Just something to tide you over while I chivvy my co-writer to hurry the heck up with the next installment of A Raven's Story.

I do not own Harry Potter or the lovely cast of characters JK Rowling allows up to play with.

The dictionary tells us that the word 'regret' may be used as a verb or noun. As a verb (used with object), it means to feel sorrow or remorse for; to think with a sense of loss. As a noun, it means a sense of loss, disappointment, dissatisfaction; a feeling of sorrow or remorse for a fault, act, etc. To send 'regrets' is to formally refuse an invitation.

The word 'rue' may also be used as a verb or noun. As a verb (used with object), it means to feel sorrow over, repent of, regret bitterly; to wish that something had never been done, taken place. As a noun it means to feel sorrow, repentance, or regret.

Severus Snape paced his sitting room wondering which of these words would describe how he felt. Did he regret or rue bumping into her at the Ministry's Annual Anniversary Ball? Did he regret or rue that they went home together? Did he regret or rue that they just sort of fell into relationship? Did he regret or rue that they moved into together after only three months?

Then what? What was the problem? He felt something, but couldn't quite put his finger on it. He felt…out of control; yes, that was it. One year ago, he was single, living at Spinner's End, and working as a private, very well paid potioneer. He kept himself to a reasonable routine; up at 8 a.m., working by 9. Lunch at 1 p.m., dinner at 7. Sometimes he ate dinner at home, sometimes he ate dinner with friends. These friends tended to have single women with them to introduce to him. Occasionally, he'd take one out on a date, go back to her flat (always her place, never his) and leave as soon afterward as was decently possible. These short-lived nights took care of a basic need and were enough for him. No complications.

So what the hell happened one year ago? And why, if they'd been together for that long, did it still feel like they were on a long slippery slope to uncertainty? Things were great, at first. The sex was great. Hours upon hours of lying in bed at the weekend making love, eating, sleeping, reading. Occasionally they went out to a restaurant or club.

Impulsively, they decided to find a flat together so that neither would have to adjust their home to the other. A fresh, clean start for both. And that's when things started to feel wrong. They talked only as needed to get through the day. There were no long lingering conversations in front of the fire, quietly talking and sipping a perfect Merlot or Riesling. No hours spent in the lab researching, bouncing ideas off each other.

Oh, there were times they were vocal, but only in bed when he was pounding her into the mattress, and she was begging him for even more. Beyond that…nothing.

He tried to bring it up once, but she looked so frightened at what he was going to say that he told her to never mind, and that everything was all right.

He thought about it very hard. That anniversary ball had planted a seed of hope and despair and bound the two into a relationship that either would flourish or die. Right now, it was dying. The problem was did he want to fix it? He knew he didn't want endless days of silence. He knew he didn't want to be afraid to say he wasn't happy with her; wasn't happy with the way things were between them.

"Hermione?" Severus nervously called.

"Yes?" Her voice rang from the bedroom.

"Can you come to the sitting room a moment?"

"Okay." Hermione padded out to the sitting room, and Severus gestured for her to sit.

They settled on the sofa and stared into the fire.

"Hermione, are you happy?" Severus asked.

"What do you mean?" Hermione's eyebrows slanted into a frown.

"Here, with me, are you happy living with me?"

"I….I am not sure." Severus was stunned. Was she as unhappy as he was? Hermione took his hand and looked at it, rubbing her fingers across the fine bones of his knuckles and continued, "Severus, when we got together it was fabulous. I had had a crush on you for so long, and to finally be with you was the answer to my dreams. But those were the dreams of an adolescent girl and before I knew it, the reality of you was quite different."

Severus thought over what she said before answering, "Okay, so how do you feel now?"

"I feel as though we are falling down a long cliff. I feel like we tiptoe around each other so as not to hurt each other's feelings. The only time we really talk is in the bedroom and even then, it's just to let each other know how the sex is. I thought there would be more to this." Her hands gestured vaguely in the air. "I thought we'd interact more. We seemed to at first, and then…well….we weren't. I feel like we are bound with no way out," Hermione sighed and shrugged her shoulders in defeat.

