I don't own Severus Snape or Hermione Granger or anyone else from the Harry Potter books. I make no money with this and only write for your and my pleasure.

Thank you to mummsy for looking through this!

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Alcohol only made it worse. Booze, as his father had called the vile liquids, made her smile at him and sometimes, even slow-dance in front of his eyes. He had given up on drinking a long time ago, or only a few months after he had realised that she, smiling and slow-dancing and sometimes even undressing, was nothing but an illusion that would never in his sorry existence, become reality.

He couldn't remember when it had started. Maybe the day that he had been forced to go to her wedding and had seen her, amidst all those horrendously dressed witches and wizards, badly disguised as Muggles, Goddess-like in that white dress. Maybe it had been a little sooner, or maybe a little later. Maybe at the Burrow which he had been forced to go to regularly as clockwork by his boss (damn that McGonagall). Maybe when he had seen her discussing (fighting, more likely) with her mother-in-law whether she had been her mother-in-law already, or not. Maybe when he had seen her stomp out of the overly warm room, with flushed cheeks and rather attractive red blotches on top of those red cheeks, eyes glittering with anger and rage at the demands the Weasley-matriarch was making on her (children, giving up her job to tend to those children, never taking up her job again because there would be an army of children, improving her cooking-skills, etc, etc) and which she disagreed with. Naturally. Maybe it had been then. Maybe it had been sooner, maybe it had been later. But one night, when he had sat in his armchair, a glass of Ogden's in his hands and the same Ogden's burning his lips, his throat and his stomach, she had appeared there for the first time. Just standing there in bare feet, and a skirt with a rather flowery pattern, her hair in those impossible bushy curls hanging down her back, a gentle, welcoming, (dare he say it – loving) smile on her lips. He had gulped down the rest of the Odgen's but she hadn't disappeared. Even when he had gone to bed with a snarl and a muttered curse on his lips, she was there. Even when he had closed his eyes, she was there.

A few months later, he had stopped drinking because...he could not bear to see her anymore, looking so lovely, looking so beautiful and undressing (from time to time) just for him. Not for her husband, just for him.

Seeing her then, when he hadn't been drinking, but had still been forced to go to the Burrow twice a month, had done things to his brain that he could barely describe, and then he knew that he had to stop drinking.

It never stopped his subconscious. Drinking or not, he could still see her in his dreams. Not every night (or he would have given in to a Dreamless-Sleep-Addiction long ago) but often enough to make him feel happy and glorious and dismal and pathetic and sad and horrible.

After the first year or so, when he had finally been able to admit to himself that he was dreadfully, awfully in love with Hermione Granger-Weasley, he had done all he could to avoid her. He had begun faking illnesses when McGonagall wanted to drag him to the Burrow. He had plainly refused to go. He had just ignored McGonagall. He had not been able to stop infuriating McGonagall and after a few missed dinners at the Weasley-household, he had been forced to go back.

He had been back to watch her behind the curtain of his hair, he had been back to listen to hers and the Weasley-matriarch's barely concealed shouts and to see her hurt and rushing out and that lump of husband of hers doing nothing to show her that he was on her side. Two years married and still no child and of course the elder Weasleys were concerned, or angry, or enraged.

What an utterly ridiculous thought. Someone as bright as her, someone as intelligent as he should not be forced to have children at all if she did not want them. If she did, she could and neither her, nor, as she had no qualms informing him, McGonagall had any doubts that she could handle both a child and a job at the same time.

He never informed McGonagall about anything. He never even hinted at his own opinions. Hermione didn't need a place to stand, nor a lever, to move the earth. If she set her mind to it, she could move it with her will alone. She had established Elves of Trust in every big household, in every town and city, whose only task it was to find out which elves wanted to be set free and those that did, she set free. He believed in her, even if that dreadful woman with her greasy, fattening cooking didn't think she was made for things apart from birthing children and raising them.

It didn't matter that McGonagall stood on her side as well. Hermione, he knew, did not need anyone to fight with her. She could get through this alone but it hurt. It hurt to see her hurt, and it hurt to see her fighting so hard to hold back the tears and it angered him to see that lump of a husband to just sit idly back, discussing Quidditch with the Potter-prat.

