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The Witch in the Tower

Chapter Text

The staffroom was half-full in preparation for the weekly staff meeting.

Professor Sinistra was seated by the large windows, peering out into the graying sky, speculating about the success of her classes that evening.

Eager to be one of the first to leave, Professor Flitwick positioned himself near the door. He had prattled ad nauseum about developing a particularly exciting charm for his classes and was eager to get back to working on it.

The rest of the teachers were positioned around the long staff table, which was covered in baked goods from the elves and delicious smelling coffees, teas and hot cocoas.

Professor Hermione Granger sat in the seat nearest the fire. It was a cold and dreary November morning with the start of a chill that touched the bone. She sipped her tea reading the gossip section of the Daily Prophet laying in front of her, detailing Harry Potter’s latest romantic foray with Draco Malfoy.

Hermione was one of the neophytes of the staff, having taken the Defense Against the Dark Arts post in September. After several years of boredom at the Ministry in the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures she was looking for something new to sink her teeth into.

After doing all she could for house elves and their kind she had been drawn back to the comfort and familiarity of Hogwarts. She missed the scent of the grounds in winter. She missed the thrum of excitement that passed over her every time she stepped through the front doors. And she had missed the history and magic that fairly seeped through the stone walls.

Despite the fact that she was a very competent teacher and the students loved her class, Hermione still didn’t feel like one of the staff. Often, she felt more like a student with special privileges. It wasn’t that the other Professors were cruel or even excluding; they just had their own kind of shared history that she wasn’t part of.

The only other Professor near her age was Slughorn’s Assistant Professor who was taking over the Alchemy courses. Millicent Bulstrode – former bully and Inquisitorial Squad goon. However, despite their shared past, she was not the Millicent that Hermione remembered from her youth – the big, spotty, watery-eyed girl who lived to make her life a living hell.

This Millicent moved with a willowy grace and even her laugh was overtly feminine. She was fetching in her crisp robes and sleek hair. Hermione often found herself longing to be as put together as the other woman, all the while cursing her own out of control hair, hurried walk and constantly ink-stained fingers.

The door burst open and Pomona Sprout came rushing into the staff room brandishing a small blue book. Her grey eyes were bright and her round cheeks flushed excitedly.

Most of the staff looked nonplussed. This behaviour from the enthusiastic Herbology Professor was not out of the realm of normal. Usually, she was exhilarated about something akin to Culumalda leaves being grafted with a Mallorn species or Lissuin petals being especially fragrant during the spring. The older woman was nothing if not devoted to her specialty.

And although she was used to it, Hermione still peeked out of the corner of her eye to see what caused Sprout’s latest histrionics.

Pomona plopped herself into the empty seat between Minerva and Poppy at the long staff table, smiling at them in turn. She was practically vibrating in her seat and she tapped the book absently.

"Have you seen the latest?" Pomona asked in a fevered hush to Minerva and Poppy. "It's the top seller this month according to Witches Weekly!”

Poppy looked up from her knitting – her customary pastime while waiting for staff meetings to start - with a bright eager look in her eyes.

"The one involving the pirate and the wench?" Poppy whispered. "Or the scullery maid and the wealthy Baron?"

"No, no," Pomona said with a wave of one chubby hand as she slapped a slim novel with a title in gold font onto the table. She flipped it over, showing the back of the book and its summary.

"It's the one with the Wizard and the obliviate-“

At the sound of the book being opened, Hermione, unable to hide her interest glanced over openly, her brows rising in surprise. She hadn’t seen this book before, not even in the restricted section.

"What's that?"

"Your old classmate, Pansy Parkinson, has made quite a name for herself in the writing world," Pomona said excitedly pushing the book towards Hermione. “This is her latest in a series.”

Hermione took the slim novel into her hands, scanning the back and reading the summary. It was the normal tripe that Witches Weekly espoused the virtues of – decidedly not Hermione’s thing. She gave Pomona a small polite smile and handed the book back to her.

"Never would have expected it," Minerva offered as she took a sip of coffee and a shake of her head. "Her transfiguration essays were always rubbish."

"Yes, well," Pomona continued hastily, not looking very pleased at being interrupted. "She writes fairly compelling romance novels. And they’re always a hit!"

"Smut, you mean!" Hooch had entered the staff room and had joined the conversation. "And bloody good smut if you ask me. There’s a reason she sells out every time she publishes. Budge up there, Hermione."

"No one asked you," Pomona said icily as Hooch took her seat next to Hermione. The two professors had had a recent falling out after Hooch caused several mandrakes to behaviorally regress after she tried to give them the ‘sex talk’ too early in their development.

