The usual disclaimers apply.

xx

"You're not serious," Minerva stared at him in astonishment.

"As a heart attack," he replied in a voice that could freeze over hell. "Would you get out now?"

"I will not accept it," she huffed and got up in a billow of her robes that was reminiscent of him. "People here trust you."

"Yes, yes," he drawled. "Absolutely. Get out."

She shook her head and stormed out of his office. Insufferable man. Ask a simple question and he reacts with a resignation. How very dramatic. There was absolutely no doubt in her mind that he could go through with it – but why?

It couldn't have only been because she had asked – because she suspected that Hermione and he – were something more than just student and teacher, or could it?

It was true that some of the teachers still did not really talk to him, but that hadn't been different before all that ugly business, that nobody had trusted to give him the spot as Head of Slytherin any more – though she could not remember the exact reason for this. He wasn't the most likeable of characters, especially when he didn't let people getting to know him.

But she had tried again, hadn't she? And her apology had most definitely not been hypocritical.

Minerva knew that his decision had something to do with Hermione – and she would probably tell her.

No, she did not want to lose Severus – not as a teacher – and not as someone she trusted.

Because – for Merlin's sake – she did. She had turned to him when she had to decide about Ab and he had helped.

Had he forgotten about that again? How could she tell him that? She hadn't talked to anyone but him about this.

"Resignation," she huffed to herself. "No way."

xx

"No fair Dotty today?" Abe asked Harry as he walked into the Head after ordering more butterbeer from his supplier.

"No, no fair Dotty. She went to London with her aunt. Madam Rosmerta has decided to show her the difference between Scotland and England – since she still has it in her head that Hogsmeade's in England," he replied chucklingly.

"Interesting," Abe chuckled as well and summoned a cup of tea from the kitchen.

"She wants to move in together with me," Harry sighed.

"And is that so bad? Don't make my mistake, Harry."

"No, it's not that but it's been such a short time and I don't have a flat or house here."

Abe chuckled again. "Do you think I don't realise when she spends the night here? Or that Rosmerta doesn't? Trust me, we both do and if we had complaints, neither she nor I would have hesitated to say something."

Harry blushed. "Oh."

"Yes, oh. Still, we do not mind. And if you want to expand your room, or make a second one, just let me know. This old house is a bit tricky with the spells."

"Ab!" there was the loud yell of his wife from the backroom and he looked questioningly at Harry.

"My dear wife seems to have trouble again," he smirked and wanted to push the door open, when his formidable Erva stomped into the room herself.

"He's resigned now," she cried and threw her hands in the air. "He just resigned."

xx

Severus's mind was working at triple, quadruple, maybe, speed. Resigned. On a whim. He never did things on a whim. He always thought things through, twice at least. Why not now?

He should have never returned – that was the simple answer. Some things, Weasley was right, were not forgiven, even by the truth. Some things, like pretending to betray the cause, like killing the figure of the Light, the most popular headmaster of the last 500 years, no, this was not forgiven. No matter how many pensieved memories he let people see, no matter how many times he agreed to be questioned under Veritaserum. He should have never returned. He should have left after he had been healed. No matter what.

He knew that this would cause – trouble. He had no other income. He had the house in Spinner's End – and even if he tried to sell it, he couldn't get enough money to even buy something similar. Nobody wanted to live in such an area these days. He could always go there, start a new potions company under a fake name.

He could do that. Leaving Hogwarts, leaving the home he had lived in for such a long time. No, he would do this. Not that he needed a lot to live on – a bit of food and maybe, maybe he could trick a house elf into coming with him – that would simplify it.

And if all of that did fail – he could always – well – always – think of something. If all else failed, he would start his own pub. If Potter could do it, he could.

He pulled a fresh piece of parchment from the stack and dipped his quill deeply into the inkwell.

Headmistress,

I hereby tender my formal resignation effective this next Friday, March the 13th 1999.

Severus Snape, M.A.P.

