A/N: EEEEEEEKKKKKKKSSSSSS! You all have waited an ETERNITY for this, and it's way too short for my taste. You've got to take what I have to give though, and this is it. To say that my life has reached a new extreme in the area of "complicated" is a serious understatement. I had my baby - he's a beautiful, healthy, happy 3 month old little boy, and he's just one thing that's keeping me busy. Please know that I absolutely have NOT given up on, abandoned, forgotten about, or quit on this story. I intend on finishing it, even if it is at a snail's pace. I also have a few other stories I started way back when for Snape and Hermione that I love. So stayed tuned if you've got the patience to hang in there with me while I work through this chapter of my life. I have a serious passion for writing and I can't tell you how much it's killing me not to be doing it like I want to!

THANK YOU to Lotus Blossom88, elemeno82002, MCannon5887, Lust for Life, articcat621, I am Katniss Everdeen, BabyJane, Edwina B. Karch, calmme, ilive2read, HarryPGinnyW4eva, Maylo, Lemons And Limes And Fluff, SnarryGrrl, onecelestialbeing, baobei, I M Sterling, missjessiecakes, harrytonkslover2216, Lusting for Life, woodshark, RainaMoonforest, MissNerdyGirl12, Night Vision1, and whoever my one random "Guest" is. : )

Even though it's short, this is one of my favorite chapters. : ) Please enjoy!


"Harry!" Hermione shouted catching him by the arm and pulling him into a hug. "What are you doing here?"

"I took the morning off work to stop by and see everyone before they leave this afternoon," he said, puzzled by her overexcitement at seeing him. "What's gotten into you then?"

"Nothing," she said, shaking her head as she steered her eyes away from him with a forced smile.

"'Mione…"

She shook her head again, fighting back tears. "Let's just get some breakfast," she offered.

Harry took a breath and said, "Alright," on the exhale.

"Don't look at me like that, Harry," she told him as they began walking toward the Great Hall.

"Well if you'd tell me what was going on, I wouldn't have to," he said, "Though I suspect the answer is fairly obvious." To her silence he asked, "Snape?"

Hermione stopped in her tracks momentarily, casting her eyes to the floor as she studied it. She stood there a moment, Harry looking back at her from a few steps away, and finally she said, "We broke up," before beginning her stride again.

Harry caught her arm as she attempted to walk past him. "Broke up? What happened?" he asked. Last he knew, things were going very well between them.

She looked up at him, her face twisted in a desperate look as her eyes came to his; and she told him, "I'm not entirely sure."

Harry gave her a sympathetic look, knowing all too well how complicated relationships could be – forget about being in a relationship with someone like Snape. He himself was beyond complicated without throwing feelings and another person into the mix! Harry put his arm around her and they continued to the Great Hall where Hermione elected to sit out in the crowd with Harry. She never once cast her eyes toward the Head Table, too afraid of what she might see there. Not that it would have mattered, really. All she would have seen was Severus not paying her or the empty chair next to him an ounce of attention. It was just easier that way.

After they'd finished eating and the crowd had thinned, Hermione brought Harry up to speed on everything that had happened between her and Severus – being bound, her telling him she loved him, Viktor, the fight, being unbound, and finally the ball. She tried to describe the perfect fullness that came with being bound, feeling like every corner of yourself was satisfied. And then she tried to describe the horrid emptiness that came from being unbound. Somewhere along the way, she realized Harry had hardly said a word.

He sat across from her silently, waiting to see if she was finished talking. When it became clear that she was, he took a deep breath and said to her, "So he asked your forgiveness?"

"Yes," she said.

He nodded, then added, "But he's hurt you so badly you're not sure you want to forgive him."

"I'm not sure I can," she countered.

"You still love him though?" he wondered.

"Of course," she said quietly.

"Well then what is it going to take? There must be something he can do," he said.

She sat quietly for a moment, her hand curled up under her jaw as she considered Harry's question. A moment later, she dropped her hand to the table and said, "I'm just so surprised at how passive he's been. I understand our relationship is still a secret, but I always assumed he was the type that would… I don't know… Fight for what's his."

Harry looked in her eyes for a moment before saying, "Remember his past, Hermione." He reached across the table to give her arm a light squeeze, and then said, "I should get going if I'm going to see anyone before they leave. We'll talk more before I head to work, alright?"

"Sure. Have fun," Hermione replied with a smile. She looked around the room as he left and found there were very few people left in the Great Hall. Deciding she would head to her classroom to kill some time before everyone began their departure in the afternoon, she rose from the table with a quick 'I can do this' breath.

###

As Harry walked the halls of Hogwarts with a smile, he felt his pace begin to slow as he got the distinct feeling that he was being watched. His steps slowed to a halt, and he turned to see that his feeling was correct. Peering at him was a set of dark orbs.

