One Day Like This

All characters belong to J. K. Rowling.

Chapter 24

Hermione went to Spinner's End first. After McGonagall had returned back to Hogwarts, Snape had informed her that he would be spending a couple of weeks at his home. She'd been rather surprised that he still used the home that appeared, by all accounts, to hold many bad memories. He said it was a change of scene, though admitted that it was not a particularly positive one.

She appeared in the old terraced street and knew simply from looking that he wasn't there. The house was shrouded in complete darkness, and her suspicion was proved correct when there was no answer when she knocked. Of course, he could be pretending not to be there. Or, might he have gone all the way to Hogwarts? There was something she could to do to aid her in her search. Facing north, she put her wand in her hand and whispered 'Point me.'

Her wand swivelled to point in a south-westerly direction. Right... that was interesting. She Apparated to the Leaky Cauldron in London, and tried the spell again, still south-west. South west... had he gone to Cornwall? Where, though? What had drawn him down there? If he was upset, then it was possible he had he gone for a drink somewhere, and maybe he'd gone to the pub she'd taken him to. She remembered they'd had a good time in there, and he'd particularly liked the place.

There was no harm in trying. Hermione Apparated into what appeared to be the middle of nowhere, but appearing round a hedgerow, she could see the pub up the narrow road. She began walking, and recalled how she'd teased him on the way there. It was a very old pub, situated on its own near a large area of sand dunes and the sea. She'd told him rather cryptically that it would appeal to his sensibilities, and when he saw the name of the pub, he'd snorted.

'The Bucket of Blood?' he'd asked. 'Why should that appeal to my sensibilities?'

'I thought you had a liking for the macabre?'

'Since when?' he accused.

'Since you have jars of pickled creatures lining your walls!'

'That's just ambience!' he'd admonished.

Hermione cautiously entered. Just when she thought she might have chanced her arm wrongly, she spied him sitting in a dark corner, staring pensively into tumbler of whisky. He had his back to her, and she approached him, unsure of precisely what his mood was going to be. She slid onto the bench, and after a brief moment, slipped an arm across his back to squeeze his shoulder.

'So, where's my drink, then?'

'I didn't know you were coming,' he replied flatly.

'Well, you should have anticipated.'

'Have mine if you're that thirsty,' he grumbled.

'You know I only drink whisky in emergencies. Though, by the expression on your face, I have a feeling I might be finding myself at the bottom of a bottle soon.' She was not entirely joking, he did look rather grave. Hermione brought her arm back to her side, pausing briefly to tug gently on a lock of his hair. As expected, he moved his head away immediately.

'I wish you wouldn't do that,' he complained, scowling.

'I like your hair; it's not my fault that it's better than my frizzy mass.'

'I refuse to be drawn into a conversation over who has better hair!'

Hermione studied the grooves in the wooden table. 'Will you refuse to be drawn into a conversation about tonight, as well?'

He said nothing.

'You're obviously upset—'

'I'm not upset, I'm just... troubled. It obviously bothered you, hearing about that incident.'

She looked at him. 'Well, of course it did, but Severus, you saved my mother's life, for Merlin's sake! Have you any idea how grateful I am for that? How thankful I am?'

'I don't want your gratitude,' he muttered fiercely, draining his glass.

'What do you want, then?'

He didn't say anything, and just as she was trying to think of a different tack, he turned to her.

'Let us go outside, we can't talk about this here.'

Hermione nodded mutely and stood up, feeling anxious. She followed him outside and knew he was heading towards the grassy verge, overlooking the beach several feet below. Apart from the two of them, there was no other soul about.

Snape paused, and Hermione also came to stop a few paces behind. The sun was low in the sky and shone pleasantly over the sea.

'I sometimes wonder what I think I'm playing at, being with you.'

Her heart plummeted. 'What you mean?'

'So I saved a few lives—it doesn't change anything. It doesn't change the fact that I became a Death Eater in the first place, and it can never hide the fact that lives were lost, whether I was directly or indirectly involved. Sometimes, I don't think you realise the importance of that.'

