AN: Thanks so much for the reviews, for putting me on alert, for favoriting, and for reading in general! It really means a lot to me!
I don't own anything you'd recognize.
"Who was that?" Hermione asked nervously.
"Just some reprobate," Snape answered as he slammed the window shut.
"Really?" she asked as he untied the letter from the owl's leg.
Snape nodded, deciding that Potter was the last person she needed to think about right now. "Yes," he lied.
Hermione examined his expression. She could tell he was lying, but she could also see that it was a protective lie. She decided to drop it. If it was important, she'd find out soon enough. "Okay, who's the owl from?" she asked.
"No idea," he answered as he sat beside her and began to open the letter. "I've never seen the owl before."
He placed the letter between them so they could read it together.
"Great. The press," he frowned.
"Well, you did create a revolutionary potion," she answered.
"I don't do press conferences," he muttered.
She mused. "You may not have to…"
"Please! Do you think Slughorn has the wits to explain a potion of this complexity?"
She chuckled. "I'd imagine not, but we have another option. We could prepare a written statement."
"True," he answered.
She smiled wider. "What a perfect way to counteract Adrian dredging up your Death Eater past! We'll publish the findings on the memory potion and in the process remind the public of all the other work you've done to improve the health of the wizarding community."
"Where does our good friend Slughorn fit into this?" Severus asked.
She thought for a moment. "I'd imagine after the statement he'll come to us and ask why we bypassed him."
She smirked. "We'll use him to lull Ares into a false sense of security and draw out Giselle."
"How?" Snape asked.
"Lucius," she answered.
Harry sat on a park bench and looked up at the stars, kicking himself for blowing it with Snape and Hermione. He had really meant to have an honest discussion with them, but the second he heard her voice he'd lost it. He should've shown more restraint, tried to extend an olive branch, but all those memories swept away his good intentions.
Why had he slept with her? Merlin, what had come over him? They'd always been friends, but that didn't mean they could comfort each other like that! What had possessed him to betray Ron by sleeping with Hermione?
She was forbidden.
But it didn't matter that night. He remembered sitting in the bar inhaling second-hand smoke and fuming. Ginny was somewhere with Draco, trying to convince them both that she wasn't falling in love with him. Why fight it? Her heart hadn't been Harry's for a long time. Stick a fork in it.
Fuck her! He thought as he took a gulp of his third Firewhiskey. Fuck them both! It was over, that much he knew.
He heard a familiar laugh from the stool beside him and a slurred voice ordering, "Sex on the beach!"
"'Mione?" Harry asked.
"Hey Harry!" she replied with a smile that couldn't mask the pain in her eyes. "What are you here for?"
"Ginny's with Draco," he answered.
"Oh," she replied as the bartender handed her a drink. "Must be a banner night for the Weasleys. Ron dumped me!"
"Really?" Harry asked.
She nodded as she took a sip. "He says I'm not fun any more!"
"I'm sure he'll take you back!" Harry answered.
"No! I'm done with him. It's over!" she answered before taking another sip. Then, she began to laugh. It sounded so warm, so genuine, so… seductive.
Harry shuddered as he recalled what happened next. They hatched a plan over the next several drinks that would be a perfect payback for their former friends… they'd kill two birds with one stone by taking comfort from each other in revenge sex. It wasn't pretty… heck, they were too far gone to remember much of what it was at all… except that they woke up the next morning feeling even emptier than before, embarrassed… and dirty. They left in silence to go their separate ways.
Then came the results of the paternity test.
"You can't have her!" he remembered hearing her scream. "Sara is mine!"
"For Merlin's sake Hermione, her name is Lily!" Harry argued back.
"No!" Hermione argued. "Her name is Sara and you aren't taking her from me!" A tear fell from her cheek. "She's all I have left."
"Really? And how exactly do you plan to take care of her? Are you going to take her to the bars with you? Are you going to rock her to bed before you drink yourself into oblivion?"
"I'm sober!" Hermione yelled.
"For how long? You're always sober until something or someone gives you an excuse to drink!"
"I have a reason to be sober!" she yelled. "I love Sara!"
"Okay fine! If you love Sara, you'll do the right thing and give her to the parent who can actually be depended on to take care of her!" Harry yelled.
"But I can take care of her!" Hermione cried.
"Good luck convincing a judge to agree!" he yelled.
"You think that just because you're the boy who lived you can convince everyone to give you what you want?" Hermione yelled.
"I think that I'm a better parent because you're a drunken whore!" he yelled.
"You killed Ron too," she sobbed. "You killed him just like I did!"
He glared at her and hissed, "Do the right thing for once in your life and give her to me." Harry then stormed out of her house.
His daughter was dead the next day.
He curled up in a ball on the park bench and shed long-delayed tears of shame. He'd been a monster then, not only to Ron but to his daughter as well. Hermione might have been a lost cause, but his daughter had deserved a father who could at least show some kindness towards her mother. Merlin, what he wouldn't do just to hold his daughter now, to look into her eyes. It didn't matter how she was conceived; he'd loved her and always would.
When would he ever be at peace?
Hermione crawled into bed and waited for Severus to join her. They had been sharing his bed since Christmas, though they disciplined themselves to be content with cuddling there. It was both exquisite comfort and exquisite torture, but falling asleep in his arms was far better than imagining it from across the hall.
"Hermione," he purred. "You are once again on my side of the bed."
She smirked. "Well if you want me to leave…"
He crawled into bed beside her and scooped her into his arms "No, I'll just have to adjust to sleeping on this side, for you."
"Don't make it sound like such a burden," she playfully teased.
He kissed her emphatically on the lips. "Nothing about you is burdensome."
She smiled and she wrapped herself in the comfort of his embrace. "Severus?"
"I love you."
"I love you too."
She closed her eyes in blissful peace.