Well, we've come to the end of this story. It's been a labor of love for me and I can't thank you enough for sticking with me. Thank you so much for reading!
Severus." She gasped, struggling to catch her balance as he shoved her away from the Pensieve. "I..."
"Don't." He growled through clinched teeth, his face apoplectic with rage. "I don't want to hear your excuses. Get. Out."
"Whut? You don't mean that...I can explain...I..."
"There is nothing to explain." He roared. "I want you gone. Out of my house. Now." Hermione paled as he advanced towards her, his fists balled at his sides. He was angrier then she'd ever seen him, angrier then she'd every seen anyone. "Please Severus..." She held up her hands to ward off his advancement. "It doesn't change anything...it doesn't change my feelings for..."
"It changes everything you stupid cow!" He screamed, spittle flying from his lips.
"I still love you." She whimpered, tears streaming down her face.
"Then that is your misfortune." He growled cruelly. "I am a murderer and a rapist. I cannot be the man that you want me to be. You just couldn't leave well enough alone, could you? You had to be the insufferable know it all."
"Get out!" He roared again. "Are you both deaf and stupid? I do not want you here." He stepped forward and grabbed her bag and cloak, thrusting them at her. Wrapping his hand around her arm he propelled her towards the door. "I want to drink and masturbate until I'm numb. I want to fuck whores who do not try to interfere in my life and whose feelings I do not have to concern myself with. I do not want you."
"Stop." She cried, twisting her arm, trying to free it from his iron grasp. "You're hurting me."
"Then do as you are told for once in your life and get out." He said, opening the door and pushing her out onto the stoop. She crumpled to the step weeping as the door slammed with a resounding crash.
"Did you find him?" Luna asked, her face anxious as George stepped into the bedroom of their flat.
"Uh huh." He nodded his head wearily, flopping down across the bed. "It took a bit of doing. He was in a Pub near Spinner's End. I had no idea there were some many bleeding Pubs in that area."
"And was he...?"
"Pissed out of his gourd." George nodded. "I took him home, got him into bed."
"And did he say anything about...?"
"Oh he said a lot, but I couldn't understand half of it. He's mad as a hatter, that's for sure. How is she?"
"Sleeping. I gave her a bit of dreamless sleep in some tea. I didn't want her going home, not like that...I don't know how she managed to get herself here without splinching as hard as she was crying. Did he say...?"
"He doesn't want to see her, speak to her or even hear about her." George sighed, sitting up and peeling his t shirt off over his head.
"What are we going to do, George?" Luna asked as he stood up, unfastening his trousers and pushing them off his hips.
"Dunno." He frowned, pulling back the covers and climbing into bed beside her. "He's still coming in to consult on products. He's dead useful, I might add. I'll try to talk to him. But you know as well as I do, until he admits he has a problem, no amount of talking is going to help."
"I know." Luna said, wrapping her arms around his neck and kissing his freckled cheek. "Just do your best."
"I always do, love. I always do."
Bang, Bang, Bang.
Hermione lifted her head from the couch and stared at the front door. Sniffing, she lowered her head back to her arms and continued to weep. The pounding sounded again.
Bang, Bang, Bang.
"God dammit Hermione." Harry Potter yelled, pounding even harder. "Open this door or I'm breaking it down." He took a step back as the door slowly opened and her tear stained face appeared. "Oh 'Mione. I heard about Snape." He rushed in wrapping her up in his arms. "Why didn't you call me? And what are you doing home from work? Did you call in sick?"
"No." She sniffed, pulling away from him and lowering herself back onto the couch. "I went to the Minister and I...I...I told him what happened. That's it's all my fault Sev..." She broke down sobbing, struggling to speak. "That it's all my fault he hasn't completed his ministry requirements. He's been granted a two month extension and I...I...I've been placed on a disciplinary leave."
"But why? You didn't do anything wrong?"
"I became involved in a personal, physical relationship with one of my patients Harry." She snorted, grabbing a tissue and wiping her nose. "He wasn't emotionally ready for that and I knew it and I just didn't care. I wanted him. I put my emotions before my patients and I deserve this. It's, it's just so, so hard. I still l...l...l...love him." She broke down crying again, this time letting Harry pull into his arms and hug her, stroking her back.
"Oh shhh, 'Mione." He whispered in her hair. "It'll be okay."
"Hermione?...Hermione?...Hermione!" She heard her name being called as if from a great distance, pulling back into herself, she stared at Harry and Ginny, seated across from her at the kitchen table at Grimmald Place. She looked down at her plate and realized that she'd just been pushing her food around with her fork, tears streaming down her face.
"I was asking if you'd gotten back to work okay." Ginny said, softly. "But you're not okay at all, are you?"
"I'm sorry." She whispered hoarsely, swiping at her face with her napkin. "I shouldn't have come tonight. I'm not fit company for anyone. I know it's been a month, but..." She choked back a sob. "When I'm alone, I want to be with people. Then when I'm with people, I want to be alone again. I just miss him so much."
"Shhh." Ginny said, reaching across the table and patting her hand. "Just know that we're both here for you. Have you heard anything about Sna...him?"
"Only that he's still working with George." She sniffed. "So at least he's not dead. But he doesn't want to see me or speak to me. He's made that abundantly clear, so I don't ask too many questions."
"You're going and I'm not taking 'no" for an answer." Luna said, standing with her hands on her hips in Hermione's office. "It's been two months and everyone is really worried about you. All you do is work and then hole yourself up in your flat. I know it hurts, but this isn't healthy. So get your coat. We are going out to dinner."
"Fine." Hermione sighed, her lips turning up at the fierce look on the normally placid blonde's face.
