"See? Right here! Here, you're just flat out wrong!" Hermione flounced up to his desk and waved her parchment like a flag. He didn't miss the sway of her breasts under her rather unconventional robes. It was obvious they were cut for someone else and had been customized for her with a charm. High-necked and long-sleeved, they were rather shapeless and non-descript, but for the fabric, which seemed determined to cling to her every curve. It had been a distraction since she'd arrived thirty minutes earlier. Days of keeping a disciplined mind and an emotional distance were quickly dissolving, leaving him shockingly close to panic.
She threw her essay down, jabbing her finger at his comments. "How can it not be coercion? You are intentionally affecting someone's emotions and opinions!"
He picked up her essay with a raised eyebrow and tossed it to the side, returning his attention to the paper he was writing for Potions Quarterly. "Intent, Granger. Stop being so willfully obtuse. This is not a black or white issue. There are shades of grey."
She reached down and snatched the quill out of his hand. "No, there's not! How can there be? You are just being unnecessarily argumentative and dismissive of my effort!"
He shoved his chair back and stood up, leaning across his desk and staring only at her eyes. Eyes that crackled and sparked with anger and indignation. He found her anger incredibly sexy. She was always so passionate about the smallest things. He was nearly demented with the desire to feel that passion turned on him again. Stop that, he scolded himself.
"And how exactly is the Ministry supposed to legislate your wrong-headed ideas? Do you seriously think that every hormonal sixteen year old girl should be sent to Azkaban for slipping a Love Philter to a boy they like? That's preposterous!"
"Now you're going to defend the Romilda Vanes of the world? I cannot believe you would condone such a thing!" She flung her hands in the air and turned her back on him, and he followed the line of her back down to the swell of her pert arse. The lightweight robes did nothing to hide her figure, and he was starting to suspect she was completely naked underneath.
"You call me willfully obtuse when it's you who are being willfully perverse!" she snapped.
You have no idea , he muttered to himself as he stomped around the desk, stopping only inches away from her. He took a deep breath and strained toward sanity. "Knowing that it is inevitable behavior amongst desperate adolescents, and that it doesn't serve the public to hand out a mandatory sentence for something so trifling, is not the same as condoning it. In my years, I handed out plenty of detentions for that very same offense. Love Potions are temporary and the effects they create are not real. You're not truly making the person love you, just manipulating their emotions for a while."
"Imperio is temporary! It's still considered an Unforgivable!" She stared at him with far too much emotion on her face for such a negligible issue.
"What is this about, Granger? Are you still angry that Weasley was a victim of a prank all those years ago? I will remind you that incident turned dangerous because of other factors. Had Ronald not been poisoned, he would have recovered on his own."
"That's not it at all. But surely you can see the damage caused by Merope Gaunt's use of them? The motivation is the same, whether or not you are a silly sixteen-year-old or a desperately unhappy eighteen-year-old! There would have been no Dark Lord if there had been no Potion!"
His eyes slipped to her heaving bosom. The lightweight silk offered no privacy for her hardened nipples. When he looked back up, he saw she was staring at his mouth, biting down gently on the corner of her own. Her face was flushed, and her eyelids drooped with desire. His own need flared into an ache that angered him.
"Granger," he hissed, "do you really think your robes are appropriate, considering?"
Her mouth parted, and she nervously licked at her lips. "My uniform was jinxed chasing a robbery suspect earlier. I just threw on a spare robe Neville kept at work rather than be late."
"You shouldn't tempt fate in such a way." His voice had gone dry.
"I was in a hurry to see you."
"I could have waited."
Her eyes slipped down to his mouth again. "I couldn't." Her whispered confession seemed torn from her throat.
He closed his eyes, defeated by her admission. "Hermione… "
"I'm sorry," she said in an anguished hiss. "It won't go away."
He scrubbed at his face with both of his hands, opening his eyes and letting her see his own torment. "Granger, I'm not—" He didn't finish because he wasn't sure what he was trying to say. 'I'm not interested?' A pathetic lie. 'I'm not good enough for you?' A pathetic truth. 'I'm not capable of this much self-control?' Simply pathetic, his life had been a monument to self-control since he'd been eighteen. He wanted her. His vaunted self-discipline was only so much smoke in the face of his arousal. It's just sex, for fuck's sake, he shouted to himself. Since when do you let things get this complicated?
