CHAPTER 8: Run To Me
By New Year’s Eve, Hermione had almost convinced herself that her encounter with Snape at The Three Broomsticks was a dream. No matter that she could feel his lips against her skin and his arms around her as she drifted off to sleep at night. His words echoed through her thoughts when it was quiet. She blushed even more readily when she saw him at meals, and was surprised to find him smiling softly at her. His deep black eyes were soft and tender when he looked at her, and it sent a comforting wave of warmth over her.
Although he was desperate to have her in his arms again, Severus was true to his promise. He was careful not to say anything to push her, but he was more conversational and attentive to her when he was able. He made sure that he smiled more in her presence, although the memory of her in his arms was enough to trigger a soft smile. When Professor Dumbledore hosted a small dinner in his office on New Year’s Eve, Severus was pleased to find Hermione settling into a seat next to him on the couch in front of the fire.
“I have a resolution for the new year,” she whispered conspiratorially. The warmth of the fire forced her to shed the sweater she wore. A soft, golden glow came off her as she smiled up at him. “This year will better for me, Severus.”
Her voice had stumbled a bit when she said his given name, but he smiled indulgently anyway. Snape stretched his arm on the back of the couch behind her, and was pleased when she settled against his side. She rested her cheek on his shoulder and sighed contentedly. “And why is that, Hermione?”
The rumble of his voice through his chest was comforting as she settled against him. Hermione stared into the flames, watching them dance and cast shadows on the floor. She knew what happened in The Three Broomsticks was not a dream, and all she wanted was to feel the peace of being in his arms again. “I am going to do something for me for once. I am going to be happy.”
She turned her face toward him at this and smiled warmly. His black eyes were churning as he gazed down at her, watching intently as she closed the distance between them. He smiled softly and moved to place a gentle kiss on her forehead. “There’s no need to rush, little one,” he murmured so that no one else could hear. “I told you I would wait for you, and I will. When you are ready, Hermione, and not a moment before. You will not lose me.”
Sighing, Hermione relaxed against him and listened to the sounds of his even breathing. Professors Dumbledore and McGonagall were chatting over a bowl of lemon drops at his desk. Professor Sinistra was reading a copy of Witch Weekly while Flitwick was prodding at the pieces on his chessboard. The air in the room was so different from the way she had felt at the Burrow for Harry’s wedding. She didn’t feel lonely or outside of everyone’s happiness. She felt safe and cared for as she felt Snape’s hand begin to stroke her arm gently.
“Why did you never answer my letters, Severus?” she whispered. She didn’t know why the thought had come to her, but she found herself desperate to know. For some reason, she felt as if he would answer her.
The hand stroking her arm pulled her closer and he kissed her hair. “I was still hurt, and I didn’t know if I could bear to see you again. I didn’t have the strength in me to have you walk back into my life just to leave again within a year,” he said sadly. “I’m sorry if I hurt you, Hermione. It was never my intention.”
She opened her mouth to reply when the clock on the mantle chimed the hour. It was midnight, the first official moment of the new year. She smiled as Dumbledore kissed Professor McGonagall on the cheek, making her blush. It seemed that Sinistra and Flitwick were too absorbed in their activities to even notice the time. Hermione felt as if she were finally home.
“Happy New Year, little one,” Severus murmured into her ear. He pulled her close and smiled smugly as her eyes drifted closed and her face turned upwards. He pressed his lips against hers gently, and was surprised to feel them part slightly. Blood coursed through his body, pooling in his tightening groin. He bit back a groan as her tongue traced his bottom lip tentatively.
Just as suddenly as Hermione’s burst of courage came, it ebbed away. She pulled back from him and drew in a deep, shaking breath. She smiled shyly and traced the buttons on the front of his coat with her finger. “Happy New Year, Severus.”
The start of the new term gave Hermione plenty of time to think about the things that had begun between Severus and herself. She found herself thinking about him more often the longer they were apart. It took great control to keep herself focused during class, in order to ensure that nothing went wrong and no one was hurt. The students seemed to notice a change in her as well. She smiled more, and didn’t always look as if she were about to burst into tears. She had a bit more color to her than before as well. Her cheeks were perpetually pink, and her honey eyes were warm and bright. During the class where she taught her fourth year Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws how to brew a Draught of Humor, they even saw her laugh happily.
Professor Dumbledore was happy to see her in better spirits. It had not been lost on him that she had sought Snape’s company on New Year’s Eve. His blue eyes twinkled gleefully when he saw either of them. They had both been through so much. Both Severus and Hermione deserved an opportunity to be happy and to put the past behind them. Dumbledore was grinning softly as Hermione took her seat at the High Table during the first week of February.
“You’ve been looking much better lately, Miss Granger,” he said happily over McGonagall’s empty chair. “I daresay you’ve been looking better since New Year’s.”
Hermione smiled and glanced down the length of the High Table. Snape was sipping a cup of tea and talking in quiet tones with Professor Sinistra. “Thank you, Headmaster. I’ve simply decided to stop feeling sorry for myself and do something for me.”
“Good for you, dear,” Dumbledore said, patting her hand in a grandfatherly way. “And it’s nice to see Severus enjoying some company for a change. You’ve been good for him.”