"I trust that Hermione has brought you up to speed on our…current situation," Severus said with disgust at his private business being shared with others.

Harry wasn't really sure how to respond; but he was sure that he needed to proceed with caution.

"She did tell me some of what's been happening, sir," Harry admitted.

Severus clenched his jaw before further straightening his already perfect posture as he prodded, "Such as…"

Harry swallowed. "Such as being bound and then unbound; and whatever is going on – or not going on – with Viktor."

Severus simply stared at him for a moment, and Harry took the opportunity to add, "She also said you apologized, sir."

Severus narrowed his eyes, before hissing somewhat threateningly, "I fail to see why she finds the need to share all of this…with you."

Harry again swallowed. "I believe she's just confused, sir."

With that, Severus grabbed the edge of this cloak, spinning it with him as he turned on his heel to walk away. Before he got too far though, Harry said, "Is this what you do then? Walk away when the conversation becomes too difficult?"

Before Harry knew what had happened, Severus had turned back around and was inches from his face with venom in his eyes. "What I do is none of your concern, Potter."

Maintaining a cool demeanor, Harry replied, "It is when it involves my best friend. Sir."

Straightening himself once again and backing up slightly, Severus asked, "And did she tell you what she's done? Did she tell you what occurred prior to my unbinding us?"

"She mentioned a couple things, but I know she never meant to hurt you," Harry said, his eyes softening as he finally began to view the man before him as flesh and blood instead of the statuesque, hard wizard he always perceived him as.

Severus turned to leave again, but Harry had one more thing to say.

"Do you want to know how to fix it?" Harry asked, stopping Severus dead in his tracks. Harry took a few steps toward him and said, "Give a damn," causing Severus to turn his head to the side as if he were half-looking over his shoulder, the thought that Hermione made it seem as if he didn't care already beginning to eat away at him. How could she think that?

Harry continued, "You were willing to put yourself in the debt of anther for the rest of your life to protect my mother. So why is it that you seem unable find the courage to claim Hermione as your own? She isn't afraid of people knowing. She's only afraid of losing you."

Severus turned his face forward again and began quickly walking away from Harry. He'd heard quite enough, and now he needed to process the information.

###

Down in his dungeon classroom, Severus paced slowly as he let his mind digest what Harry had told him.

She's only afraid of losing you. Give a damn. …She never meant to hurt you…

But she had, and he couldn't help but feel that history was repeating itself. How could that happen twice in one lifetime? That seemed too cruel even for cold, heartless fate to dish out. And yet there he was: heart still shattered in a million unrepairable pieces, and a pain so deep in his chest that had lingered so long he was beginning to think he could live with it.

This, this horrible feeling was the reason he'd closed himself off for so long. How had she gotten under his skin? How had fate pushed them together with those torturously wonderful shocks? How had such a beautiful creature grown to love him so quickly?

Severus swallowed as the next round of thoughts came to him. How much does she mean to me? How much does my heart really want her? Is it enough to risk making a fool of myself when she said she might not be able to forgive me?

###

That afternoon, everyone had gathered outside the castle to say their good byes to one another. The annual International Ball at Hogwarts had become a tradition everyone looked forward to, this part included. Everyone walked around giving out hugs and cheerful good-byes, promising not to wait until next year to see each other again.

Severus thought it was rubbish. Not a single person will keep their promise, nor are most of the cheery good-byes genuine. He heaved an irritated sigh as he leaned against a stone pillar, arms crossed so people would leave him alone.

Hermione was walking through the crowed, engaging in the same behavior as everyone else. She told people from her past it was good to see them again, and told new friends she couldn't wait to see them next year.

Her eyes eventually came across Viktor. He gave her an unsure look and held his arms out in a shrug, not sure if she wanted to speak to him or not.

She gave him a smile as she approached him and said, "Just because I turned you down for the ball doesn't mean I don't want to say good bye."

He returned her smile, pulling her into a hug as she approached. At that point, Severus pushed himself off the stone pillar and began casually walking in their direction.

With his arms wrapped around her, he said, "I was really hoping for a repeat of our date when I was competing in the Tri-Wizard Tournament all those years ago. I had a great time with you then, Hermione."

She pulled back in an effort to end their hug, but he still held her close. His eyes were flicking from her eyes to her lips, causing her to part them as she tried to think of something to say to end the situation gently. He, however, took this as a sign to proceed. He leaned into her, Hermione's eyes growing wide just before she felt herself being ripped from his grasp.

Feeling that he missed his target, Viktor opened his eyes with surprise and annoyance at seeing Severus standing before him, his target now just behind the dark wizard's shoulder with her eyes even wider than before.

