in here and take what was hers!

Severus looked at Carmella. Her long golden hair was styled flawlessly. Her perfect body was poured into deep green robes the same color as her eyes, a fact he was sure she had purposely known and worked on, and she looked exquisite. Too perfect, in fact. Not real. Nothing compared to Hermione, who stood there, still as a statue, pain reflecting in her eyes.

"Hermione, this is Carmella Smithe. Carmella, Hermione Granger." Severus introduced them, not sure of what else to say.

"Charmed," Carmella said.

Hermione didn't reply to Carmella. Instead, she looked at Severus. "I'll just get out of your way. I need to pick a room and settle in." She then turned to Severus'… friend. "It was nice to meet you," Hermione said as she walked out of the room.

"Mousy little thing, isn't she?"

"Indeed not. That 'mousy little thing,' as you put it, stood side-by-side with Harry Potter during the last battle and put down a few Death Eaters herself. There's nothing mousy about her," he told her defensively.

Carmella raised both eyebrows. "Well, well. I can add her to the short list of things that you're passionate about."

"Don't be ridiculous, Carmella. What nonsense. I was just merely correcting you. I must apologize for inviting you over. I'm afraid I wouldn't be good company today. I shall owl you later in the week."

"You would dismiss me because she was upset?" Carmella asked, enraged. "How dare you?"

"I dare because I am more tired than I expected to be, and I don't want company just now," he told her. "It has nothing to do with Hermione." She was beginning to irritate him, and he suddenly remembered why he hadn't been out with her in quite awhile.

"I would think that I am more than mere company, Severus."

He inclined his head. "You take too much for granted then, it seems. We are not a couple, nor are we lovers really. Now, I am tired, and I wish you to leave. Please, let's not surrender to dramatics," he said quickly because he knew the extent of her temper.

"Fine," she snapped. "Have it your way." Carmella walked to the door, determined to make a grand exit. Unable to help herself, she stopped at the door. "You're making a mistake," she warned him without looking back.

"I made a mistake, a grievous one, but it's one I hope to eventually correct." He watched her walk out and only felt relief.

Once Carmella had left, Severus made his way to Hermione's bedroom and quietly opened the door. He wanted to speak with her, force her to finish their earlier conversation, but when he peeked in, he found her curled up on the bed sleeping.

Severus rubbed the back of his neck, trying to fight the tension that had gathered there. Why didn't she take the Ministry job? How could she continue teaching when… He sighed, suddenly tired himself. He smiled. What would she do if I climbed into that bed with her? His smile faded almost as instantly as it had appeared. He had no right. He'd left her.

OOOOOO

Hermione woke, feeling worse than she had when she'd fallen asleep. She looked at the antique grandfather clock in the corner. Seven! Rushing to the window, she threw open the curtains to see if it was morning or evening. Evening. Thank God!

Deciding a shower was the first order of business, she got out her habitual shorts and a tank top and headed for the bathroom. When she'd finished, Hermione walked downstairs in search of food, as she was starving. She supposed that Severus and Carmella had gone out.

As she passed the library, Hermione heard the rustle of a paper. She peeked in the door and saw Severus sitting in a chair reading what she assumed was the Daily Prophet. Leaning against the door jam, the Charms professor thought, I wonder what he would do if I walked in there, sat by his feet, and put my head in his lap as I used to do when we were together at Hogwarts? That always led to some very interesting… situations.

She shook her head to try and rid herself of those sorts of thoughts and cleared her throat. When Severus turned, Hermione smiled at him, unable to get those happier memories from her mind.

He raised an inquisitive eyebrow as he looked her up and down. His gaze lingered at her thighs and then her breasts, longer than the rest of her before he finally asked, "Yes? Is there… something I can do for you?"

Merlin! "I was just wondering if you're hungry. I'm starved myself."

He stood and walked over to her, standing as close as possible without actually touching her. "Let's see what we can do then to satiate your hunger."

Hermione couldn't help it; she shuddered. Oh my! "Um… Where is your… lady friend?"

