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Chapter 18 : xviii.
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Hermione’s cheeks were ablaze. How should she respond? He looked at her expectantly. His own face flushed with a bit of color.
She had to tell him the truth, or at least part of it. It wasn't fair to either of them for her to lie any longer. And she also had a feeling that if she continued to deny her feelings towards him, she was going to lose him completely. After all, there were only so many times a person could be rejected, before they gave up completely. Hermione didn't want him to give up, and she sure as hell was not prepared to lose him.
After deep breath and while she twisted her fingers around one another, Hermione finally answered.
“I like you, Severus,” she admitted in a small voice.
Yes her answer was weak, and not quite all that she had wanted to say, but she was only human. Even though most of his words and actions had strongly hinted towards an interest in her, she still did not want to lay all of her cards on the table, out of the small fear of possible rejection.
But from the way his mouth twisted, she knew he was expecting her to say more.
“I mean, I enjoy spending time with you, more than anyone else to be honest,” she added.
He still did not appear mollified by her response. His eyes dropped from hers and a slight frown touched his lips. “I…enjoy our time together, as well,” he told her quietly.
They both sat in silence. Hermione chewed the inside of her lip as she mentally debated on if she should say more, or wait for him to speak again. She had a raging battle inside of her, as she argued with herself as to if she should just let the chips fall where they may, and voice her desire to attempt something more with him. She wanted to so badly that it almost hurt.
“Hermione, I want to be honest with you, because it's something I need to work on -- being honest,” he began. Her heart drummed madly. “I don't want to just be your friend. And if I'm correct, I don't believe you are interested in just friendship either.”
She was completely speechless, yet found it in her to at least shake her head.
“So what do we do now?” he asked.
Bugger it all to hell if she knew. Poor Severus had no idea what he was asking for.
“We take it slowly, and continue learning about one another? I don't know about you, Severus, but I'm not entertaining the idea of anyone else at the moment,” she said.
Severus leaned forward and reached for her hand. As he wrapped his around hers, the contrast of his alabaster skin to her golden tone was striking, he gently stroked his thumb across her knuckles. “I could work with that.” Then he gave her a heart stopping smirk. “And no Hermione, I'm not entertaining the idea of another either.”
Upon seeing the rare joy on Severus’ face, that was when Hermione knew there was no turning back. Given the choice between no time with him romantically, or a small sliver of time with him in that way, she'd chosen the small sliver. After all both of them had been through, and would go through, they deserved at least that much. No matter how selfish of her it was to have felt that way.
When Severus returned to his work, Hermione noticed he crushed with more vigor and confidence than he had prior to their conversation. As she watched him, her doubt was pushed aside, and all the excitement and butterflies that come along with the promise of a new relationship took its place.
8th November 1976
Monday evening, while Severus was serving his final detention, Hermione sat reading her time travel book on one of the many stone benches in the corridors of the school. True to her nature, now that she'd decided to try a relationship with Severus, albeit a slow one, she began research on the subject.
Although romantic involvement while you are in the past is not forbidden, it is not exactly encouraged. Understand that you are undeniably leaving your presence in a world in which you do not belong. The person whom you involve yourself with will most certainly remember you, more so than any other you come into contact with. The emotional harm you may inflict on your partner, if or when you return to your own time, could potentially be severe.
However, it is true that some loves withstand time. If the bond you have with that person proves to be strong enough, it may be possible that you were meant to find that person. You may find yourself meeting that person again one day. It is up to you to decide if the rewards outweigh the risks.
That last sentence weighed heavily on her mind. Would the rewards outweigh the risks? Possibly, she thought. If the rewards turn out that her love could potentially save him -- save herself even, then yes. For once she'd wished she hadn't been Hermione Granger, and hadn't been compelled to over analyze every single last move in her life, and for once just go with what felt right. Because truthfully, being with Severus just felt right.
She was so wrapped up in her head, and in her reading that she hadn't heard anyone approach, until they spoke to her.
“Time travel? That's an unusual topic,” Remus said, standing before her.
Hermione was startled so violently that the book flew out of her hands and onto the floor. Remus glanced at the book then back to Hermione, his eyes flashed with one thousand questions.
“Merlin’s Beard, Remus!” Hermione exclaimed before she hastily reached for her book, then shoved it into her bag. “You scared me half to death.”
Remus’ eyes were fixed on her bag as he took a seat next to her. “Sorry,” he told her. “What are you reading that for?”
How stupid of her to have read that book out in the open. The only reason she did was because the library was filled with students, who were beginning to study for their end of term exams, before the holidays. Since it was getting quite late, she figured she wouldn't have run into anyone in the hallway, but she didn't factor in the Prefects who would just be starting patrols.
“Oh you know, just some light reading. Something to take my mind off of studying for a bit,” she lied, with her voice traveling up an octave.