"I believe you are about to miss your boat, Mr. Krum," Severus said smoothly.

Narrowing his eyes at him, Viktor said, "She isn't a student anymore, Snape. I believe she can kiss whomever she likes." He was no fool – he knew what this was about.

"No, she cannot," he simply replied with a slight edge to his words, a hush coming over the crowd as everyone around them intently focused on the scene.

It was interesting for sure. Viktor Krum stood with clenched fists not more than three feet from Professor Snape who seemed entirely too calm for the challenge standing before him, even if he was a skilled duelist.

Hermione was examining the side of Severus's face from just behind him, wondering what was going through that mind of his.

"And why is that?" Viktor asked as he stepped into the older wizard, apparently attempting to intimidate him.

Severus raised an eyebrow at him, questioning if he was actually supposed to feel threatened. "Because…she is mine," he explained, making Hermione's heart jump at the possessive language.

"Yours? And where have you been the whole time I've been around?" Viktor asked, sure the older wizard was full it.

"I assure you, Mr. Krum, I have never been far," he said, his words dripping with disdain.

Hermione raised her eyebrows at his response. Oh really? He's keeping tabs on me now?

Scoffing at him, Viktor asked, "So you've been lurking in dark corners? Not exactly the best way to get a girl."

Turning to grab Hermione, Severus brought her in front of him so her back was to his chest, her face toward Viktor who furrowed his brow. Severus positioned himself behind her so his chin hovered just above her shoulder, his cheek near hers.

Hermione could hear his steady breathing next to her, and she wanted nothing more than to lean back and press herself into his body.

The onlookers all glanced at one another. No one could remember a single time they'd seen Professor Snape touch someone save for the times he was ripping snogging students apart, forget about him wrapping his arms around someone as it seemed was going to now.

Hermione was now looking down, watching Severus fish just inside the neckline of her t-shirt with his wand for the charm she knew he was about to expose to everyone within earshot or view. Her heart excitedly skipped a beat at the realization of how real it was all about to become. He was about to ring a bell that couldn't be un-rung.

Flipping the charm out onto her shirt with the tip of his wand, Severus once again said, "She…is mine."

A look of confusion came over Viktor's face. He'd heard about something like this before. "You're bound to him?" he asked, disgust obvious in his voice. "Did he force you?"

"I was bound to him, yes," she said, emphasizing the past tense. Then, not appreciating his tone regardless of how upset she still was with Severus, she added, "And there is nothing wrong with him!"

For the first time since his exchange with Viktor began, Severus took the time to look at Hermione. Fire was burning in her eyes as he looked her over from his place just over her shoulder.

"You still are," he spoke into her ear.

"What?" she asked, turning her head in his direction.

"You are still bound to me," he explained quietly in her ear.

Stepping away from him so she could fully turn to look at him, she said, "You broke it."

"Hermione," he began, his face sad and weary as if he hadn't slept in days. She suddenly felt a strong urge to pull him in her arms and take care of him. "It is nearly impossible to break a bond, and the results are devastating. And if I had broken it…your charm would have disappeared."

"But I… I felt it," she told him.

"It's lying dormant. It's not gone. It's just…off," he tried to explain.

With a sudden surge of anger, Hermione began swinging her arms at him, hitting him (though admittedly not hard enough to cause any harm) on the arms and chest.

Finding the situation incredibly inappropriate for a public setting, Severus grabbed her arms and warned her, "Control yourself."

With one more unsuccessful shake to try to get away from him, Hermione signaled her defeat.

"I will be in my quarters," he told her, releasing her from his grip. Then, turning to Viktor and coming to within inches of his face, firmly pressing the tip of his wand under his chin, he warned him venomously, "Keep your hands off my witch."

Hermione watched him walk away, mystified by what had just unfolded. Why hadn't she wondered about the charm's continued existence?

Looking around her, she found a large group of people circled around them watching. They parted at one end to let Severus through, then all turned back to look at Hermione and Viktor.

She swallowed, turned back to Viktor, and said with confusion from what had just happened still resonating in her voice, "Have a safe trip home."

She walked away, leaving Viktor wondering what would possess someone like Hermione Granger to choose someone like Severus Snape over himself – a young, good-looking, Quidditch superstar.

As she neared the edge of the group of people circled around, she spotted Minerva in the crowd, smiling knowingly at her. Hermione returned her smile with a shake of her head, knowing there was no point in hiding it any longer. Before she could go around letting everyone know what had happened though, she had to figure it out for herself.


Again, hear me when I say this to you - I have NOT abandoned this story. I have far too much work into it for me to just let it sit here in limbo for the rest of time. I will be back. I have no idea when, but I will be back! At least we're all in a happier place now! : )

Much love to you my readers! ~hss