AN: I suck for not producing this sooner. Gomen. Hope you like.
She would graduate in a month.
He knew what would happen next. When he'd found himself in this same situation with Lily he'd lived with the overwhelming weight of hope that he'd one day be forgiven, that there would be another chance. There was no hope this time, now there was only the inevitability her leaving for good, marrying some lack-luster idiot and having his children. At least the idiot this time wasn't a Potter, even if he was a run-of-the-mill Gryffindor lackey.
Sharp eyes and ears were very helpful for pathetically spying on the above mentioned lackey fumble over himself to let Hermione win their game of chess. The whole scene was quite special really, Weasley's tattered cloak so heroically thrown on the ground to protect Hermione from the dangers of grass, his cheerful voice congratulating her on her excellent moves and how positively miserable he was to be losing so soundly to her absolute genius. Ever so often the lout would even let his hand rest ever so gently on hers. Snape could see her blush from here.
Fine. She obviously had what she wanted now.
After a month or so of avoiding him because of that horrific affair in the Room of Requirement, she had had the gall to visit him in his office and bring the whole embarrassing business up again by apologizing .
"I shouldn't have stolen your letters." Her eyes were on the ground, she hadn't even looked at him when he'd opened the door. "I'm so terribly sorry that I violated your privacy like that, I ... just," her eyes darted about to glance at everything but him. "I just wanted to understand you, and what was going on, I needed to understand."
"What are you prattling about, Ms. Granger?" he drawled, looking down at her with a look of pure, cold disdain and boredom. He'd practiced this look. The slight snarl, the narrowed eyes, he could freeze the air with this look.
"I'm apologizing for sneaking into your room to take the letters you wrote to me. It was wrong and I'm asking for your forgiveness." Her voice held only the tiniest hint of pleading, but she still didn't look him in the eye.
"Breaking into a professor's room is grounds for expulsion, Ms. Granger. Perhaps, you'd like to reconsider this extraordinary fabrication of yours before sharing it with anyone else? Particularly when this fantasy of yours includes impugning my character."
Hermione's wide eyes flashed to his. Stupid, for her hurt and worry to be so obvious, anyone could take advantage of them.
"Get out, you stupid, silly girl and don't bother me with this again."
Blotchy red spots appeared on her cheeks as she turned in silence to leave, somehow even her hair managed to look more flustered.
She'd left quickly and from that moment had stopped trying to avoid him except to stay out of his class. However, she also stopped acknowledging his presence at all.
Now she was with that simpering moron, having some sort of chess picnic or other such nonsense. Well, he didn't have to let that continue.
"Mr. Weasley, " Snape was pleased to see the languid frame twitch in surprise, "Fifteen points for taking school property out of the castle. Ten more points if you do not return the chess set immediately." Ron's protest lived a hopeful, but incredibly tiny expanse of time before dying on his lips at the sight of Snape's dark scowl.
When Hermione made it obvious she intended to stay behind Snape growled, "Yes, Ms. Granger?" without taking his glare off of the retreating Ron.
"We're still on school grounds. There's no reason to not let us play with the chess set here."
"If you don't like the rules then buy your own damn chess set." He replied while still avoiding her eyes.
He didn't let his surprise or hurt show, he wouldn't let her take advantage of his emotions.
"Twenty points, for insulting a professor, Ms. Granger." He said softly, finally looking up at her. Snape saw what he had expected to, arms folded over her chest, jaw set, narrowed eyes. She was hardened now and nothing he did was going to effect her anymore. She was done. Moving On. At least he'd known what to expect this time around. She began to storm off.
It would be pointless try to stop her as she walked up the hill to go back into the castle.
She stopped, but she didn't turn around. Snape felt somewhere near his heart jolt painfully. He didn't know what he was doing, and this could all go so much worse if he didn't stop himself now.
"I don't love you." was all he could think of to say. Hearing this she started back up the hill, but he ran to step in front of her.
"I don't love you, but I..." He stared at her helplessly without any response. She was too close and he shivered involuntarily as a wisp of her hair blew with the light wind across his cheek. "I know you."
"Oh that's fantastic!" she burst out, her hands flying up. "You know me, just great. How is this supposed to work? I wait years for you to open up, to let me know you? And in the mean time I just deal with your insults and insecurity? Then what? I wait even more for you to act on this?"
" This? There hasn't been any this and you never gave any indication that you wanted things to be any different."
" 'What did you want with all this?' " Snape mocked in a high-pitched tone. "As if you couldn't figure out what I wanted when it should have been obvious. I'm the insecure one? Between the two of us, you've had the definite advantage in knowing what the other wanted. Instead of trying to defend myself from your constant questioning, I should have asked, 'what did you want with all your questioning?' "
In his tirade he had moved to loom over her. The wind occasionally blew his cloak to wrap momentarily around her, giving him the briefest feeling of her belonging to him. However, she was now too close and the determined look in her eyes gave him a disconcerting feeling in his chest.
"I wanted you," she whispered, " as if you couldn't have figured that out." And then she stood on tip-toe, her hand moved involuntarily to his collar-bone to steady herself as she leaned towards him. He could feel her soft fingertips burning their presence onto the skin of his neck. Hermione Granger was going to kiss him.
"Don't." The word was choked out, forced. "You really don't understand with whom you're involving yourself. I was not lying when I said I wasn't a hero. I really am a difficult man."
"No shit." She grinned. She was enjoying the fact that even though he hadn't let her kiss him, she was still touching him and he had moved his arm to almost enclose her in his cloak. His look said he wasn't joking though.
"I'm serious, don't believe you can 'save me' with some misguided belief in the redeeming power of your affection. I'm unlikely to change."
"That's a lie, you're the most changeable person I know. And besides, I don't want you to change who you really are, I just want you to be more honest about it, at least with me if not everyone. That's not being 'saved'."
This was met with only a cautious raise of an eyebrow.
"Don't say I'm 'saving' you then. You can save me instead. Save me from accepting the mediocre in life because it would be easy and comfortable." She moved further into his arms. "You can't pretend you wouldn't make life a more interesting challenge."
"Well, at least I won't let you just win at chess." His tiny smirk was interrupted by her succeeding this time in actually kissing him. It was quick, and just a little awkward, but it held something Severus Snape had thought he'd lost forever: hope.
AN: And that's pretty much it. I have an idea for an epilogue but it'll be a while before I have a chance to write it. I should mention that I wanted to end the story before Snape says, "wait", but I couldn't think how'd they'd ever come back from that and I didn't want him to end things like that. So perhaps some OOC, meh. Thanks for reading!