Why they fought when they had guests, he never knew, but it was his best guess that Hermione only ever appeared at the Burrow when there were others present and McGonagall, who seemed to be better informed on these matters, confirmed his suspicions some time later. It was still rude to fight when there were others there. And it hurt him. She should not have to fight with her mother-in-law. She should not even have a mother-in-law to fight with. She should concern herself only with her own brains and with her own career and with what she wanted to do.

And how he wanted to give her that but he knew, with the clarity of a condemned man, that it was never to be.

It took him two years in total, Hermione being in the third year of her unnecessary marriage that McGonagall stopped insisting on him going to the Burrow and those dinners and after that, he could finally fulfil one of his dearest wishes: avoid Hermione Granger-Weasley. Avoid seeing her and wondering about the state of her marriage and the fights she viciously fought with the Weasley-matriarch. It was the only way to get her out of his mind, out of his dreams, out of his conscience, he told himself. He told himself that he could never see her again – her being like a mad addiction, something he had to distance himself from to be free from her.

He had never been able to understand his own nature; his obsessive nature, the constant need to have someone, or something, to cling to and to have as a light in his life. It was disconcerting and he did not like it. But in the third year of her unnecessary marriage, he would just pull her off his skin, and from his life, like a plaster. Incredibly fast, incredibly painful but quickly over nevertheless. And he wanted this to work, wasn't someone to interfere with marriage and Hermione Granger-Weasley was too good for him in any case.

Too good for any man, if truth be told. Too bright, too smart, too light, too wonderful and too beautiful in her little imperfections.

For about eight months, his plaster-technique seemed to work just fine. She appeared less than once a week in his dreams (albeit never less than twice a month) and she never slow-danced in those dreams anymore, never undressed for him, mostly just smiled beatifically at him and, if the dreams was particularly painful, he was in it as well, holding and kissing and...he forced himself to wake up every time.

For about three of those eight months, he experienced almost indescribable pain. And, effectively, his students experienced almost unbearably large amounts of point-loss and detentions (which suited him just fine since that stopped his nights from being quite so lonely and filled with thoughts about her). And more often than not, in those three months, he found himself sitting in his armchair with a cup of tea or his face in his hands, wondering, what in the name of Merlin he had got himself into. Feeling this way about Hermione Granger, the Gryffindor star pupil of her time and heroine of the second war against the Dark Lord. He had no business feeling this way about her and he felt desperate at times. Lily had been raised so high on a pedestal even before she had died but after she had turned away from him and he knew he was doing the same with Hermione. A star light-years away from his reach and his grasp. More often than not, in those three months, a tea cup would be smashed, or a fist hit against a forehead and he wanted away from this country, from this castle, from the place where her name was so readily on everyone's (but his) lips. He never talked about her – he only thought about her almost constantly.

For the other five months of those eight months that his plaster-technique seemed to work just fine, he went about his usual business. Tormenting students, grimacing or sneering upon the rumours about himself that reached his ears. Immersing himself in his work of forcing students to learn just a bit of what he wanted them to learn, or what they should have learned. Guiding them to fear him and to dread being taught by him.

After those eight months, everything changed.

He still avoided her but she found her way, mysteriously, and about seven years after she had left school, back to Hogwarts. He wasn't prepared for this and the pain and the desperation was back instantly. His plaster-technique had failed him and upon setting her eyes on her for the first time after a bit more than eight months, he felt indescribable longing in his chest, and nobody, least of all her, noticed. She smiled at him and she insisted on sitting next to him during dinner. She had stayed for dinner that time and insisted on sitting next to him and it hurt. His gut clenched. His hands were clammy. His knees felt weak and yet, he could still sent glare after glare at unruly students gobbling down their food and, with as much coldness in his voice, and as much nonchalance as he could muster and acted indifference, he listened to her prattle on and answered her her many question. Inside, he raged and shouted and screamed and wanted to soothe himself by only taking her in his arms and pressing her to him and holding her there for the rest of his sorry existence but it would never be. Never in his sorry existence. And for a few minutes, he could only stare at the ring on the wrong finger of her hand. Still golden, still ugly, but having lost its first sheen possibly long ago.