"She left," he simply answered as he started for the kitchen with her following behind him. "I found I wasn't in the mood for company after all."

"Oh. Well then, I'm sorry I disturbed you, Severus. I can raid the kitchen on my own—you don't have to bother with me. I can call on a house-elf to show me where everything is."

He stopped suddenly and turned to face her. She ran into him, and he had to grab her to keep her from stumbling. "It's not a problem," he told her with his arms still around her. "I find I am quite famished as well."

Trembling, she took a deliberate step back. It had been so long since she'd been in any man's—this man's—arms. It would bode well for her to remind herself that they didn't want the same things out of life. She wanted marriage and a family. He wanted… Well, she didn't know what he wanted exactly, but she did know it wasn't the same thing she did.

Smiling, she asked, "Do you still like grilled cheese and tomato soup?"

He took a deliberate step forward, as if he was enjoying the cat and mouse game that they seemed to be playing. "I do. You will find, Hermione, that my tastes haven't changed. I still have the same… appetite that I had before."

Oh. My. God. Is he doing this to me on purpose? Yes, of course he is. But what of Carmella? Then she remembered what he'd told her when he'd broke things off with her. 'I've never really been a one woman man, Hermione. You're crowding me. I need space.'

"It seems to me," she said more coldly than she intended, "that your appetite changes quite often."

He rubbed down her arm with one finger and watched as the goose bumps followed his touch. "Perhaps they have before, but I'm finding myself craving the things I originally… loved." He looked up and into her eyes. "I've found that my palate has accustomed itself to one… dish, you see."

Hermione put both hands on his chest and gently pushed him back. "You're crowding me, Snape. I want to eat, grab a book, and go read in my bed. You're welcome to join me of course."

Severus cocked his head to the side. "Oh, I would love to join you, my dear, but in that case, you can just skip the book."

She crossed her arms under her breasts, not realizing how that pushed them up and out with her nipples slightly showing through the fabric. "I meant that you could join me for dinner! Only dinner!"

He let his gaze wonder to her lovely breasts and purposely licked his lips before looking back to her face. "More's the pity," he said as he turned once more and walked into the kitchen to find grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup set out on the table for them.

"It would seem the house-elves heard your request," he told her as he swept his arm toward the table.

Hermione was grateful. She sat down and hastily ate her meal, wanting to get back to her room so that she could think things through. She knew one thing for sure. This is going to be one long, hot summer!

OOOOOO

Severus stood in the impromptu Potions lab he'd set up in the basement of the house. One month had already passed since he and Hermione had moved in here, and two more people had died from dragon pox. He was so close to finding a cure…

He dragged a frustrated hand through his greasy hair while he paced. It wasn't only the antidote that was keeping him frustrated! Damn Hermione Granger, and while he was at it, damn Minerva McGonagall! Putting them together in this house. That blasted woman had known better than anyone how he felt about Hermione!

Hermione… Well, she had kept him at arm's length since his attempt at seduction. He knew she had her reasons, but still. He'd broken things off with Carmella. He laughed bitterly. There wasn't really much to break off because the last few months they'd barely spoken, much less gone out. Carmella had only been persistent with him and demanding a commitment because she knew Hermione was living here with him, and the woman hated to lose at anything.

Hermione, he thought angrily. He had so many conflicting emotions when it came to that witch. On one hand, he wanted to hold her and bury himself into her, hear her screaming his name and watch her eyes glaze as she surrendered to him.

On the other, he wanted to frantically pound into her roughly, punish her for making him ache during the night, knowing she was only a few doors down from him. She ran around the house in those little shorts and skimpy tank tops, nipples proudly sticking out. It was for his torment—he knew that it was!

"Enough!" he yelled into the room. "I have got to put her out of my mind and work on this potion!"

He strode back to the makeshift lab table and began working with his calculations once more.

OOOOOO

Hermione sat in the library, pretending to read. She was highly frustrated. She wanted Severus Snape with an almost uncontrollable passion. How can I make him want me? What more can I do?

