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A Snape/Hermione fic.

Chapter Twenty-Six.

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Disclaimer: See Ch. 1.

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A/N: Wow, thanks for all the amazing, fast reviews! I'm so glad that you guys haven't given up on this story! Thanks for sticking with me!

I think it'll be two more chapters - including this one - and then that'll be it, and I'll move on to the sequel.

Without a whole lot of ado, here's the next chapter!

I hope you guys like this one, I know I'll love writing it.

As always, please read and review, I live for feedback!

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Hermione didn't get much sleep that night. She couldn't make her body relax well enough - with Severus within arm's reach - to sleep soundly. It was for that reason why she was wide awake at half past six in the morning, staring at his form lying cuddled against Samantha on the bed.

The alcohol in his system had made it much easier for him to fall into a steady slumber, but Hermione knew that wouldn't last. He would wake soon enough, and then the real drama would start.

She doubted he'd been drunk enough to forget what had happened last night, or where he was. But, he might just be sober enough to walk out and pretend none of it had ever happened. She wouldn't let him, though. He'd told Samantha that he loved her, after hearing her quite clearly call him "Daddy". He didn't get to just walk away from that.

Before Hermione could formulate any sort of plan in her head for what she was going to say to him, his body stiffened, and his eyes cracked open. He was awake.

Severus looked around, noting the different feel from his own mattress, and the distinct pressure of another body against his. His eyes flickered down to see a mass of brown hair tucked against his chest, a light, snoring sound emanating from beneath the entanglement of hair. Severus blinked, his eyes raising immediately to meet the open, brown ones of Hermione Granger.

For a long moment, neither of them said a word, just lay there, staring at one another. Severus was speechless, and Hermione didn't know what to say. Where did they go from here?

Severus could only think of one thing, and moved to slide off the mattress, unable to vocalize what he was thinking or feeling. He needed to get out of there.

Hermione's hand was on his wrist in an instant, stopping him. She shook her head carefully, not wanting to wake her sleeping daughter. "No."

Severus stared back at her, feeling as though her hand was burning the skin on his wrist. "I can't -"

"You don't get to just walk out," she told him determinedly. "There are no take-backs with kids, Severus. You told her ..." She trailed off, not wanting to make him even more uncomfortable. "You can't take back what you said. You can't leave again."

Severus sighed, waiting for her to pull her hand away.

She did after another few seconds, convinced that he wasn't going to run.

Laying on his left side with Samantha curled up against him, Severus brought his right hand up to his face, brushing his hair out of his eyes. "I ... apologize for my behavior last night," he told her, unable to meet her eyes. "It was unforgivable."

"It was definitely a different side of you," Hermione conceded.

"I'm not sure how I even wound up in the library," Severus admitted. "I am sorry if I frightened you. It won't happen again."

Hermione sighed, needing to do something with her hands. She settled for rubbing Samantha's back softly. "Would you stop treating me like I'm some delicate piece of China that's going to break?" she asked in a quiet voice, mindful of her snoozing daughter. "I can handle it."

"You shouldn't have to," he told her.

"Maybe that's true, but I could say the same for you," Hermione replied. "You shouldn't have to have gone through all the things you have in your life, but you have. Bad things happen, Severus. We move on as best as we can."

He nodded, knowing that she was right.

Before he could speak, Hermione added, "But it's easier if we move on together."

Severus sighed, shaking his head. "I don't understand you."

Hermione frowned at that, shifting her head on her pillow. She brought her arm up, bending it at the elbow so that she could lean on her hand. "What don't you understand?"

"Everything," Severus admitted. "I don't understand how you could still be so optimistic and hopeful, after everything ..." He glanced down at Samantha, resisting the urge to brush her hair out of her face. "There is so much about you that I just don't understand."

Hermione shrugged. "So, ask me."

Severus was silent for a moment, staring back at her. "Ask? Just ... ask?"