"Since when?" Hermione demanded, suddenly fascinated despite the subject matter. "I've never seen anything about Pansy-"

"She writes under a nom de plume," Sprout said with a look of extreme smugness. "With her family being disgraced within wizarding society, she didn’t want to associate them with her work.”

Hermione considered this a moment. After the war Pansy’s parents had been outted as vocal Voldemort supporters and their fall from grace had been very public and very ugly.

“And how do you know all of this?” Minerva inquired.

“She used to bring her stories to me when she was a student. We came up with her penname together."

Hermione glanced at the book and the pen name in question: Rosie Marigold , and hid her smile. However Minerva had dropped her coffee cup in surprise. It clattered nosily as it settled back into its saucer.

"Pansy Parkinson?!" Minerva looked aghast. “Came to you?”

“Who else was she going to go to?” Sprout said with barely suppressed scorn. “Her head of house, Snape? Or that barmy Trelawny?”

As if on cue, in a flurry of gauze and rattling bracelets, Sybil entered the room, and swanned into the empty seat at the end of the table.

“I have had the most terrible vision,” Sybil declared, her eyes wide and unblinkingly fixed on Hermione.

“Is that so?” Hermione asked airily. It was tradition for Sybil to announce this at least once per month. So far, Hermione hadn’t run into anything resembling bad luck. Unlike someone more superstitious, these conversations barely phased her.

“We don’t have time for your visions,” Pomona snapped, pressing a fleshy forefinger to the book in front of her and facing Poppy. “You simply have to read the first chapter, Poppy.”

Poppy took the novel, her eyes quickly scanning down the length of the page. The rest of the staff began to file in, but Hermione didn’t even notice them.

Instead, she was transfixed as the older woman’s cheeks went pink and Poppy hooked a forefinger in the neck of her robes, pulling at them. After a moment the woman shut the book, closing her eyes a moment and steadying herself.

"I need my own copy," Poppy exclaimed suddenly. “That was delightful.”

“Let me see that,” Minerva said, her interest suddenly piqued. Hermione leaned over, trying to see over Minerva’s shoulder as the older woman read.

“Get your own copy!” Pomona scolded, gripping the book and trying to pull it back. The two respected witches were in a subtle tug-of-war when the door to the staff room suddenly closed with a loud, firm click.

"And what is this?" a low voice interrupted.

"Oh, Severus," Poppy glanced up as the women sprang apart embarrassed. The book fell between them on the table. "We didn't see you there."

"So it would seem."

Snape stood above them, looking down at the novel. His obsidian eyes glittered with malicious amusement. His long fingers plucked the book off the table and slowly brought it closer to his face.

"The Capture of a Wizard's Heart," he purred and glanced at the two older women before continuing. "The story of one witch's journey through time to find the obliviated wizard she's sworn to protect... And love."

At this, he gave a moue of distaste and pointedly dropped the book back onto the table with a thud. It sat there awkwardly as the women in the vicinity blushed.

His surly gaze cut to the young woman most obviously trying to distance herself from the book as much as possible. While Hermione’s hair was covering her face it did little to shield her from Snape’s assumptions.

"Poppy, Pomona, Minerva... Honestly. It's bad enough you’re reading this rubbish, but to bring Professor Granger into it?'

"They didn't bring me into it!" Hermione looked aghast at the accusation. Her head jerked up from the Prophet, her dark eyes blown wide in indignation.

"Then you willingly read this? I had no idea your literary tastes had devolved such since your school days," he tutted, ignoring the scathing looks from Pomona and Poppy.

"They haven't!" Hermione exclaimed, suddenly growing scarlet. It didn't seem to matter that she was quickly coming up to her thirties, as he still had the ability to make her feel like she was a troublesome student. It didn’t seem to matter that she was a competent teacher because around Headmaster Snape she still felt as green as she had been at eleven.

"I-I mean not usually," she sputtered. "It’s just that I didn't know Pansy Parkinson had written such-"

"Your leisure reading habits are not what we are here to discuss," Snape interrupted with finality. "It's time to start the meeting."

He sailed to the front of the room, glancing sternly around at the staff who had come to sit around the long table. He raised his wand and the meeting’s agenda appeared before them on a foot of parchment. Hermione scanned hers briefly, but eventually her eyes drifted over and fixed themselves on the Headmaster’s pale hands.

In her careless youth, Hermione thought Snape tended to hold his wand carelessly, but now she couldn’t look away when he produced it. The tapered fingers caressing the wood, the elegant flick of his wrist. How had she ever thought it careless when it was so obviously precise? Deft? Even sensual?

