Actions

Work Header

A Shot in the Dark

Chapter Text

After finishing in the bathroom, Hermione walked back into the sitting room to find her husband sipping a glass of Firewhisky and staring at the cold hearth. Following his gaze, she wished he had lit a fire; the tower rooms were surprisingly cold.

She stood, nervously fidgeting, waiting for him to acknowledge her presence. She felt slightly ridiculous in her navy blue negligee but this was her wedding night, after all. That meant something to her, though she had no idea what it meant to the brooding wizard on the settee.

Looking up he said, "You're ready then." It was a statement, not a question. He drained his glass and stood. "How do you want to do this?"

"I...I assumed…" she started.

"The bedroom, of course." He walked past her, into the room she'd just exited. "Come on," he ordered.

Exhaling a deep breath, Hermione followed.

Their bedroom was exquisite. The Headmaster's chambers were everything she'd expected and more. The giant four poster bed was carved from ancient-looking mahogany and covered in rich fabrics of green and cream. The rest of the room's furnishings were just as lovely and ornate. Hermione was certain it was all the castle's doing and not her husband's. He simply didn't seem like the kind of man who indulged in finery.

Though she had hoped he might light one as he walked in, there was still no fire in the bedroom either; the room was chilled. He must be used to it, she mused as she watched him standing stock still, staring at the bed. The dungeons are even colder, of course.

Finally, Severus started removing his outer robes. He'd worn formal attire for their simple ceremony at the Ministry, as had she. Once he was undressed down to his black trousers and crisp white shirt, he turned fractionally towards her, looking her over he said, "Are you wearing anything under… that?" He gestured to her garment.

"No," she answered.

"You can leave it on."

"Umm, the dressing gown…"

"Whatever makes you comfortable."

Shaking her head, she removed her outer layer, tossing it onto her trunk that still sat unpacked at the end of the bed.

She hadn't expected any kind of romance or even kindness, necessarily, but his indifference was hurtful; she couldn't deny it. Though she had no delusions about who Severus Snape really was, she had high hopes for their marriage. She believed, if nothing else, that he was a good man, honourable and decent. Hermione had every intention of being a good wife to the man who gave the Wizarding World so much of himself. The Ministry may have forced their hands, but she would do her damnedest to make the most out of a difficult situation.

Besides, she fancied the pants off the irascible wizard.

"Severus..." she said, taking a step toward his rigid figure, she put a tentative hand on his shoulder.

He tensed under her touch. "Get in bed, Hermione. Putting it off won't make it any more pleasant."

She sucked in a gasp of air, causing him to turn to her. For a split second he looked remorseful, then his mask slipped back into place and he was unreadable once again.

Pulling back the duvet, she lay down and covered herself up. Severus walked to the other side of the bed and did the same, before extinguishing all of the candles in the room with his wand.

He was still almost completely dressed. She was confused as to how they would… comply unless he at least removed his trousers.

The room was bathed in darkness, only a thin sliver of light coming through the windows. She felt him move closer, heard a rustle of fabric, then he was on top of her, moving her thighs apart. Feeling him bring his wand close to her centre, she stopped him.

"You can't, Severus. They'll know if you use a charm or I take a potion. I'm on Muggle birth control, for now. I'll have to stop taking it at some point, but…" she trailed off not wanting to consider the 'childbearing' clause in the law at that moment.

He didn't move his wand, just kept it pointed between her legs. She felt it grazing her hair. He was stone still and Hermione wondered how a person could remain so rigidly unmoving whilst propped up on a single forearm.

Since her sight was denied her, and she was too afraid to touch him yet, she took the opportunity to breathe in a lungful of the Essence of Snape. She had smelled him before, of course. When he was teaching he'd often carry the scents of whatever he'd recently brewed, but underneath he smelt of sandalwood and some other exotic fragrance she couldn't place no matter how hard she tried. His scent and the heat radiating off of his body was a heady mix, making her wetter by the second. Gods, why isn't he doing anything?! If he didn't do something soon...

"It's not… it's not for contraception," he finally said, distracting her from her olfactory induced desperation.

"Well then wh…" Oh! "Ahh, that... isn't... necessary." She was embarrassingly wet already; there was no need for any kind of charm.

"Did you already do it?" he asked, sounding confused. Confusion wasn't something she associated with the wizard. It could have been cute if she wasn't so uncomfortable with their conversation.

"N-no. I just don't think…" She had been imagining this moment all day, well, that wasn't entirely true. She'd been imagining it for a fair bit longer than that. Months, possibly. Keep lying to yourself, Granger. Try since sixth year, you hussy! Somehow, that voice sounded suspiciously like Ginevra Potter. "I should be...fine. Ready, that is."

"I see," he hissed.

There was a palpable change in the energy coming off of her new husband. Somehow, Hermione knew he was angry but she had no idea why.

He finally moved, depositing his wand next to her thigh, then she felt his fingers parting her. She couldn't stop the soft sigh that escaped her lips as his fingers traveled through her wetness, spreading it around. He never dipped into her opening or touched her clitoris. He wasn't exploring her, just making the necessary preparation. Then they were gone, replaced by his member. It felt larger than she'd previously had, or perhaps she was just worked up. She didn't quite know. But when he thrust forward it felt absolutely wonderful.

Hermione instantly forgot about the feelings of angst she had just experienced from the man above her and grabbed hold of his shoulders tightly as he buried his face in the crook of her neck. He drove into her again and again, filling her in ways she'd never before experienced. His thrusts had very little finesse, however, and she quickly she realised that he had no intention of helping her reach her completion. This was all a means to an end for the man rutting against her. The realisation brought tears to her eyes. Turning her head, she let them come, they were apparently the only release she would be allowed. She had just bound herself to this man for life and he didn't seem to care about her at all.

Thankfully, it was over very quickly. He grunted his release into her neck, never touching her body with his hands; they stayed fisted on the mattress the entire time. He immediately rolled off to her left and Hermione jumped up out of the bed.

The bathroom floor was cool against her bare bottom. She curled up in a tight ball and let herself finish crying. Once she was completely wrung out, she stood and walked to the sink. She washed her face and cleaned his seed from between her thighs. As she scrubbed (harder than was strictly necessary), she decided she would never shed another tear because of her husband again.

o0o0o0o0o

"Well, that sounds bloody awful. But I can't say I'm surprised. What a prick!" Ginny said as she and Hermione had lunch the following Friday.

Thank the gods for Ginny Potter. She could never have talked to the boys about Severus and she knew that Ginny would keep her humiliating secret to herself. It took some creative scheduling, but she had managed to get two hours away from the castle in the middle of the day. Her best girlfriend was more than happy to listen to her sob story over Molly's leftover lasagna and a couple of butter beers.

"What am I going to do, Gin? I have to have sex with him every Friday for the rest of my life. I have to do it again tonight!"

"Lay there and think of England?" the redhead said with a sad smile. Ginny took her hand.

"Listen, I know you've pined after that arsehole for years, but you might just have to accept the fact that he really is as big of a git as everyone says he is."

"He doesn't even speak to me."

"Like I said, arsehole."

"But he did give me a job," Hermione said, looking at her friend pleadingly.

"To give you something to do. That may not have been a kindness."

"I'm not giving up, Gin. This is the rest of my life we're talking about."

"Good luck,luv. Just don't risk your heart on that bastard."


That evening she was in bed waiting when he walked into their chambers, giving him no opportunity to order her into the room. There was only one candle lit and she was wearing nothing but a vest top. The duvet was pulled down to her hips.

Severus entered, stopping in his tracks when he saw her in bed. He tended to work late, so it wasn't unusual for her to be there first, but usually, she was asleep. Or pretending to be.

She saw the look of shock on his face when he noticed her state of undress. "It's Friday," she said.

"Of course," he returned flatly, then started undressing.

Once again he only removed what was necessary, leaving on his trousers and shirt. Getting into bed, he held up his wand, but Hermione reached for his wrist, stopping him.

"Can we leave the candle lit?" she asked.

"Why? I assure you it will not help."

She tried, she really tried not to let his words cut her open, but all of her insecurities seemed to surface at once. He managed to make her feel like an insignificant little first year with only a single sentence.

