Yes, I cannot believe it, but dear sweet [profile] elise_wanderer wrote this wonderful story just for me!  I so wonderfully mirrors how I feel today now could somebody tell me where Severus is hiding in my house?  I've looked all over.

For Irishredlass


“Oh,” Ron was saying, “there’s this pick-up game....”

He looked positively pitiful, and Hermione’s heart sank. She put on a brave face, however. “No problem, Ron,” she replied with a cheerfulness that he only chose to hear. “We’ll do it another time.”

“Next weekend,” he answered eagerly. “I promise!”

She pulled back from the Floo and sank into her chair with a pitiable sigh.

She looked across at the shaft of mid-morning sunlight twirling dust motes into the stuffy, silent staff room and resisted the impulse to cry. It wasn’t that he didn’t care. It couldn’t be that. But he always seemed to put her second (or even third–there was that time with Seamus and Declan that still rankled whenever she thought about it).

Hermione swallowed hard and chewed her lip. If she was being honest–and she did try–her pride was the biggest victim here. Ron could be fun, but he could also be very high maintenance, and she could still salvage the day. It just hurt that she didn’t seem to come first anymore. Hadn’t for a long time. It would be nice to come first with someone.

“Fuck him,” she muttered aloud and stood up to leave the room.

And froze in place.

Because the empty room was not quite empty.

Glittering black eyes met hers in cool appraisal. He had risen from his own seat, apparently about to make a silent exit, but now he stood in the opposite corner of the room watching her. His eyes were unreadable.

Hermione blushed, embarrassed, and started to turn away.

“Fuck him indeed,” came the voice from the corner, a soft challenge spoken with the raspy aftermath of Nagini’s attack.

Her head flew up. “I beg your pardon?” she asked sharply.

“He’s making quite a habit of this,” Severus replied, his words still quiet but containing an unmistakable sharpness.

“I have no idea what you mean,” she retorted, just as sharply, though of course she was lying.

“He’s an ass, you know,” Severus continued as though she had not spoken.

Hermione slumped against the armchair trying to control her emotions. “He’s just–“ she began, but Severus had taken three rapid steps toward her, grasped her by the arm, and effectively silenced her.

“Don’t apologize for him,” he spat. “He’s a selfish ass who doesn’t even remotely deserve–“ All at once, he stopped himself and blinked down at her. He seemed surprised to find her suddenly so close. He drew a ragged breath.

Startled, Hermione simply looked at him, feeling as though she might really be seeing him for the first time. Three years as colleagues had given her little opportunity to know him any better, though he had treated her with distant respect all this time. Recently, though, he had taken to ducking out of her way and had seemed to put as much distance as possible between them at obligatory weekly staff meetings.

This was the closest she could ever remember being to those piercing eyes, and she took advantage of the suspended moment to study his face, all sharp angles and unknowable mysteries. All at once she wanted to touch his cheek. Where had this impulse come from? Almost of its own accord, her hand raised, and the tips of her fingers brushed his flesh, and he shivered at the contact.

“Habit?” she managed to ask in a very tiny voice.

He flinched back but did not break her touch completely.

“Severus,” she breathed, and there was wonder and question and possibility in that breath. His eyes flickered, and his lips parted just barely.

But it was enough.

For a heartbeat, his eyes closed, then flew open, his suspicion clear and sudden, but the hand at his cheek gentled to a caress.

“How...” she began, and her voice faltered before she mastered it once more, “how long?” she finally managed to ask.

His midnight eyes shimmered. “Forever,” he replied at last. “Forever.”
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