The usual disclaimers apply.
He let his fingers glide over the tomes he had just put back into their rightful shelves at Hogwarts. This was where those books belonged, and oddly enough, he felt that this was where he belonged. Those were his rooms – his alone – and they had their old feel back, the feel they had before he had made the mistake of marrying in the first place. No, truly, this was it. This was where he was supposed to be, and this was what he was supposed to be. Alone, in the dungeons, scaring students, collecting books.
He wasn't, by far, the only teacher at Hogwarts that would lead that sort of life, he wasn't the only one who was unmarried and unattached. Plenty of his colleagues were, and if he truly longed for company, he knew that he could always give unjustified detention to too many students and Minerva would be sweeping down to the dungeons to reprimand him. And that had usually led to a game of chess and a bottle of elf-made wine shared between them. That's the way he had been before he had married that woman and it would be that way again. At least he hoped so.
Egypt had done him good, he knew. He had brought a distance between himself and the rest of English Wizardkind. He had dabbled in alchemy – only a bit, mind – and had brewed, had read, had had discussions with Egyptian potioneers and alchemists, had even had sex with a busty French woman – Muggle – who had been on vacation and whom he had met at the Egyptian Museum on mere chance. It had been time – it had been impersonal, it had been good.
And he had been good – in the sense that he did not imagine that woman being Hermione. No. Hermione was off his mind completely. And nothing, absolutely nothing reminded him of her any more. He had even burned the two letters he had written in a drunken stupor. Hermione was most definitely off his mind.
She had debated with herself. For days, or for weeks, she wasn't sure which. But she had made her decision, eventually, and oddly enough, her daughter had sort of helped. She had, compared to the last months, nothing, absolutely nothing to lose. And everything to gain. She would be smart about it, she had thought it through. Again and again and again.
And she had talked to Aleia again. Had asked her again. And that woman, close to exploding, due to being over her due date, had explained in all detail why she gathered that Severus was in love with her. And Aleia, a bit annoyed, had still humoured her. About him hugging her, about him looking at her that way, about him talking about her, and a million other little things she suspected, she had noticed.
But Aleia could be wrong. Or he had found himself a nice, quiet girl wherever he had been. Or Aleia had been right, and the time away had made him fall out of love with her.
Didn't matter, she knew, as she pulled on her prettiest robes after putting Leonard in his baby ones. She would see, she would pay attention, and she had a plan. Hermione had a plan and she was not a Gryffindor for nothing. She was ready to gamble. And no, she had nothing to lose at all.
Severus put the cup and saucer on the arm of his chair and sighed deeply, contentedly, looking around. This was his living room. Full of books, full of the smell of English Breakfast with a little milk. The enchanted windows showing a magnificent view of the Lake.
He had unlaced his boots, had toed them off, had them laying discarded on the floor, and had pulled the footstool closer, rested his feet on them. It felt good, even though, he had to admit, it was a bit chilly. But then again, he was used to African climate, not Scottish winter – in the dungeons. He had made a fire and it crackled wonderfully. It was early afternoon but since it had snowed all day long (and all of yesterday when he had arrived late in the evening), it was rather dark out and the fire added to the new feeling of cosiness he had in those rooms. Cosiness he had not felt during all this time when his ex wife had lived there with him. The living room had always been so full with her there and he had noticed in Egypt, how much he had missed the quietness. And just having the peace, sitting down and reading a book in quiet without someone wanting to talk all the time.
He knew a few months ago, he would have given his right arm to discussing everything he read with Hermione, would have given his right arm to having that boy around in his quarters, maybe seeing him learning to crawl, or walk. But that had been a few months ago.
Now – he was content just sitting there, enjoying this next to last day before the students arrived again, reading. And he found himself actually looking forward to teaching again, looking forward to seeing students agonising over the tasks he set them – and up to their elbows in cauldrons during detention. He could not explain why, but he did.
He leant back, raised the cup up to his lips and took a sip of his strong tea, closing his eyes, when, a heartbeat later, there was a knock on his door.
And that was it with his peace.
Rose and Hugo were with their grandparents at the Burrow. They'd stay the night, return to their cottage then, stay there for one night, then go back to Hogwarts. She knew it was a little selfish of her (not that the two of them didn't want to go to the Burrow, they did) but this was the day. This was when she would do it. The perfect day, and she could get into Hogwarts without any problems. Especially since she had told Minerva that she might come and visit her.
