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September 7, 2006
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Much of the following fic is borrowed almost directly from the 1947 movie ‘The Ghost and Mrs. Muir’, only twisted slightly to make it work here. I do not claim credit for the work of R.A. Dick (novel) or Philip Dunne (screenplay).

Disclaimer : I do not own or make money off any of the Harry Potter characters owned by J.K. Rowling.

Many thanks to Estrilda for her fabulous beta services. Her insights always make the story much better than it would have been.  And special thanks to Katie for her Brit picking assistance.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~


The Ghost and Miss Granger </u>

The war was over.

That being the case, one might think things in the Wizarding World had changed. And in some ways, they had. Those, who in the era of celebration following the fall of the Dark Lord were thought of as heroes, were now generally looked upon with suspicion. As if any moment one might rise out of their ranks to become the new Dark Lord. It was now their names that were spoken only in hushed tones. At least the names of those that had survived. Neither side had come out unscathed.

Hermione traced her hand over the engraved names on the memorial of those who had been lost, her finger catching in the grove of the ‘T’ in Tonks. Then, as it had done many times before, her finger traced the ‘W’ in Weasley.

“Dad would have liked to know to come by here,” a male voice said, startling her out of her ruminations of the past. Hermione turned to see Charlie Weasley standing beside her, his arms crossed as he too looked on the memorial the Ministry of Magic had placed in the Atrium nearly two years ago. Hermione graced him with a small sad smile.

“I miss them,” she said, her eye going back to read Alastor Moody, Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore and then crammed in near the bottom, as if it was almost regrettable for it to be there, was his name.

“So do I,” the redhead said, his hazel eyes rested on the names William A. Weasley and Percival I. Weasley. Charlie sighed and then turned to her again. “You here on business?”

“The auction.”

“Yeah, me too. I got a small place near the Burrow, be closer to mum . . .you know. Thought I might pick up a few things cheap.”

They turned and walked to the large hall where the auction was being held. As Hermione had predicted, few people had shown up. It only made her feel more like a vulture.

Charlie sat beside her, both of them seeming to need the comfort of a familiar face. She opened her auction program and skimmed down until she found it. There wasn’t likely to be much interest in it. Not with the reputation of the previous owner.

“You aren’t bidding on that, are you, Mione?” Charlie was leaning over and saw where her finger had stopped in the program.

“I need a house and workshop. This’ll be ideal, if the price doesn’t go too high.”

“Not likely to, is it? Not with it being his. It’s a wonder really no one’s burned it down,” Charlie said, with a look that told her his opinion of the man.

“Let’s hope you’re right.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“Ye sure, ye be wannin this house, Miss?” Mr. Craddock asked. He had met Hermione in the village as he was the Ministry Liaison for the region. He was to undo the Ministry lock down spells on the house and have her sign the final deed of ownership. He had, however, also taken every opportunity on their walk out to the edge of town to try to talk her out of the purchase.

Hermione stood on the cobbled street of Spinner’s End gazing up at her newly acquired property. As humble and hidden as it was amongst the Muggle dwellings, it had been his home. What better place to research her potions? She nodded her head to Mr. Craddock, then touched her wand to the deed making the sale final.

“I never want to see this house again,” Mr. Craddock said more to himself than to her.

Hermione’s back stiffened a bit, as did her resolve. “The owner was a war hero, you know.”

The old man sniffed and went on, “Aye, but he committed suicide, now din’t he? Ta save some’un the trouble of assassinatin’ him, no doubt.”

“I’m sure the house will do nicely for me,” Hermione said firmly, lifting the end of her truck.

“Ye are the mos’ obstinate young lass I ever met.”

Hermione smiled at him warmly for the first time as she opened the gate. “Why thank you, Mr. Caddock. I've always wanted to be considered obstinate.”

~*~*~*~*~

The interior of the house had a neglected air, to put it kindly. Hermione concentrated on the master bedroom for tonight. Scourgifying every square inch and removing or nullifying any infestations she found. It wasn’t bad really. For the length of time the house had been uninhabited, the problems were minor. He likely had very sophisticated spells on the house since he was gone for long periods of time.

She unpacked her things and readied herself for bed as thunder began rumbling in the distance. The promise of rain scented the air flowing in through the slightly open window. The gently billowing curtain drew her attention to a door she hadn’t noticed before. Walking over, she tried the door knob. It wouldn’t turn.

Accio wand,” she said then tried a silent ‘Alohomora’ on the old oak door. It still wouldn’t open. Hermione drew in her breath and looked around frantically at the sound of laughter. Male laughter. She spun around slowly holding her wand at the ready while a flash of lightening joined another roll of thunder.

“I know you're here.” She waited breathlessly for some response. “I say, I know you're here.”

When she had satisfied herself there was no one else in the room, she tried the door again. Several other standard spells proved fruitless and the laughter sounded again making the hair on the back of Hermione’s neck stand on end. Looking around again, there was still no one else in the room.

“So . . . haunted, is it?”

No bloody ghoul was going to get the better of her. Placing her hands on her hips and her lip between her teeth, she thought hard of all the warding spells she knew and discounted the counter curses she had already tried.

“It couldn’t be that simple?” she wondered aloud. No, surely not, but then again . . .