Mercury would take it up – and he would begin to pack up his things.

xx

She had told the entire story – had left nothing out – not the Howler, not Ronald Weasley's spell, not the way Hermione had barely been able to walk, and not her own stupid questions.

She was very aware of the fact that Harry's temper grew – and that he was ready to hex his former best friend into oblivion but since she kept talking, he had no chance.

"He's been expelled," she said sharply when she saw red spots appearing on his neck. "And Hermione is in the hospital wing. And she'll be fine."

"And you let Snape leave?" he asked testily. "He's Hogwarts inventory."

She sighed. "No, I don't want to let him leave."

"So?"

"Harry," Aberforth's tone was placating. "If Severus has something in his head, it's really difficult to get it out again. And even my Erva can't change his mind."

"I want to. I don't want to lose him," Minerva cried. "I don't. But I know that some of the teachers up there," she pointed vaguely at where Hogwarts was, "they will celebrate when he's gone. They will and there's nothing I can do to stop him."

"You're the bloody headmistress, of course you can. And you should have never allowed Ron back. See where that brought Hermione. With slipped discs and in the hospital wing," Harry began to pace. "I have never been Snape's biggest fan but without him, Hogwarts will not be the same. And heaven forbid someone would have told me I'd ever say this a year ago. But it's the truth. And I have seen his memories. Do you know where he will go to? Where he will stay? What he will do? I've been out of this Hogwarts-bubble. And it's not like teachers glaring at other teachers. Do you know that Draco Malfoy was actually spat at here – just the day before yesterday? A woman spat in his face. He might have been a git and might have done evil things but nobody deserves this. Do you know what will happen to Snape if he leaves Hogwarts?"

"I don't want him to leave, Harry," Minerva put her face in her hands – and a moment later, was hugged from behind by her husband.

"Harry, let it go," Aberforth glared at the young man and Minerva felt strong hands rubbing her upper arms and a kiss pressed against her neck.

"I haven't done enough for him," she turned in her husband's arms and wrapped her arms tightly around his waist. "I just haven't done enough."

xx

It was silent in all the corridors but Severus knew that he still had to be careful. He really did not want to be caught when he went to see a student in the hospital wing. He had not gone to lunch, had not gone to dinner. Had taught his classes – had packed up two shelves worth of books. And she had been on his mind.

Leaving Hogwarts would mean leaving her – not able to see her every day any more.

And that was why he had to see her now, even if she was sleeping. Making sure she was fine, she was alright.

He opened the door to the infirmary silently and once more, cast a silencing spell on himself. But no, there was nobody in there – nobody but her and he saw her immediately, laying on her back, her eyes closed, her chest moving in sync with her even breathing. He moved closer – hoping that Pomfrey was not there and conjured a chair to the side of her back.

'Tell her,' the voice reminded him gently.

He didn't bother answering, just looked at her in silence – her face less peaceful than it had been and he suspected that she was in pain – or had a nightmare. Severus knew that he shouldn't be there, that he shouldn't watch her while she was asleep. But this was different than it had before when she had fallen asleep in his office – he somehow, somehow, felt entitled to be there – entitled to touch her and daringly, he took her hand and laced his fingers through hers.

She sighed in her sleep but did not wake and her facial expression relaxed a little.

'You can't go without telling her,' the voice reminded him.

'I don't plan to,' the replied back in his head, 'but I don't know how.'

He stroked her fingers – watched her sleep, no, he wasn't leaving because of her. If it had only been her – he would have stayed for sure. For her, yes. But after all – it was not only her – it was a sum of things, many. And right now, her – and the lack of a job – were the only two points that spoke for staying.

He reached out slowly and and brushed a strand of hair from her forehead, his fingers barely ghosting over her skin. Severus looked at her – looked and looked and looked. The quietness of the infirmary – and her, lying flat on her back, like a corpse almost – sent chills down his spine. He closed his eyes briefly, trying to find out exactly what he was feeling. An emptiness inside, a sense of losing something precious.

'Who says you'll lose her if you go?' the voice asked – and once more, it was gentle, kind. Not the annoying one he had gotten to know through the weeks.