Hermione looked at her hands, trying to understand the complexities of his mind. 'You're saying I should be put off by what you've done in the past? That I'm naive enough to simply gloss over it, because I simply wasn't there to witness it?'

Maybe they should have had this conversation before. They'd never discussed his past as a Death Eater—she hadn't thought they needed too; another miscalculation on her part.

He nodded. 'Well, now, you have some experience of it. What if your mother had been killed that night? Don't tell me that you would be standing here right now.'

Hermione sighed. 'Severus, this is useless. Maybe, I would be standing here, for all you know.'

'You wouldn't; you'd never have got involved with me, and I'd understand that perfectly.'

'Even if she had... died, it wouldn't have been your fault.'

'Maybe not directly, but it is implied; I was part of it, after all.'

Her heart began to beat heavily, fearing that this time he really was building up to reach some impasse—of his own making—that meant they should not be together anymore.

'She's not dead, though, is she,' she said quietly.

'Aren't you in the least bit ashamed of me?' he suddenly asked forcefully, turning round to look at her.

'No,' she assured, shaking her head firmly. 'You've done many good things in your life. You didn't have to protect Harry for all those years, not really, and you didn't have to save my mother, who, at the time, was just some Muggle—you had your cover to think about. As much as it pains me to say, her death would just have been collateral damage compared to the greater interests at stake.'

He turned away from her again. 'Still, don't you wish it could be easier? You wouldn't have as much trouble with someone like Potter or Weasley.'

'I tried that, remember? I had just as much trouble, if not more.'

He shook his head in disagreement. 'This way – my way – lays only trouble.' He was silent for a moment. 'I don't deserve this—any of it!' he spat harshly. 'It is only a matter of time before it is taken away from me... I should just let go now.'

Hermione found herself breathing unevenly as she felt anger begin to form within her. She strode forward.

'You said to me once that you wouldn't turn your back on me.' She pinned him with a glare. 'I told you, I promised you that I wouldn't suddenly change my mind—yet, you are doing exactly that! It's all right for you to change your mind as you please, is it? It's all right for you to cast me aside when you can't handle what's in front of you anymore!'

His eyes flashed, and Hermione spun away from him, afraid that she might start crying. By Merlin he was hard work sometimes! The panorama before her made her catch her breath, and she swallowed down her ire, suddenly feeling oddly calm. She sighed deeply. 'I've always loved the sea, you know. I could sit for hours just watching it. I can't fathom the vastness of it; it puts things into perspective for me.'

She simply watched the waves for a few moments. 'There's a quote I heard once, from Shakespeare that struck me: "We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life, is rounded in a sleep." And it's true. We're here for such a short time,' she observed wistfully, 'as you should know better than most, Severus. Why shouldn't we make the most of what we have got? You know, no one cares about what we do. The world hasn't imploded; the stars haven't fallen out of the sky just because you have dared to allow yourself to be happy. And I don't care about what I deserve or you deserve. I care about what we want.

She followed the path of a seagull with her eyes as it swooped across the water. 'I want to make the most of the time I have been given, and I don't mean that I want to take up some dangerous hobby—I just want to live my life. I've had all the adventures I need. Perhaps I sound terribly clichéd, but I want to get married one day—I want to have children. I want to have a family, and... I'm not saying you have to sign up for that right now, but if there's no possibility... Maybe, that life is not with you, after all. I mean, it shouldn't be such a difficult decision as to whether you want to be with me or not—you either do or you don't.'

She pressed her fingers into the corners of her eyes. She wouldn't start blubbing. 'It's as absurdly simple as that, Severus. Everything else can be dealt with in its own time, but I don't think I can deal with your doubting my knowledge of my own mind and my own feelings anymore. And I can't deal with your almost constant misgivings... You could try asking me for my opinion once in a while, because if I have a problem with you, I'll let you know, all right? Don't just presume to know what I'm thinking!'