She'd thought many times of just going into his room while he was sleeping—soundly she was sure—and climbing into his bed with him. She wondered what he would do if she did. She snorted. "Likely kick me out, considering he has that Carmella cow."

She took a strand of hair and twirled it around her finger, thinking of what else she could do. Then it hit her. Dear Lord! I am sitting here contemplating how I can take Severus from another when that is exactly what happened to us when we were together! How could I behave this way? No, it's not right. Even if I wanted to be that way—he doesn't want me.

She jumped when she heard a loud and impatient knock on the door. "I'm coming; I'm coming! Jeez!"

"Hermione! It's Harry! Open up; it's an emergency!"

Hermione looked down at her clothes and winced. "Come in, Harry. I'll be right down!" She ran up the stairs just as the door opened.

"Well, well, Potter. To what do we owe the honor of your presence?" Severus drawled out. He'd come upstairs when he'd heard the frantic knocking.

"Snape!" Harry said with obvious relief. "Thank God you're here, too. Hermione! Could you come down now? I only want to say this once, and I have to hurry!"

Hermione ran down the stairs and couldn't help but smirk when Severus looked at her with narrowed eyes. She'd thrown on her jean capris and a blue button up shirt that she'd left unbuttoned,
over her white tank top, which she'd put over her bra.

"Harry, what is it? Are you all right?"

"Yes, yes! I'm fine. It's Lily!" He turned to Severus. "She's got dragon pox. Help her—please!"

Face expressionless, Severus turned to Hermione. "I've almost completed the antidote. I was working on the final calculations just now. I could use some help."

"Anything, Severus, anything at all that you need." Tears filled Hermione's eyes. "Harry…" She walked to him and put her arms around him, holding him tightly. "Where is she? Where's Ginny?"

"Gin's at St. Mungo's with Lily. I'm going there now. Just come as soon as you can."

"How long has the child been infected, Potter?" Severus asked.

"A couple of days now. At first we weren't sure what she had, and as soon as we knew… Well, I have to get back. Will you help?"

"Of course," Hermione answered for both herself and Severus "Go, Harry. Be with your family. We'll be there as soon as we can."

As soon as he left, Hermione turned to Severus. "Severus, we have to try." She looked at him with pleading eyes, wringing her hands. This angered him.

"What? Do you think I won't help that child? Do you think that I'm as heartless as that? Well, fuck you, Hermione!" He turned to walk back to the basement.

"Severus! Wait! You've misunderstood me! I didn't mean it that way. Let me help you."

He didn't answer her, but he also didn't stop her when she entered behind him. "What can I do?" she wanted to know.

Glaring at her, he said, "Start the base. I think after working with this a bit more, I will have it figured out." He completely turned his back to her. She had hurt him more than he wanted her to know by her utter lack of faith in him. She must truly think me a monster.

He stiffened when he felt a small hand on his arm. Severus still refused to look at her. "I'm so sorry, Severus. I didn't mean that I thought you would refuse. I was scared. Please don't stay angry with me." Her voice hitched, and she turned away, removing her hand from his arm.

It soon became too much, so she let the tears fall as she began the base for the potion. Between her conflicting feelings concerning Severus and her god-daughter having the same disease that killed Minerva, Hermione didn't think she could take any more. Once the base was started, she laid her head on the table and gave in to her tears.

Hermione didn't move when she felt Severus' hands on her shoulders, gently rubbing. "I'm sorry."

She only shook her head. "I can't lose her too, Severus. I've lost almost every person I've ever cared about. Mum and dad, Minerva, you. I just couldn't take it if…"

"Ssh, we won't let anything happen to her. I've been working on this potion a month now. I am almost positive that it will work. And you haven't lost me, Hermione. I'm right here."

"Yes, you're here, but you may as well be a thousand miles away. I can't—" Her words were cut off by the bell sounding that the base was ready. "Better get started. I want to get this to Lillian as soon as we can."