"Fine," he said, breaking her out of her self-doubt. "But face the other way."

That was fine with her because she knew that she was already going to break her promise to herself, and it had only been a week.

Turning to face the door, she felt him pull her back against his chest. His prick rubbed against her arse as he pulled up her left leg. Then he was there, pushing into her. Again, that first thrust felt lovely. Severus' hand held her belly firmly, drawing her back to him as he moved forward. She shuddered as her body involuntarily reacted to her lover's touch. Warmth pooled in her stomach as he moved within her and she had to bite her lip to stifle a moan.

She simply couldn't understand why she continued to crave him when he offered her absolutely nothing. Resting his forehead on her shoulder, he sped up his thrusts as his hand moved to her hip. His warm breath on her skin only added fuel to her fire. And of course, she was, once again, surrounded by his scent. If he would only move his hand a bit lower... If he'd only touch her where she longed to be touched.

He clearly wasn't going to do it. As his thrusts became erratic, Hermione realised he was close. She wanted more. She moved her hand to hold onto his hip, to feel something… anything. As soon as she touched him, he exploded within her, grunting his release, gripping her hip painfully.

A horrible thought invaded her mind seemingly out of nowhere: Lily. Did he not want to look at her because he was thinking about Harry's mum? Oh, gods! What have I done?

He didn't move for almost a full minute, staying half draped over her. Finally, he said, "Did I hurt you? Your...hip?" He smoothed his hand gently over her flesh.

What? "No. I'm… fine."

"Good. If it bruises, I have some salve," he said, his tone cooling significantly as he rolled over onto his back.

"Thank you."

"Goodnight," he said before whispering, "Nox."

"'Night, Severus."

o0o0o0o0o

For some reason, their last coupling felt like a small victory. She told herself that she was being unfair in assuming that he was imagining another woman as they made love. What a horrible thing to think, completely unfair. He did seem to enjoy it, she could work with that. And then he'd actually seemed to care afterwards, at least for a second or two. Definitely something to ponder.

The next day was Saturday, and Hermione was determined to have an actual conversation with her husband. She found him behind his desk, rubbing his temples as he stared at a stack of parchments.

"Anything I can help with?" she asked as she approached.

"Why aren't you in the library?"

"It doesn't open until noon on Saturdays. You know that."

"Right," he looked at her suspiciously, then returned to his work.

She just stood in front of his desk waiting for him to answer her previous question. Once again, he looked up and glared.

"Did you need something?" he asked.

She forced herself not to roll her eyes. "Actually, I was hoping that we could talk."

"I don't think so."

"Severus…"

"What could we possibly have to talk about? Is there something you need in the library? Is that assistant of yours not working out?"

"No, I was thinking of a, ah, personal conversation." She sat across from him.

He huffed and tossed his quill.

Leaning forward, Hermione said, "This is for life, Severus."

"I am aware of that, Madam Snape," he growled.

"If I am so unappealing that you cannot even speak to me, then why…"

"Do not ask your question, witch. You will not like the answer."

She stood. "I think I'll go to the library early."

"Good idea."


Three weeks passed and nothing changed other than one rather eventful sexual encounter that Hermione admitted had nothing to do with her; she was simply a convenient receptacle for her husband's frustrations at that moment.

Hermione worked in the library during the day, grateful that Madam Pince had decided to take a year off to spend on the Continent, and her evenings were spent anxiously awaiting husband's return to their rooms. Thankfully, the Headmaster had an impressive library. Of course, when one has unlimited access to Hogwarts library, everything else pales in comparison. But it was convenient.

When he did return, however, he seemed intent on ignoring her every move. She tried to engage him in conversation; the most she got in return was monosyllabic answers or the occasional grunt.

Fridays were the worst. Hermione tried to tell herself to grin and bear it, that other witches certainly had it worse. But she and Severus existed in near constant tension, hardly speaking to one another.

She ate breakfast in their rooms, alone, of course. If she did eat lunch it was in her office in the library but she always showed up for dinner in the Great Hall, sitting next to her husband, a bright, fake smile painted on her face. The staff had been wonderful since her return. She wished Minerva was there, but her former Head of House had retired a year after the war had ended. It all was too much for the older witch. They still corresponded, but Hermione didn't have the heart to tell her how insufferable Severus had been. She knew that Minerva loved him dearly and had been ecstatic when she found out that they were to be married.

They'd been married for five weeks and she felt desperately alone.

Fridays were the longest day of the week, it seemed, so this time she had decided to lose herself in a long, indulgent bath to pass the time. When she heard him come into their bedroom, she hurried out of the tub and dried off before slipping on her satin dressing gown.

She walked into the room to find her husband sitting on the edge of their bed, untying his boots. Looking up, he seemed taken-aback for some reason. His eyes were unreadable as he stared at her.

"Is something the matter?" she asked, looking down at her gown.

He shook his head and swallowed. "Are you… you've just bathed."

It was strange, and not the first time he'd become tongue-tied in her presence.

"I have."

"Your hair…"

Hermione reached up and realised that she hadn't plaited her hair yet, only dried it before coming into the room. "Yes, sorry. I'll…" She reached for a hair band sitting on her dressing table.

Severus stood and held up a hand. "No. Leave it."

"My… my hair? Won't it get in your face?"

"I, ah, don't mind."

He was acting differently, she hoped that fared well for their upcoming evening.

She nodded and started for the bed, then realised what she was wearing and wondered if that's why he'd been acting so odd. Although, it wasn't that different than her normal Friday night uniform. "Do you want me to put something else on?" she asked.

"Doesn't matter."

Slipping into bed, she moved the lower part of her gown, allowing him to see her, really see her for the first time. She didn't cover up with the duvet. It was a risky move and she knew it. He stood, rooted to the spot for several seconds, just staring at her exposed quim. The look on his face caused her inner muscles to quiver. He seemed, for all intent purposes, absolutely turned on by her partial nakedness. In the full light, she could easily see the spark of arousal in his eyes.

"Are you ready, Severus?" she asked.

He looked up, away from her centre, and nodded.

She held up her wand and extinguished some of the candles, leaving three of them lit as Severus removed his frock coat.

"Will you at least take off your trousers?" she asked.

"Why?"

She sighed and shrugged.

Moving to the opposite side of the bed, Severus complied, tossing his black slacks to the end of the bed before swinging his legs up and lying down. He was wearing black cotton boxer shorts, which didn't surprise Hermione since they shared a laundry basket, but she was more than a little shocked at how much she enjoyed the look of him. After weeks of animosity, she marveled at the fact that he still managed to turn her on.

It certainly wouldn't take much, she thought. Just a simple touch...

As per usual he wasted no time, covering her body with his and nudging her thighs apart. Hermione circled his shoulders with her arms, lightly stroking his back and causing him to look her in the eyes.

"What are you doing?" he asked his face mere inches from hers.

"Do you not like it?"

He swallowed and half nodded, half shook his head. "It's fine. I will try be... gentler than last time." His voice was a whisper.

Last time. Well, that had been interesting at the very least. The week prior Severus came to bed angry after having to expel a pair of Slytherin for continued harassment of a second year. Hermione knew the girls: they were horrid. The little twelve-year-old Hufflepuff they'd been tormenting had finally broken down and told Professor Sprout that her near constant injuries were caused by the older girls. Severus had disciplined the girls three times when Horace had utterly failed to administer any appropriate punishment. The incident the Friday prior was the last straw. They had hung the second year from the Astronomy tower, threatening to drop her if she didn't stop reporting them. Thankfully, a Prefect happened upon the group and brought them straight to the Headmaster.

She felt him parting her, then felt his cock breaching her entrance. He thrust forward and she stifled a moan.

Severus had been furious. Storming through their chambers, he tossed his robes on the floor as he grumbled under his breath. Though, at the time Hermione had no idea why, she had to find out the particulars later from Pomona. In that moment she just knew her husband was mad; he wouldn't tell her why. The sex that evening had aggressive and, frankly, amazing. He had ordered Hermione up on her knees in the middle of the bed and taken her from behind. She was literally seconds from an orgasm when he came, shouting curse words and praise to the gods.