As Remus looked at her, his eyes scanned her face, as if he was searching for the answer to an exceptionally difficult riddle. Hermione squirmed in her seat. Remus was too perceptive for her own good. Something she knew from her time knowing him as an adult. She had to change the subject quickly.
“How are things going with Amelia?” she asked, before he could interrogate her any further. It seemed to have done the trick. He smiled.
“They seem to be going pretty well, actually.”
Hermione was happy for Remus, knowing that Amelia seemed to bring such joy into his life. The way he lit up when he spoke about her, or was near her would be something she'd always be appreciative towards Amelia for. Hermione knew Remus had a difficult time in school, with worrying about people finding out his secret, so to see him so enamoured was wonderful.
“That's great, Remus. I know that she's really quite taken with you,” Hermione said. “But I never said that,” she quickly added with a laugh.
Remus opened his eyes wide, and tried to appear as innocent looking as possible. “Said what, Hermione?” He smirked.
Soon then fell into conversation about school, exams, and their plans for the holidays. When Hermione told him she would be remaining at Hogwarts during the break, he appeared to be trying to hide a smile.
“I've heard that Snape usually stays behind during the holidays, too,” said Remus slyly.
Hermione looked down at her shoes. “Does he? He hadn't mentioned anything.”
Remus placed his hand on Hermione’s forearm; she looked back at him. His face again changed from her schoolmate to the professor she had once known, and she worried another lecture was on its way.
“Hermione, listen. I - I may not like him, and I may not understand, but he does seem to make you happy. So…I hate to sound all cliché, but as long as you're happy, then I'm happy for you,” he told her, completely taking her off guard.
Her throat tightened after Remus had told her that. She wasn't looking for anyone's blessing -- far from it. But to finally have a friend voice their acceptance of her feelings for Severus, especially after all the pushback she had been receiving, it meant a great deal to her.
She clasped his hand, which still rested on her forearm, and gave it a gentle squeeze.
“Thank you, Remus.”
11th November 1976
Without the Warming Charm, and hot thermos of coffee -- Hermione visibly grimaced when Severus told her had taken his black -- they would had been frozen to their cores, as they sat on a blanket, staring across the Black Lake and at the magnificent view of Hogwarts. Hermione had asked Severus, who also had a free hour before lunch, if he'd prefer to spend time alone together, before they had to attend their afternoon double Potions class. Severus was only too happy to oblige.
Hermione truly loved the tiny island that she and Severus would sometimes escape to. The fact that it was so far removed from everything and everyone else brought a welcomed calm and peace to her, when otherwise she was a jumble of stress and nerves.
Even with the Warming Charm, she still felt the sting from the whipping wind, so she scooted herself closer to Severus, hoping to take comfort in his body heat. Almost as if on instinct, she leaned her head onto his shoulder. She felt him become as still as stone when she did, yet after a few seconds, he slowly wrapped his arm around her, and pulled her in closer. It was the most intimate gesture either of them had show the other so far, and she had to admit, she felt completely at home in his embrace.
As she sat there, she began thinking of how incredible it was that they had managed to come to the point they were at. How Severus had gone from openly hostile, to indifferent, to begrudgingly civil, to somewhat friendly, to pleasant and funny, to at times sweet and sort of romantic.
Ten weeks ago, Hermione feared she'd never get into Severus’ good graces, now she sat tucked into his side, and the two of them were becoming more important to one another with each passing day. He wasn't just a mission to her any longer. He was a person who made her knees go week. Someone who made her think differently, and re-evaluate so many things she never thought she'd have to. Like her relationship with Ron, for example.
She'd always thought that she and Ron were meant to be. That it had to end up that way. But why? Because they'd been through so many hard times together, and had their loyalty to Harry in common? When it came down to it, she and Ron were just never compatible. It's true when they say opposites attract, but there had to be a limit to that. She and Ron were just too different, and now that she'd thought about it more clearly and objectively, they would never had made it in the long run.
Severus on the other hand, it made sense. They were just opposite enough for there to be an attraction, yet they had enough in common to make it work. She'd never become bored with someone like Severus, who'd always be able to stimulate her intellectually. With the two of them, she knew there would always be some sort of debate or deep discussion about issues and ideas that she was passionate about. Severus was the type of person who she knew would never be finished learning, and neither would she. And she'd love to have the chance to go through life questioning the status quo and learning everything she possibly could with him by her side.
Her internal musings brought a question to her mind.
“Severus?” she asked softly. “What do you want to do after Hogwarts?”
From being his student for so many years, a part of her always wondered if he’d actually enjoyed teaching. It hadn't felt as if he had, and after she learned the truth about him, she knew he was more or less forced into the position. Now that she had the opportunity, she wanted to know what his aspirations were before his life had fallen apart.