"Yes, as do I. I only wish we had time to test it. I hate giving this to her without making sure it will work without any harmful effects."

"Maybe one of the infected adults in St. Mungo's will agree to test it first. We can explain to them that we think we have the cure, but it's not been tested. I imagine that plenty will be willing because they will die otherwise."

"That's actually a good idea, Hermione. I will contact St. Mungo's now and Stanley. We will need legal papers signed in case anything goes wrong, saying that they were informed of the situation and agreed to it anyway."

"Yes," she said as she beamed at him. "I hadn't thought of that! Severus, do you really think that this will work? Do you think that Lily can be cured?"

"Yes, I do. We'll test it to be sure, but I have a good feeling about this." After saying that, Severus did something he hadn't done in a very long time. He placed his arms around Hermione and hugged her tightly. "I won't let you down."

"I believe you, Severus. I believe in you." She hugged him back and took in his scent. She had missed it so much.

He framed her face in his hands and kissed her lightly. "We will talk when all of this is over."

"Yes, I want to. I miss you, Severus. I miss your friendship."

"I am going to see Stanley, and then I'll meet you at St. Mungo's."

"Okay. While I'm there, I will talk to some of the patients and see who wants to try the potion. Is that okay?"

He smiled. "Yes, it is. I will see you soon." He kissed her lightly once more and left. Hermione rushed out to go to St. Mungo's.

OOOOOO

Hermione was sitting in the Potters' sitting room once more, holding Lily tightly to her. She couldn't believe that another month had already gone by. It seemed like only yesterday since they'd almost lost Lily. Hermione sighed. It was odd knowing this was the last month she would have to live in the house with Severus.

Lily patted Hermione's cheeks and batted her eyes. "Bwoom! Unca Won!"

Hermione had to laugh. "Your uncle Ron is not here, and your aunt Hermione doesn't ride on brooms."

Lily poked her bottom lip out in an adorable pout. "Wanna ride bwoom." She folded her arms across her chest and stuck her chin out.

"You're like your mummy, eh? You know what you want and are determined to have it."

"Why settle for something you don't want?" Ginny asked as she came into the room with tea and cakes.

"Mummy! Cake!" Lily squealed as she lifted her arms for cake.

"In that case," Hermione said, "I will set you down. I don't want to be covered in chocolate!"

Ginny sat and served the tea. Once they were settled, she asked, "How's it going, Hermione? You're down to the last month now. Are you ready to leave and get back to America?"

Hesitating for only a second, Hermione decided to confide somewhat in Ginny. "No, not really. I think I want to stay here."

"Oh, thank God!" Ginny said with obvious pleasure. "Harry and I—Ron as well—wanted you to stay so badly, but we wanted you to do what you felt was right for you. What will you do?"

"Well, I've spoken with the new Headmaster at Hogwarts, and they do happen to need a new Charms professor. It seems the one that they had came into a sudden monetary inheritance. He's going to travel around the world, I'm told."

"Wow, that's… odd actually." Ginny laughed. "You don't hear of that happening often, you know."

"Yes, I know! Especially in the wizarding world. Severus thought it was a bit odd, too, but he is happy I am coming back."

"Severus? That sounds interesting. How are you two getting on these days?"

"Much better," Hermione told her. "We're friends again. I've missed him, you know."

"Hermione, be careful, yeah? The last time you were… tangled up with him, he devastated you. I just don't want you to be hurt. You've almost come to the terms of the will, so hang in there."

"We're just friends, Gin, but I will admit—to you—I'm still in love with him. I don't think I'll ever stop loving him. That part hurts because I don't think he feels the same. So, I'll have to settle for friendship. Don't worry; I'll be okay. I promise," Hermione insisted at Ginny's bland look.

"I know how it hurts to be so in love with someone who doesn't return your feelings, and I know how badly you took it when Professor Snape broke things off with you. Just… watch after yourself."

"Ginny, you are married to Harry. He does love you. So much. You know this."