Though once again unsatisfied, Hermione at least felt somewhat useful. That evening felt more like intercourse and less like fulfilling a duty. It also made her feel a bit pathetic that she cared so damn much.

With the next thrust she bit her lip to keep from crying out. He found a rhythm and suddenly she felt herself getting wetter, her inner muscles starting to flutter. Remembering the week before had, seemingly, had an effect on her.

Hermione's eyes were closed as she relived the sex from the week before. "Severus," she whispered and he stopped, altogether. Opening her eyes, she found him glaring down at her.

"Don't!" he growled. "Do not do that."

"Wh-what?"

Shaking his head, he said, "I will not be made a fool of." He pulled out, sitting back on his heels. "Roll over."

"I…"

"Do not test me, witch."

"I don't understa…" she started, but was stopped when he roughly grabbed her and tossed her onto her stomach.

"Now you can imagine anything you want," he whispered into her ear. "But don't call out my name when you do not mean it!"

He thrust into Hermione brutally, forcing a pitiful whine out of her. It didn't hurt, so much as frighten her. "Severus! Please!" she whimpered. How had this all gone so wrong, so quickly?

"Almost finished, Hermione. And you won't have to…" His hips snapped against her bottom over and over. "You'll be left alone for another week," he growled as he pumped into her.

She buried her face into her pillow and sobbed as she felt his hips stutter then stop. He didn't make his usual orgasmic grunts and moans. She wasn't even sure that he had reached his climax, but she was more than happy that it was over.

As he rolled off he asked, "Are you okay?"

Hermione stood up, closing her dressing gown. As she smoothed down her tangled hair she tried to calm her anger before speaking. It barely worked. "You don't care! Why in Merlin's name would you ask me if I'm okay?!"

"You are my responsibility, Madam Snape. I would be remiss if something were to happen to you."

With a bitter laugh, Hermione turned and walked toward the bathroom saying, "I seriously doubt that, Master Snape," over her shoulder.

After showering, and discovering that he had not come inside her, Hermione walked out and found the bedroom empty. Great! She moved into the lounge. Severus was sitting in the armchair by the fire, a tumbler of Firewhisky in his hand. The scene reminded her far too much of their wedding night.

"I'll be sleeping on the settee this evening," she told him, then turned to go back into the bedroom to grab a pillow and blanket.

He got up and followed. "Don't be ridiculous," he scolded.

She ignored his cold glare as she gathered her bed things, then stomped past him back out the door.

Once again, he followed.

As she sat down and started arranging the pillow and blanket, she said, "You're insane if you think I'll share your bed after that performance."

"You are a twenty-seven-year-old woman, Hermione. Act like it!"

She stood and slowly walked toward him. The look on her face must have been thunderous because he actually backed away a couple of inches.

"I will not be treated like a two-Sickle whore, Severus! I don't know why you hate me so much, but I'm tired of feeling like this. I will be in that room every Friday by eight pm to fulfill my requirements." She pointed to the opened door she'd just exited. "But there is nothing in our marriage contract that states we must sleep in the same bed every night!" She turned and walked back to the settee. "I'm going to the Potters tomorrow night after I close the library. I'll be staying overnight and will not be back until late Sunday. My assistant can handle things while I'm gone." She lay down and covered up. "Please close the door behind you."

Mumbling something about 'it's always a Potter', he stormed out of the room. He didn't so much close it, as slam it shut.

o0o0o0o0o

The Potters had so many questions, fortunately she was able to assuage them with 'He's not the easiest man to live with. I just needed a break.' When she returned, she went to her small office in the library and Transfigured a straight-backed chair into a cot just large enough to accommodate her, then she sat and wrote a note to her husband.

Headmaster Snape,

I will be sleeping in my office from now on except for our usual Friday meetings. If you could find the time to connect my office Floo to your rooms, I would appreciate it. No one need know about the change in our situation. I will keep my presence to a bare minimum.

Thank you,

Hermione J. Snape

It was overly formal and cold, but that was intentional. He had never treated her any differently, so why should she? Once finished, she Summoned a House-elf.

"Can you deliver this to the Headmaster, please?"

"Peba would be happy to help the Headmaster's wife, miss. Can Peba get you anything at all, miss?" the little elf said, eyes wide and hopeful.

"No, I'm fine."

"Is miss sure she isn't wanting some tea?"

She finally gave in. "Yes, Peba, that would be nice, actually."

The house-elf smiled broadly then disappeared with a pop. It was quite a while before she saw the elf again, which was more than a bit surprising.

"Sorry, miss, but the Headmaster is making Peba wait." She held out a shaking hand and passed Hermione a note then disappeared once again. He must have terrorised the poor thing.

Madam Snape,

The Floos are now connected. However, if one person notices your absence, I will demand your return. And I expect you in our rooms no later than nine pm Friday. I have no time to wait for you as I am trying to run an entire school.

Headmaster Snape

"Bastard!" she exclaimed to the empty office. Unfortunately, the house-elf chose that moment to reappear with her tea. Her outburst scared the small creature half to death. "Oh, sorry, Peba. And thank you for the tea."

o0o0o0o0o

Hermione's week passed like they always did: slowly and painfully. She had known accepting Severus' contract would mean some difficulties for her; she wasn't delusional. But she had never expected him to treat her so cruelly.

At eight pm exactly the following Friday, Hermione Flooed to their rooms wearing a long flannel nightgown (that even her nan wouldn't have been caught dead in), and nothing underneath. There was absolutely no point in attempting to look alluring: he clearly found her repulsive. Okay, perhaps she was being petty, but she was beyond caring.

Severus was waiting. He was also drunk.

Wonderful!

"Are you ready?" she asked.

"Been waiting all week for this beautiful moment," he slurred then took another drink, never once looking up at her.

Hermione shifted restlessly from foot to foot as she watched her husband drink. After several minutes she said, "You're pissed, Severus. Take a sobering potion or I'm leaving."

He finally looked up, squinting his eyes. "What the fuck are you wearing?"

"A nightgown."

"Is it Minerva's?"

Damn, he made a joke. Evidently Drunk Snape was funny. "No, of course not." She tried to sound indignant but felt like she had failed miserably.

"Well, take it off. It certainly won't help matters. All that tartan…" He pulled a face. "No one wants to imagine Minerva McGonagall whilst trying to sustain an erection."

Hermione had to force herself not to laugh. Right, back to making sure her husband was sober enough to perform. "Severus…" She walked over and crouched down next to him. "Please take some Sober-Up before we get started."

His face softened as he slowly reached out and cupped her cheek. "It's too hard, Hermione."

Though taken aback by his gentleness and his touch, she managed to ask, "What's too hard?"

He studied her for several moments, softly stroking her face the whole time. Finally, he removed his hand and said, "Having you... yet never really... having you."

His enigmatic answer told her almost nothing. However, his eyes… Oh, gods, why is he looking at me like that? "You have me, Severus. I'm your wife," she said, hoping to get some clarification.

He sneered, his ugly 'oh, what an idiot I've married' sneer. "Wife. An interesting title, isn't it, Hermione? You belong to me. Legally, you are mine. On paper, that is." His hand moved to her chest and for a split second she thought he was going to touch her breast, something he had yet to do. But he didn't. He softly tapped her chest right over her heart. "But this? This will never be mine, will it?"

She gasped.

"See? I can never really have you, wife, because you belong to someone else. The wizard that you imagine every Friday when we make love." He looked away and finished his drink. "I'll be in the bedroom," he said as he rose and stumbled toward the door.

Hermione got up and sat on the sofa, dumbstruck. As she thought back over his behaviour the last few weeks, it started to make sense. That first night he was going to cast a lubrication charm on her but she explained that it wasn't necessary. He must have thought she was imagining some other wizard. The idiot! Well, this was an interesting turn of events. It seemed that it was at least possible that he wanted her; he just assumed that she didn't want him.

Their first encounter had confused her to no end. Why petition for her if he didn't want her? She had asked herself this question a dozen times over the last several weeks. She understood her own motivation for accepting: he had always intrigued her, and if she were honest, she found him sexy as hell. That was why she had accepted him out of the five wizards on her list.