Severus took in what she was saying. He realized it was what he had been trying to figure out for weeks now. He cleared his throat. "I admit I feel the same. The idea of being with you at first was very good for my ego. What middle age fool wouldn't enjoy a girl half his age in his bed? And you are very good in bed, by the way." Hermione blushed. "But you're right; we don't interact. I thought, given our intellect, that we would have nonstop conversations; we'd research together, have pleasant nights reading and discussing our books. We did some of that before we moved in together; we don't now."

"What do you suggest?" Hermione asked.

Taking a deep breath realizing that what he was about to say was worse than any lie he told Voldemort. "I think, perhaps, we should stop seeing each other. You could have the flat; I would help you out with rent for the rest of the year. I can find another place."

Hermione spoke quietly. "You sound as though you've given this quite a bit of thought to offer this plan."

"Are you angry?"

"Surprisingly, no. You're right. We should stop seeing each other."

"When would you like me to leave?"

"Whenever you're ready; I mean, although I agree that perhaps we need to stop seeing each other, doesn't mean I am ready for you to go immediately. At the weekend maybe?"

"All right. It would take me a few days to gather my things together. I have to find a spot for the lab; would you mind if I left it here for the time being?"

"That would be all right." Hermione looked at him. "Severus, I am sorry. It felt so right at first, so wonderful. So passionate."

Severus curled Hermione into the crook of his arm. "Yes, it did. I am not sure where things went wrong. Perhaps we moved too fast?"

Hermione shrugged. "I am not sure." They sat in silence. This decision didn't seem right either, but they didn't know what else to do.

Severus moved out at the weekend, although he didn't move far. A flat opened two floors down from the one they shared. It was convenient for Severus, but he wondered how he would fare seeing Hermione occasionally as she went about her life.

For the first several weeks, they didn't run into each other at all. Severus was busy setting up his lab and catching up on work. He returned to his old routine of wake up, work, eat, and the occasional date. However his dating life did not last long. The one time he went home with one of his dates, he so distracted by the thought that this wasn't Hermione, his performance was lacking, and his date was less than pleased. He left shortly after he finished, not even taking the time to dress completely.

Hermione returned to her own old routine. She hadn't dated much before Severus, so her usual routine consisted of work, home, eat, and curling up with Crookshanks in the evening to read or do a bit of research. She welcomed the opportunity to go to the States to attend a seminar on complimentary medicine for St. Mungo's and while there, also took some well-earned vacation time. She saw Severus briefly upon her return as she gathered her mail at the main floor, and they exchanged a few pleasantries.

The enormity of their decision to break off their relationship hit home around Christmas that year. The Annual Yule Ball at Hogwarts was coming up. Each had been invited as alumni. Neither knew of each other's plans, and it didn't occur to them to ask to be each other's escorts.

The night of the ball arrived and Severus entered the Great Hall just a bit late with a tall blonde on his arm, courtesy of yet another of Narcissa's plans to see him 'Happily Settled'. He had just seated his date with the Malfoy's and was off to get her a drink when he spied Hermione and her date, a handsome young lad, built like a rugby player. Hermione looked beautiful. She wore a flowing, Slytherin green gown, and her hair was pulled into an up-do exposing her lovely creamy neck. Severus loved that neck. He knew that if he nibbled just at the spot where the tendon of her neck met the shoulder, she would moan with delight and pull her nails down his back. Shaking his head and adjusting himself discreetly, he made his way to the drinks table and returned to his date.

Hermione had seen him make his entrance with the bimbo on his arm. She was as artificial as most female purebloods tended to be when on the manhunt. Her own date, while handsome, was thicker than a brick and at the moment, deep in conversation with Harry and Ron about the latest Quidditch scandal.

Hermione was bored. Knowing that she wouldn't be missed, she wandered out of the Great Hall and walked in circles in the entrance hall. After a few laps, she decided to head to the enchanted garden where she found a bench and sat, gathering her arms closely around her; she had forgotten her cloak.