"Good. Now grab your coat and bag and let's get out of here." She waited until Hermione had donned her coat and slung her bag over her shoulder, before linking her arm with hers and guiding her out into the hallway. "We'll just use one of the Ministry floos." She said, leading the way to the large bank of fireplaces. "Oh." She grabbed a handful of floo powder. "I forgot to mention, I just need to nip over to the joke shop and have a quick word with George." She tossed the powder and cried out "Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes" before Hermione could protest.
"It looks closed." Hermione said as they stepped from the fireplace into the darkened shop.
"Oh that's right." Luna sighed, slapping her forehead dramatically. "It's meeting night. I must have forgotten. We can just sit in the back until it's done."
"Is that okay?" Hermione protested, trying to dig in her heels as Luna dragged her towards the curtain leading to the backroom.
"Sure, I do it all the time." Luna smiled, pushing her way through the curtain. "Here." She whispered, motioning to two seats in the back row. She glanced up and gave a small finger wave to George who was behind the podium, speaking to the 20 or so people seated on folding chairs in front of him.
"I really don't think we should be here." Hermione hissed out of the corner of her mouth.
"Shhh. It's fine." Luna hissed back, her eye's firmly focused on George who was wrapping up his speech.
"Again, I want thank you all for coming this evening." The red head grinned. "And now I'd like to bring up our newest member to tell his story, please make him feel welcome." He stepped away from the podium as a smattering of applause rose from the audience. Hermione clapped her hand over her mouth to cover the sobbing gasp that threatened to escape as she watched the tall man rise from his seat in the first row and make his way slowly to front of the room. Stepping behind the podium, he stared out at the crowd.
"Hello." His rich baritone seemed to echo in the tiny room. "My name is Severus Snape and I'm an alcoholic."
Hermione stepped into the parlor and carefully hung her bag and cloak on the rack near the door. Grinning to herself, she took a moment to survey the warm, inviting room; with it's floor to ceiling bookshelves and plush gray furniture. How different it was from the DIY disaster she had seen the first time she'd been there. Stepping over to the bookshelves, she let her eyes roam over their contents, wondering if she would every stop feeling thrilled at the sight of their things, blended and mingled together. She pressed her index finger to the tiny coin, prominently featured, honoring 90 days of sobriety. Severus attended daily meetings and with George Weasley as his sponsor, he seemed to be thriving. Almost gone where the nightmares that woke him screaming and gasping, he was happier and healthier then she'd ever seen him. Moving towards the kitchen, she paused in the dining room, frowning at the three large barn owls squabbling on the table.
"Ow." She snatched her hand away when the largest one nipped at her finger. "Severus?" She stepped into the kitchen and inhaled deeply, all other thoughts vanished by the wonderful smell rising from a large pot on the stove. "That smells fabulous, what is it?"
"Texas Chili." He said, his back to her as he carefully chopped ripe red tomatoes.
"Mmmm." He grunted, tipping the cutting board into the pot. "It says it one first prize in some American Chili Cooking contest."
"Well it smells amazing. Why are there three post owls on the dining room table?"
Picking up a spoon, he began to stir slowly. "The long, skinny box is most likely my wand. The large official looking envelope is probably from the ministry informing me the magic ban has been lifted and reinstating my Potion's License. And I believe the rolled parchment will be from Minerva offering me my position back at Hogwart's."
"Probably? You believe? You haven't opened them?" She laughed.
"I was cooking." He shrugged.
"Well I'm very proud of you." She said, moving behind him and wrapping her arms around his waist. "Does this mean the magic ban is gone?" She said, stepping away and pulling out her wand. "We can do magic again?"
"See I knew you were lying to me." He said turning around and leaning on the sink, his eyes narrowed. "You said,when I asked you to move in, that you were fine without magic, that you didn't mind doing things the muggle way."
"And I don't mind.." She said, waving her wand at the sink full of dirty dishes, smiling happily as they began to wash themselves. "But you have to admit, sometimes magic is faster. So will you accept Minerva's offer?"
He frowned, folding his arms across his chest. "I don't think I will." He said slowly.
"No." He shook his head thoughtfully. "All my life I've spent as a slave to some master; Dumbledore, The Dark Lord, even my abusive parents...for once in my life, I want to do what I want to do."
"And what do you want to do?"
"I don't know. I quite like working with George. Seems I have some talent for Research and Development, even in the humor department. I'd like to continue doing that. I may start up my own private consultant practice, maybe develop some new potions, invent a few spells."
"Well what ever you decide, I know you'll be brilliant at it." She grinned wickedly, lifting her wand and giving it a twitch.
"Now was that really necessary?" He asked, glaring down at his now naked torso.
"It was absolutely necessary." She whispered, stepping forward and drawing his arms away from his chest. "I love your bare chest." She leaned forward and pressed wet kisses across his skin. Besides," she ran her tongue around one nipple, teasing it with the tip of her tongue, "you deserve a reward."
"But the Chili..." He groaned, as she bit down gently, her hand now stroking his growing erection. "Aren't you hungry."
"Starving." She growled, squeezing him through his trousers. "But not for food, for you. Besides, won't it taste better if it simmers for a bit?"
"I suppose your right." He sighed, reaching behind him and lowering the flame. "Now where were we? Oh here." He leaned down and captured her lips in a passionate kiss. She stumbled when she tried to pull him across the floor and he resisted.
"Don't you want to go upstairs?"
"Yes." He trailed his lips down her throat. "But don't you want to apparate there directly, save all that pesky time on the stairs?"
"Sounds wonderful, but your wand." She gestured weakly towards the dining room.
"I don't need it." He whispered, sucking on her earlobe as he wrapped his long arms around her.
"What's the difference between Texas Chili and regular Chili."
"I have absolutely no idea." He chuckled, hugging her tighter and spinning on his heel with a loud crack.