'She will think I go because of her,' he thought.

'Then you have to make sure that she does not think that.'

'I don't know how. I don't know how to tell her.'

'You have to be honest with her. That's the only way.'

He sighed inwardly. 'I haven't talked to someone openly in years.'

'Since Lily, yes,' the voice replied evenly. 'But it's high time. Hermione will not hurt you the way Lily did. Hermione's different from her and you know it. You and Lily were complete opposites, you and Hermione are two halves that complement each other.'

'Stop being so utterly sentimental,' he scolded mildly.

'I'm not. It's just the way you really feel underneath all those layers of snark, and pretended evilness and behind those walls you built around yourself. That's why you're leaving, Snape. Now that you've had a glimpse of what it can be to have a friend – and a girl – you cannot bear to see all those people hating you, despising you. You've had a touch of what life can be..."

'Utter rot,' he thought viciously. 'This is not about that.'

'Then what is it about?'

'About never should have stayed in the first place. It was idiocy. Imagine killing the headmaster and staying on as teacher. That's the most dunderheaded thing anyone could have ever done. The stupidity. Killing, murdering the person that defined the school – and still being a teacher.'

'You didn't murder him,' the voice soothed. 'And you had no choice.'

'I spoke the words,' he argued and gripped Hermione's hand subconsciously a little tighter, 'I lifted my wand, I had the intention of killing him.'

'You had no choice, he would have died no matter what.'

Severus sighed again – aloud this time – without him noticing and shook his head a little. 'All the more reason to go. Everyone, and I do mean everyone, believes that I wanted to do it nevertheless.'

'You didn't.'

'Of course I didn't. I know this – you know this – but nobody else does.'

'Minerva does.'

Severus looked up to the ceiling. 'Minerva's brain is befuddled and full of love and romance and hearts and flowers. And she dislikes Albus at the moment for keeping her love away from him.'

'Or maybe because she knows the entire story.'

'No,' he argued. 'No. Everyone knows the story from Potter.'

'From Potter. Not from you. Nobody but Minerva and your Hermione here have any close contact to you.'

He growled, his other hand, instinctively, grasping Hermione's other.

'Still, if there's someone who will understand, who will stand by your side, it's Hermione. I'll stand by that,' the voice urged. 'She will probably get angry – but in the end, she's a sensible girl.'

'Woman,' he replied rapidly and his eyes fell on her again.

In that exact moment, her eyes began to flutter open and she turned her head.

"Hey," she whispered groggily.

"Hello," he replied and – he didn't trust himself in that moment – smiled.

"I think Pomfrey dosed me with a sleeping draught," she groaned and tried to roll on her side. "I don't think there was pain reliever in it."

"Weasley's been expelled," he rubbed his thumb over her palm. "He was sent to his parents," he added – relaying what he had heard from his sixth years.

"Okay," she yawned. "About time to," she seemed to wake up and smiled back at him. "What time is it, by the way?"

He slowly pulled his hand out of hers – and the pocket watch out of his coat. "Half one."

"Already?" she frowned. "Do you think I can leave? I don't like the smell of the hospital wing. It's even worse than muggle hospitals and I hate the smell there too."

"I couldn't say and I don't want Pomfrey to see me," he whispered and very slowly, touched her cheek, his fingertips stroking softly over her skin, up to her cheekbone, her eyebrow, her forehead.

"No, I don't think I want her here now either," she whispered huskily and groaning, she turned to her side. "Couldn't you sleep?" she asked suddenly.

He knew it was a lie if he said yes now – he was tired – and didn't doubt that he could sleep – closing the gritty eyes – but telling her that he wanted to see her, make sure she was fine was – too much. "No I couldn't sleep."

She smiled and her hand wandered to his face, his cheek, cupping it. "I'm happy you're here."

He closed his eyes for a moment and enjoyed her warm fingers on his cheek. The darkness, her on her side now – he wanted to do nothing more than to lie down next to her, pulling her to him, having her in his arms and her head on his chest. But no – he shouldn't give in to all his wishes.