She gave him a look filled with such longing and desire that his restraint snapped with an audible growl.
She let out a wild cry of relief as he crushed her to his chest and kissed her. She clung to him, as his hands raced across the curves that had been taunting him. She moaned into his mouth and pushed against him.
She tore at his clothes, pulling his robes apart and attacking the buttons on his shirt with nimble fingers. He devoured her kisses while grabbing her luscious arse and crushing her against his selfish cock.
He couldn't ever remember wanting a woman as much as he wanted her. He lifted her up and sat her on the desk. "This means nothing," he growled, unsure if he were talking to himself or to her. "It's just fucking."
She moaned and tore the rest of his buttons away to slide her hot hands across his chest. "Good. I just want you to fuck the hell out of me."
He felt all the hairs on his skin stand up at her words, and he kissed her again, sliding his hands up under her skirt. She was wearing knickers, but they were so tiny they put up no resistance. He slid a finger under them and stroked his knuckle down through her folds. She was soaking wet. He tugged at them, and she shifted and helped pull them off. He shoved the little scrap of teal-blue silk into a pocket. Next, he snatched her robes off over her head, pulling her hair out of its loose bun in the process. Perfect.
Seeing her in all her naked splendor shattered the last vestiges of civility. He became a man possessed, nearly attacking her breasts. They were glorious, neither too big, nor too small, and he flicked his tongue across the peaked nipple of one breast while filling his hand with the other and massaging it. She came close to pulling all his hair out as he did.
She reached down and cupped him through his trousers, and he groaned and bucked against her hand.
"Now!" she moaned. "Now, now, now…"
He searched out her mouth and kissed her roughly, and then straightened up and shrugged off his robes and ruined shirt. His metal belt buckle clinked as he unfastened it and popped open the buttons on his trousers.
There was no attempt at seduction or sophistication, no tenderness or even much in the way of affection. There had been too much tension, too much strain, and too much disingenuousness already. He just shoved his trousers down, grabbed her hips, and pulled her to the edge of the desk. Her throaty groan as he sank into her nearly ended it.
Christ, it never ceased to amaze him how good it felt to be buried in a woman. He could feel her twitching around him, tight and hot and soaking wet. He began with a quick pace and at her urging went even faster. Soon, he was pounding into her body like an animal, as she shouted at him to go even faster, fuck her harder, clawing at him and leaving marks. It wasn't making love; they were punishing themselves for their folly.
It was glorious.
She fell back in a sprawl on his desk, and he was riveted by the sight of her breasts jiggling from the force of his assault, and just how far around her tiny waist his hands went. She shattered around him, and he stroked through the rippling of her muscles, determined to hold out as long as he could. Her head lolled to the side, her eyes unfocussed, and she just moaned as he rammed into her again and again. It was over as soon as she looked back up at him with something akin to worship in her eyes. He threw his head back and clenched his teeth tight against the scream that tried to burst forth as he came.
He held himself up by strength of will, a crushing grip on her hips, and his knees braced against the front of his desk.
She slowly pushed herself up and clung to his shoulders, her legs still wrapped around him. Her head twisted up, and she kissed his neck, his jaw, the side of his mouth.
"Stupidity at its best," he said, still gasping for breath as his heart slammed painfully in his chest. His climax had been so powerful he'd lost his eyesight for a moment and was still blinking the spots away.
She laughed, a short, sharp sound. "That it was. But it was still pretty amazing." She ran one hand across his sweat-slick chest, and he shuddered from her touch.
He kissed the top of her head. "That it was."
He pulled out and reached for his torn shirt, using it to clean her before finding a dry corner and mopping at himself. "Please tell me you are taking the potion," he said, his voice heavy with mixed emotion.
He sighed in relief and stroked his hand across her brow, down her neck and between her breasts. "Did I hurt you?"
She sighed, her voice taking on a sated, dream-like tone. "No. It was just how I wanted it."
He felt himself stirring again in response and shook his head. This tiny morsel of a woman affected him like no one before. He toed off his boots and stepped out of his crumpled trousers, while helping her down from the desk. He held onto her hand and led her across the room.
"What are we doing?" she asked.
"When you return home tonight, you will realize there are over fifty perfectly logical reasons for why we will never see each other again. We still have a couple of hours this evening to ignore them all and do whatever the hell we want. Might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb, and I would very much like a mattress involved in round two."