"Yeah," Hermione replied.

"Just like that?"

Hermione had to roll her eyes. "Just like that," she promised.

Well, that's an interesting idea, Severus pondered. No sneaking around, no spying, no searching for hidden meanings, or going behind her back to try and find the truth? Just ... ask? "So, what should I ask?" he wondered aloud.

Hermione shrugged. "What do you want to know?"

The smallest traces of a grin could be seen of Severus's face, if you knew where to look. "Everything."

...

They talked for nearly two hours, Severus wanting to learn everything he could about Hermione Granger. Hermione was only too willing to tell him everything he wanted to know, so long as he reciprocated.

He told her about his father, and why he had left the Room of Requirement so suddenly, without explanation. He told her everything that Tobias Snape had done to him, and how he'd sworn that he would never do that to his children. It had seemed only logical to ensure that never happen by never having children of his own. Even though a strong part of him was telling him to stop talking and run, he fought his urge to flee. Opening himself up to her, with Samantha snoring into his chest ... it was as though a weight was lifted off his shoulders.

Hermione was thankful that it was the weekend, and they would have classes again until Monday morning. They didn't need to get up early, or even rush to the Great Hall for breakfast. They could stay in bed until they were needed for patrol.

He asked about her happiest moments and greatest fears, asked her to tell him about Samantha; what she'd been like as a baby, and a young toddler. Hermione happily told him all about her little girl, a smile on her face.

The girl in question began stirring a little after eight o'clock, releasing her grip on Severus's shirt to roll over onto her back. "Mummy?" Samantha mumbled, winking her eyes open.

"Hey, Sweetie," Hermione greeted, brushing her daughter's messy hair out of her face. "Good morning."

Samantha scrunched up her face, reaching her arms above her head to stretch her body back and forth. Her right fist bumped Severus's nose, and she blinked in surprise, looking over at him. "Hi," she said, staring up at him.

Not knowing what else to say, Severus replied, "Hello."

Samantha grinned, leaning up to kiss him on his cheek again. She rolled over, giving her mother a kiss as well, before jumping up off the bed and trotting out of the room in search of the bathroom.

"Is she always going to do that?" Severus wondered, bringing a hand to his cheek.

Hermione didn't even try to stop the smile that slipped onto her face. "Get used to it."

Severus nodded silently, gazing at Hermione. It had been a long time since he'd been alone in bed with a woman, never mind having the opportunity to wake up to someone so beautiful and caring ... and forgiving.

Hermione broke the silence, clearing her throat. "I should probably summon a house elf to bring breakfast," she stated, pulling the covers off of her body and slipping out of the bed.

Severus stood with her, glancing at his robes on the floor. His brain told him that he should make some sort of excuse and leave, but something else was holding him back - was it his heart? "I'm sure I could make a suitable breakfast, if you have the supplies."

Hermione glanced at him, raising her eyebrows. "You want to cook us breakfast?"

Severus shrugged. "Consider it an apology meal."

Hermione sighed, wondering if he was ever going to let himself off the hook - for anything.

...

"If this is your idea of an apology breakfast, then I just might have to hold this over your head for many, many years," Hermione professed, rubbing her full stomach affectionately.

Severus's lips quirked in small, appreciative smile.

"What are we gonna do today, Mummy?" Samantha wondered, scooping up a mouthful of pancakes.

"You're going to that Carnival with Uncle Fred and Uncle George, remember?" Hermione answered her daughter.

"Oh, right," Samantha nodded, looking slightly disappointed.

"What's wrong, Sweetie?" Hermione wanted to know.

Samantha sighed dramatically. "I wanted to do something with Severus today."

Severus shifted slightly in his seat, poking at his own breakfast.

"Well, you don't want to let down your Uncles, do you?" Hermione asked her daughter. "They've been looking forward to this for a couple weeks."

Samantha shook her head. "No, I don't ..."