He could be so single-minded!

Nothing was forthcoming from the man behind her—that was assuming he was, indeed, still there. There was a rustle, and Hermione turned around with a shaky breath to see him sitting on the grass. The corner of her mouth twitched weakly when he heaved a huge sigh and lay back fully.

Despite herself, she was drawn to him and she knelt beside him. 'What are you doing?'

'Lying down,' he said simply, his gaze pointed towards the sky. His hands folded themselves over his stomach. He looked like the wind had been quite comprehensively taken out of his sails.

She touched his sleeve. 'I think you are making excuses, at times, Severus. This was never about my parents' approval, and perhaps not even about your past. It's about you and me, and the fact that perhaps you don't trust me, after all.'

He closed his eyes, as if to ward himself against her words, and she wondered if he would say anything. If he said he didn't trust her, what then?

'Do you ever wish you were someone else, Hermione?' he asked eventually.

She shook her head slowly. 'No... I might never have met you then, mightn't I?' She decided to go further. 'Why do I struggle to feel any anger over Yaxley's attack anymore?' It was true, she would never have gone back to Hogwarts were it not for that incident.

His head tilted towards hers, and he looked genuinely taken aback. Hermione shrugged, a little surprised to find that she didn't feel as self-conscious as she might have anticipated.

'I have spent the better part of my life wishing I was someone else.'

Hermione nodded. 'I can understand that...'

'But now I have to learn to be grateful for who I am, and I have to admit that task doesn't always sit well with me.' He paused for several moments, and he continued his study of the clouds. 'Do you know the first time I ever saw the sea was from the window of the Hogwarts Express? And that was only briefly. You're right, though; there is a great sense of clarity to be had from watching the sea. Everything does seem so straightforward here—it's just us and nothing else. Our lives are not here, though, we live in a world of values, expectations, of judgements and opinions, and... I can assure you it is hard to rise above it.'

She placed her hand over his, and he shifted his gaze to her.

'I am set in my ways, and I find it difficult to change them after so long. I want you to know that this has not been easy for me—that I felt keenly those times when I have clearly disappointed you by my convictions. I fear that I have done it so many times that I have no right to expect your patience any longer.'

Hermione breathed deeply and smoothed her thumb across the back of his hand. 'You have my patience, because I love you, Severus.'

She saw his chest cease in its rising and falling for a moment. She smiled. 'You don't think I'd put up with all this for just anyone, do you?'

'No,' he said slowly, bringing himself into a sitting position. He captured her fingers within his, and stared at their hands. 'I am weak, you know. At Hogwarts, all I wanted was to be near you, and even that wasn't enough for me, in the end.'

Good, thought Hermione.

'Do you know what, though? What's the point of analysing it all, or worrying about it? I can't help but think: When the hell has my life ever been simple?'

She looked at him, and he appeared faintly surprised by his revelation.

'When has anything I've done ever been straightforward and uncomplicated? Every notable action or choice I've made has always conspired to throw my life into chaos.'

'What are you saying?' Hermione whispered, her throat suddenly dry. 'And before you say it,' she added hastily, prodding him in the chest, 'you must say it without feeling guilty. You must—whatever it is.'

He nodded. 'I don't really know what to say. Everything you said is true, of course. I can only try harder, Hermione, and I will.' He paused. I, ah, can't deny that this is where I want to be... with you, and, well, I am yours to do with as you please, there's no point prevaricating about it.'

Her eyes shone, amused slightly by his deceptively flippant tone. He would try harder, well, that was good enough for her. 'Oh, that sounds intriguing... As I please, eh?'

'Within reason, I hasten to add.' He smirked with wry amusement. 'But you may hex me if I get on your nerves, again.'

Hermione smiled and raised herself up on her knees so she could put her arms around his neck. Resting her chin on his shoulder she spoke. 'You must believe in yourself, Severus. We've already come a long way—we braved the best efforts of the Daily Prophet to embarrass us for Merlin's sake! My parents and my friends are still talking to me—it's fine.' She kissed his cheek firmly.