“To be honest, I'm not quite sure,” he said. “I've tossed around a few ideas, but nothing has really called to me...until recently, that is.” He then looked down and smiled. “Perhaps I’ll take up a Potions apprenticeship.”
Hermione felt that familiar flip in her stomach. How badly she wished they really could do that together. But she decided to play along for now.
“Oh really?” She smirked. “What ever changed your mind?”
Taking her off guard, he poked her in her side, causing her to squeak -- not many people knew, but she was very ticklish. He laughed at her reaction, and a devilish look came into his eyes. Hermione’s mouth ran dry at the sight.
“Very recently, the idea became much more attractive, you could say.”
Hermione’s retort was lost, due to Severus poking her again, then full out tickling her after she jumped and squeaked a second time. As he attacked her, Hermione fell back and tried desperately to crawl away, yet Severus was too strong. She tried to threaten him between giggles, however, the threats sounded hollow to both of them. Seeing this playful side of Severus caused her to fall even deeper into this madness that was happening between the two of them, but at this point Hermione could not have cared less.
When he finally stopped, Hermione laid panting on the ground; Severus kneeled over her, watching her with a new fire in his eyes.
Her heart hammered as she narrowed her eyes and sat up slowly, pushing the hair away that had fallen across her face. “You're going to pay for that, Severus Snape,” she threatened with a predatory smile.
Severus rolled his eyes and beckoned her forward with a twitch of his index finger.
As she advanced towards him, she raised her arm, pointing her wand at him, intending to hurl a minor bat bogey hex his way. Her pulse went into overdrive when Severus completely surprised her, by quickly grabbing her by the wrist, and pulling her up against his lean frame. Before she had any time to act, or overthink, he crashed his lips onto hers with a chaste kiss, then immediately pulled away and dropped her arm.
Hermione’s breathing stopped completely. Severus’ eyes were opened so wide, it was a wonder they hadn't fallen out of their sockets. Both of their faces burned brightly as they stared at one another in shock. Hermione brought her hand up to her lips, still in disbelief over what had just happened.
“I'm sorry” he said quickly.
“Don't be,” Hermione replied just as fast.
Before she could say anything else, he stood up and walked a few paces away. Hermione was rooted to the spot, frozen by the dozens of emotions that were flowing through her.
They'd just shared their first kiss, and it was over in the blink of an eye. She hoped -- if it were to have happen -- that it would had been more along the lines of her dreams, but reality was never like a dream. She knew that. But still, it wasn't as if she was complaining about what happened. Now that it did, she wondered why she hadn't let it happen sooner. It felt foolish to have overthought it as much as she did. And quite honestly, she was fighting every impulse she had to get up and do it again. However, the way Severus was reacting told her that wouldn't have been the best idea at the moment.
“I shouldn't have…I mean -- you said slowly -- I'm sorry, I -- please don't be angry,” he stammered with his back turned to her.
Hermione couldn't allow him to beat himself up over this. Without saying anything, she stood up, walked over to him, and wrapped both arms around his waist. He didn't move.
“I'm not angry,” she told him.
No response, save for the howling wind, and the water slapping the shore of the island.
“Yes, I did say I wanted to take things slowly, however…maybe -- I didn't mind it,” she admitted, not only to him, but to herself also.
Gradually he turned around with Hermione's arms still locked around him. He looked down at her with something close to wonder in his expression. He shook his head subtly, as he smiled.
“No?” he asked.
Hermione smiled back. “No.”
He reached down and grazed the back of his hand across her cheekbone. Goosebumps trailed behind on her flesh and a shiver ran down her spine.
“We should probably head back to the school,” he said sadly.
Every part of her wanted to stay there, alone, wrapped in his arms, but she knew he was right. Even under normal circumstances she wouldn't have wanted to progress things too quickly, and if they remained there, she was sure her strength would falter.
“Yes, we probably should,” she reluctantly agreed, before releasing herself from his hold.
On the boat ride back to the castle, Hermione and Severus did not say much. They simply sat next to one another, holding hands. They hadn't discussed any more about what had just happened between them, but Hermione knew that everything would be different now. And for once, different in a positive way.
As she looked up at Severus, and he responded by kissing the crown of her head, Hermione knew that she could not fail in saving his life. She knew that now it went beyond wanting to do the right thing. Because, if Hermione failed, and Severus did not make it through that final night, before she'd travelled to the past, it would be something she couldn't possibly handle. If Severus Snape died, Hermione was positive that a part of her would as well. And she would be damned before she'd allow that to happen.
A/N - surprise! We have a kiss! *gasp* I was able to squeeze in some writing before bed each day this week, so I managed to finish the chapter a week early. :) Hope you enjoyed it! And as always, thank you so, so much for all the love and support! I love you all! ♥
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