And I love you but I'll leave you,
I don't want you but I need you,
You know it's you who calls me back here, baby.

"Colder Weather," by the Zac Brown Band

In the end, it wasn't as long as he'd thought it would be.

Severus' tracking brought him back to London often. Her city, their city. He could usually push her from his mind anyway and concentrate on his hunt, his adventure. When he was working he was single-minded, and the feeling of getting swept away into that was exhilarating, addictively so.

But this lately it was different. Now, today, six months later, when the man fled London for Moscow, Severus didn't want to go. There was a tugging in the pit of his stomach when he Apparated away, one unrelated to the magic transporting him to Russia. The beast in his chest was raging, something he'd never felt before during a pursuit—usually roaming was the only thing that could quiet his soul. When he caught the criminal, spy, whoever he was hunting, and his mission was done, the beast would writhe and itch, and to soothe it he would either hunt again or end up back at her doorstep, knowing that holding her could quiet him, at least for a time. But now… now he longed to stay. In the middle of a pursuit, he wanted to be in London, he wanted to find her again, to hold her like he used to. It felt like that was the only thing that could pacify the monster in his chest.

So he did. He let the man slip away, knowing that it might cost him his career, and Apparated back to her street.

Hermione opened the door before he knocked, awakened by his breach of her wards, wearing a pink satin nightdress and obviously roused from bed since it was the midde of the night. Her eyes were heavy with sleep, and she reached for him before snatching her arms back when she realized what she was doing.

"God, what do you want from me, Severus," she yelled, hitting him in the chest with her fist. He stood still, and she hit him again, and again and again, before bursting into tears and letting him wrap his arms around her and pull her close.

"You, Hermione. I want you."

She cried harder. "You—have broken—my heart—so ma—ny times," she said, in between sobs and hiccups and wholly unattractive sniffles.

"I love you," he said, pressing his mouth into her hair, smelling her, holding her tighter. "I don't know what to do, but I can't live without you. I've tried for four and a half years, and my craving for you has been building and building. When I finish an assignment I feel so lost, I don't know where to go, and I end up accepting another fucking mission the next day just so I won't have to think about how I should be curled around you in your bed. When I am done I always need you, so badly I can barely breathe. This time I'm not even done, I abandoned it, I don't even care, I just fucking want to be near you. Please, gods, Hermione—please let me love you. I can't bear this anymore."

She had quieted, her breath still hitching against his chest. Slowly, she pushed herself away from him. He loosened his arms but didn't release her, worried she would tell him to leave, that his chance had been over five years ago. But she didn't, she just reached up and curled a small hand against his stubbly jaw. He turned and pressed a kiss into her palm.

"What's changed, though? You've always loved me. I can't live like we used to—you have to be able to love me always, come home when I need you. I know that you roam, I know it's who you have to be. But I can't be the second-most important thing in your life any longer."

"Everything has changed. I don't know, I just… I realized that you're the only thing that matters. You're the only place I will ever belong. The only place I will ever care about belonging. And I think I'm growing, healing—after the war I couldn't bear the thought of remaining anywhere long enough to care about anything again. And then the thought of remaining with you terrified me. It still terrifies me. I am stunned with the glory and the madness of it."

She said nothing, just looked at him, cheeks wet. The hope that glinted somewhere in those hazel depths startled him slightly, and he got that terrible itching in his shoes, demanding that he bolt, run, get away from her as fast as he could. The beast in his stomach, the gypsy in his soul, couldn't bear to be near her for a moment longer. He gritted his teeth and ignored all those feelings, for the first time in his life.

"Hermione… I still have to be able to leave. I can't be kept in a cage, no matter how gilded by your love. It burns me, it tears me up inside, to be kept from leaving. I was born for it."

She'd stiffened in his arms.

"But I will come back to you every fucking chance I get. And it can be perfect, we can make it perfect. Please. Please let me try again. I want to try for the rest of my life—I can't live without you, even if you're just a memory while I'm sleeping in a stable in Siberia, freezing to death. No matter what, Hermione, I will always love you. I will never stop. I need to be able to come back to you."

Hermione tugged his face to hers, pressing her forehead against his and taking a deep breath.

"Please," he whispered, voice cracking.

Her breath hitched and she nodded quickly, pulling his mouth down to hers.

He met her lips hard, taking, wanting to hurt her the way he'd been hurting for these past five years. Her lips were gentle, absolving him in a way he didn't deserve, forgiving him for the horrible things he'd put her through. She understood him in a way no one else could, loved him in a way no one else ever had. He'd been pushing her away for so long and she would still take him back, still love him. His cheeks were wet, and he wasn't sure whose tears they were.

He backed her into her house, slamming the door behind him and shoving her against the wall, knocking over a table with a vase of flowers in the process. She groaned into his mouth, wrapping her legs around his waist as he ground against her. She'd have bruises on her hips, her thighs, in the morning. His bruises. She was his.

He bit her neck, and she arched against him. "Gods, Severus, just fuck me. Love me later." He smiled slightly into the crook of her neck, jerking up her nightgown and quickly unbuttoning his trousers.

When he sank into her, she moaned, deep and throaty, and then gave a short little cry as he ground against her hard. He was silent, awestruck, eyes shut and focused single-mindedly on having her, feeling her clench around him. When he began to move faster, began to touch her in that way her knew she loved, when she came against him and crushed her lips to his, when he came with a choked cry and sank with her to the floor, he understood.

He was home.

When I close my eyes I see you,
No matter where I am,
I can smell your perfume through these whispering pines.
I'm with your ghost again—
It's a shame about the weather,
But I know soon we'll be together,
And I can't wait till then.

"Colder Weather," by the Zac Brown Band