"Yes, now. But, Hermione, he didn't always. You know that—even better than I do. He went through so much at such a young age. And there were plenty of other girls." Ginny smiled. "We both know that. I broke my heart over Harry plenty of times. The only thing I can say about you and the professor is this. If you want him, talk to him. Perhaps he just needed time like Harry did."

"I agree. We were supposed to talk after everything calmed down with Lillian and the other infected patients." Hermione looked at her god-daughter, who had fallen asleep on the floor, and smiled. "But when the antidote was a success, we didn't have the time really. Severus is finding he doesn't care for fame, although he doesn't mind the fortune."

Ginny laughed. "Who can blame him? Will he go back to teaching when the new school term starts?"

"Yes. He wouldn't know how to do anything else, and though he complains, he wouldn't want to."

"So, you'll be at Hogwarts together again?" Ginny looked at her and wiggled both eyebrows, and it reminded Hermione of the twins.

"Well, not together. I mean, I will have my rooms, he will have his." Hermione frowned. How odd it would be not to live with him after all this time, especially at Hogwarts.

Ginny laid her hand over her friends when she noted the troubled expression on Hermione's face. "Talk to him."

Hermione smiled. "We'll see."

OOOOOO

Hermione walked into the house to find Severus sleeping on the couch in the library. She walked to him and gently brushed the hair off of his face. She startled when his hand jerked out and grabbed her wrist. "Taking advantage of me while I sleep, are you?"

Hermione blushed. "No! I was just… I mean, I thought you were…" She sighed. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to wake you."

He gave her wrist a tug and had her tumbling on top of him. "Why don't you join me?"

Hermione was torn. She wanted him so badly, but what of Carmella? She decided to be honest. "What of your…" Well, what did she call her? Girlfriend? Lover? Lady friend?

When the pause went on too long, he asked, "My?"

"Carmella. What of her?"

Severus put both arms around her. "We broke things off a few weeks ago. Had I known that was one of the things holding you back, I would've told you sooner."

"Of course it was holding me back! I know how it feels…" Hermione could've happily bitten off her tongue. She hadn't meant to bring up the past; she only wanted to start over.

"I want to confess something to you, Hermione. It is going to anger you, but I want you to know." He tightened his grip so that she couldn't move off of him, as he knew she would once he told her the truth.

"There never was anyone else for me after I was with you. There never was another woman."

She stiffened. "What? You're lying! Don't lie; there's no need to! I don't want to talk of the past, just the future."

"Without the truth of the past, we have no future!" When she tried to rise, he flipped them so that he was on top of her, holding her in place.

"I lied to you then so that you would go."

"You wanted to be rid of me so badly that you lied about having another woman? Damn it, Severus! Let me go!"

"No! I won't willingly let you go again, ever. I wanted you to have the future I thought I was holding you back from! I thought you wouldn't take that blasted Ministry job because of me. I…" He stopped. He'd never spoken the words out loud to her, though he'd felt them for a long time.

Hermione didn't speak. Not because she was waiting for an expression of love. It was because she knew that speaking when her anger was so riled would be a horrendous mistake.

Severus sighed, correctly judging her mood. He decided to come clean with the rest of it and let the chips fall where they may. He'd already lost her once through lies. He didn't have her now to lose her through the truth. "I loved you enough to want you to be happy, even if your happiness didn't involve me."

Hermione was fuming after that statement. She took a deep breath. "Do you know how miserable I have been without you for the past three years? How I've longed for you, especially these past three months living here? Oh, how I've dreamed of hearing you say that you love me, and this is how you tell me? Resignedly?"

"I don't know what else to say to you. I can't change the past, Hermione. I will admit I should have handled the entire situation differently."

"How magnanimous of you," she bit out sarcastically.

He chose to ignore her sarcasm. "Hermione, the past is done. I want to know if there is a future for us."

She wanted to rant and rave, but to what end? She wanted him back and loved him as she never had any other. For some reason, she thought of her parents, remembering the night when she'd finally accepted the fact that they were dead. Hermione had thought that the hole in her heart would never be filled. Only one person could, and he was right here, confessing his love. "God, I hope so! I do love you, you git. Just promise me you'll never lie to me again—that we will talk things out!"

