I apparated with a pop and something fell toward my face. I flinched, and realized it was raining. It was the end of August and I wasn't even wearing a coat. Who knew there would be a summer thunderstorm at Spinner's End.
I hurried through the gate and up the stone path to the door. I knocked, and tried to hide from the rain under the rather small bit of overhang from the roof.
There was a thunderclap in the distance. My socks were slightly damp. I shifted my bag up on my shoulder.
The door creaked opened. It was Severus. He was barefoot and wearing something black with short sleeves. He didn't say anything and he looked rather surprised- or was it confused- to see me on his doorstep.
"Sorry. I, um, should have owled." I said to break the silence.
"Oh no," he said, still standing in the doorway, "I just… thought you were in Australia."
"I'm back." I said, lamely. "Came back just now, actually."
He gave a slight nod.
My hair was getting heavy with rain and I could feel a drop trickling down my neck. "If this isn't a good time, I can come back later-"
"No," his eyes suddenly flicked to my hair and the rain. He stepped aside and rather awkwardly gestured me inside. I didn't have a coat for him to take and I decided not to hug him because I was dripping wet. I shifted my bag again.
"I can take that for you." He said.
I handed it to him and he nearly dropped it under the unexpected weight. "Merlin- do you have all your things in this?"
He looked confused, the two little wrinkles between his eyebrows showing. He stared at the bag in disbelief. "Are you staying?"
"What?" Staying? As in staying here, with him? "No! I just…"
Something about his expression, one of complete bewilderment, made me snatch my bag away and head for the door. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have come..." I could feel my eyes smarting.
"What! Bloody hell-" He followed me out down the path and into the rain.
"-should have owled first-"
"Where are you going Granger?" He grabbed my arm and whipped me around to face him.
"Hermione…" he amended.
I shoved his hand away and pulled open the gate. He slammed it shut and stood between me and the lane, throwing a scowl my way.
"I have no bloody idea what just happened, but go inside and we'll have some tea." He snapped.
My cheeks were burning and I tried not to look at him. I crossed my arms. "Move."
He glared at me and didn't move.
"I did say that I just got back from Australia. I haven't unpacked yet. So my bag is heavy."
"Well you could have just said so," Severus muttered. "Makes a hell of a lot more sense than what I was thinking."
There was another thunderclap. I realized he was still barefoot, and that it was raining on us.
"Tea?" He reiterated.
I scowled at him and went inside.
He sat me down on a sofa in the living room and draped an enormous, rather stiff towel over my shoulders. "I'll get the tea." I dried myself off and noticed appreciatively that the room seemed to be wallpapered floor-to-ceiling with bookshelves. He returned, handed me a cup of tea- one sugar, a dash of milk, just the way I like it- and sat down.
"Are your parents back?"
"We're reacquainted with one another, but they're staying in Australia for now."
"That's good news." He said slowly. Maybe it was just the light, but he looked tired, worn- more so than when I had left him a month ago.
"I hear you've retired."
"Not really," he said, looking dully into his teacup. "I'm just not at Hogwarts anymore. I'm doing experimental work I've put off for far too long."
"Do you have a lab here?"
"Oh yes," he said. "Although I've been using the one at St. Mungo's quite a bit recently."
I nodded and drank my tea. I felt a good deal better.
"And what are your plans?" He asked, looking at me carefully.
"I don't know," I said.
"Are you finishing your NEWTs?"
"Yes, but I'll just take them in May. I'm not going to Hogwarts for another year."
"Outgrown school, have you?"
"Something like that."
I finished my tea and put it down in its saucer on the table between us.
"Why were you so surprised to see me today?" I asked.
His expression darkened. His eyes were downcast and he said uncertainly, "I rather thought you… broke things off."
"You left so quickly... and you were gone for a month and didn't even owl."
"I didn't have an owl with me!"
"There are owleries in Australia," he said, eyes flashing. "You could have sent me a message."
"You could have sent me a message." I said crossly. "Which was the obvious thing to do because then I could have used your owl to send a return message."
He frowned at my logic. "So," he cleared his throat, "you still want to see me?"
"Yes!" I said, astonished that he hadn't realized until now.
Relief washed over his face, and he smiled. "Oh good," he said, and then, "why ever am I sitting over here?"
I laughed and he came over to sit next to me on the sofa. I gave him a kiss.
"Much better," I said.
Six months later...
Harry put down the Prophet and drained the last of his coffee. "Have you read this?" He asked Ginny, who was just helping herself to some eggs. She peered at the picture: it was Snape coming out of Sir Barkles, a look of horror crossing his face as the flashbulbs went off. "Skeeter is expecting an announcement any day."
"Poor thing. They've really started hounding him recently." Ginny threw a dash of salt on her eggs.
"I don't fancy him buying much jewelry at Sir Barkles other than an engagement ring." Harry mused. "Although Skeeter seems to think it's a sure thing."
"Hmm," said Ginny, eating her eggs thoughtfully. "Last time I talked to Hermione she said he'd asked if she prefers silver, white gold, or yellow gold. So for once I think Skeeter's right."
Harry wrinkled his nose. "Maybe he's buying her a cauldron."
"Pewter wasn't on the list."
"Maybe he's buying her an expensive cauldron."
"They're getting married Harry!" She wacked him playfully on the arm. "Be happy!"
"Git." Harry muttered.
"Oh come on! They're good together!" Ginny said, grabbing a mug.
"Still a git." Harry said stubbornly.
Ginny made her way toward the kitchen for some coffee. "You obviously don't understand the appeal."
"Appeal!? What appeal? Wha… Ginny- come back here!"
A/N: Tada! (This is my new official word for ending stories.) I hope you all had as much fun reading this story as I had writing it. Please review- I love to get feedback. Thanks so much for reading! You guys are awesome!