Ronald, first and foremost, would always be firmly in the 'friend zone', as her Muggle friends would say. They couldn't have ever gotten past, well, 'the past'. He had treated her as a sexless walking library throughout their adolescence, then after the war the wizard had pursued her with a vengeance, but she simply wasn't interested. When she dismissed his petition, he was indignant at first, but finally seemed to see reason.

Then there was Charlie. Yes, another Weasley. The law of averages were in their favour, after all. When she finally met him at Harry and Ginny's wedding two years after graduating Hogwarts, oh, my… he was an impressive looking wizard, but she had absolutely nothing in common with him. Dragons? No thank you! She'd had her fill of the beasts during the Grand Escape from Gringotts.

The other two wizards were complete strangers. One was at least ninety years old and the other, though closer to Severus' age, was so uptight he made Percy look like a hippie! He was also French and quite full of himself. So, no.

None of that had mattered, however, the day she received the letter and contract from Severus Snape. He was the wizard she had wanted from the start. If she was going to have to marry someone (ridiculous law!) he was the obvious choice.

They had so much in common. They were both intellectuals, they both loved potions and books and research. And most importantly, he had been the object of her sexual fantasy for many years. Oh, it was all speculative, of course. But he had an air about him: dark and mysterious, intense and deep. In her fantasies Snape was an attentive lover and a bit domineering, not the cold, detached man she discovered on her wedding night.

After their second encounter, Hermione couldn't stop thinking about Lily Potter, no matter how many times she told herself it was unfair. It was ironic, now that she thought about it, that they both assumed the other was thinking about someone else. But Lily was Severus' first, and seemingly only, love. Would Hermione ever measure up to an idyllic ghost? She felt wholly inadequate. The man had spent a lifetime trying to right a wrong he had done to the witch. Bitterly, she had imagined that he extinguished the candles, had turned her away so that he could pretend it was Lily to whom he was making love. And even though she tried to put the thought from her mind, it simply wouldn't leave her alone.

He must be feeling much the same.

This new, drunk, version of Severus gave Hermione hope. Now, she just had to make some plans. Those plans did not include having sex with him while he was pissed. She got up and quietly walked into the bedroom. Thankfully, he was passed out cold.

Pausing to study the sleeping wizard, Hermione made a decision. Now that she had an idea as to the cause of his anger towards her, she simply had to make him see how wrong he was. Turning, she exited the room. As she picked up a handful of Floo powder she couldn't help but smile. It almost felt foreign: smiling in her husband's rooms, but she allowed herself this little bit of hope. Upon returning to her cold, empty office she quickly found some parchment and a quill and started to write.

It wasn't as if she could undo the marriage. Wizards married for life. She simply couldn't give up on this small chance of happiness. But she wouldn't compromise either. He was just going to have to meet her halfway.

Chapter Text

Hermione woke early the next morning and called Peba for a pot of tea and toast. When the house-elf arrived with her breakfast she asked her to return in a half hour, explaining that she had an important letter that needed to be delivered to the Headmaster. After the elf left, Hermione picked up the letter she had written the night before and gave it yet another readthrough.

Severus,

Unfortunately, you fell asleep before we could complete our regular Friday night appointment. Last night was enlightening for me in several different ways and I believe we have certain matters to discuss. I have a proposal, of sorts, I'd like to discuss with you. If you are interested, please see me in my office at ten am.

Hermione

Satisfied, the witch sat back and sipped her tea. With a slight smirk playing on her lips, she thought about her 'proposal'. Though she felt that she finally understood her husband a little better, Hermione simply could not allow his past behaviour to go unchecked. She had to establish some sort of equity in their marriage. Her plan, if it worked - if he didn't hex her nose off - would do just that.

Twenty minutes after sending Peba away with the letter (and asking the house-elf to avail her husband with a bottle of hangover potion), Hermione got a reply.

Madam Snape,

I am slightly intrigued and will agree to meet you in your office at the requested time.

Headmaster Severus T. Snape

Git! She had gone out of her way to be less formal and he had amped up the formality in his response. Well, that was fine. Let him try to be his stuffy self after she made her request!

o0o0o0o0o

At exactly 10 am Severus strode through her office door. Hermione had spent all morning preparing for this moment. The room was well lit with a dozen candles and she was dressed in her usual work attire (only slightly altered, of course). She wore no robes as she normally did, however; that would ruin the effect.

This morning she was wearing a high-waisted, black, pencil skirt that stopped just above her knees. It was tight, she'd charmed it that way. Her shirt was white, it too was fitted and she had left the top three buttons undone very much on purpose. Instead of tights, she wore seamed stockings and garters, then topped the look with a pair of black patent leather heels. She hadn't bothered with much makeup, just some mascara and shiny peach lip gloss. Her hair fell in loose curls over her shoulders, almost to her waist. She hadn't forgotten his reaction the last time he'd seen her with her hair down.

"Good morning, Severus," she greeted. "Thank you for agreeing to this."

The man just stared for several seconds before regaining his composure, seamlessly slipping into his mask of indifference. "Let it not be said that I am inflexible," he said, folding his hands behind his back. His posture was rigid as ever but his eyes were slightly different. Though he tried to hide it, Hermione knew that he was worried about the events of the night before.

For good reason, she thought.

She sat down and poured them both tea; he was still standing. "Please have a seat," she said, gesturing to the chair next to the settee.

With a huff, he complied. Picking up his teacup, he asked, "What was it you wanted to discuss?"

She sat back, crossing her legs, and giving him what she considered to be a smug look. "You owe me six orgasms," she bluntly stated.

The look he returned was priceless. Until the day she died, Hermione would never forget it.

"Beg your pardon?" he asked after several seconds of stunned silence.

Sitting forward, Hermione put her elbows on her knees, folded her hands together and said, "We've had sex six times and never once have you attempted to see to my needs. I was close last time, I will admit until you became hostile about me saying your name."

The wizard immediately stood up, then realised that he still held the teacup and slammed it down onto the coffee table. "I have no idea what has brought this on, Madam…"

Hermione stood, pulling out her wand she locked and warded the door with a couple casual flicks of her wrist. "Oh, I imagine that if you think really hard you could figure it out." She walked right up to him, close enough to touch, although she didn't. "Last night you speculated that I spend our 'Friday evenings' thinking about some other wizard…" Bringing her hand up, she traced the buttons on his frock coat. "That's simply not true."

"I… I said…"

"Yes, you did," she interrupted with a bit of venom in her voice as she removed her hand. "And if you had ever taken the time to talk to me, to get to know me, you'd know that I have never imagined anyone else while in bed with you." Standing back, she placed her hands on her hips.

Realisation dawned on his face and he spit, "Impossible," at her as if it was the most preposterous idea imaginable.

"Oh, really? Why, pray tell, do you suppose that I chose you?"

The man was flummoxed. She'd never actually seen anyone look so taken aback in her entire life. He paced away, running his hands through his hair before turning back to her.

"I assumed your choices were abysmal."

"They weren't... stellar, I'll give you that."

"Who?"

She sighed; knowing this was coming didn't make it any easier. She knew she wasn't especially desirable, but having to see the poor choices with which she was presented had been a blow to her self-esteem. "Carter Higginbotham."

Severus snorted. "He's at least a hundred years old!"

"Indeed." She rolled her eyes, not really needing his mockery at that moment. "And Hensley de Lesseps."

Looking across the room, he seemed to be trying to place the name. "The Minister for Foreign Affairs?"

"Yes."

"A respectable wizard, if I am correctly informed. My age, I believe. What was wrong with him?"

He wasn't you, her mind answered. "Pompous, stuffy and full of himself."

He nodded as if he agreed with her assessment. She assumed that he didn't really know the wizard and was taking her word for it. "Who else? What aren't you telling me?"

"Ronald and Charlie Weasley," she said then waited for the fallout. She had deduced that Severus believed her 'mystery man' was Ron. Oh, how wrong he was!