He led her to his bed, and selfishly claimed her for at least a little while longer, intending to sate himself of this folly. He catalogued her secrets, her reactions, her gasps, and mewling little cries, trying to rid himself of the madness in the few hours left.
Only it hadn't been just a few hours more. After an awkward and bittersweet farewell, they had both taken a desultory stab at the high road, finding it not much to their liking. When she showed up at his cottage a week later, with her enormous eyes and her lip squashed in her teeth, he didn't say a word until after he'd fucked her against the door. They clung to each other afterwards, fighting for air and gasping out rules.
It was just physical. A break from the stress. A distraction. They meant nothing to each other.
They repeated these things like a mantra.
Their affair had lasted well beyond her exams. In fact, it continued right up until the wedding.
Her relationship with her fiancé remained stable. In fact, it improved. She was more relaxed. Happier. She no longer worried about tiny details. She was a demanding lover, her curiosity extending to areas even he had never explored.
Severus had regular access to a glorious body, a sharp mind, and a generous friend, without complications. She became his addiction. After a weekend spent apart, he would begin to pace a half hour before she was expected to arrive. By the third week, he had enough self-control to lead her to his bed and not simply ravish her at the door or on the couch a few feet away.
They kept it heartless, just so there would be no confusing emotional outbursts, and they were up front about the fact that it would end with a vow. It was as if having a built-in end made it all tidy. They frequently expressed the importance of her vows, while blatantly ignoring the hypocrisy. They created an endless supply of justifications.
The capacity for the human mind to lie to itself is astounding. It's much easier when there are two people desperate to believe the lie.
Betwixt and between all of the carnal exploration had been hours of scholarly debate, many intimate shared meals, an occasional evening stroll to the pub, and even nights sitting out and looking at the stars in silence, while holding hands.
Blinded by the exhilarating delight of their seemingly perfect understanding, neither of them had realized how deluded they were until it was far too late.
"Give her air!"
"Let me at my daughter!"
"Is she alright?"
"Oh, that's going to leave a mark."
"Is this frosting or bird poo?"
"Someone fetch her some water."
Hermione woke up and rolled to the side as her stomach chose an inopportune moment to rebel. She threw up on Ron's dress shoes.
She wiped her mouth on a beaded sleeve and flopped onto her back again, grabbing at her throbbing head.
"Are you all right dear?"
Hands tried to lift her, but she just groaned and curled in on herself.
"Leave her alone! Can't you see she's sick?"
Hermione winced as her mother's tone knifed right through her brain.
"Yes, but she's in the middle of something rather important," Molly said. "The Minister just needs to say his part and then she can have a bit of a lie down."
She sat up with difficulty; too many hands were trying to help. "It's not over?" she asked in a shaky whisper.
"No, dear," her mother said. "But it will only take a moment if you're ready."
"NO!" she blurted.
She struggled up, looking around at all the concerned faces. She found Ron and shook her head. "I've changed my mind!"
"What?" He stared at her in shock.
"I don't want to marry you! I'm so sorry!"
Molly fluttered her handkerchief at her. "She hit her head, the poor dear. She doesn't know what she's saying."
Hermione weakly batted it away. "Yes, I do." She looked up at the Minister, who was staring at her with concern. "I don't! I don't want to marry him! I've changed my mind!"
"When?" Ron asked, as the assembled guests started to back away, murmuring.
"Ages ago. I just didn't know how to tell you." She looked around helplessly, but even her mother was frowning at her in anger. "I didn't want to ruin everything."
Ron grabbed her by her elbow and pulled her to the side, not that it was any more private. "Hermione, is this a joke? Because it's not particularly amusing."
She winced at the hurt look on his face and shook her head helplessly.
He leaned in and whispered in a deadly soft voice. "Is there someone else?"
Hermione's tongue turned to cement and refused to cooperate, so her face told the truth for her.
Ron's freckles stood out in sharp contrast for a moment, before they were obliterated by the amount of blood that rushed up under them.
He let go of her with a little shove and stepped back. "Who is it?" he snapped loud enough for everyone to hear. He whipped around, staring at the crowd until his eyes found a suspect. His face clouded with rage. "YOU!"
"Me?" squeaked Neville.
"You're her partner! You're the one she spends most of her time with!"