Open sesame.”

The eerie laughter sounded again, but as the door opened, it seemed to be coming from inside the newly discovered room.

Lumos,” she whispered, lighting the tip of her wand, and then stepped over the threshold.

Mouth gaping at the marvelous gem she had found, she walked to the center of the room and held her wand aloft, turning slowly. Two long work tables were set up along the walls with several different size cauldrons and another wall was covered in shelves holding all manner of jars and bottles. The wall with the door held a small writing desk set up with parchment, quills and ink, and a bookcase floor to ceiling stuffed with books and parchment. It was a potions lab. Better than any she could have dreamed of owning. But when she went to the bookcase and stretched out her hand to grasp a book, the cauldrons shook on the table, rattling ominously.

“What's wrong?”

Only another rumble in the sky answered her.

“Are you afraid to speak up?” When nothing else happened, she reached for the book again. The work table closest to her began to vibrate, sending a stack of smaller cauldrons toppling over and loudly clanging onto the floor.

Hermione jumped with a squeak of surprise. “Is that all you're good for . . .,” she snapped, “ . . .to frighten women?”

A bright flash of lighting flooded in through the open door to the bedroom, giving way to a particularly impressive rumble of thunder. The brief flood of light had verified that she was indeed alone in the room. Hermione became angry. She would be buggered if she was going to let some old ghoul scare her out of her house.

“I'm not afraid of you. Show yourself!” she demanded.

Again the signs of the increasing ferocity of the storm were her only answer. Her frustration was mounting.

“Whoever heard of a cowardly ghost?”

The reaction to that statement was both immediate and violent. Hermione was propelled bodily out of the lab and thrown into a heap on the bedroom floor.

“DO NOT CALL ME A COWARD!”

Hermione brushed the hair out of her eyes and gasped, then stared wide-eyed at the old oak door that had slammed shut with a loud bang. That voice. She knew that voice. That wasn’t some ghoul or random ghost.

With astonishment the whispered name fell from her lips, “Snape.”

~*~*~*~*~

Getting to sleep that night had been difficult. Not because Hermione had been afraid. No, it was because of how excited she was. Snape. Severus Snape was here. In this house with her. That both elated and worried her. If anyone deserved eternal rest for what life had put him through, it was Severus Snape. He alone had been there to not only ensure the Dark Lord’s destruction, but had ensured Harry Potter’s survival, as well. Not many knew how the former Potions Master had been so grievously injured and even fewer cared. Hermione had been told by the still bewildered Harry as he lay in St. Mungo’s in the room next door to Snape’s. The boy who had lived yet again could hardly believe his own memory of the event.

It seemed during a heated and heavy exchange with Harry, the Dark Lord had cast an unrecognized curse straight at Harry and Harry had frozen, not knowing how to counter it. Snape moving with speed Harry couldn’t comprehend, had thrown his own spell at the Dark Lord while stepping in front of Harry, receiving the full force of the unknown spell. The spell Snape cast caused the Dark Lord to falter just long enough for Harry to eradicate Tom Riddle from this world. It was not thought Snape would survive and that news had affected Harry greatly. While still in hospital, he had taken to sitting at the dark man’s bedside, reading sections of the Daily Prophet aloud to the older man who showed no signs of returning to consciousness. When Harry was released with a clean bill of health, he had returned almost daily to sit by his old professor’s bedside. That is, until the man woke up. Harry had told Hermione he didn’t think Snape would appreciate him hanging around once he had awoken. She had to reluctantly agree, Snape had never been one to hide his feelings about Harry, even though he had repeatedly saved the boy’s life.

First thing in the morning, Hermione attacked the kitchen. Well, it had attacked first when a flock of doxies flew at her as she opened the pantry door. She cleaned up just enough to make tea and toast with the supplies she had brought with her. The rest would have to wait. She was excited about getting another look at the laboratory and possibly its previous owner.

Upon trying the old oak door again, Hermione was almost surprised to find it unlocked. Stepping cautiously through the door, she peered into the dim room, the only light coming from the sunlight spilling in from the bedroom. The small cauldrons that had fallen from the table last night, which still lay strewn on the floor, but everything else appeared to be in place. She lit a candle on the far work table and began picking up the cauldrons and putting them back on the table. After the last cauldron was put back into place, a cold breeze came out of nowhere and blew the candle out.

In the semi darkness, Hermione placed her hands on her hips and glared around the seemingly empty lab. “Now if the demonstration is over . . . I'll thank you not to interfere while I clean up and organize.”

She waited, for what she had no idea, so she nearly jumped out of her skin when he spoke somewhat close to her. “Light the candle.”

Drawing her wand, she carefully looked into every corner.

“Light the blasted candle!” the familiar voice snapped irritably. She complied at once; preprogrammed to follow instructions given by that voice without question. When the candle flared back into life the figure of the authoritative Potions Master stood glaring at her, his arms tightly crossed over his chest. He didn’t look transparent as Nearly Headless Nick or the other Hogwarts ghosts did. He seemed just as solid as if he lived.
          
“Well?” he demanded, eyeing her challengingly.