He looked shocked for a millisecond, then amusement took over. "Two Weasleys? Well, the odds were against you there. They multiply like rabbits. I assume you weren't interested in spitting out a dozen ginger-haired brats?"

Bristling at his scathing words about people she considered family, she let the comment pass. "No, I wasn't." She hoped that the fact that she had turned down Ron would dispel his foolish notion of her wanting some other wizard.

It didn't.

"So you see," she said, moving towards him once again and softening her tone. "I could have chosen someone else, but I didn't. I chose you."

He glared down at her. "Winner by default? Not really victory, is it?"

"What are you talking about?"

He glared at her for several moments, then dispassionately said, "The wizard you wanted wasn't available, was he? He was already married, has been for several years."

Mouth agape, Hermione stared at the man in front of her. Was he serious? Who the hell…? Her mind raced through her past romances, trying to figure out who he was talking about. "You mean Viktor?" Everyone always assumed she was pining after the Quidditch star; he was the most likely candidate for her husband's ire now that Ron had been eliminated. "Severus, I am no more interested in Viktor than I am Hagrid!"

"No, not Krum!" he spit. "Hermione, stop playing with me! In case you haven't noticed, I am not a man to be toyed with!"

Frustration was finally getting the better of her. She had dealt with this stubborn fool of a wizard for six long weeks and she had finally found the end of her patience. "Oh, for the love of Merlin! Just tell me! Who is this wizard I've been fantasising about!?" she shouted. "I should at least know his identity!"

He leant down inches from her face and whispered in a low, dangerous voice, "You wouldn't be the first witch I lost to a Potter, Hermione."

Harry?! Now she was the one who was stunned. She had no response to his accusation. It was beyond laughable. But Severus was still furious.

"I knew," he sneered. "I knew that first night when you were… ready that you must have been preparing yourself... imagining him." Jerking away from her, he walked across the room until he reached the door. "It will save us both time if you release the wards, dear wife."

Hermione simply crossed her arms over her chest. "Oh, you fucking idiot."

"Excuse me?"

"You heard me, Severus. For a genius you certainly are thick when it comes to your own wife."

He didn't respond, just silently fumed.

"I am not in love with Harry Potter, you daft moron! He's like a fucking brother to me. The very idea of having sex with him repels me!" She couldn't stop the full body shiver that followed that statement. Eww, gross! Harry's so small and... and Harry-ish! Forcibly stopping her gag-reflex, she looked up to see her husband's reaction. The idiot still didn't believe her!

"Nice try. But I've seen the two of your together. You adore him, Hermione."

"Yes, I do. I will not deny that. I adore him like family. Why is this such a hard concept for you, Severus? We grew up together, like siblings. I honestly never saw him as anything other than a friend."

"Men and women don't work like that."

The whole conversation was starting to remind her of an American film she'd once watched. Oh, God… When Harry Met Sally. It had to be a Harry, didn't it? Again, she internally groaned at the thought of Harry Potter as a sexual being when she remembered that the main characters did end up sleeping together. Nope! Not going there!

She sighed. "I don't know how to convince you. I've told you I'm not attracted to him. I've told you that I chose you of my own free will. What else do you want?"

He took three steps towards her and said, "Nothing, Hermione. I haven't asked anything of you. Ever!"

"No," she said, unable to keep the defeat out of her voice. "Of course you haven't. Oh, except to lie in bed once a week and be your fuck toy."

"I didn't make the law."

"But you requested me. I wonder why you did that if you were convinced that I wanted someone else. I wonder what your motivation was. Did you just want to hurt me because I had annoyed you as a student? Are you really that petty? Did you plan on making me your wife and spending the rest of our lives making me as miserable as possible?"

Then it dawned on her. Harry.

"Or…Or was it because of Harry? Were you trying to hurt him?" She smirked. "You really screwed up there, Severus. Harry sees me as one of the guys. I am persona non pussy to that man. Is that why you did it? Because my reasons were very different." She was nearly whispering by the end.

"Really? Well, why don't you enlighten me then?" He folded his arms across his chest. "Why did you accept a former Death Eater's proposal instead of a fine upstanding Weasley or a member of the Ministry?"

At her wit's end, Hermione was unable to stop the words that tumbled out of her mouth. "Because I was fucking in love with you, you miserable bastard." She drew her wand and flicked it at the door, releasing the wards, then walked out.

o0o0o0o0o

Hermione spent the rest of day furiously reorganising the stacks. They didn't need it, of course, but she did.

How dare he? How dare he accuse her of lusting after her best friend just because he had a penis? As if men and women couldn't be friends without sex becoming a problem! Not to mention he'd been punishing her for it for more than a month without even taking the time to have a simple discussion with her. His hostility and coldness were intolerable. She simply wouldn't put up with it for one more minute.

She did her best not to think about her parting words to the man. No. Her pride was damaged enough. Thinking about how he was most likely mocking her admission was painful in the extreme.

She wished she could just avoid him and his stupid face! His stupid, wonderful face! With his stupid, fascinating eyes. His stupidly kissable lips, not that she had any experience actually kissing them. The arsehole! Oh, and that nose! That prodigious, stupid nose that had been that starring attraction of many a fantasy. The things he could do to me with that nose if he only had a mind…

Stop, you desperate cow!

Hermione closed her eyes and took several deep, cleansing breaths.

This had been a problem for weeks now. Everytime he treated her like some kind of Knockturn Alley whore, she would spend several days riled up and pissed off, then, as Friday drew closer, she'd become a wanton drippy mess: desperate for any sign of attention from him.

This wasn't her! She was a feminist, for Merlin's sake! But somehow he had the power to reduce her to a purely sexual being. She tried to console herself by thinking of the possibilities for her un-Hermione-like behaviour.

First off, it was possible that she simply wanted the unattainable. This wasn't unthinkable and it certainly fit her MO. She had wanted Ron until he showed interest, then… nothing. But she dismissed that as immaturity. She was no longer an immature witch. Since then she had dated, had lovers, had experienced life.

The second possibility was her all-encompassing need for a pleasant future. They were stuck together, so was it possible that her mind was forcing her to keep seeing Severus as some kind of sex god, even though she knew differently.

Maybe. She put a mental pin in that one.

Lastly (and unfortunately the most likely scenario), she really was in love with the giant git! Oh, and to her, he was sex on a stick.

Whatever the reason she had to get ahold of herself before eight pm, because they had business to conduct. She groaned internally.

They had to comply with the Law by midnight. They hadn't missed a week, not even for her menses since her Muggle birth control meant that she currently didn't have a period. When he hadn't finished inside her the week prior, Hermione half expected to get some kind of scolding letter from the Ministry informing them to 'try harder', but it never came.

Oh, she thought suddenly, I could claim it's my time of the month right now and avoid it for the time being!

Severus hadn't even questioned her non-existent menstrual cycle. Gods forbid he ask her any personal questions! That would only buy her a week, though and they'd be right back where they started in six days.

Bugger!

The large (loud) clock chimed, indicating that it was six o'clock. Time to close the library for the day. After sending Hilda, her assistant, home for the evening Hermione started checking the aisles for students. Once she was satisfied that the enormous room was empty, she closed and locked the doors, then made her way back to her office. She had every intention of changing into her 'granny gown' before visiting Severus for the night, even if it was just to lie and tell him she was indisposed for several days.

What a waste of a perfectly sexy outfit, she thought while unlocking her office door. As she entered, however, she was startled to find soft light coming from the room. She hadn't left any candles lit after her lunch break. Not only that, but there was a huge floral arrangement sitting on the coffee table. The table itself was pushed to the side near the wall and where there once was a dilapidated old settee, now sat a large ornate four-poster bed.

"Wife," a deep voice said from a shadowed corner of the room. "I do believe there's the matter of a debt that must be settled."

Severus stepped out of the shadows towards Hermione, making her breath catch. He was wearing his normal black trousers and white shirt, but the shirt was untucked and, shockingly, he was barefoot. He never took off his socks when they performed their 'weekly duty'. She had never seen his feet before.

Her mouth was suddenly dry. Do I have a thing for feet?