She was startled when she felt warm material slipping over her shoulders. Thinking it was her date, she started, "Thank you, Mich…Oh, Severus! Please sit." She moved over, patting the bench beside her. "Thank you for your cloak."

"You always forgot your cloak when we went out," he chuckled.

"And you always had on so many layers, you never missed your cloak after giving it to me," she smiled in remembrance. "What are you doing here?"

"Minerva commanded my attendance. What are you doing here out here?"

"My date is deep in Quidditch talks with Ron and Harry; I won't be missed."

"My date is not much better. I allowed Kingsley to cut in on our dance and fled out here. I didn't expect to run into you."

"I am glad you did. How are you? It's been ages since we've spoken." They chatted in earnest and didn't realize the time had gone by until they heard the strains of the closing song wafting out into the garden.

Severus stood and held out his hand. "Would you care to dance?" Hermione smiled. "Yes, thank you." The two waltzed around the garden, the music floating out to them. They didn't talk, just enjoyed each other's company.

When the song ended, they stopped and just held each other. Sooner than they wanted, Hermione spoke; "I should go find my date and go."

Severus sighed, "I as well. It's been a nice evening, Hermione."

"Thank you. I had a nice time too." She turned to leave, but then turned back to Severus. "Severus, can we have lunch tomorrow? I am stuck in my research and would like you to look at it and give me some suggestions."

"I'd like that. Shall we meet in Diagon Alley at 1 p.m.?"

"Why don't you come up to my flat instead? That way we won't be disturbed and can take our time."

"One o'clock?"

"It's a date."

The lunch date led to a dinner date that night, still at Hermione's. It was only take away, but it was perfect, and that date led to more. This was the way it should have been in the first place. For some reason, this time, it worked. They talked. They researched. There was Merlot and Riesling by the fire at night. There was passion. That part of their life was perfect before and more so now.

They did not live together. Each kept their flats. They were happy even two years later when a bump in the road of their relationship threatened to end it again.

Severus and Hermione sat on the sofa, holding hands, stunned. Each was silent with their thoughts. Hermione broke the tension, "What do you think, Severus?"

"I am not sure. How did this happen? Are you sure?"

"Yes, I visited the obstetrics medi-witch this morning. When I realized I had missed two periods, I became suspicious. I hadn't felt well for several weeks, you know that."

"Yes, but I never suspected this."

"I know; me neither. I took my potion faithfully, and since you made it, I had no doubt of its efficacy."

"I believe you. Perhaps I had better check my stock of ingredients; I make your potion especially for you; it's not the commercial potion I sell."

"What should we do?" Hermione looked imploringly at Severus.

"What do you want to do?"

"Argh! I hate it when you answer a question with a question."

"Hermione, I want what you want. If you want to keep the baby, I'll support you, but I will insist on a few things."

"Such as?"

"Such as, we live together again. I did not have the best childhood, and I don't know what sort of father I'll make, but I insist our child have two full time parents in his or her life."



"It's a boy."

Severus broke out into a huge grin. "Slytherin, of course."

Hermione snorted, "Gryffindor, but that's not important right now. Severus, the last time we lived together, it didn't work."

"Yes, but this time, things feel different. I think this time, we took more time, got to know each other better. This time, I don't feel confused or like I am falling down a hole. It feels comfortable and right."

Hermione smiled. She had felt this way for months now, she just didn't want to say anything and spoil what they had. She leaned her head against Severus' shoulder. "I agree with you. It is different this time. Other than living together, what else do you insist on?"

"I insist we be married. I will not have the wizarding world look down on my son because his parents are not married."

Hermione choked. "Are you kidding?"

"No, I am not. I don't have an engagement ring, but we could just slip to the ministry office and be done with it. What do you think?"

"I like that. Just you and me and Junior."

"No; there will be no Junior's. I detest my name."

"I like you name, and if I remember right, there is a time when you like me saying it," Hermione said silkily.

"Well, I'll give you that," he stroked Hermione's thigh.

"You won't regret it, will you?"

"No. No regrets this time. None at all. I love you Hermione."

"I love you, too, Severus."