Hermione shook her head in shock and disbelief. “You'll . . . you'll forgive me if I take a moment to get accustomed to you . . ,” she said defensively, then with more wonder she whispered, “Professor Snape.”

“How very observant.” He appeared to relax marginally, though his glare was still rather cold.

“I'm sorry I called you names last night . . . coward and so forth. I didn’t mean it. I didn't know it was you, or I wouldn't have,” she apologized in a rush, feeling almost as if he could still remove house points from her. She took a step closer. “It must have been embarrassing to you.”

“What? Why?”

“Why . . .? I mean because of the way you died.”

“The way I died, Miss Granger?”

“I mean . . . because you committed suicide.”

“What the ruddy hell made you think I committed suicide, woman?”

“Mr. Caddock said . . .”

“Caddock is a fool. They are all fools. I had a potion brewing in the lab and fell asleep in front of that confounded Muggle gas heater in my bedroom . . . I must have kicked the gas on with my foot while sleeping. It was a stormy night like last night with the wind blowing strongly into my windows . . . so I shut them as any sensible man would. Would you not?”
  
“Yes, I suppose so.”
          
Snape began to pace to and fro in the small room occasionally throwing her a glance. “Then the coroner's jury brought in a ruling of suicide because my bloody neighbor testified I always slept with my windows open. How the devil should she know how I slept?”

“Oh . . . I'm so glad,” Hermione said, relief seeping into her voice. He stopped pacing and turned a glare to her.

“Do you have a strange sense of humor, Miss Granger?” he asked, eyeing her darkly.

“I mean because you didn't commit suicide,” she said quickly. “But if you didn't, why do you haunt this house?”

“Because I have plans for my house which do not include strangers barging in and making themselves at home.”

“Then you were trying to frighten me away.”

“You call that trying? I had barely started. No, that was enough for all the others. They did not want any part of me, I can assure you. They did not even stop to check the wind, just hopped on their brooms and flew, so to speak.”

“I think it's very mean of you frightening people . . . childish, too,” Hermione admonished.

“In your case, I am prepared to admit I had a moment’s regret. You are not a bad-looking woman now you have grown up, you know . . . Especially when you sleep.” Snape turned her a knowing smirk.

“So you were in my room last night?” she gasped.

“My room, madam,” he stated firmly.

“I almost thought I'd dreamed it,” she said, remembering disconnected dreams she’d had the previous night. “Did you open the window to frighten me?”
     
“I opened the window because I did not want another accident with the blasted gas.”

“Well, I'm sure it was very kind of you . . . but I am quite capable of taking care of myself,” she said then went over to the bookcase and began looking over the collection.

“Now, if you don't mind . . .” She turned her back on him, but after a moment, peered back over her shoulder to find him still there.

“Well, what is the matter now?” Snape demanded.

“I just wanted to see if you were really there.”

“Of course I am really here . . . and I will still be here when you have packed up and gone,” he said in a matter of fact manner.

Hermione turned back to him fully. This was one point they were going to get crystal clear right then and there. “I'm not going anywhere. This house suits me perfectly.”

“Miss Granger, it is not your house,” the ghost growled.

“It is as long as I hold the deed. I’ve bought it from the Ministry. I am the legal owner.”

Snape had dropped his arms to his sides with fists clenched. “Legal owner be hanged! This is my house and I want to be left in peace!”

“Then you should have said so in your will,” she snapped back.

“I did not leave a bloody will,” he said exasperatedly.

The young woman was slightly taken aback by that. “Why not?”

“I did not expect to kick the blasted gas on with my foot!” Snape shouted loud enough to rattle the bottles on the shelf.

“I won't be shouted at.” Hermione drew herself up and let loose a torrent that had been building for months. “Everyone shouts at me and orders me about . . . and I'm sick of it, do you hear?” She slapped the book in her hand onto the desk loudly. “Bloody hell!”

“Temper. Temper.” The corners of Snape’s thin lips turned up in amusement which only proved to infuriate her further.

“Or be laughed at either. I won't leave this house. You can't make me leave. I won't! I love this house. I thought I must buy it the moment I heard it was up for auction. I can't explain it. It was as if the house itself were calling to me . . . asking me to rescue it from being so empty,” Hermione said passionately then dropped her gaze in embarrassment. “You can't understand that, can you? I suppose you think I'm just a silly woman . . . but that's the way I feel.”

“Hmm,” he hummed out and seemed to be thinking. “I felt that way about a place once . . . Hogwarts.”

She looked up and locked eyes with him. His black eyes looked on her without apology and possibly with a measure of friendliness.

“Well, you love the house. That counts for you,” he said. “And you have backbone. You did not frighten easily. That counts for you, too. You may stay . . . on trial.”

“Oh, well thank you,” she said a bit sarcastically and stepped closer to him, holding out her hand to shake his and close the bargain.

Snape stepped back with a look of alarm. “Keep your distance, madam.”

“I'm sorry. You made me so happy,” she said, a little flustered.

“I had no intention of making you happy. I merely want to do what is best for the house.”

“Then we're agreed,” Hermione said firmly, somewhat satisfied. Then all at once her stomach dropped at a wayward thought. “Are you going away?”

“I will not go away. Why should I?”

“Oh . . . well good. Where do you usually stay?”