As her eyes raked back up his body, she finally found his face. Oh, my gods! His hair was pulled back in a queue. Mercy…

She must have been staring because he gave her an uncharastically shy look and said, "I hope you don't mind seeing all of my face at once. For what I have planned, my hair might… get in the way."

Merlin's shriveled scrotum! (Being friends with foul-mouthed males paid off in colourful vocabulary, if nothing else.) He has plans! Clearing her throat, Hermione said, "I quite like your face, Severus. I've never said anything to make you believe otherwise."

He nodded, then tucked his head. The room fell silent as they both waited for someone to make the first move. Well, it wasn't going to be her! Yes, he was making an effort (the flowers were a nice touch), but he had pushed her away, both figuratively and literally for six weeks. This was up to him now.

Finally, he closed the distance between them and said, "Hermione?" He held out his left hand.

She looked down, concentrating on the shining platinum band on his ring finger. "Yes," she answered without looking up.

"Please look at me."

She did. He didn't speak again, so Hermione took his hand, causing him to smile. It was more a quirk of the lips, actually, but genuine nevertheless.

"I am sorry. I believed the worst of you without giving you the slightest chance to defend yourself. That in and of itself is unforgivable. But I didn't stop there, did I?"

Hermione shook her head.

"I also treated you cruelly for weeks. I used your body for my own release with no thought to your pleasure. And at times, I was… barbaric." The amount of regret in his final words tried to break Hermione's heart.

She just stared forward, willing the tears that threatened not to fall.

"Then, when you tried to explain yourself, I called you a liar. I assumed you to be in love with another man and accused you of bringing him into our marital bed, in your imagination, at least." He brought his right hand up to her face, wiping away the tears that were now falling freely. "Can you ever forgive me, Hermione?"

Could she? Who was this man? Was this the real Severus or was he really as cold and calculating as he had been with her since the day they wed?

Oh, who was she kidding! She had to at least give him a chance. Besides, she was guilty too.

She nodded silently, trying desperately to find her voice. Swallowing back the lump in her throat, she said, "I did the same thing, sort of."

His hand moved to the base of her neck, tilting her head up. "What did you do?" he asked quietly.

Where his soft-spoken gentleness had come from, she didn't know, but somehow it made her chest hurt. It also made what she was about to say even harder.

"I, ah, thought you kept the lights off and made me face away so that you could imagine… her," she finally admitted, averting her eyes. Though she hadn't been cruel, she was just as guilty as him of assuming the worst. A part of her - the insecure, bushy-haired, bookworm part - was still terrified that she was right.

"No, Hermione." His voice almost sounded pleading. "I have no need to picture another woman when I'm inside you," he said, lowering his head.

More tears fell and Severus kissed them all away. She tried to contain her emotions, but it was no use; he was pulling them out of her. If he didn't want a weeping witch in his arms, he shouldn't have been so damn sweet!

Minutes passed as he rained kiss after kiss on her cheeks, her chin, her jaw, her eyes. All the while, he held her tightly, but gently. Oh, to finally have his kisses! He hadn't even touched her lips yet and she was already overwhelmed.

Severus pulled back when Hermione's tears subsided. He looked her in the eyes and said, "Would you allow me to attempt to make up for my previous shortcomings?"

Unable to speak, she simply nodded. This time, he did smirk… a little.

He then took her hand, once again, and led her to the bed. "May I undress you, my beautiful wife?"

"Please," she said, quite proud that managed to finally speak once again.

He started with her skirt, unhooking the closure and tugging the down the zip. He had to nudge it past her thighs. She had been too upset to remember to right the garment to its normal state after he'd left. It was still quite tight. Once it was puddled on the floor Hermione stepped out of it, kicking it to the side.

Running a single finger across her clavicle, Severus said, "You left me a panting mess, this morning, you know. I didn't even notice the stockings until you stormed out into the library, thankfully. Do you have any idea how hard it is to concentrate on being angry when there is an enticing woman, dressed like that, in front of me?"

Hermione smiled, biting her bottom lip.

"Oh, you naughty little witch. Your deliberately decadent state of dress was very nearly my undoing."

Severus Snape speaking alliteration in that alarmingly deep baritone was quite possibly the sexiest thing Hermione had ever heard. Her knickers were completely ruined.

"So much wasted time," he said, almost absently as he started to work on the buttons of her blouse. "Weeks spent frustrated and resentful when we could have simply enjoyed ourselves." As he reached the last button, he paused and looked up at her face. "I haven't been this angry with myself since I allowed Lucius to talk me into investing in his damn house-elf pyramid scheme."

That brought her out of her eroticly-induced stupor. "What?!"

"Another time." He waved her off. "But for your peace of mind, understand that no house-elves were harmed and Malfoy lost his shirt. Or at least one of them." He smiled as if he was relishing in his friend's misfortune.

As she watched him smiling down at her, a horrible thought crossed her mind. She suddenly remembered how well he played his various roles before and during the war. Was he just placating her? Had her confession made the stoically cold man actually feel guilty?

Severus must have noticed the change in her demeanor because his smile faded. "What is it? What's wrong?"

"Is this… real?" she asked. "I can't… Gods!" She took hold of his hands, pulling them away from her shirt. "I'd rather go back to the way it was before than have you pretend with me, Severus."

He studied her for several moments before shaking free of her grasp and cupping her cheeks with his hands. In lieu of words, he lowered his mouth to hers and kissed her fiercely, possessively.

His lips were firm against hers, but surprisingly soft. When his tongue teased her lips apart, Hermione eagerly opened for him, letting him in. If this was him faking then the man had missed his calling as a gigolo. That's when it occurred to her that he was proving his feelings: showing in his actions what he simply couldn't with words.

The kiss continued, pausing only for the quick seconds they needed to catch lungfuls of oxygen. Finally, he drew back to look Hermione in the eyes. Her breathing was laboured as she peered up at her husband.

"It is real. But after my treatment of you, I understand your need to question me."

"Okay. Yeah, I believe you," she said in a rush, wanting there to be no more doubt and misunderstandings between them.

"May I continue?"

"Of course."

He wasted no time, immediately brushing her blouse off of her shoulders. Hermione was busy watching where if fell when she heard his sharp intake of breath. Looking up, she found him staring in awe at her breasts. Oh, she thought, I forgot about the bra.

When she had dressed that morning, she had put on her favourite demi bra, one that made her girls look slightly bigger than they actually were. Confidence was key, after all. It was made of a cream coloured satin and black lace. The front closure was a gold clasp of two gripping hands. It was magic, of course, charmed not to show through the white shirt she had worn.

Severus' eyes traveled southward to the matching low-cut briefs, garter belt and black seamed stockings. The look on the wizard's face heated her from the inside. She had never felt so desirable in her life.

"That's what you were wearing underneath those tight clothes all day?" he asked in a breathy voice.

"Yes," she answered simply.

"Gods, I'm lucky that I wasn't aware of that before…"

"Severus?" she interrupted. "Am I to stay like this or…?"

He serged forwards, gripping her hips. "No, you certainly will not be staying like that." His hands traveled from her hips to her back until they found the back of the bra. She felt him fiddling, obviously looking for the closure.

Hermione giggled. "Ah, looking for this?" She pointed to the closed hands that met in the centre of her chest.

"It's not just ornamentation, then?" he said, reaching for the hands.

"Oh, there's a key!" she said as he tried to pry the fists apart.

"A key? Your breasts are locked away magically?"

"I thought it was cute!" And it was… when she'd bought it.

"Cute," he repeated with a smirk. "And what, dear wife, is the key?"

She felt the blush rising on her cheeks, soon it would spread down her chest. "It's, um, 'property of the Half-Blood Prince', " she mumbled. Embarrassment was quickly overtaking her desire.

The garment fell away having been unlocked and Hermione was far too focused on having just revealed the bloody password to take much notice.

It was entirely Luna and Ginny's fault! They had been with her when she was lingerie shopping just before the wedding and not only had talked her into buying the expensive brasserie and knicker set, but later (over incredibly strong strawberry daiquiris) they had taken it upon themselves to set the damn key!

"They certainly are," Severus said, speaking directly to her newly exposed breasts and refocusing her attention back on him once again.