She smiled at her son, sitting on her hip, playing with the fastening of her robes, and he looked incredibly cute in his tiny baby-robes and the smile on his face, or the frown when the fastening didn't do what he wanted it to do. Like a young version of her Uncle Albert, honestly.
She took a deep breath when she stood in front of the door. That door. "This is it," she whispered to her baby, straightening his robes, then straightening her robes, in the last moment before the door opened and she knew. Without having to ask, she knew.
He stood, and he wasn't sure whether his jaw dropped, or if he clenched it. She stood there, and everything came rushing back, every single feeling of longing and desperation at not being able to be with her. The need to wrap her in his arms – and the need to hold the baby. His godson, he had not forgotten, had grown so much and smiled at him. The boy, the little little boy smiled unassumingly at him, and suddenly, as if by magic, he raised his arms from around his mother's neck and towards him.
"Hello Severus," Hermione suddenly whispered. "May we come in?"
He felt himself nod and step aside and suddenly, the boy was in his arms. Severus had probably never been so dumbstruck in all his life. He had not even said hello yet.
"Hello," he said, and the child wrapped his little, chubby arms around his neck.
"How've you been?" she asked gently and pointed at her robes. "Do you mind? It is rather warm in here."
He shook his head and could not believe himself. He was like a love-struck teenager around her, suddenly. All those months away, all that time that he had thought he was over her, he had been wrong. One look at her, with her curls pulled back and up, her eyes shining and so obviously happy to see her, radiant, happy, looking at him, almost tenderly. She unclasped her robes and stood there, beautiful and it had not helped at all.
He groaned. Quietly, to himself but she had heard him and she smiled, so radiantly, so happily at him, and took a step towards him. "Do you mind if he crawled around a bit?"
He shook his head – had still not quite found his voice. And how could he? When she accidentally, brushed her hand over his chest and he only now realised that he was without shoes and without coat. Just a shirt and trousers and socks.
She took the baby from him, whispering something about goddaddy that he did not hear, then turned back at him.
"You got a little colour. Where were you?"
"Egypt," he muttered. "In Cairo."
"Oh, how lovely," she gushed. "Did you like it?"
"Hermione," he heard himself groan and she only smiled.
It was crystal clear. And her own feelings, everything fell into place. In a heartbeat, everything seemed so clear and so easy.
She couldn't help asking question after question – she was nervous after all – and she definitely couldn't help herself brushing her hand over his lovely chest when she took Leonard from his arms to put him on the floor where he made his way straight to the first bookshelf. It was odd, really, to see that Severus quickly cast a charm on his shelves so no books could be pulled out and hurt the little one. She was incredibly touched by this, for some reason and she knew she stared at him a little sappily, and smiled just like that.
But he looked good. Far from tanned, but a healthy colour. And it was magnificent, seeing him like this, with the white shirt and in his dark blue socks. Who knew he wore dark blue socks?
"Hermione," he groaned suddenly and it was an agonised groan but his eyes were fixed on hers and so dark and full of – something. Feeling.
"Yes, Severus?" she asked sweetly but did not move farther away from him. He was within an arm's reach and that was where she wanted him to be.
"Why are you here?" he obviously pressed out, fighting his words.
"I'm here to see you," she whispered and it surprised him – mildly. She usually had always come to see him because she needed him, or because she claimed that Leonard wanted to see him.
"Why?" he asked and her smile broadened even further, and she stepped closer to him. Oh this wasn't good. She shouldn't be so close. Shouldn't be so close at all. Her scent washed over him and he had to back away – and backed away until his back met a bookcase and he couldn't back away further and she had been following him, slowly.
It all happened, to him, in slow motion, when her hands suddenly came up to his neck and he wanted to push her away, wanted to run away himself – and found himself unable to move when her little, warm fingers stroked his neck ever so gently.
"I'm here to tell you," she whispered and suddenly, so suddenly, her lips were on his in a very, very chaste kiss. It made his eyes cross and it made him want to push her away again, or wrap her into his arms and kiss her senseless, or make love to her, or all but pushing her away. His breathing was fast and shallow and he couldn't allow this he looked anywhere but at her, didn't dare to and her hands, her fingers, still at his neck.
"I'm here to tell you " she hesitated a second time, and he felt his head moved downwards, until his eyes met hers and they shone so beautifully, stared into his, "that I'm very ready to be wooed by you."