He hugged her closer to him and kissed her. The gentleness he was showing soon became desperation. He'd wanted her for so long, and his feelings had only intensified while living here with her.

"Severus," Hermione moaned in his ear, a sound that caused his cock to answer her before he could utter a sound. The intensity made them both tremble.

"I want you. God, Hermione, let me have you."

"Yes, we'll have each other," she agreed, pulling out her wand to quickly rid them of their clothes. "Don't," kiss, "try," kiss, "to make," kiss, "it special. Just hurry, Severus. Hurry and love me."

"I already do," he said as he slipped into her welcoming wetness and held still, reveling in being one with her once again.

Hermione began to shudder and, when she couldn't take any more, began to frantically pump her hips. "Oh, God, I've missed this. I've missed you!"

"Don't think I didn't notice that you said you missed me second after making love," he teased between pants and then groaned when he felt her tighten around him and send him blissfully over the edge.

They lay on the couch, happily sated and in each other's arms. As an afterthought, Severus grabbed the throw on the back and covered them. He had no intentions of moving for a long while.

"Finally!" A familiar voice said from over the fireplace. "I thought you two would never cover yourselves!"

"Minerva?" they both yelled at the same time.

"Yes, Minerva. And…"

"Albus!" came a cheery voice from the same direction.

When Severus and Hermione looked up, there was a lovely portrait of the both of them that had not been visible until now. "What is going on here?" Severus demanded as he pulled the throw tighter around himself and Hermione.

Albus laughed. "We thought the two of you would never get to this point while living here!"

"Shagging?" Hermione asked, shocked. "You… spied on us?"

"Certainly not!" Minerva humphed. "We know the valor of discretion, Hermione. We thought you would never admit your love for one another!"

"That is why the portrait is visible to you now, you see," Albus happily explained. "That was all it would take for the two of you to be able to see us. We're happy that you finally did."

"Well, I for one would be happier if I were… more presentable," Severus complained.

Hermione ignored him and asked, "Minerva, why did you choose Severus and me to live here? You knew we'd broken up."

"Because I knew you both still loved each other, and I hoped that living here together would get the two of you to see it, among other things."

"Well, I can't be mad at you for that—it worked! But, Merlin, your ancestor was a hard man making that stipulation for the inheritance of this house…" Hermione stopped. If a portrait could blush, both Minerva and Albus were both doing so.

"What?" Severus asked, also seeing the ashamed look on both faces.

"Well, you see," Minerva started.

"We sort of skimmed the truth a bit there," Albus finished.

"Sort of?" Severus asked.

"There was no stipulation!" Minerva admitted. "It was the only way we could think of to get the two of you together. When it became apparent that I was not going to make it, I spoke with Albus' portrait at Hogwarts, and we came up with this plan."

"And what a brilliant plan it was! Why, just look at the two of you!" Albus said, pleased with himself.

Hermione had to smile. "I have to say, if I wasn't so happy right now, I'd lock the two of you in the attic."

"I still may!" Severus said.

"Oh?" Hermione turned to him. "You don't like the way things turned out then?"

"I do. I don't appreciate the meddling. But," he continued somewhat louder before she could interrupt, "I concede the point that we likely wouldn't have made it to this point without them, so I will allow them to stay put."

"So, you won't sell my home?" Minerva asked hopefully.

Severus softened. "No, we won't, Minerva. We'll live here during the holidays and summers. The children will love it here, I expect."

"Children?" Hermione asked.

"You've said from the start you wanted a husband and family. Have you changed your mind?" Severus inquired.

"Well, no, but, I didn't think—"

"Marry me, Hermione. Make a family with me."

"Yes," she agreed, her eyes filling with happy tears. "I'd love to!"

They began to kiss, never noticing the portrait dimming as the couple inside smiled the smug smile of a job well done.

The End