The days following her unexplained visit to Hogwarts only few students noticed that their Defence against the Dark Arts instructor was even less pleasant than usual and it was only at the following weekend that he heard why she had come, and he raged in McGonagall's office for the better part of three quarters of an hour.

No, Granger-Weasley could not come to teach at Hogwarts. Nothing, not even Divination. She had a good job at the Ministry, and Hogwarts couldn't do with an attention-seeking Gryffindor.

His heart had stopped screaming, it was only muttering its own reply. Let her come to Hogwarts, take her away from that bastard of a husband and let me feast on her sight every day. Let her be there and let her see me as just a friend or even as a little more than a dreaded teacher. Let me fill upon her sight and let me grow to my normal size. Let her be there, let her teach anything, or just let her sit there for hours every day, reading or doing nothing.

She wouldn't be a good teacher. She had no experience teaching. She was too young. If she came, he would leave.

McGonagall only sighed then and sent him away and the topic seemed off the table for the time being.

It did not stop Hermione from coming to Hogwarts regularly. Officially, McGonagall said, on business related to her job at the Ministry and her checking up on elves (and the two students who he refused to teach four days a month because...the Shrieking Shack was back in use and he had to brew Wolfsbane again).

Inofficially, she always stayed for dinner (officially because she liked the fare at Hogwarts), and always sat next to him to discuss one matter of another and his heart hurt. His insides hurt and burned and more often than not he left dinner before he had even started eating because he couldn't.

More tea cups were smashed. Or fists slammed against a forehead.

He did not remember, most of the time, what she talked about. He tried not to listen to her too closely, especially when she started talking about having found a Goblin willing to make a new Time-Turner, just for her, to let her set things to rights, to let her meddle with time because she was, apparently and in Goblin's eyes, worthy of that. He tried not to listen too closely because she was too damn perfect even with that little hag's hair that grew out of nowhere on her cheek. Even with those unruly curls and out of bounds eyebrows. The only imperfection he could not easily oversee was the ring on her finger.

It vanished suddenly, on her fifth or sixth consecutive visit but he did not ask. He did not ask McGonagall and she offered no explanation.

A day later, he knew it wouldn't have been necessary such as it was – it was all over the Daily Prophet which Madam Hooch insisted on reading two seats away from him.

Granger ditches Weasley

That was all it read, nothing more and nothing less and he didn't ask to read it, he didn't ask, and he wasn't told but on her next visit (and he could see that she still looked the same way she had on her last visit and the one before and the one before that), the ring was gone and instead, her finger showed a slight whitish ring. No sun. Not like the rest of her body and his mind wondered, for only a second or a half, where else her skin would be as white as it was on her finger, where the ring had sat for five years or so.

It didn't matter because she would not get a divorce to be with him, the Greasy Git, the Bat of the Dungeons, the Death Eater and the Practitioner of the Dark Arts. She had most likely found herself a nice young man who was at least a little less dim than Weasley.

It didn't matter. He only had to find a way to stay away from the Great Hall when she was there and he had to rage for the better part of two hours if someone suggesting she'd come to Hogwarts to teach. He relied on his acting skills.

He would forget about her and about her lovely eyes and her magnificent smile and her wonderful curls and her to-die-for figure and her glorious breasts and her splendid mind. It couldn't be that hard, after all. He only had to stop seeing her.

Had to forget about her, even when she put her hand on his arm and smiled at him and that tiny amount of hope flared up inside of him.

He had to kill hope and he just had to stay away from her. Even when she put her fingertips on his bare hand and smiled and said something directly to him in a whisper that he didn't quite catch, or did catch and that his brain seemed to misinterpret as something that sounded remarkably like Are you doing something tomorrow night or would you like to go to this new Muggle restaurant in Edinburgh I read only rave reviews about?

He just had to forget about her and it wouldn't do to just nod because he had misunderstood her.

xx

A/N: One-shot! End of story (BUT: there might be a tiny, wee chance that I'll take this beginning and use it as a start for a chaptered story sometime in the future but that sort of depends on you)