Hermione glanced at Severus before she spoke, "Maybe Severus will read you a bedtime story when you get home. Would that be okay?"

Samantha bobbed her head excitedly. "Would you, Severus?"

Seeing no escape in sight, Severus nodded his head. "I would."

Samantha grinned, scooping for another bite that missed her mouth entirely.

...

They continued that way for a long while. Severus would come over on nights when he and Hermione weren't working in the lab, and read to Samantha. She would beg and plead for him to stay the night, and thrice since then had gotten her wish. The three of them would trudge into Hermione's room, and fall sleep with Samantha settled comfortably between them. In the mornings, he would make them breakfast. It felt very much like a happy family, except that Severus and Hermione had yet to tackle the question of their own personal relationship. Should they presume their courting? Should they start over? Should she be the one to make the first move, or would he prefer to?

The answer to that question came during dinner near the end of term, while she and the other teachers were dining at the Head Table in the Great Hall.

"No Samantha tonight?" Remus wondered, sipping at his pumpkin juice.

Hermione shook her head. "She's spending the weekend with Harry and Ginny, getting to know her 'cousin'," she told him, finishing up the last of her pudding.

Remus glanced at Severus out of the corner of his eye before he replied, "So, you've got the place to yourself for a little bit, then? No pitter patter of little feet ... no 'little ears'?"

Hermione swallowed the food in her mouth, turning to look at him. She saw Severus's stone-faced expression, followed by Remus's amused one, and nearly rolled her eyes. "I suppose."

"No big plans?" Remus wondered, all but nudging Severus's shoulder.

Hermione wondered if anyone would notice if Severus stabbed him in the leg with the knife he was gripping tightly in his pale hand. "Not at the moment," she replied, with an edge in her voice that said, 'quit it'.

"Well, I'm sure you'll find something to pass the time," Remus added, taking another jovial sip of his drink.

Severus waited a few seconds before standing up from the table, throwing an undisguised glare at Remus before retreating from the room.

Hermione was the one to reach over and smack Remus this time.

"What?" he asked innocently, rubbing his arm.

"What is the matter with you?" Hermione wanted to know, annoyed.

Remus sighed, setting his pumpkin juice back down on the table. "Just giving the man a little nudge."

"You're being a child," Hermione informed him, fighting the flush that was making its way up her neck.

"Hey, you want to continue this passive-aggressive dance around one another? Be my guest," Remus replied. "I just want to see two of my friends happy."

Hermione paused at that, feeling her anger abating slightly.

"Besides, with Samantha out of the 'house', you two don't have any excuses not to be getting lucky," the werewolf added.

Hermione didn't feel too bad about sending his pumpkin juice into the air and dumping it on his head.

...

Hermione sat in her office later that day, grading a stack of papers. The majority of the younger students at Hogwarts had little-to-no experience with muggles, and some of their answers were outright laughable.

A small tapping on her door alerted her to the presence of her visitor.

"Yes?" she spoke, glancing up. "Oh ... hello, Severus."

He nodded his greeting, stepping into the room. "Are you busy?"

Hermione shrugged, setting her quill down. "Just getting a head-start on my marking before my rounds."

Severus nodded, coming to a stop by the front of her desk.

She glanced at him in silence for a moment, wondering what he wanted. "Can I help you with something?"

"No, I don't require assistance, I ..." he trailed off, wondering why she made him so tongue-tied all of the time. "I was wondering if you would like to accompany me to dinner this evening."

"Oh," Hermione muttered quietly. A small part of her mind was screaming, finally! "I'm ... free," she replied.

Severus nodded. "I thought that given the ... would you mind if we dined in tonight? I thought I may prepare a meal in my rooms." He said the last bit with the smallest trace of an incline in his voice, displaying his nervousness unwillingly.

Hermione blinked in surprise, but smiled softly. "That would be wonderful."

"Very well," Severus replied, taking a step away from the desk. "I'll see you there at six?"