"Ron, don't be ridiculous." Hermione stepped forward and grabbed his sleeve, but he snatched it away. She turned to Harry, who looked completely confused. "Make him stop before he makes this worse!"
Harry stepped up to Ron, just as Neville defended himself. "No, I'm not. She spends twice as much time with Snape as me. Just what are you accusing me of, anyway? I'm a happily married man!"
Hermione cringed, looking frantically around at the crowd.
Ron stepped in front of her. "Bloody hell, he's right isn't he? That's why the git got sick, isn't it?" Ron spun around. "Where is he?" he demanded.
"He left after he tossed his biscuits," George replied.
"Ron, please!" she cried. "Just… calm down!"
"Calm down? CALM DOWN? This was supposed to be the happiest day of my life!" He stared at her with hurt and loss. "I'm going to kill him!" His face scrunched up into bitterness. "And you can just… go to hell!"
He Apparated away with a bang, and after she sent him a pleading look, Harry left hard on his heels.
"Oh, bloody hell." Hermione snatched her wand out of her sleeve and spun into a turn.
Snape walked into The Pigs Trotter and signaled Irving before making his way to his usual table.
The bartender came up with a dark pint and set it down in front of him. "You look like misery itself, Snape. Where's your little girlfriend?"
"Getting married," he mumbled.
"Ouch." Irving left and came back with a bottle of Firewhisky and another glass. "On me."
Snape nodded his thanks and sipped his ale, turning the bottle of spirits around and around with his long fingers. He sighed and looked around, realizing from the whispers that Irving had already managed to tell every other prat in the place in that short amount of time. Bastard. He returned the sympathetic nods with scowls.
He'd barely taken a second sip when the door burst open and Granger came running in dressed in that white lace nightmare, complete with veil.
He jumped up from the table and met her halfway across the floor, heedless of the excited murmuring going on around them. "What the hell are you doing here?" he snapped.
"Saving your life!" She grabbed his hand and started tugging him back toward the door.
He dug his heels in and pulled her back to him. "Stop talking nonsense! Why are you here and not off dancing with your groom?"
"Because I called it off, and now he's coming to kill you! I left them knocking on your door, but they could hardly have missed me running up the lane in this getup."
"He's coming to kill me?" Snape's brain couldn't make the leap at first, but when it finally did, the blood drained from his face and swelled his heart. "You told him about us? At the altar?"
She bit her lip. "Not in so many words. He is a detective, you know."
"Bloody hell. It's always the damned Gryffindors. Wait, you called it off? But I heard you say your vows…"
"Yes, and then I fainted before the minister could wrap it up, so-to-speak."
"You fainted? When?"
"While you were busy getting sick."
"Christ. What a pair we are."
She just looked at him and nodded with wide eyes.
The door burst back open, and they both turned to see Ron standing in the doorway with George and Harry flanking him. "YOU!"
An excited rumble raced around the room, and there was the telltale sound of bets being made.
"Shit," Snape muttered under his breath. He pulled his wand out of his sleeve and pushed Hermione away with a quiet, "Off you go…"
She didn't budge.
"Ron, stop. You have to calm down," hissed Potter uselessly.
Weasley raised his wand and aimed it at Snape's head.
Hermione jumped between them. "Ron, stop! It's not what you think!"
"It's not?" That last was said in unison by Ron, Harry, half the patrons, and Snape himself, which rather ruined the effect.
"No!" She walked toward the door. "Snape didn't steal me from you. He doesn't even really care for me. I just… took advantage of his friendship because I was overwhelmed and scared. It was meaningless." She sucked in a deep breath and squared her shoulders, obviously taking on the burden of her consequences. "If you're going to be mad at anyone, it should be me. If you're going to hex anyone," she sighed and dropped her wand to her side, "it should be me."
Snape had barely enough time to throw a shield over her before Weasley did just that. There was a moment of shocked stillness before the bride's face filled with rage.
"You bastard!" she screamed, throwing a hex back at him. "I can't believe you did that!"
"And I can't believe you slept with Snape!" Ron screamed back at her, blasting her murderous birds out of the air.
"If you'd just married me at the registrar's office when I asked, I might not have!" she screeched back.
Hermione planted a hand on her hip. "Yes, might. He's a lot more interested in what I have to say than you ever were. There's a damned good chance I would have slept with him anyway!"