"I'm feeling a bit exposed here, Headmaster," Hermione said, trying to regain her footing. "What does a girl have to do to get you to take off your kit?"

The wizard chuckled darkly as he gripped her hips, pulling her into his body and grinding his erection against her belly. "This is about you, remember?"

Reaching up, Hermione started unbuttoning his shirt. "Well, if it's about me then I'd like to see your body."

He took hold of her hands. "I'll make you a deal. I will get undressed down to my pants. For now." His eyes actually twinkled. "I think it would be best if they stayed on for the time being."

"Fine," she said, folding her arms under her naked bosom, pushing it up and out.

Severus must have enjoyed the display because he ran his hands over his face and exhaled loudly before finishing the job of unbuttoning his crisp white shirt. "Why don't you have a seat, young lady. You're about to give me performance anxiety."

Hermione giggled as she sat on the edge of the bed. She simply couldn't imagine the formidable wizard being anxious about anything. Her laughter died, however, when he shrugged out of the shirt, letting it fall to the floor. In her imagination, Severus was thin and scarred. Where the hell did those muscles come from? He basically sat at a desk all day. Unless he didn't. Does he still brew? she wondered as she studied his impressive physique. Cauldrons were quite heavy after all.

Though not bulky, he was toned and well defined. His broad shoulders tapered down to a narrow waist. Dark hair peppered across his chest, thickening in the middle of his belly, near the waistband of his trousers. How does a school administrator come to have a body like this? she wondered. Come to think of it, she didn't really know what he did all day. For all she knew he had a work-out room hidden in the depths of the castle.

She must have been gaping because his hands stilled on the placket of his trousers. "What? Why'd you stop?" she asked, ashamed of how frantic her voice sounded.

"You seem shocked," he replied casually, a slight smirk playing on his lips.

"Well… I mean… You…"

"Come now, wife, you have a better vocabulary than that."

"I just…" She gasped when she finally realised what she was seeing. "You're wearing glamours!" she blurted unintentionally.

His face fell. "Only on the scars," he said, a bit harshly. His defenses falling quickly back in place.

Hermione immediately stood. "Severus, I don't hide mine." And she didn't. If a wizard couldn't accept her with the scars she had earned helping to save his sorry arse, then he didn't deserve her!

"I know." Severus' fingertips ghosted over the silver line that started just above her left breast. "You never have," he whispered as he followed it down as it curved under the soft tissue of her stomach, ending about an inch above the waistband of her pants. "They are beautiful."

They weren't. But she wasn't ashamed of them. Turning her arm over, she blatantly exposed Bellatrix's handiwork.

Her husband's eyes moved away from her scarred abdomen and he studied the raised marks on her forearm. He ran a single finger over the slur. He said nothing, his face unreadable as he traced the letters with his thumb.

Raising her hand to his neck, Hermione gently touched the place that she knew was camouflaged with magic. He couldn't hide it from her. She was there, she'd seen the snake attack him. Surprisingly he didn't flinch, he just raised his head to look at her as she soothed the hidden scars.

"Please, Severus. It's a part of you."

Never taking his eyes from hers, Severus raised his hand and silently Summoned his wand, then drew it to his neck. "Finite Incantatem!" And with that, the scars appeared. They really weren't all that bad. Two sets of puncture wounds. The flesh was puckered and tight. It was pinker than the rest of his pale skin.

She knew there were most likely more, not to mention the Dark Mark was still hidden, but she wasn't going to ask him to reveal everything at once. As intensely private as he was, Hermione knew this whole evening must have been very difficult for him.

Her eyes still focused on the angry looking scars, she asked, "Does it hurt?"

"No."

Leaning forward, and silently thanking the gods that she had yet to remove her heels as they put her at the perfect height, she brought her mouth to his neck, kissing it reverently. Severus hissed. She moved away a couple of inches. "Is this okay?"

She felt his hands in her hair, pulling her towards him. "Oh, gods, yes."

She bathed his throat with her tongue as her hands tightly gripped his shoulders. To finally be able to touch him, taste him… it was like nothing she had ever experienced. And nothing she had ever dreamed.

"Hermione," he whispered above her. Then suddenly he was pulling her away from him. She was confused for a second until she saw the look in his eyes. "My turn." He nudged her back a step. "On the bed with you, temptress."

She sat back down and took the opportunity ditch the heels. Even with the Cushioning Charm, her feet were starting to ache. Severus made quick work of his trousers before kneeling at her feet.

"I was going to do that," he said as he moved her shoes further away.

"They were starting to hurt."

At her words, Severus picked her left foot and started to gently massage the sole. He didn't stop until he had literally rubbed all the soreness out of the foot, then he repeated his healing ministrations on her right. Shocked, aroused and in awe, Hermione could do nothing but stare. When he was finished, he smoothed his hands up her stocking clad legs and spread her before him, fitting himself into the space he had created. His hands continued to travel upwards, stroking her stomach before reaching her breasts.

Hermione moaned as he cupped her, taking both breasts at once, pinching her nipples between his thumbs and forefingers with absolute precision. The pressure on both peaks was exactly the same. The man was such a perfectionist!

"You drove me mad, you know," he said as he leant forward. "Once a week I was presented with a moment of pure bliss. I never allowed myself to enjoy it, of course, thinking your mind was…" He cut his eyes up to hers. "... otherwise occupied." He looked absolutely devastated and devastating at the same time. Dropping his eyes, he focused on her left breast and placed an almost chaste kiss on her nipple. "I wanted you so badly. Wanted to touch you, taste you." And with that, he took her into his mouth.

Hermione's hips tried to rise off the bed as he sucked on her puckered tip. Her hands went immediately to his head, holding him close as if he might try and escape. Severus hummed as he lapped at her nipple, his other hand continuing to tug and pinch its counterpart. Releasing it with a soft plop, he moved to her other breast.

Though his mouth was exquisite, it was his eyes that were driving Hermione mad: they never left her the entire time. Just when she thought that he was finished, he dropped his head and drew his tongue under her breast, gently sucking at the sensitive skin.

Her head was thrown back, eyes shut tightly when she felt him move and heard, "Lie back, Hermione and allow me to make my reparations."

As she did, she felt him unfastening the stockings and garter belt. Then they were gone. She was waiting for him to pull down her knickers, but he didn't. Instead, she felt his fingers ghosting over the gusset of her pants.

"Soaked," he whispered, causing her to look down. "And all for me."

This time his eyes were focused on her body. On her quim. He slipped a finger under the satin, grazing her outer lips and Hermione moaned.

"Gods! Just take them off," she pleaded.

Severus glanced up, his face unreadable, before hooking his thumbs in under the sides of the fabric and pulling them down. Not a full second later his face was buried in her cunt, lapping at her juices like a man dying of thirst. She felt his tongue enter her and she arched, moaning and clawing at the duvet. He then licked upwards until he was at her clitoris. And he paused.

Hermione, heard herself groan, a low, pitiful sound, just before his lips closed around the distended bundle of nerves and he sucked it into his mouth. She came immediately. White light exploded behind her tightly shut eyes as she called out his name over and over. Just as she was starting to come down from her high, his fingers entered her. How he found her g-spot so quickly, she didn't know how, but he did. Pressing up on that place that so few men ever took the time to locate, Severus drove her spiraling into another freefall of sensation. Her muscles gripped his fingers, holding him in place as she tossed her head and moaned.

Impossible, her foggy mind supplied. No one (including herself) had ever given her two rapid-fire orgasms like that… not even close.

When her breathing had finally returned to a somewhat normal state, she sat up on her elbows to find her husband standing, hands on his hips and a proud smirk on his lips.

"Brilliant," she managed. Her eyes moved lower to the tent in his pants. Sitting up fully, she said, "I want to see it."

"I'm not finished." He took a step back when she reached for him. "Once these come off I cannot be held accountable for what I might do." Though his words sounded threatening, his tone and face betrayed a hint of humour.

"I don't care," she growled, surprising even herself.

"I still have to deliver five more orgasms, wife." When she opened her mouth to protest, he continued, "I believe you did your math wrong. Including tonight, I owe you seven, in total."