Hermione nodded. "I look forward to it."

He left the room without another word, causing Hermione to smile in response. She kind of enjoyed the flustered/unsure-of-himself Severus Snape ... he was cute. Not that she would tell him that just yet - didn't want him running away again.

...

Hermione arrived promptly at six, not wanting to appear too eager by being early, or stir up his ire by being late. He was ready at the door when she knocked, and she smiled in greeting. She forced herself not to play with her hair, happy that she'd done it up in a braid before she'd come down.

"You look lovely," Severus told her, taking in the sight of her light-blue dress.

"Thank you," Hermione replied, stepping into the room so that he could close the door. "You look handsome as well."

He was dressed in a dark shirt and vest, with dark dress pants. Very sleek and attractive. "You're not too chilled, are you?" he asked her, seeing as she wasn't wearing her teacher's robes, or other dress robes.

Hermione shook her head. "I'm fine. I didn't want to chance leaving my robes here again," she joked.

Severus nodding, allowing a small smirk at her comment. He led her into the dining area, pulling out her chair for her to sit.

She thanked him again, looking at the feast that he had prepared. "This looks incredible," she commented, gazing at the various dishes.

"I wasn't sure what you would prefer, so I made a few choices," Severus told her, sitting across from her at the small, intimate table.

"It all looks so good, I don't know where to start," Hermione admitted.

"I am partial to this dish," he suggested, picking one bowl off the table and presenting it to her.

Hermione smiled, accepting the food. "Then that's where I'll start," she agreed, thanking him with her eyes.

They completed the rest of the meal in relative silence, neither of them really knowing how to act with one another after so long between "dates". Hermione made random comments about the food, or asked him questions about how he prepared it. Severus responded by commenting on the progress of her apprenticeship, and making a few inquiries about Samantha.

By the end of the evening, Hermione was getting very antsy. She didn't know how the evening would end. Should she invite him back for drinks, would he ask her to stay? How would they say goodnight - handshake, kiss, simple farewell? She was torn between not wanting the evening to end, and wanting it to be over with as quickly as possible, so that she could get out of there and stop worrying.

Hermione stood awkwardly in the dining area, wondering how best to excuse herself, or tempt Severus into asking her to stay. "I still have a lot of marking to complete," she stated offhand.

"Ah," Severus responded, looking towards the doorway. "I have a fair amount to do myself."

"Well, this was fun," Hermione told him. "A lovely evening."

"We should do it again sometime soon," Severus offered.

Hermione nodded, following him out of the room and back to the front door. "Absolutely."

They came to a stop in the foyer, glancing at the door. "Well ... good evening," Severus stated.

"To you as well," Hermione added.

They both reached for the door at the same time, Severus's hand folding over top of hers without meaning to. Trapped between his grip and the door, Hermione stared at his hand, following it up to his arm. Her eyes caressed the exposed skin of his neck, past his hair tucked behind his ear, across his pursed lips, and finally up to his dark eyes. Hermione swallowed nervously, her eyelids fluttering as she tried to make some sort of sound.

Severus's hand twitched against hers briefly, her only warning before he took a slow, purposeful step towards her.

Hermione hoped that she didn't look too fearful as he approached and loomed over her, and forced herself not to gulp again. Her skin flushed with heat and the back of her neck began to tingle, her heart fluttering madly as he drew nearer.

"Should I stop?" Severus breathed out when he was less than an inch from her face, peering down at her through half-closed eyes.

Hermione thought about her answer for roughly two seconds before she gave him her answer. "No," she whispered back, and then there was no going back.

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End of chapter twenty-six.

Okay, I'm honestly on the fence about whether the next chapter will be the last one, or if I should also add an extra, short epilogue. I'll leave that up to you guys, what do you think? Majority wins!

What did you guys think of this one? Like it, hate it?

Reviews are appreciated, flame if you must, but constructive criticism is much more useful.

Until next time ...!