“In my bedroom.”

“But if you’re in the best bedroom, where am I to sleep?”

Snape lifted an eyebrow and a smirk appeared on his lips. “In the best bedroom.”

“But . . .”

“For Merlin’s sake, Miss Granger, why not? I am a spirit. I have no body. I have not had one for almost a year.”

“But I can see you.”

A slightly pained expression crossed his face. “All you see is an illusion.”

That look and the way he said it gave her pause. “Well . . . I suppose it's all right.”

“Then it is settled. I am probably making a mistake. I always was a fool for a helpless woman,” he scoffed at himself gently. “And a Gryffindor, at that.”

~*~*~*~*~

Life in the cozy house on Spinner’s End fell into an almost comfortable routine. The studious brunette could be found most mornings either in the lab or bedroom reading the books and notes left behind by her professor. The ghost of her professor was always close at hand for either comment or question. The thought passed through Hermione’s mind more than once that Severus (for she insisted upon using his given name if they were to share the house) was infinitely more patient as a ghost than he had been in life. When alive, he would never have stood for her questioning his work and methods.

Afternoons were her time to leave the little house to go on errands, visit her parents or continue cleaning every inch of the house. She chose this time of day for activities away from Severus because this was the time he appeared to be weakest . . . and for other reasons. He seemed to become disoriented and muddled easily. Even forgetting at times that he was not alive. Times that made her forget as well.

One such time, Hermione had taken a shower after lunch. After drying and taming her hair, she had not bothered with a towel and walked naked into her bedroom to dress. She collected what clothes she would need and laid them on the bed. Before she could dress, the hairs on the back of her neck prickled. Turning, she found Severus standing in the bedroom not far from her, his gaze taking in her naked form hungrily. Her breath caught in her throat and her pulse raced. How many times had she dreamed of a situation such as this? Facing him and biting her lip, she let him look his fill. Black fathomless eyes locked with soft brown ones finally. He took a step closer and she began to tremble. But he blinked, looked at the floor for a moment, then back into her eyes.

“My dear, never let anyone tell you to be ashamed of your figure,” Severus said softly, then turned and faded from sight, leaving Hermione hugging herself and shaking.

After that day, there seemed to be an unspoken agreement that she would have the afternoon to herself and Severus would not appear again until after the dinner hour. They never spoke of the incident. However, she caught or just felt him watching her often after that, his lingering gaze feeling almost tangible. It made her heart skip and constrict at the same time.

Many evenings were spent in quiet companionship. Severus’ strength and control over objects was such that he had learned to turn the pages of a book with a flick of his hand, if Hermione set it on a flat surface for him. There were also those rare evenings when he would freely engage in conversation.

One such evening, he was wandering around the kitchen while Hermione drank her tea and looked through the Daily Prophet. She heard papers rusting on the kitchen counter then come to a rest.

“Why are you not paying your bills?” Severus snapped. Hermione did not even look up, but continued reading the paper, turning the page.

“My bills are my problem, Severus.”

“But why are you not paying them? Surely if you could afford to buy this house . . .”

“Buying this house took nearly all of the money I had, which wasn’t a lot to begin with,” she said, glancing at him and then sighing deeply. “That was one of the reasons I wanted it.”

The expression on her former professor’s face was wholly unfamiliar to her. Severus Snape appeared truly befuddled. A state of which, given any other circumstance would have made her laugh, at the moment, it made her sad and defensive.

“You didn’t stick around long enough to find out how wizards treat their heroes,” she snapped with distaste.

“Why do you not seek employment?” Severus stepped closer to the table looking down at her, but not unkindly.

Hermione let out a bitter laugh. “That’s the crux, isn’t it . . . No one will hire me..”

“Why the bloody hell not?”

Hermione stood and walked over to lean against the counter with her arms cross. “I’m dangerous . . . don’t you know?” she said in that same bitter tone. “Since I fought in the war and survived . . . Well many people and especially the Ministry are afraid of me. Seems you were right, I am too smart for my own good.”

Silence hung heavy in the room. Hermione was staring at the floor reprimanding herself for speaking so freely in front of Severus. These were worldly problem. Her worldly problems, not his.

“It has been my experience that women will do anything for money.”

Her head snapped up to glare at him. Did he mean . . .? Was he trying suggest . . .? “I don’t need a pimp, thank you! Especially from beyond the grave.”

“That is not what I was suggesting!” he snapped back in a most Snape-ish way.

“I was thinking of taking on a lodger. That would be a little money.”

“No,” he said flatly.

“Then what else am I to do?”

“You are going . . . to write a book.”

“A book?” she said dumbfounded.

“Did I stutter, Miss Granger?”

“What am I to write a book about . . . The Life and Times of Hogwarts Most Promising Has Been? I don’t think it would sell, Professor.”

Severus let out a sound that was a cross between a laugh and a snort. She looked up and met his eyes, finding a hint of amusement there. She let out a small chuckle, as well.

“What will the book be about, then?” she asked more politely.

He cocked his head to the side and looked off into space. “You will write about me. The story of a spy living on the edge of two worlds under two different demanding masters.”

She looked at him uncertainly. “But . . . you’ve always been so protective of your private life. I don’t know if I could . . .”