A bright blush crept over her face at Dumbledore’s words. Her gaze was still fixed on the dark figure at the end of the table, willing him to break away from Sinistra and look at her. After a moment, fathomless black eyes flicked up at her and immediately softened. His eyes gazed over her face, and seemed to melt into inky pools at the smile on her lips. His own quirked upward in a slight smile as he appeared to listen to Sinistra’s words, all the while his mind on the beautiful witch holding his gaze captive.
Hermione was terribly nervous when a letter arrived for her the next morning during breakfast. The untidy scrawl on the outside was painfully familiar to her after spending seven years correcting, and even rewriting, his essays. She grimaced as the old tawny owl flew away, its wings flapping laboriously as it made its way out through the rafters of the Great Hall. She could feel black eyes on her as she broke the seal of the letter. He had to know by the expression on her face that this did not bring welcome news. Unrolling the letter, she began to read.
Want you to know I’m getting married to Yelina Karstoff, my date to Gin and Harry’s wedding. Don’t know when. Will let you know as soon as I do. Gin and Harry send their love. Mum wants to know if you’ll visit for Easter.
She released a breath she didn’t know she had been holding. A soft smile stretched across her face as a weight seemed to lift off Hermione’s shoulders. That night in Dumbledore’s office, when she declared her New Year’s resolution to Snape, Hermione decided she would let go of her past and learn to live again. This was her first sign, her first chance to give up those things that had weighed down her heart and soul for three long years.
“Good news, dear” Professor McGonagall asked from next to her.
Hermione smiled again, a bit wider and happier this time. “Smashing news, Minerva. Ronald is getting married. You wouldn’t happen to have a spare quill on you, would you?”
“Oh, no dear, I don’t. Albus borrowed my last one yesterday to do the crossword in the Daily Prophet,” McGonagall replied, absently patting the pockets of her robes. “Mister Weasley is getting married, you say?”
Nodding absently, Hermione turned to Professor Flitwick on her left and asked him for a quill. He produced a battered looking brown one from his pocket, along with a travel size pot of ink. Dipping the quill into the inkpot, Hermione began scribbling her reply on the bottom of Ron’s letter.
I’m very happy to hear it! I hope you are as happy as possible. Please do let me know when you have set a date. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.
Send my love to Harry and Ginny, and tell them I’m sorry to have left the wedding so early. Hopefully I will see you all soon.
Regretfully, I have to stay here at Hogwarts for Easter. Tell your mother I am grateful for the offer and miss her, and the rest of your family, terribly.
Sighing, she rolled the letter and sealed it with the tip of her wand. She scribbled Ron’s name on the outside and slipped it into her pocket. She would send it through the Floo once she got back to her office. “There, that feels much better.”
“What’s that, dear?” McGonagall asked softly. The older witch smiled at Hermione in a motherly sort of way, and was pleased to see her look peaceful.
Hermione looked down the table to where Snape was sitting, sipping on a cup of strong coffee while he read the paper. She smiled brighter as something caused him to sneer in his trademark way. It’s gone, she thought. Everything with Ronald is gone. I have my life ahead of me, and a man who swears he’ll wait as long as he has to. I don’t deserve him but I’ll do everything I can to keep him.
“Minerva, could I get you to pass a message along for me?”
Severus felt as if his heart was going to bust straight out of his chest. The little color he had was drained from his face, and his hands were shaking slightly. Ever since Professor McGonagall had given him Hermione’s message, Snape found it hard to keep his mind on anything but her. His every insecurity was racing through his brain, driving him insane with the thought that Hermione had come to her senses about him. She had decided that she didn’t want him, or the love he had to offer.
Minerva had said Hermione wanted to see him in his office during lunch, which was going to end in ten minutes. Snape’s stomach was churning and doing acrobatics in his gut as the minutes ticked by without her appearance. He sat behind his desk, the early afternoon light filtering through the windows, and tried to occupy his mind with grading. It was useless; he heard every tick of the clock as if his own life were slipping away. Then he heard it, a gentle knock on the door, and his heart dropped like lead into his lap.
“Enter,” he said hoarsely, praying to Merlin it wasn’t a student on the other side of the door. It creaked open, and a small, feminine hand appeared. A mass of soft chestnut curls and the face dearest to him followed. He let out a long breath and smiled softly at her. “Hermione. I was beginning to think you had forgotten about me.”
A beautiful smile lit up Hermione’s face, and Snape’s heart ceased to beat. The rest of her slipped into his office and pushed the door closed behind her. She leaned against the door, her palms pressed against the cool wood on either side of her. Her wide, honey-colored eyes never left his face. “I could never… I got a letter from Ronald this morning.”
Ah, Weasley, Snape thought acidly. Too good to be true, Severus. She’s come to say her goodbyes. Weasley has begged her to come back to him, and she is going. It’s exactly what you feared. She’s waltzed back into your life and drudged up all those old feelings. Now she’s leaving you again, taking your heart with her this time. There’ll be no handing it back in pieces. She’s leaving you with nothing but a few happy memories of her in your arms.