Weasley turned puce. "You want to know the reason why I wouldn't get married at that sodding office? Because if I was going to be fucking stuck with you for the rest of my life, I wanted a bloody big party where I could drink myself blind afterwards! You fucking whore!"
"Yeah? Well, your fucking sucks! At least Snape knows how to please a woman! And he can last for hours longer than you can!"
"You tell him, girly!" one of the village women shouted.
"Oi, Snape! Are you busy Saturday?" another witch hollered, jiggling her ample bosom.
He rolled his eyes and deflected another one of Ron's spells, grabbing Hermione from behind and muttering, "Fucking Gryffindors."
The hex bounced off and hit an innocent bystander, painting the man in Scarlet As from head to toe. Ten seconds later, they had a full-scale brawl on their hands.
Potter was yelling at Ron to stop, while throwing up shields to keep from getting hexed by the now furious patrons.
George was cackling like a madman and throwing hexes at any open target, including Potter.
Irving flew into a rage when his sculpture of a pig's foot was smashed, and started hexing everyone in the place.
Granger overturned a table and crouched behind it, soaking her wedding dress in spilled ale. She threw hex after hex at her groom, who returned fire with extreme prejudice.
Snape stood untouched in the center of the room, looking around and shaking his head. It was bedlam.
He sent out a Patronus, and then belatedly remembered that several of the people involved were Aurors and that anyone who would respond to the call had most likely been at the wedding. "Shit."
He lifted his wand and started systematically stunning everyone in the room with the exception of Potter.
In the ensuing silence, the two stared at each other.
"You stunned Hermione. She's going to kill you."
"Do you think she would have stopped if I had asked nicely?" Snape replied.
"No, come to think of it. She was pretty angry." Harry scratched at his hair and looked around at the mess. "Did you really sleep with her?"
"Why would she lie?"
"Why would she sleep with you?" Harry shot back, shaking his head at this apparent mystery. "Did she really take advantage of you? You know, what she said about you not caring for her. Is that true?"
"Ah." Harry nodded as if this somehow made it better. He stared down at Hermione, stretched out in her filthy wedding dress with her veil trailing through broken glass. "Does she know? That you really do care for her?"
"Are you going to tell her?"
Snape sighed. "I don't think I will. She seemed rather happy with the idea that I didn't."
Harry nodded slowly. "Then again, I think she might be happier knowing she didn't throw her life away for nothing."
Snape turned and gave him a direct stare. "Do you really think she threw her life away?" He gestured at Ronald, lying face down in his ruined dress robes, which were now electric pink. "It looked like a colossal mistake to me. She's been miserable practically since the engagement."
"And you helped?" Harry shot back.
Snape sighed. "No. I can't say I did." His heart squeezed painfully in his chest. "But that was my intent, before it all raced out of control." He shook his head, disgusted at himself. "I just wanted to do something nice for her."
He picked up the still intact bottle of Firewhisky off his table, which was the only one still standing. "I assume you can take care of this mess?"
Snape waved at the bartender covered in scales on the floor. "Tell Irving to just send me a bill."
He walked out the back door to the sound of several pops of Apparition as more wedding guests arrived.
One year later…
Severus half-listened to his companion complain about the service at dinner as they walked along Diagon Alley. His mind was preoccupied with reevaluating his needs.
Trilla Grabney had seemed like a friendly, warm-natured, mature woman when he would run into her at the Apothecary in North Kielder, but after one evening together, he was discovering that she was instead a boring, pretentious cow.
They were all cows. All the women he'd dated. They had all only ever been ignorant cows.
Except for her.
She'd ruined everything.
Up until she'd come along, he hadn't particularly minded the dairy farm.
He looked at his date and sighed, wondering again if he was truly this desperate, or if celibacy wasn't half-bad.
He took Miss Grabney by the elbow and guided her around a knot of younger revelers, automatically searching the group for her face.
He always did these days.
He hadn't seen her since her nightmarish wedding day a year ago. He'd heard from Minerva that she'd left the country the very next day. No one saw hide nor hair of her again until the gossip pages started reporting Granger sightings around London a month ago.
Not that he read the gossip pages—Potter had arrived on his doorstep asking if she'd been by as soon as he'd read them.
Severus had spent days waiting for her to show up.
After that, he'd invented a thousand excuses to pop into London, keeping an eye out on the off-chance he might see her.
He never did.
"Did you hear what I said?"
He turned and looked at his date. "Hmm?"
