AN: This is a little two-shot I've been working on. I'll get you the second half next weekend. Enjoy!
The discreet chimes had been her herald of hope for almost a year; hearing the sound today of all days was the straw that broke the camel's back.
Her silver knife faltered, within moments she was sitting on the floor of the shop, arms wrapped around herself, sobbing.
She heard the concern in Severus' voice, but she couldn't see him or anything else through the tears.
"Merlin. Come on, let's get you to the office." Strong arms lifted her and she was shortly sitting on the slightly shabby couch in the office of their shop. Her tears ruined Severus' shirt, but he never said a word. He simply held her while she wept, as her body attempted to purge her sorrow like it was some deadly poison.
Eventually, she quieted, but she didn't move. This certainly wasn't a normal day at work. He wasn't the sort of man who encouraged physical familiarity even among his friends, and she had been married before their mutual respect had blossomed into friendship.
"Can I assume that this reaction was based on finalizing the divorce?"
His velvet voice blended into shadows that were quickly filling the office. It must be close to dinner. She didn't care for herself…she hadn't felt like eating since she'd discovered the news.
Ron Weasley, husband, war hero, international Quidditch star, had done the unthinkable. Hermione felt brittle as she thought about it. It wasn't just that he'd had affairs…that alone would have been enough to file for divorce. No, his betrayal had been more than simple infidelity. More hurtful…more fulsome. If someone were designing a scenario to crush her spirit, Ron's betrayal might have been tailor-made for the purpose.
During the early days of their marriage (just three months after the war ended) Hermione had insisted that the young couple needed to establish themselves before starting a family. She was going to Hogwarts to finish her NEWTS, he was traveling the world as a keeper for the Kestrels…even looking back she knew that waiting was the right decision.
She and Ron had the biggest fight of their relationship, complete with hurtful words, ultimatums, slamming doors, and a formal separation.
It had caused a rift in their marriage, and Ron had reacted in typical fashion: he'd gone out and chased anything in a skirt. A few weeks into his six month sex binge, he'd followed the advice of one of his teammates and had the wizarding version of a vasectomy.
Eventually, she and Ron had reconciled. She forgave him his early indiscretions, and he forgave her for having common sense and attempting to use it.
Somehow, during their reconciliation, Ron failed to mention the procedure that rendered contraceptives unnecessary.
Years passed. Hermione pursued her potions mastery and eventually an apothecary with Severus…Ron was largely absent eight months of the year for Quidditch.
Eventually, Hermione brought up the issue of children.
And that's when he did the cruelest thing: "Mione, if you want to have a baby, I can't wait to get to work on it with you."
The bastard hadn't said a word.
She'd joyfully stopped taking her contraceptive potion, and they'd spent a year shagging like bunnies before she really decided that something was wrong.
Severus, as her business partner, was aware that she and Ron had been trying to start a family. He was the one who had quietly advised her to see a specialist at St. Mungo's after the first year passed with her bleeding away her hopes every month. He helped her brew fertility potions for six months after the healer gave her a clean bill of health. (Severus was also the one who grumbled that spending twelve hours a day on a broom wasn't particularly beneficial from a male reproductive standpoint).
Hermione became slightly obsessed, tracking her fertile periods, and even making a spell that notified her with chimes the moment she was ovulating…and Ron hadn't said a word when she started dragging him out of Quidditch practice in the middle of the day so they could have the best chance: no, he'd just smirked at his teammates…and that was his mistake.
The seeker for Ron's team was a die-hard womanizer who had tried to seduce Hermione more than once. One night, after she'd hauled her husband off for a quick shag in the middle of a team meeting, Fredricks had pulled her aside and made a few barbed comments about his teammate.
Hermione hexed the odious little man as a matter of course, but once the idea was introduced, she couldn't ignore it.
She wanted to deny it…but it fit. It made too much sense.
Severus didn't ask her why she needed veratiserum. He just helped her brew it.
Three drops in Ron's second pint of bitter after a game did the trick. He blabbed the entire tale in front of half his team, the Potters, and two of his brothers. He blathered on to his horrified audience about how he didn't want to fight so he hadn't mentioned the procedure. His confessions from there were as hurtful: he'd bragged that the sex was so much better now that she was off contraceptives that he'd stopped giving in to the groupies that followed the Quidditch team like flies…at least for the most part.
Hermione counted her personal humiliation as collateral damage, and the very next morning (whilst Mr. Ron Weasley was in St. Mungo's hex and spell damage ward) she'd taken those memories and filed for divorce.
The ministry was normally sluggish about granting divorce, but Ron's misdeeds plus a witness who just happened to be Head of Magical Law Enforcement (Harry was appalled by Ron's actions) enabled Hermione to push it through in a matter of weeks.
Today she'd signed the final papers. She kept the main residence and all interest in the business she and Severus had worked so hard to establish. He got the brooms, the car, and a vacation cottage in France. She split the bank accounts with him fifty/fifty.
Hearing that subtle chiming sound today…it was too much.
Severus had spent all afternoon comforting her without a single complaint.