“I can write the book and you can put it down on parchment for me,” Severus said, taking a few steps closer to her. She thought it over.

“But . . . it takes months to write a book. What am I to do in the meantime?”

Severus paused, the gears in his head visibly turning. Then he looked back at her more intently.

“Meet me in the lab,” he said firmly, then disappeared. Very curious, Hermione left the kitchen and climbed the stairs quickly. Entering the bedroom, she found the lab door open and could hear sounds coming from inside. When she walked through the door, the ghost plunked down a velvet bag on the writing desk. He seemed exhausted from the exertion. She eyed the bag and looked at him questioningly. He gestured for her to open it, so she did, revealing several beautiful old pieces of jewelry.

“Pawn it,” Severus said plainly.

Hermione looked from the treasure in her hand to him and shook her head. “But I couldn't!”

“Damn it, woman, will you understand?” he said sharply. “If you do not pay your creditors, the goblins at Gringotts will come take the house and resell it to pay your debts. I will not have it!”

“But . . . Severus these are your family’s. I couldn’t . . .”

“I am dead, Hermione,” he said plainly. “It is not as if I will ever have any heirs to pass them on to.”

Her heart clenched at the bitterness in his voice. Tears burned her eyes for how unfair life had been to him and the overwhelming generosity of his gesture. He was giving her all that was left of him in the world. She squeezed her eyes shut, feeling tears run down her cheeks. If only he had lived. If only they could have gotten to know each other on common ground. If only . . .

“Start with that ugly broach,” he said quietly, gesturing to a particularly clunky looking piece. A laugh burst out of her, she couldn’t help it. He smiled softly at her laugh. She smiled back, wiping her face with the back of her hand, at his words combined with the gentle look on his face.

“I am glad you are going to be sensible,” he said, “since we are to be collaborators.”

Putting the items back in the bag, she sighed. “I feel a bit frightened and confused. Wondering what the future will bring.”

“Do you not trust me?” he asked softly. He seemed honestly curious.

“Yes,” Hermione said immediately. “I have always trusted you, Severus.”

“Always?” he asked disbelievingly.

“Always,” she said firmly.

~*~*~*~*~

On a particularly crisp cool early October morning, four months from when she’d moved in, Hermione opened her eyes reluctantly. Her eyes fell on the partially open window. Sighing deeply, she rolled over to find Severus sitting in the chair near the bed, his intense gaze cooler than the chill in the air.

“Why do your friends never come see you?” he demanded.

She tiredly wiped her hand over her face. She had never really been a morning person, but Severus always acted impatient with her first thing in the morning as if he had been waiting all night to start conversing again.

“Good morning to you, too, Severus.”

She stretched and avoiding looking at him as long as she could, but finally glancing back she found him still looking at her expectantly.

“Why?” he asked again firmly, but in a slightly softer tone. “Is it because of me?”

Hermione sat up, letting out an annoyed sigh. “No, Severus. It’s got nothing to do with you. They don’t know you’re here.”

She put her feet in her slippers and threw on her dressing gown aggressively, walking over to close the window. “They’re just . . . busy. That’s all.”

“You are not a very convincing liar, Hermione. Surely they cannot all be busy at the same time.”

She let out a derisive laugh while tying her gown. “And just how many friends do you think I have? In case you hadn’t noticed, I wasn’t exactly popular before the war, much less after.” They stared at each other for a moment or two.

“What of Potter?”

“Harry and Ginny decided to do some traveling after they got married. No one’s certain when they’re coming back.”

“What of Weasley? I had always assumed . . .”

“You did? Well, no. Ron’s in Auror Training still,” she said with a huff as she sat on the side of the bed. “Remus is there too. Did you know?”

“Lupin? The Ministry is allowing a werewolf to become an Auror?” he said, his eyebrows creeping into his hairline.

“Yes. They aren’t nearly so prejudice now that they’ve lost half their Aurors to the war. Remus said Tonks would have wanted him to join up, so he has. It helps him feel less lonely, I think.”

Severus nodded knowingly and sat forward, leaning his elbows on his knees. “There must have been other young men.”

Hermione shook her head, wrapping her arms around herself more for comfort than against the chill in the room. “Well . . . Victor . . .” she said quietly.

Severus nodded again, looking at her almost sympathetically. “I understand he died bravely, protecting Durmstrang.”

“Died bravely, died stupidly . . . what’s the difference? Dead is dead,” she snapped angrily. When her comment was met with a stony silence, she looked up and realized how insensitive she’d been.

“Severus, I didn’t mean . . . I’m so stupid . . .”

The ghost stood and walked over to the window, looking out onto the bright clear morning. Hermione felt sick to her stomach. If he’d just yelled, snarled at her-but this silence was unbearable. She walked over to him, her hand already raised intending to touch him . . . until she remembered. They both looked out onto the sleepy village.

“You should get out more,” he said before turning away. “A witch your age should have wizards lining up for the chance to spend time with you.” His dark eyes looked down at her, holding her in place. There was something there, just beyond reach, but just as quickly it had vanished. “You cannot spend all your time with a . . . ghost.”

After a moment, he turned towards the lab door. “I will wait for you,” he said over his shoulder then walked through the closed oak door.

