Author's Note: This part of the story has come to an end! BUT, I am already toying with developing a sequel, which would continue the exploration of the relationship between SS and HG, as well as going further into the plot mentioned at the beginning. A million thanks to my reviewers, and I am only to happy to accept suggestions for the sequel if you have any. The song in this chapter is "Hearts A Mess" by GOTYE.

Disclaimer: This world and its characters do not belong to me. The content in this story originally comes from J.K. Rowling (except for the smutty parts, I'm pretty sure those come from the wonderfully depraved SS/HG-fans around the world).

Chapter 8

Severus woke up right before dawn. He was more relaxed than he could remember having been in ages. Blinking confused, he had the strangest feeling that he was not alone in the room. He discarded the thought as impossible, but then felt someone stirring next to him. For a second he could not phantom why anyone would be in the room with him and he was half-preparing to defend himself. Then, the memories from the night before caught up with him and he inhaled sharply. Hermione.

He laid still for a while, listening to her even breathing. A part of him wanted to obliviate her and pretend nothing happened, and another part of him wanted to snuggle next to her and wake her with a kiss. The rather sad truth was, he had no idea how to go about this. He had been alone for so long, and Hermione was such an improbable… "partner", he felt something akin to panic rise in his chest. Leaving the warm bed was difficult for several reasons, but he carefully slipped out of bed and dressed quickly. You're a bloody coward, just like she said, he ruefully thought to himself.

He walked over to her, and studied her sleeping face. She looked so peaceful and content; he could not help but to smile softly. Nonetheless, he decided that leaving her to wake up alone would be the best cause of action. He needed to think, and have a cup of damn strong coffee before facing her after what happened between them.

Hermione woke up when the sun decided to shine brilliantly straight at her face. She sighed sleepily and rolled over, realizing she was alone in a bed that was not her own. Scenes from the previous night flashed through her mind, and she blushed slightly. He had left, and while it was nice to not have to do the awkward morning-after talk straight away, she was disappointed by what seemed to be yet another "fleeing from the scene", elegantly signed Severus Tobias Snape. He'll have to deal with this sooner or later, she thought while she got up and accioed her clothes.

Later, after a long shower, she walked down the stairs. The smell of eggs and bacon made her stomach growl, and as she descended she wondered who was downstairs. She briefly imagined Severus with an apron, dishing up a typical English breakfast after their night together, and snorted at the thought. Still, she did hope he was there, but reason told her that he was most likely not.

Walking into the kitchen, she was greeted by Molly and Ginny.

"Hermione! Good morning dear! Ginny and I had planned to go to Diagon Alley today and do some shopping, and we decided to come here first and make you a nice breakfast to convince you to come with us", Molly beamed.

"Good morning – what a surprise! I didn't expect anyone to be here, except for Severus, actually." Hermione said, whilst being ushered into a chair by the table and handed a big cup of tea.

"Well, that is part of why we're here, 'Mione", Ginny said with a wink. "You spend too much time cooped up in this house with Snape. We thought it might be a good idea to bring you with us on a girl's day out. Spending all that time with Snape in here can't possibly be healthy", she continued with a grin.

Hermione almost chocked on her tea. Did they know about Severus and her? But it appeared that the comment had been innocent enough, as Ginny changed the subject and began talking about a new café in Diagon Alley that had the best blueberry muffins she had ever tasted. She eased into the conversation, allowing herself to relax and enjoy the breakfast with the two Weasley women.

Soon, the three women found themselves in Diagon Alley. The street was bustling with life; wizards and witches rushing from store to store, shopkeepers shouting to promote their products and people stopping to chat to each other. Hermione hadn't been there in a while, and it was a welcome sight to her. She laughed and joked with Ginny, who had left baby Lily in Harry's care at home. Occasionally she thought about Severus, and where he was – but he had made a choice to avoid her, and she would deal with that later. Although she was rather disappointed in him for bailing on her, she could understand it. In any case, she knew she'd see him soon enough and they could talk then.

Later, Hermione came home from a long day of shopping and she immediately walked into her bathroom and slipped into the warm water. Although as much fun as it had been and as much she enjoyed the company of Molly and Ginny, she felt exhausted from being around so many people in a public place at once. Of course, it didn't help that she was often recognized and approached by strangers wanting to thank her for her efforts during the war – some even asked for her autograph or picture, which just felt weird to her.

After the bath, she walked around the house and still found no Severus. Not that she was in the mood for any serious talks with him now anyway, but she felt alone in the big house without him. She was also starting to get a little worried. He had been gone for at least 12 hours and although she knew she was being paranoid, she felt a little tug of fear. What if he's not coming back?

Eventually, she settled in the library, and since no one else was there, she dusted off the piano and sat down. She wasn't a good player, but she knew sufficient to play a few songs to herself when she was alone. Letting her fingers find the keys, she began singing a song she felt fit her mood.

Pick apart the pieces of your heart
And let me peer inside
Let me in, where only your thoughts have been
Let me occupy your mind
As you do mine

Your heart's a mess
You won't admit to it
It makes no sense
But I'm desperate to connect
You can't live like this

Her eyes started to sting, and upon closing them, she felt a couple of solitary tears make their way down her face. She didn't notice the man standing in the doorway behind her, intently listening to her.

You have lost, too much love
To fear, doubt and distrust
It's not enough
You just threw away the key
To your heart

You don't get burned
'Cause nothing gets through
It makes it easier – easier on you
But that much more difficult for me
To make you see…

Love ain't fair
So there you are
My love

Your heart's a mess
You won't admit to it
It makes no sense
But I'm desperate to connect
And you, you can't live like this

Love ain't safe
You won't get hurt if you stay chaste
So you can wait
But I don't wanna waste my love

She pressed down the keys of the last chord and let it linger in the room for a few seconds. She raised her hands to wipe away the tears on her cheeks and chin. She turned around on the stool, and she saw him. Her heart jumped at the sight of him, leaning against the frame of the door with his arms crossed, looking down at the floor.

"How long have you been standing there?" she asked. Without moving, he glanced up at her.

"Not long. A few minutes", he replied.

"I see. I-I'm glad you came back. I was afraid you wouldn't", she said, trying to sound calm, but quite sure she was failing. He straightened up then, and walked slowly towards her.

"I didn't mean to worry you. I know I shouldn't have left this morning without a word, but I…I'm sorry. Of course I would come back to you." He said, kneeling down in front of her, and putting his hands on her hips. "Hermione…I don't know how to do this" he murmured.

All she could think of at first was the sentence "Of course I would come back to you".

"I don't know either, Severus. We'll make it up as we go along." she said softly. She laid her hands on his face, and he looked up at her expectantly. "Just try not to disappear on me like that" she finished, and he had the decency to look a little embarrassed.

"I don't have many promises to give right now, but I will promise to try" he whispered, and then he gently pulled her head down to his and kissed her.