Disclaimer: Let's see, I own my nice shiny red car, this laptop and the thoughts in my mind. Just a second let me check, nope don't own it the brilliant JKR does I just borrowed her toys for a few moments and swear that I will return them in the same shape I found them... well most of the time.
A/N: Huge Thanks to my beta desigrl and sixpence_jones for her suggestion both can be found at livejournal.
Severus was standing in the tower waiting for Hermione. Somewhere in the first month of school this year Hermione Granger went from being an insufferable know it all child to an engaging young woman.
He had discovered this after handing out a detention to her. Instead of having her write an essay on the differences between a cutting hex and a slicing hex – as originally planned - he ended up asking her. The debate on when and how to use each went on for several hours. So long, in fact, that he had to walk her back to Gryffindor tower as it was past curfew.
That was the first night of many such evenings; they discussed many topics – ranging from magic, the current state of magical affairs, and the Muggle world – over the course of the school year.
One such evening mid-December, after he had made sure she was in the Gryffindor tower, Albus stepped up to him.
"Severus, many nights I have found you walking Miss Granger back here very late."
"What is going on?"
"See that it stays that way, for if it doesn't you will soon do something unforgivable in her eyes and break her heart."
Severus halted and turned to glare at the Headmaster.
"How is it you worry about Draco's soul and Hermione's heart, but you have no regard for either where I am concerned?" he spat before leaving a stunned Dumbledore standing in his wake. He changed course and left the school to cool off.
He kept meeting with Hermione after that; he found that she stimulated his mind and after all these years alone, he liked having someone that made him think.
He heard her come up the stairs; his back was to her as he was looking out the window.
She walked over to where he stood and he turned to her.
"Things are going to change dramatically over the next few hours. I will not be back for some time but I believe you deserve to know….."
He was starting to wonder if he could do this when he saw the flash of hurt that crossed her face.
"You deserve to know that I have found our debates…. stimulating. If we never see one another again, know that I will look back on them with fondness."
Hermione didn't know what to say. She had no idea what he was talking about but he made it all sound so final.
"I don't understand Professor," she said.
"Use my given name," he told her; just once he wanted to hear his name from her lips.
"I still don't understand Severus."
"You will, in time. Just know that I am sorry for what I have to do Hermione."
He saw the tears gather in her eyes as she listened to him. He reached out to brush one away as it spilled over down her cheek. He took a step closer to her before laying his forehead on hers.
"Remember that I will always look back on this last school year with fondness."
She shocked him when she stood up on her toes, kissing him lightly on the lips. He closed his eyes as she pulled back; he never expected this to happen. He never would have thought that he would have feelings for anyone again, and never a student. He knew it was wrong. Very wrong. That didn't stop it from happening, to either of them he suspected.
"Don't…" she said as she turned to leave.
Before she reached the stairs she heard him whisper, "Remember you are loved."
"As are you Severus," she said before she ran down the stairs.
He turned to look out the window again – damn Albus and all his planning that put him in this situation! He balled his hands into fists. He was so angry at this moment, so torn as to what to do. He knew what he must do, but standing here was so much harder, now that he wanted to chase after her and tell her that he couldn't do what was asked of him.
He knew without a doubt that he was going to break her heart, though he didn't want to add that to the growing list of wrongs he had committed in his life.
He did what was expected. He couldn't not do it after Albus begged him. He left with Bellatirx, Draco and the rest of the death eaters, sure that by the time Potter got back to the school Hermione would hate him. He had never meant to lose his heart again, to be in this much pain. He could make it so he wouldn't remember, but he couldn't bring himself to erase her from his mind.
As the next several months passed he tried to disturb the Dark Lord whenever he could without his knowledge. When he was made headmaster at Hogwarts he came back to do what Dumbledore asked, protect the children the best he could. He had not been surprised to find that the three friends were not there this year.
He heard about their adventures, was terrified when he heard that they had been taken to Malfoy manor. He knew Bellatrix, her feelings for Muggle born witches; he knew how sadistic she could be.
It was the only time in his life that he drank himself in to oblivion.
On the evening of the last day of April he was sitting at his desk when a Patronus landed in front of him.
The Raven said, "Meet me in the forbidden forest."
He didn't hesitate. He left his office, the portrait of Dumbledore shaking his head behind him. He stopped Minerva, informing her that he would return. He had retained her as Deputy Headmistress, as she had been when Dumbledore had been headmaster, though he knew without a doubt that she hated him with every piece of her broken heart for what he had done. He always found it amazing that she hadn't hexed him already.
He knew where he would find Hermione; it was the only place in the forest that they had talked about. He watched her pace for several minutes before he walked closer. She looked up and he watched the smile come to her lips then watch it die in almost an instant.
He started walking closer to her when she ran toward him; she threw herself in his arms. She hugged him so tight around his neck that he thought for a moment that she might cut off his air, but in the next instant she was kissing him. He couldn't stop himself even if he had wanted to. He found himself kissing her back; deepening it when she ran her tongue across his bottom lip.
He didn't know how, but when they broke apart he found that they were both on their knees.
She didn't say anything to him, instead she reached for the buttons on his frock coat. He stilled her hands with his before he found his voice.
She looked up at him. She had already had tears in her eyes but they came faster now. He pulled her to him, holding her in his arms.
"Hermione it's not that I don't want very much what you're offering me. You will never know how much. But I refuse to take that from you and then leave you to mourn me as a lover."
She started to cry harder. He knew he had just told her that he was going to die. He rubbed her back and her beautiful hair, making soothing sounds to her.
Finally she pulled back asking, "How?"
"How what, my silly girl?"
"How am I to know that…."
He watched as her face turned pink.
"Kiss me." She did as he asked.
He took her hand placing it on his crotch. It was a torture that he would endure to show her that he did want her. When the kiss broke he pulled her hand up to his lips kissing her palm before framing her face in his hands.
"I cannot do that to you. It would break my heart more than it already is, knowing that I took what you are offering me then having to leave you here broken forever."
Fresh tears started to fall from her eyes. He pulled her to him kissing her forehead before laying his on hers.
"I do care for you. I would die for you."
"Stay with me tonight," she said in a voice so small he almost didn't hear her.
He found a spot on the ground and pulled her down between his legs, wrapping them both in his robes. He kissed the top of her head. Neither said a word as they waited for the passage of time to bring dawn and with it the end of all hope that they would ever find happiness with one another.
He must have fallen asleep; when he woke she was gone. In his hand was a chain. On the end was a pendent in the shape of a Celtic love knot. He sat there staring at it for some time before standing and putting it around his neck. He left the forest with his heart broken in such small pieces that he was sure he would welcome death just to end this pain.
Hermione watched from behind a tree, tears streaming down her face as he put the pendant around his neck before leaving. She might never see him again, but she had no doubt that he knew she loved him.