'It will be, because I'm going to leave Hogwarts,' he revealed suddenly.

Hermione sat back, letting her hands fall slowly from his shoulders down to his forearms. 'You're going to what?' she asked, completely surprised.

He fixed her with a serious look. 'I'm going to resign at Hogwarts.'

'You can't do that!' she blustered, 'I mean, why ever would you want to?'

He raised his eyebrows. 'This will never work while I am at Hogwarts, Hermione.'

'Of course it will! It's only an Apparition away, it—'

'You know it's not as simple as that. Being a teacher at Hogwarts is a full time, and I mean, a full time job. When the bell goes for the last lesson of the day, my responsibilities don't end there. When would we ever have time to see one another? You talk about... having a family—how would that work while I lived there? And I could not sit back and watch someone else take over Slytherin house. No, the only option is to leave altogether.'

'But... Hogwarts is your home, Severus. Do you even want to leave? Don't think you have to make some grand gesture to prove to me that you are committed.'

He shrugged. 'What is a home, if not a mere pile of bricks? It is the intangible things that make a home, and memories, well, they travel with you always, I find. I've thought about it, and I need to make this decision, Hermione; I need the change if I am to fully reconcile with us being together. It's not a sacrifice, because I'm actually looking forward to it.'

'What will you do, though?'

He lifted his lips briefly. 'I honestly don't know, but I find I do not mind the uncertainty so much.' He looked at her meaningfully.

Hermione still couldn't believe it. 'Hogwarts won't be the same without you—I can't imagine it.'

Snape snorted. 'Believe me, there won't be many who'll miss me.'

'Professor McGonagall will. I hope she doesn't send me a Howler.' Hermione smiled in amusement.

'She'll understand. And who knows, maybe I'll find my path headed back there one day.'

'Maybe we both will,' she corrected.

He smiled slightly. 'Of course.' He paused for a moment. 'I bet your parents must think you've landed yourself a right piece of work in me.'

Hermione smiled widely. 'They know I like a challenge.'

And a challenge he was, but sitting there with him, she considered that it was not conceited of her to believe herself equal to the challenge. She'd put up with him thus far, after all. She hoped this would be the final resolve between them—that they could both be confident in each other. He would try harder, and so would she. There would be good times and bad times, no doubt—nothing was ever easy. Perhaps it was trite of her to think in such terms, but as long as they knew they had each other, they would manage, she decided.

She lay back on the grass and sighed up at the clouds. 'I still can't see you as a man of leisure, you know.'

He bent over her and pressed a kiss to her lips. 'Well, you'll have to keep me occupied, won't you?'

She felt him shift beside her, and then he was lying down too. 'Lucky you; you'll be a proper kept man while I'm going out and slaving away over a hot cauldron.'

'I expect to be kept in the manner to which I am accustomed, mind.'

'Oh, I remember—"all of my meals cooked for me, no laundry to do, no cleaning"... Well, think again!'

Hermione smiled, and linked her arm through his. There was silence between them for a moment, until her companion spoke up in a quiet voice, laced with uncertainty.

'I've, ah, made a terrible mistake.'

She turned her head sharply towards his. 'What?'

He chewed his lip thoughtfully, and then nodded. 'I should have confessed my devotion to a House-elf.'

Hermione snorted and placed a hand over her eyes. Yes, she definitely had her hands full with this one.

She didn't mind it too much.


Some weeks later...

Hermione knocked apprehensively on the nondescript door of number four Spinner's End. The day was a bright one, and she could feel the heat of the sun bearing down on her even though it was early. It made her even more uncomfortable than she already was.

'Morning, Severus,' she said when the door opened. He kissed her swiftly on the cheek in reply.

'Ready?' He pulled the door closed and looked at her expectantly.

Hermione didn't move. 'Look... I really don't think we should do this anymore.'

Snape narrowed his eyes. 'You're having second thoughts? Merlin! Why?'