~*~*~*~

“You didn’t need to walk me home, Charlie,” Hermione said to her stocky red-haired escort. On a shopping trip to Diagon Alley, she had literally bumped into Charlie at Flourish & Blotts while browsing the books. They had talked for a while, then stopped by the Leaky Cauldron for a Butterbeer. After Apparating just outside of town, the two young people had strolled through the dim quiet cobble-stoned streets, all the way to Spinner’s End.

“Seemed the only way to get a look at this house,” Charlie said with a good-natured chuckle. Hermione opened the door and invited him in. Taking off her cloak she glanced to see what he thought of her house. Charlie removed his cloak, took hers and hung them both by the door. He turned back to her with a broad approving smile.

“Rather charming. Must have taken a bit of work.”

She grinned and felt a blush of pleasure rise in her cheek. “It wasn’t so bad.”

“You seem happy here . . . it suits you,” he said, looking around. “I do worry about you out here all alone though. Mum’s mentioned it a few times, too.”

Hermione ducked her head with a grin, walking into the kitchen. She wasn’t quite sure how to take the news that Charlie had been thinking about her. Well . . . don’t be silly, she thought, the family’s known you for ages. And Charlie’s older, maybe he thinks he should look after his younger brother’s friend.

“Tea?” she asked, filling the kettle to give her something to do.

“Um . . . yes, please.”

She placed the kettle on the cooker and turned to see him leaning uncertainly against the counter. His hazel eyes looked at her, but seemed devoid of his usual confidence. Offering him a seat at the small table, she sat down and felt . . . tension of some kind in the air.

“I had a really good time this afternoon,” Hermione said to fill the silence.

“Did you? I did, too. I had wondered . . . I wanted to ask . . .” Charlie seemed to be struggling with his words. It was very unlike him. His forearms on the table, he leaned forward with a more serious expression. “Hermione . . . is there anything between you and Ron?”

She gaped at him for a moment, then giggled, shaking her head. “No, Charlie. Ron’s been seeing Luna Lovegood. Didn’t you know?”

He gave a laughing snort and visibly relaxed. “I didn’t know. I thought I should make sure before . . .well, I’d like to take you out . . . sometime, if you’d like to go out with me.”

She looked into his boyishly freckled face and smiled. “I’d like that.”

The teakettle took that moment to whistle loudly from the cooker. They had tea with biscuits and conversation. They had agreed to meet one afternoon next week. After Charlie put his cloak on, he leaned over and gave her a soft lingering kiss on the cheek, said goodnight and left.

Hermione closed and warded the door, then leaned back against it, slipping her eyes closed and grinning to herself.

“So . . . has dragon-boy gone?”

Snapping her eyes open, she saw Severus leaning in the doorway to the kitchen, his arms crossed and a disapproving sneer firmly in place.

“You've been eavesdropping?” Hermione turned and climbed the stairs intending to change.

“The way he was smirking at you . . . like a cat stalking a pixie. You should have slapped his face,” Severus said as he followed her up the stairs.

“Why? I found him rather charming.”
  
Rather charming? Now you are starting to talk like him.”

“How the bloody hell do you want me to talk?” she demanded once she reached the bedroom.
          
“That is better,” he said with a smirk, following her into the room.

“I think you're being extremely childish.”
          
“I am only trying to protect you from your own worse instincts.”

“I'll manage my own instincts, thank you,” she snapped angrily, glaring at Severus.

“Are we working tonight?”

“I . . . I don’t know.  My mind isn’t on the book.”

Silence answered her. Hermione looked around the room, but Severus was gone. She sat down on the edge of the bed with a sigh and held her head in her hands. “Damn it.”

~*~*~*~*~

Hermione,
I know I was just there the other night, but mum has been giving me hell for not bringing you over for a visit. I told her I ran into you at the bookshop and she nearly hexed me blonde. (We wouldn’t want that, now would we?) Please say you’ll come to dinner at the Burrow with me tomorrow. Mum tried to convince Ron to come home, but he’s been sent out for training exercises. Fred and Angelina are coming with the triplets, I think. The babies have had colds, but if they’re better, Angelina will bring them. And, of course, Fleur is there with little Willy.

I just read this over and it all sounds like excuses. The truth is ‘I’ want to see you. All the rest is true, too, but I especially hope you can come.

I’ll wait for your owl,
Charlie


~*~

Charlie,
I’d love to come to the Burrow for dinner. You can tell Molly I’ll be there and let her know I’m sorry I haven’t been by more often. I hope the babies are better, it’s been so long since I’ve seen them. They must be sitting up on their own by now. How is Fleur? I can’t imagine what she must be going through. She has Willy, I know, but to lose your husband . . .

And I’m looking forward to seeing you, too. I love hearing your tales about the dragons.

I’ll Apparate over around 6:30, if that’s alright. See you then.

Hermione


~*~*~*~

“Are you warm enough?” Charlie asked, placing his arm around Hermione and pressing her to his side. It was a chilly night, but the moon shone brightly, lighting their way from the Apparation point back to the house down Spinner’s End.

She glanced up into his mildly concerned face and nodded. “Fine now, thanks.”