'Tell her now,' the voice urged again.

xx

She couldn't remember ever having been able to see the emotions so clearly showing on his face, in his eyes. Maybe it was the darkness, maybe the fact that she had to look up at him, maybe her sleep-befuddled brain but he seemed uneasy – confused – and fighting with something deep within.

"Severus?" she asked a little anxiously, "are you alright?"

He nodded. "Fine. Is the pain bearable?"

She nodded as well. "No walk in the park but – yes, bearable." It was still painful – very much so and she knew it would be better if he would just lie down next to her, take her in his arms, kiss the pain away – but how could she tell him that she wanted it – without being too forward?

"Did he say anything?" she asked cautiously.

"Not that I am aware of," he replied evenly apparently, something had won the fight inside – though what – and what it was about, she didn't know, "but I didn't talk to the headmistress after she had expelled him."

"Okay," she frowned, then sighed.

"Are you sleepy?" he asked softly.

"Not at all," she replied and pulled his hand a little closer – lifted it to her face and kissed a finger.

"You should nevertheless try and sleep for a bit longer."

She shook her head – and felt almost like a petulant little child. "You can't sleep either." And – she didn't want to stay in the hospital wing.

She pulled both her hands away from him and, with a little difficulty, sat up.

"Hermione," he hissed, "lie back down."

"I leave," she looked down at herself and summoned her wand wandlessly, and then transfigured the hospital gown in decent clothes. "Accio robes," spoke softly.

"You can't leave," Severus stood up and in front of her, glaring down. "Lie back down."

"I will. In my room. Not here," she hissed back and a second later, her robes sailed into her hands. "You can either help me or not but I'm not staying here."

"Stop acting like a child," he whispered sharply. "And lie back down." He raised his wand and transfigured her clothes back into the hospital gown.

"Severus," she glared at him – but suddenly, another wave of pain hit her in the back and she grimaced.

"See?" he took the robes from her hands and vanished them. "Will you now lie back down?"

Petulantly, she sat back down – but found the position a whole less comfortable and fell back on her back.

"I'll kill him for this," she hissed.

"Yes," he replied evenly.

xx

He still battled with himself – he knew eventually, he would have to tell her – about his leaving, about the Potions magazine. He knew he would have to – sooner rather than later. The Potions magazine could wait until it had been published – then he had something in his hands to tell her – but his leaving? As soon as Minerva would find the letter, this would go around the school, everyone would know eventually – and he knew it wasn't fair not to tell her himself.

'Courage, Snape. What are you, a chicken?' the voice hissed.

"I resigned," he said suddenly.

"What?"

"Mercury brought my letter of resignation to the headmistress this afternoon. I resigned."

"I don't – what?"

He sighed. "You're supposedly the brightest witch of your age. I quit this job."

She looked utterly confused. Utterly. "Why? When? When are you leaving?"

He rubbed his forehead, then looked at his fingers. "Friday."

"Friday? This Friday?"

"Yes."

"You're joking. This is a bad joke, right?" her eyes were wide open and she pushed herself up on her elbows.

"Do I look like someone who's joking to you?"

"Madam Pomfrey dosed me with something. This is not happened. It's a hallucination. You're asleep in your bed, I'm asleep, not happening. You never came up here, right? You're just what I wish to see and now my brain's letting me know that this is not happening by you telling me something absolutely outrageous," she settled back down. "Okay, I got it."

"No dream, Hermione," he glowered. "I am leaving Hogwarts on Friday."

She reached out and touched his face, his cheek, his lips, his nose, his eyes. "You're really here. And you're leaving Hogwarts on Friday. Well done, Professor Snape," she clenched her jaw, and with a look of conviction pushed herself up in a sitting position and swung her legs to the side of the bed.

"Lie back down," he said sternly.

"I don't think so," she said through clenched teeth. "You can't tell me to lie down now."

"Hermione," he knew he sounded like a teacher again – like an angry, annoyed teacher.

"Don't follow me," she said and in obvious pain, limped out of the infirmary – in only her hospital gown.

xx