Trilla huffed. "I said, 'I don't see why they took such exception to being given a better Béarnaise sauce recipe.' Honestly. One would think they would take advantage and chose to improve themselves. I'm going to have to write to all my friends and tell them to avoid the place in the future. You watch, they will owl me and beg me to help them within a fortnight. Don't you think?"
He made a noise that could be construed as active participation and continued to watch the other people out strolling on a Friday night.
A slight figure wearing a cloak with a deep hood darted out of an alley and up to the entrance of the bookstore just ahead.
When he saw the delicate hand push against the door, he stopped.
"Is something wrong?"
It's just a hand. "No." It could have been anyone's hand. "Nothing's wrong." I've kissed that fucking hand. "I think I saw an old acquaintance." Hell, I've licked that bloody hand. "Would you excuse me?"
"What? Where are you going?"
"I won't be but a moment."
He hurried to the entrance of Flourish and Blott's and pushed the door open, darting his eyes around the shop. People saw him and immediately found other aisles to peruse as he stalked through the stacks looking for a slender woman in a brown cloak.
He found her in Translation Spells.
"So you are back," he said in a quiet voice.
She whirled around, and he watched as fear, relief, fear, excitement, fear, and finally simple awkwardness flashed across her face with lightning speed.
His stomach dropped at her formal tone. "You look well," he said. "Tanned, I see."
"Ah. On holiday?"
"No. I live there now."
He nodded, wondering what on earth to say next.
She cleared her throat and looked around nervously. "My parents asked me to oversee the sale of their house. I've been staying there while I got it up to snuff for the market. I leave again next week, and thought I would look for some spells to improve my language skills. I still have some difficulty."
They stared at each other in an excruciatingly uncomfortable silence for a full minute. "Well, I won't keep you then," he said. "It's good to see you again."
He turned and walked away.
He stopped and angled his head to the side. She'd followed him the short distance.
"Is it good to see me again?" she asked in a quiet voice.
He turned back to her and shook his head. "No. It's been my greatest wish for nearly a year, but now that I have…" He sighed. "Have a good life, Granger."
He whirled away and stormed back towards the exit feeling like an utter fool. Daydreams and idle fantasies about his reunion with her had somehow never included a complete loss of dignity and a cowardly retreat. Nor, had he expected the constant, howling wind blowing through his chest to actually get worse.
Once out in the street, he sucked in a deep breath and exhaled.
"There you are! I can't believe you just left me standing out on the pavement. Honestly, how rude of you!"
Snape turned his head and stared at the woman he'd almost thought interesting enough to throw a leg over.
"Irving said you were a man of refined tastes, but I must say, Mr. Snape, that my impression of this evening is subpar at best. Subpar," she repeated, stabbing him in the shoulder with a stubby finger to emphasize her point.
"Oh, go to hell," he said with a tired voice. He twisted in place and Apparated away.
He was halfway up the walk to his cottage when he heard the pop behind him. He spun around to tell Miss Trilla Grabney exactly what she could do with her fucking Béarnaise Sauce when he saw Granger standing there with her hood thrown back and her face a mask of anger.
"Have a nice life? Have a nice LIFE?" She stomped up to him and threw her arms wide. "What the fuck was that?"
"What the hell did you want me to say?" he snapped back, his bitterness igniting into fury. "If you had wanted to see me, you would have. You've been back for a month! In fact, if you'd actually cared, you wouldn't have blazed a path out of the country the next fucking day without so much as a thanks for the ride!"
"If I actually—You numpty! I was fired for misappropriation of funds! I lost all of my friends! My own parents wouldn't speak to me for six months! I was a pariah! You're the one that left me lying in a puddle of ale. You didn't want a fucking relationship! 'No complications! Nice and tidy!' " she mimicked in an annoying sing-song.
He sang right back at her. " 'I love Ron, I want to spend the rest of my life with him!' And then there's my personal favorite, 'It's not what you think, I was just overwhelmed and scared!' "
"You always said it was just fucking!"
"And you said it was meaningless!"
"WELL, SO DID I!" he roared, shocking himself.
They stood there, staring at each other in furious confusion.
"I lied to myself," he whispered.
"I lied to everyone," she replied, shaking her head. "Oh, Christ. What a pair we are."
His eyes slid closed, and he took a deep breath. "Granger, would you… like some tea?" He cringed at how spineless that had sounded.