Snape winced outwardly at this and mumbled softly, “But what sweet memories they’ll be.”
“Severus? Have you heard a word I’ve said?” Hermione was closing in on his desk as she spoke. She was near enough that he could smell the welcome scent of her. A soft hand reached out to him. “Are you alright, Severus?”
The sound of his name drew him from his thoughts. He looked up to find her coming around his desk, a concerned look in her warm honey eyes. “Yes, Hermione, I’m fine. Now, what did Mister Weasley’s letter say?”
Hermione’s smile returned, perhaps even brighter than before, and she perched herself on the edge of his desk. “Ronald wrote to say that he’s getting married.”
Snape’s heart began pounding again at this. His mouth went dry; he felt as if he couldn’t breathe. “Really,” his voice was cracking miserably, “to whom? Do I know her?”
“I doubt it. I just met her at Harry’s wedding. Some tart named Yelina Karstoff. She was drop dead gorgeous; straight black hair, legs for days, more boobs than I’ll ever have,” she mumbled jokingly. She stared down at her own body, suddenly convinced that her breasts were miniscule compared to Ron’s new fiancée. “You know, I thought about visiting a Muggle doctor after a graduated. A plastic surgeon, to have this,” she gestured along the length of her body, “mess straightened out.”
Severus coughed a bit to clear his throat before he tried to speak. “I’m glad you didn’t. I like your ‘mess’ exactly as it is. You are beautiful, Hermione. Every part of you is perfect, those I have seen and those I haven’t.” He looked away from her at those words, heat rising in his cheeks. Hermione giggled and smoothed her robes across her lap.
“Am I mistaken, or do I see Severus Snape blushing?” She laughed softly and reached out to lift his face toward her. His black eyes looked like velvet as he gazed up at her. Her smile was so beautiful, so full of life that he felt as if he could die at that moment. “You’ll take me as I am, Severus?” she asked soberly.
Severus brought his hand up to the side of her face and stroked her cheek with his thumb. Her hand clasped his own, her honey eyes closed contentedly. “I will take you as you are, little one, because I love you just as you are. The question is, will you have me as I am?”
She smiled again, that smile that never ceased to melt his heart. “I wouldn’t want you any other way, Severus.” She turned her head, and kissed the palm of his rough hand gently. “Why do you want someone like me?”
He slipped his hand from her grasp and pulled her down into his lap. He smiled as she snuggled against his chest and settled into the feel of his arms around her. Placing a kiss on her hair, he sighed happily. “Because there is no one else for me, little one. I could never love anyone as I have loved you. I hoped every day that you would run back to me someday. Sooner or later, I hoped that you would want to live again, that you would want to go back to what we could have had.”
“Could have?” she mumbled against his chest, wrapping one arm around his neck and burying her fingers in his hair. She looked up suddenly, fear etched on her features. “It’s too late, isn’t it, Severus?”
Smiling indulgently, Severus pulled her back against him and tucked her head beneath his chin. He stroked her back soothingly as her arms came around his neck again. “No, little one, it’s not too late. I’ve told you I would wait until you felt you were ready. I would have continued waiting, even if we hadn’t met that night at The Three Broomsticks. We’ve lost three years, Hermione. There are so many things that we could have done in those years, but we have the chance now.”
Hermione stroked her fingers against his scalp and hummed happily. “Where do you think we’d be now, Severus, if I hadn’t been so foolish that day?”
How often he had thought of that very thing, Severus could never tell. It was all that kept him going during those years without her, those thoughts of her smiling at him every morning as she made breakfast, of her round and happy with their first child, of her teaching a toddler his numbers and letters. He smiled broadly at the remembrance and grasped her more tightly against him.
“There’d still be a Snape teaching Potions,” he said firmly. He took her left hand in his own and rubbed the pad of his thumb over her ring finger. Hermione giggled softly.
“I think I might have been a mother by now, too,” she murmured, pulling back to lock her eyes with his. “I would like to be a mother some day, Severus. What do you think?”
“I would like for you to be as well.” Before she could answer, he descended his mouth upon hers in a tender but possessive kiss. He crushed her to him and groaned as she tentatively begged entrance to his mouth with her tongue. Her fingers twined in his hair and tugged gently, sending bolts of electricity straight to his groin.
Breathless, Hermione pulled away from him and rested her head against the crook of his neck. She kissed what she could reach of his neck and sighed, her warm breath washing over him. He shivered and inwardly groaned as she shifted against him, her arse rubbing against his growing erection.
“I’m sorry, Severus,” she muttered thickly, tears stinging her eyes. “I’m sorry, I’m just not ready yet.”
He pressed a chaste kiss to her lips and stroked her hair. As much as he wanted to finally find himself buried to the hilt in her tight, wet heat, he had promised he would not push. It was one promise he refused to break, no matter how difficult it was. “It’s all right, little one. We have time.”
A/N: First off, if anyone had trouble reading chapter 5 “Invisible,” I’ve fixed the problem of the screen width. Just thought I’d let you know, it’s much easier to read now. Secondly, a Clay Aiken song inspired this chapter. You can find the lyrics here: http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/clayaiken/runtome.html
You Are Not Alone by ladysnarky