She shrugged self-consciously. 'I don't know. I just think we should reconsider.'

He glared at her. 'Tough; this is your only chance, and you'll only regret letting it pass you by.'

'Is it not a bit vindictive, though?'

Snape raised an arm and brought it around her shoulders, guiding her to start walking down the street. 'My dear Hermione, it might be morally correct to rise above such infractions that have been brought against you in the past, but let me tell you, it is far more satisfying to fight fire with fire. But, having said that, don't let me influence you.'

He smirked down at her, and removing his arm, he led her into a deserted lane.

'She has been a complete bitch to me, no doubt about it.'

'No doubt, indeed.'

'It was her fault we got harassed by the press.'

'Harassed; certainly.'

'She made me out to be a woman of... loose morals.'

'Reprehensibly loose, in fact.'

'And she told everyone you were only with me because you couldn't have her. That was my fault for making fun of her to her face.'

The glimmer that had been in his eyes suddenly hardened to a glint. 'Yes, we cannot forget that one.'

'We are decided then—Lavender Brown needs taking down a peg or two?'

'A peg or five, I should say,' commented Snape wryly.

Hermione nodded. 'Right then—let's do it. She is going to opening Twilfitt and Tattings new branch in Hogsmeade in approximately fifteen minutes. There is guaranteed to be a press gathering.'

Snape grabbed her hand. 'Excellent. Let us be off, then.'

He Disapparated them to the outskirts of the village, and began walking cautiously down the cobbled street. 'If we go behind Dervish and Banges, we should come out into an alleyway near Twilfitt and Tatting's.'

Hermione nodded, doubts beginning to creep into her mind once more as she followed him.

'Can you get any aim from here?' he asked when they came to a stop, backs pressed up against the wall.

Hermione tentatively removed her wand and pointed it towards the crowd. 'It's a bit difficult... No.'

'I told you we should have gone for Polyjuice!' he muttered fiercely at her.

'Well, I didn't want to be stuck as some random person for an hour, all right?'

He huffed and took her arm. 'Come on.'

'Wait, they'll see us!'

'Disillusion yourself for a moment.'

He dragged her into the street and into the gathering. 'There,' he whispered. 'Close enough?'

'Yes.' Hermione held her wand uncertainly.

'She's about to cut the ribbon.'

'Severus, I can't!'

His hand suddenly closed around hers, so they were both holding her wand. 'Bloody Gryffindor nobility—together, then,' he whispered. 'After three—one, two, three.'

'Finite Incantatem!'


News bulletin 22th of August 2000, Wizarding Wireless Network

'A stir was caused in the small Scottish village of Hogsmeade today when the model, Lavender Brown, arrived to open Twilfitt and Tatting's new shop. Many flocked to witness the occasion, but ended up observing something that no one could have anticipated.

As Miss Brown lifted her wand to cut the ribbon, something very odd happened. A stunned onlooker reported: 'I don't know what happened, but her chest just—disappeared.'

Early pictures captured by the photographers at the Daily Prophet appear to show Miss Brown clutching at her chest, looking clearly horrified as the front of her dress starts to sag open. It is not understood why this happened, but indications are that Miss Brown has been using certain charms. This could prove rather embarrassing for the woman who has based her career around what was perceived to be real natural beauty.

In other news, it has been revealed that Severus Snape is to leave Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry after spending nearly twenty years there in a variety of posts, including, controversially, that of Headmaster. Eyebrows have certainly been raised at his decision to leave such a revered position within the school, especially as there are no reports that he has been offered a better job elsewhere.

It appears that bookmakers are actually taking bets as to the reason behind his departure, with odds on favourite being that Miss Hermione Granger, with whom Snape has been romantically linked, will announce a pregnancy in a few days time.

Send us an Owl with your thoughts!'

FIN


AN: Well, there we go. I hope everyone enjoyed this story. Thank you for taking the time to read it, and to those who have reviewed, I appreciate it very much - they've really spurred me on : )