"You can owe me, husband! Now give me your cock!"

He laughed, a deep rich sound that Hermione wanted to drown in. Turning, he walked a few more feet away from the bed then stopped. She watched the muscles of his back ripple as his laughter died down and he took a steadying breath. When he faced her once again, all mirth was gone.

He just stared; there was a question in his eyes.

"What's wrong?" she asked as nerves tried to overtake her excitement.

He shook his head. "Later," he said as he strode back to her. "If you want this, get to the middle of the bed for me… please." The last word seemed like an afterthought.

He's really trying, she thought as she scrambled to get into place. It was very nearly cute.

Once her head was resting comfortably on the pillows, Severus peeled his down his pants. How can it look bigger than it feels? He kicked the garment away, instantly reaching for his cock, he slowly started stroking.

And it got bigger.

She was enthralled as she watched his fist work his shaft. It was so fucking sexy that she moaned aloud. When he stopped to crawl onto the bed, she almost protested - it had been quite a show - but her brain finally made the connection that his gorgeous cock was coming for her and she simply smiled.

Settling his hips between her thighs, Severus lowered himself onto her. The full body (naked! finally naked!) contact caused goosebumps to alight across her overheated flesh. His face was serious once again. He was studying her, closely and carefully.

"It was so hard to look at you… before," he whispered, then bussed her lips softly before pulling back. "I can look at you now though, can't I?" One hand moved to her hair, fisting in her soft locks. "I can touch… taste…" His head lowered once more, this time to her neck. He bit into the flesh, just hard enough to mark.

Hermione's hands went to his back, holding him close. Severus growled as he worked her throat, the sound reverberated through her body, causing her to arch up.

"Please," she begged, her hands moving down to cup his arse cheeks. "Gods Severus, I want you."

"You have me, witch," he whispered in her ear before taking the lobe into his mouth and sucking. "You've always had me." Leaning back, he reached between them and asked, "Now, do you want this?"

"Oh gods yes," she breathed.

Severus smiled down as he lined himself up, then slowly entered her. He was very deliberate in his approach, the complete opposite of his previous hurried, emotionless efforts.

After the first inch or so, he leant towards her taking her mouth in his. He stroked further in, then back out as their kiss continued. His tongue, still tasting of her, snaked around her own, drawing moan after moan from Hermione's throat. Breaking the kiss, his lips traveled across her face, his teeth nipping at her jaw and her chin as he went. Another stroke, this time deeper, longer had her clutching at his lower back, encouraging him to speed up.

He didn't.

Instead, he pulled out until only the tip of his cock rested at her entrance. "Tell me what you like," he demanded in a soft but insistent voice.

"This! I like this. More!"

"No," he shook his head. "Tell me exactly what you want, Hermione." The look on his face left no room for argument.

"I… I want to ride you," she said before she lost her nerve. "I want to control it." She was afraid that her statement would be the end of their gentle lovemaking, because she had enjoyed it and didn't want him to turn hostile once again. But she also wanted… more.

Severus then did something she'd never thought she'd witness. He grinned. It was mischievous and sexy, almost… boyish, and it made her insides do a little cartwheel.

Pulling out, he moved to the side and lay on his back. "Get over here, lovely," he said in a husky voice.

Hermione didn't need to be told twice, she moved to him and straddled his waist. Severus' hands immediately went to her hips. Taking his cock in her hand, she drew the bulbous head through her dripping folds, teasing herself. Then she looked him in the eyes and lowered onto his shaft.

Severus' grip tightened as he strained to control himself. He was obviously trying to grant her wish. He was deep, deeper than he'd ever been, even during the angry sex weeks before. She closed her eyes and let herself get adjusted to his considerable girth. It wasn't that he was bigger than the previous times they'd been together, but Hermione's internal walls were puffy and swollen from the first two orgasms, making it a tighter fit.

When she looked back down, she found Severus staring at her so intensely that she almost gasped.

"You're fucking stunning," he said through clenched teeth. His hands came up and cupped her breasts.

Hermione's back arched and she started to move. His cock hit her cervix on every downstroke and the pressure started to build. Leaning back, she used his thighs for leverage and began bouncing faster. Eyes clenched tight, she focused on the feeling of his cock inside her, his hands kneading her breasts. Oh, gods! She was already close. She moved her right hand towards her centre, knowing that a touch to her clit would finish her off only to find her wrist gripped tightly by her panting husband.

"No! That's my job!" Then suddenly his thumb was stroking her nub.

Severus' eyes were now focused on where their bodies met and she looked down herself, watching him disappear into her depths. Fuck!

"Come on, Hermione," he growled. "Come on my cock! I need to feel you, love!"

And just like that she was gone.

She came calling out to him, grinding down even harder, her body shaking almost violently. Distantly, she heard her name and realised that Severus was thrusting harshly up into her, his seed coating her channel.

Hermione collapsed in a boneless heap on his chest, sucking desperate breaths into her burning lungs.

Their bodies were slick with sweat, but it didn't seem to bother Severus as he stroked his hands up and down her back. It was comforting, soothing. They lay like that while his cock softened, nearly slipping out of her. She didn't want him to leave her, so she stayed in place, trapping him.

As her breathing evened out and her body temperature returned to normal, she started to become chilled. An uncontrollable shiver alerted Severus to her state.

"You're cold," he rumbled in her ear.

"A bit."

With a pat on her bottom, he signaled for her to move; something she was loath to do, even if she was getting rather cold. Reluctantly, she moved off of him, rolling away. Seconds later she felt the soft weight of a blanket, followed by Severus' strong arms pulling her into his chest.

"Better?" he asked.

Hermione nodded. After several minutes, her stomach growled, causing her to giggle. "We should get something to eat."

He didn't respond, just continued to hold her tightly. They lay together for a while, Severus drawing lazy patterns on her belly until finally, his hand jerked away and Hermione saw his wand fly through the air.

"Nox!"

So, she thought, we're back to lights out.

Soon after the candles were extinguished his hand moved to her stomach once again.

"You said… you said that you 'were in love with me'." His voice was uncharacteristically hesitant.

"I did."

Another long pause.

"As in the past tense?" he asked.

Hermione sighed and tried to roll over, but he held her firmly in place.

"No one's ever said that to me before, Hermione. Not even… her." She willed herself not to cry. "Well, Mum mighty have told me she loved me; I have no memory of it." After a beat, he spoke again, "If you don't, don't say it, but if you do… still... " He cleared his throat. "I want you to know that it's not wasted. I have admired you, have… wanted you for a long time."

She laced her fingers through his and Severus kissed her shoulder.

"That could be love, I don't know," he said, exhaling deeply.

"It could be," she agreed, not sure if she was talking about him or herself.

"It's certainly the closest thing I've ever felt."

"What about…?"

"That was different," he interrupted. "Obsession and guilt isn't love. At least not like this. It took a long time, but I finally figured out that much." He kissed her neck. "This just feels… different."

"Is that why you sent me the contract?" she asked.

He chuckled against her back. "I never, in a million years, thought you'd accept."

"And I thought I was going to have to marry some uptight Frenchman with a superiority complex before I got your letter."

He laughed again and relaxed enough for her to turn in his arms. Once she was facing him, she reached out in the dark, finding the leather thong he'd used to tie back his hair. After it was released, she threaded her fingers through the soft, almost greasy, strands.

"I'm so glad you did," she said, pulling him to her and kissing his cheek.

His mouth found hers and suddenly they were making out, his tongue and hands banishing all thoughts of food and first loves and Frenchmen.

"Severus," she moaned as his mouth enveloped her nipple.

Releasing her he said, "Say it again."

She opened her mouth to say his name, but stopped when she realised what she really wanted to tell him. Fisting her hands in his hair, she pulled him up until their lips touched. "I still do," she whispered. "I love you, Severus."

A sharp intake of breath was all the warning she had before he kissed her and entered her at the same time.

"Hermione," he gasped.

"Yes!"

"My wife! My love… Mine!" Each word was accompanied with a deep thrust.

She was… his. And finally, he was hers.

Perhaps he had been all along.