"Are you hungry?"
She moved slightly. She was sore.
"I'm thirsty." She conjured a glass and filled it with spring water.
"Are you ever going to tell me what set you off…should I keep you away from ashwinder eggs in the future?" Hermione snorted as she remembered the ingredients she'd left un-chopped on the work table.
She muttered "No…it was the chimes…"
He looked at her with real concern on his sharp features.
"Have you eaten today at all?"
She gave him a watery smile. "I used chimes in an alert spell, the one that let me know I was…fertile. Hearing them today was…"
He pulled her into his arms again.
"Have I offered to poison Weasley for you? It would be no trouble at all."
She quirked brow at him. "Sure, what's a lifetime sentence in Azkaban between friends? Maybe we could get adjoining cells and work in the prison infirmary brewing basic potions together."
"You're assuming that I would allow you to participate; and that I would get caught." She was fairly sure he was joking…mostly.
"Ron Weasley isn't worth the potions ingredients."
"I buy them at bulk rates."
She finally grinned at him.
"Don't worry for me Severus. I'll reverse that damn charm tomorrow."
"Well the entire idea of having sex because of a bell…Pavlov springs to mind."
She refilled her glass and chortled.
"Don't remind me. I know I've probably seemed a bit mad the past few months."
Severus looked down and absently summoned a tin of biscuits from the third drawer on the left.
"Weasley was the mad one. How did he think he was going to get away with it?"
She snorted. "I have no idea who might have slipped him a truth potion of course…"
He smirked. "Of course not…"
"But he did say that he intended to have the procedure reversed…some day."
"Bastard." He offered her a ginger newt. She selected one with care. He didn't share his secret stash of biscuits with just anyone.
"Without doubt." She bit into the treat meditatively.
"Didn't he see how terrible it was for you every month when your hopes were dashed?" The words seemed to burst from somewhere deep within Severus Snape.
She tried not to cry.
"I don't think he even noticed. We never communicated the way we should…that was my fault as much as his. I thought we could have separate interests…but we drifted so far apart that there wasn't any common ground left…"
"The fact that he was hiding something like this from you might have had something to do with the lack of common ground." He sneered and devoured a biscuit viciously. "Well, that and the fact that you don't speak dunderhead."
She nodded. "At least it's over. Frankly, I'm surprised. If I'd imagined divorcing him, I would have expected to lose nearly everyone…well, except you. The rest of 'our' friends were more his than mine."
Severus gagged. "I have not been, nor will I ever be, Ron Weasley's 'friend'. Only my esteem for you kept me from throwing an Avada at him…Azkaban be damned."
She snickered. "I thought his bollix were in grave danger last Christmas."
"You have no idea how badly I wanted to, but I knew if I ruined your chances of reproducing, I'd be facing the wrath of Hermione…and while other people might have forgotten Marietta Edgecombe, I have not."
She blushed, but she still looked a little smug. "I gave her the counter-curse after the war ended."
"After the healers and curse-breakers had given up." The corner of his mouth twitched.
"Severus Snape! Are you trying to cheer me up?"
"Cease your slanderous accusations this instant." His eyes were dancing.
She settled back into the sofa and selected another ginger newt.
"I need to thank you, for everything…I know I tend to get a bit focused…"
"A bit?" There was a hint of a smile in his eyes. "You and I have endured too many things together to talk of debts or thanks…isn't that what you said when you pulled my nearly dead body out of the shrieking shack?" He pulled her close. "The worst part of the past year was knowing that you were making yourself crazy desperately trying to give Ron Weasley something he could never properly appreciate…"
"We both wanted children…or we did when we married."
"No, Mr. Weasley expected to have children at some point…because it was expected. You waited until your future was secure and fell in love with the idea of children."
She sniffed. "The enchanted knitting needles making baby booties gave it away?"
He smiled indulgently at her. "That, and our large stock of specialty items for babies and new mothers. From a business standpoint, you found yet another nitch for the company…but from a personal viewpoint it was clear how much you envied those new mothers…."
"I didn't realize it was so noticeable."
"We do spend nine to twelve hours a day together. I have been known to see the obvious when it is in front of me."
"I suppose I'd better get home…I'm sure you want to get to dinner."
He held her to his side for another moment. "Yes, come along then…I can't have my business partner starving, and you know take-out at any of your normal spots will be teeming with reporters." He pulled her up and wrapped her cloak around her body.
She frowned at him.
"I'm not good company at the moment."
He snorted. "I'm never good company but that's never stopped you from dogging my footsteps and nagging. Besides, I, being a Slytherin, have a plan."
She raised a brow in an expression that reminded him of himself.
He smirked. "Some fresh bread, some hearty stew, and enough red wine to make you pass out like an elf with a six pack of butterbeer."
"You're planning to get me drunk?"
"If not drunk, then at least blurred."
He nodded, black eyes changing from teasing to serious like a summer storm blowing in from the ocean.
She looked into his dark eyes like they held all the secrets in the universe.
"Blurry sounds perfect."