She nodded, her enormous eyes glistening with unshed emotion, and he nearly sagged to the ground. He held out his hand, and when she placed hers in it, he gave her a timid smile and led her to his door.
Once inside, she grew still, and he watched as tears spilled down her cheeks. "I didn't think I would ever see this place again. I've missed it."
He sighed and looked around. "You're welcome to come more often, if you'd like." Realizing his words sounded daft, he sucked in a deep breath and held it. "In fact—" he exhaled, "—I'd like it very much if you would never leave again."
He closed his eyes and turned his face to the wall, feeling like a fool. "I'll put on the kettle," he blurted, darting across the room. He grabbed up the kettle and filled it with water, all the while screaming at himself in his head. The thing of it was, he had no idea what he was screaming.
"Severus?" He jumped. He hadn't heard her follow him. "Could we start over?"
He closed his eyes, set the kettle down, and turned to her. "I don't want to." He held a hand up before her impending reaction grew force. "Starting over implies forgetting the past. I don't want to forget any of it. I'd much rather move forward. Perhaps with a bit less self-delusion this time."
She gave him a wobbly smile, and he pulled her into his arms, pressing her against the hole in his chest and finally stopping the howling wind. "Hermione, I want you back. I never wanted you to go. Watching you marry that fool was more than I could take. But we'd lied to each other for so long… I didn't think you really wanted me."
She nodded. "I was sure you didn't want me. In fact, I was sure you were angry with me. I had managed to make everything fairly messy there at the end. I have no idea why I let it all get so out of hand." She brought a hand up and scrubbed at her eyes quickly, before wrapping it back around his waist as if afraid to let go for too long. "I was already struggling with my feelings for you before that stupid first kiss. I should have just ended things with Ron then. Instead, I just became some sort of incredibly selfish and demented flobberworm."
He sighed and hugged her tighter. "Obviously some of your flobberworm tendencies stuck. How could you think I didn't want you after I vomited during your vows?"
She barked a laugh. "At the time? I was too busy hyperventilating to think clearly. Later? Well, like you said, we'd both been so good at lying to each other…"
He nodded. "Can we not do that anymore?"
She let out a musical giggle that made his own lips twitch in a smile. "Absolutely. In fact, let's be perfectly honest with each other right now. I love you."
"I love you, too," he blurted without a pause. He went still, realizing he'd never said those words aloud before. He quirked a small smile, feeling the hole in his chest seal shut.
"That was easy," she said with a small hiccoughing laugh. "Let's try another one." She looked him in the eyes with an impish smile on her face. "Do you really want tea?"
He raised an eyebrow. "No. I really want to drag you to bed and shag you blind."
She grinned. "Good. Because that's really what I want too."
He smirked, and she whooped as he lifted her up and tossed her over his shoulder.
"Why did it take a year for us to have this conversation?" she asked over his shoulder, as he pushed open his bedroom door with her feet. "It's not even ten minutes since we saw each other and we're already headed to bed."
"Are we still being honest?" he asked.
"Absolutely," she replied.
"Because you're a dunderhead."
She squealed in indignation as he kicked the door closed behind them.
Another year later…
"I do," Hermione said confidently, looking chic in her blue trouser suit.
"Obviously, I do as well, or we wouldn't be here. Can we move this along?" Snape drawled, wearing his usual black robes.
The woman behind the counter at the Ministry Records Office in Corsica pressed her lips together and scowled. "Fine. I now pronounce you man and wife. Kiss her, and sign here."
Irritated at even this little bit of silly ritual, he pulled his new wife up against his side and pecked her forehead before snatching up the quill.
Hermione giggled. "You really are perverse, you know."
"You have no idea," he drawled, handing her the quill.
She scrawled her name on the parchment and dropped the quill on the counter before turning in his arm and looking up at him. "Oh, yes I do," she replied in a husky voice. The look in her eyes shot through his body like live current. "That's why I'm standing here."
He smiled. It might be silly ritual, but it had just made this woman his. That knowledge made him swell with a possessive pride. He leaned down and kissed her, accepting the promise in her eyes and making unspoken promises of his own in retaliation. Hermione turned boneless in his arms.
A cough interrupted them. He smirked at the blushing woman behind the counter before grabbing his wife's hand and dragging her off to start their future.
I do hope you enjoyed! I should have another along in a week or so...