They walked through the sleepy village in silence, but it was a comfortable silence. Hermione ran the evening through her head. Dinner at the Burrow had been just the distraction she had needed. Excellent food, Molly fussing over her, lots of attention from the man beside her and getting to hold all the babies as long as she liked. Being an only child, it was hard to think of herself as Aunt Hermione, though all of the Weasley clan seemed to be adamant on that point. Hermione found she was drawn to Fleur and little Willy much of the night. Fleur had turned out to be a better mother, and indeed a better person, than many gave her credit for. Hermione couldn’t imagine how difficult it must be to go on raising the child of your dead husband. Especially in the family home, where everywhere must be reminders of him. She had said as much to Fleur, but the widow had laughed gently and swept her silvery-blonde hair to the side. ‘But dat is your ans’er. Willee will know everysing of ‘is fas’er. Dis is ‘is family.’


Charlie opened the front gate and held it as she passed through. He was eyeing her in a way that made her insides flutter. The whole of the night he had only shown her friendly attention, but he seemed tenser when they arrived at her front steps. She turned to the man and looked up into his boyish face.

“I’m so glad you invited me, Charlie. Thank you.”

His long dark red lashes brushed his cheek as he looked down, then back up at her shyly. “I was happy you came. I’d still like to take you out . . . sometime. Maybe with a few less family members around we’ll get to talk more,” Charlie said with a chuckle. “You were quite the natural with the babies though. The triplets are mad about you.”

“I like playing with them. It’s just . . .” she started then shied away from the topic.

“No, please.” Charlie was looking at her intently. “I’d like to hear what you have to say.”

“It’s just . . . looking into those young eyes, so innocent, so . . . new. The future seems a lot brighter.”

He nodded his head with understanding. “I know. I feel it, too. Life hasn’t exactly been easy for any of us. Mum and I have talked about it. I mean . . . well, for her this is the second time she’s come through a war like this. She admits that this time is much harder . . . losing dad, Bill and Percy. And of course, so many friends . . .”

Hermione sighed in understanding.

“But mum also made me see that there were still things worth living for.” He smiled down at her warmly, his soft eyes glistening with moisture. “If we survivors don’t live our lives to the fullest, then those who are gone will have died in vain. Sometimes, I swear I hear dad’s voice telling me to ‘buck-up and get on with things’.”

Charlie chuckled again and tears slowly rolled down his cheeks. Hermione raised her hand and gently brushed the wetness away. They looked into each others faces and seemed to draw together naturally. The kiss was soft, almost chaste at first, then she slipped her arms around his neck and his strong arms gathered her to him, pressing their bodies together. After a few moments, she relaxed her lips and Charlie took the invitation, tickling her tongue with his until she opened to him fully.

They kissed for several minutes before he abruptly pulled back then pressed their foreheads together. “I should go,” he whispered huskily.

Hermione looked at him questioningly, afraid she had somehow done something to offend him. He drew back, shaking his head gently with a smile playing at his lips. “I really like you, Hermione. Believe me, I’d like nothing better than to go inside with you,” he said casting the door a longing look, “but . . . I know if I do, I’ll cock it up somehow. I don’t want to ruin things by rushing.”

She grinned and nodded then stepped up to give him a firm hug. “Good night, Charlie.”

He kissed her cheek, squeezed her one last time and walked away down the cobblestoned street. Hermione watched him disappear into the darkness, then turned and entered the house.

She walked in and hung up her cloak with a grin on her face. It was late, so she climbed the stairs to her bedroom, lit the candle by the bed with her wand and nearly jumped out of her skin. Severus was sitting in the chair near the bed scowling at her.

“So now you have been kissed.”

To cover her embarrassment, she began changing into her night clothes. “You've been spying on me.”

“I was merely in the vicinity and witnessed that shameful display.”

“I don't believe you.”

“Why did you let him?”

“He . . . took me unaware.”

“My dear, since Eve plucked the apple, no woman has ever been taken entirely unawares.”

“Just what do you mean to insinuate by that?” she snapped with her hands on her hips

Severus stood and walked a few steps closer. “When a woman is kissed, it is because deep down she wants to be kissed.”

“That is nothing but masculine conceit.”

“Nevertheless, it is true,” he stated and crossed his arms in challenge. Severus looked at her state of undress, turned his back to her and looked out the window while she finished changing. After several moments, he spoke again. “You should have pushed him down the steps. In another minute, I would have.”

“Why, Severus . . . I believe you're jealous.”

“Of course, I am not jealous!” he snapped irritably, turning back to face her. “Do you take me for a blasted schoolboy? Besides . . . jealousy is a disease of the flesh.”  

Hermione giggled and settled onto the bed brushing her hair. The ghost paced the room from window to door and back again.

“I suppose being a woman, you can't help it,” Severus said so quietly Hermione barely caught it.

“Can't help what?”

“Making a fool of yourself,” he said grumpily.

“Severus, do stop sulking. You yourself said that I should mix with people . . . that I should see men.”

“I said men, not perfumed parlor snakes.”
      
“He's a Weasley, a Gryffindor, a wizard and a man. A very nice man. Anyway, we’re just . . . friends.”

Friends do not stick their tongues down your throat and then run away. Those are the actions of a schoolboy!”

“I wish you wouldn't act so superior just because you're . . . not alive.”

“And he is. Very much so.”

“It's no crime to be alive.”

“No, my dear. Sometimes it is a great inconvenience. The living can be hurt.”

“I don't intend to be hurt.”

“Longbottom never intended to melt his cauldron, but it happened. Often.”

“You yourself said I should go about in the world. That means taking risks.”

“I know, my dear. Real happiness is worth almost any risk, but be careful. There may be Dementors ahead.”

“I will, Severus.”

~*~*~*~*~*~

Their routine of writing the book and verbally sparring continued, but Severus never mentioned anything about Charlie again. Not after their dates or even when Hermione had spent the night at his house. It both relieved and bothered her. It also bothered her how easy it was to forget about Severus when she was with Charlie, even though she knew she loved Severus, had loved him for a long time. Charlie was handsome, engaging, funny and so . . . alive.

Hermione sighed as she thought about all of this while staring at the piece of parchment in front of her. The publishers had sent her a contract of acceptance for the book; ‘Descent into Darkness: The Tale of a Death Eater’s Redemption’.

“That came by owl?”

She was so used to him fading in and out that Hermione hardly reacted to Severus’ sudden questions anymore. “It’s the contract for the book. They didn’t find it very funny that I’ve listed you as ‘ghost writer’.”

“At least you will have money enough to take of . . . things now.”

Hermione looked up at his tone, he sounded more maudlin than usual. “What’s wrong, Severus?”

“Do not trouble yourself, my dear.” The use of the endearment only frightened her more.

“Severus . . . you’re scaring me.” His continence was serene, but his eyes appeared pained. One long fingered hand gestured for her to have a seat on the bed. Hermione sat down and watched as Severus began to pace. After a few moments, he spoke slowly and carefully.

“It is not your fault. I should have known. You have made your choice, the only choice you could make. You have chosen life . . . and that is as it should be, whatever the reckoning.”

He stopped and looked on her fully. “And that is why I am going away, my dear.”

She opened her mouth to protest, but he held up a hand in an irritated manner. “I cannot help you now,” he snapped sounding more like the man she knew. “I can only confuse you more and destroy whatever chance you have left of happiness. You must make your own life amongst the living.”

“Severus . . . please. If this is about Charlie . . .” she said quickly, standing to go to him, but an expression of great pain crossed his features.

“Hermione, listen to me!” he ground out through clenched teeth. “You have been dreaming . . . dreaming of a wizard that haunted this house . . . of talks you had with him. . . even a book you both wrote together... but, Hermione, you wrote the book. . .  you and no one else. The book you researched from his house. . .  from his notes and experiments. . .  from his gear lying around in every room.”

Tears were falling freely from her eyes as she listened to him. Her heart was breaking. “Severus, please don’t leave me,” she pleaded then whispered, “I love you.”

“That is why I can and must go. It has been a dream, Hermione,” he said firmly. “In the morning and the years after. . .  you will only remember it as a dream. . .  and it will die. . .  as all dreams must die at waking. But you . . . you must live, you must love . . . for the both of us.”

His words hurt, mostly because they were true, but they made her sob all the harder. Her hands were over her face as she cried hard in to them. She felt cool air brush her hands and knew he was standing close to her.  Lowering her hands, she looked up at him. She had never seen him look on anyone with such sympathy.

“What we have missed, Hermione!” he said softly to her. “What we have both missed.”

Then he turned and walked to the slightly open window and looked back at her.

“Goodbye, my dear,” Severus Snape whispered with a faint smile and faded away.

------------------------------------------------

Author's note
When I was little, I REALLY loved the seriesThe Ghost and Mrs. Muir. Up until a couple of years ago, I didn't even know about the movie. The movie ends so tragically, I didn't want to go that route. The point I wanted to get across was Severus had found out what it meant to love and he loved Hermione enough to unselfishly do what was best for her. The ultimate sacrifice: He loved her enough to let her go. And even though it hurt, Hermione knew it was best also. She goes on to build a life with Charlie.
The Afterlife . . . I will leave to your imagination.

Hope you enjoyed the story. (~_*)

Glinda
This is the cleaned up and fully beta-ed version of the story.

Based on the 1947 movie The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. This is for the Great Love challenge on DeviantArt. More info can be found here [link]
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:iconjnpedersen2:
jnpedersen2 Featured By Owner Jun 3, 2012
That was beautiful. Thank-you for writing.
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:iconregrettful621:
regrettful621 Featured By Owner Jul 2, 2009
Oh! I cannot put words to this speechless mouth of mine. That story was simply astounding. I am amazed.
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:iconmoonlightpussycat:
MoonLightPussycat Featured By Owner Mar 18, 2008  Hobbyist General Artist
Perfect!

It were just as I imagen it!

Brilliant work!

Realy, I just loved it.
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:iconyamiraziel:
YamiRaziel Featured By Owner Jan 11, 2008
Gorgeous! It's so touching
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:iconklisjee:
klisjee Featured By Owner Oct 10, 2007
Gosh. I'm crying!
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:iconlauralf:
LauraLF Featured By Owner Jul 10, 2007  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
*sheding away my tears*

WOW
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