Hermione wasn't exactly aware as to when she began to develop inappropriate feelings for her employer. She could trace a growing interest back to when his double agency had been revealed. At the time something ignited in her, but  it she supposed it was likely the night of the final war that the crush began in earnest.

When she had gone into the shack to see if any uncounted survivors remained, only to find Snape sputtering and bleeding on the floor. 

The horror she felt in that moment was unbearable. She, Harry and Ron had only left Snape earlier convinced that he was dead at Voldemort's hand.

But he was there. Still clinging to life.

She'd sent her Patronus to the castle for help and the small beaded bag she'd carried everywhere weighed heavily against her.

Inside was the beazor that she'd shoved down down his throat, insisting through tears that he stay and not die. Finally the colour returned to his cheeks and his eyes focused on her face. 

Before Minerva and Poppy came rushing in to take him to St Mingo's he had found her eyes and spoken and it was so quiet she had to dip her head to hear. 

"Thank you."

Two simple words from a man who before had never spared her a kind one. And yet she carried those words within her heart up until the day she had applied for the position of defense against the dark arts professor.

She had ignored the ridiculous crush in favour of focussing on her position. But every now and then cracks would appear and those silly feelings would find their way out. 

Moments like today. 

Prior to that she had always thought of him as a background figure in her life. When she did think of him now in her place as his employee, she often thought him rude and off-putting. But there was something else bubbling under the surface with every interaction with the man - a mysterious arousing curiosity that seemed to grow inexplicably on its own.

Snape was a supremely powerful wizard and wickedly brilliant at that. Qualities Hermione had always admired in others. She supposed that's why she didn't want to look foolish in front of him. It was simply no more than that.

“It’s come to my attention that there is an appalling lack of point deductions from certain houses,” Snape said in his familiar sotto voce, his face giving nothing away as his inscrutable gaze made its way around the faces of his staff. “I won’t name names, but I remind you that the purpose of the points in the first place was to foster house loyalty, encourage good behaviour, and to give the students of each house a common goal. It helps to create a familial atmosphere.”

“Headmaster-“ Hermione began in a rush, throwing her hand into the air. She needed him to understand that the bias of houses were completely unhealthy. She had been the one to suggest adding it to today’s agenda. Snape pointedly ignored Hermione and continued to speak over her. Hermione lowered her hand rapidly, folding her hands in front of her on the table.

“I know several of you, especially those new on staff, believe it creates unhealthy competition between houses. You might think it unfair and even unnecessary. However, I urge you to please consider the fact that it has also been a longstanding tradition here at Hogwarts and-”

Hermione was no longer listening. Instead she was staring at her hands, wishing she hadn’t bothered sending him that missive last week at all. He seemed to have taken it personally and was doing all he could to ensure she didn’t attempt to disturb the status quo again.

However, the Snape of her student days would have humiliated her. He never would have used the word please, and would have gone to great lengths to point out why she was wrong.

The Snape of old was still in there of course, it was in the sneer he had ready for every unnecessary comment during the meeting. But there was a softness there, a patience that he hadn’t possessed as a teacher. In a strange way, being a Headmaster suited him much better.

The students still held him at a distance, but now aware of his loyalties and bravery, there was only respect in their eyes instead of fear. However, Snape was still formidable in his black robes and tall stature. He still stalked down the halls as if he owned them, and he was quick to take points from any house that seemed to be up to mischief.

“I’ve had several students approach me about this,” Millicent asked from the back of the room, not bothering to wait for Snape to call on her. “They find the deduction of points during Quidditch games unfair.”

“Understood,” Snape said coolly.

Of course, he didn’t get mad at Millicent for interrupting.

Hermione wasn’t a fool, she could see the blatant favouritism shown for Millicent Bulstrode- and Hermione had a feeling it wasn’t just because the woman was teaching Alchemy – a direct offshoot of Potions. There was no hot-blooded wizard who wouldn’t take a second glance at the pretty Professor. Millicent being one of his own house certainly worked in her favor as well.

Bloody Slytherins.

Hermione rolled her eyes before scribbling some notes on her parchment. As her notes became doodles, she suddenly realized the room had gone eerily still. She jerked, glancing up at her peers around her. Snape was glaring at her, his rigid fingertips pressing on the wooden table top.

“Professor Granger, are we boring you?”

“No!” Hermione insisted, her heart hammering at having been called out during the meeting.

“Do try to pay attention,” Snape replied silkily. “Professor Bulstrode was in the middle of a proposal.”

Hermione nodded, placing her quill down and giving the blushing Millicent her full attention. The pretty woman smiled at her before continuing.

“I was one of the Professors that suggested to Headmaster Snape that we do away with the points system,” Millicent said shyly. “That’s why I came up with this little proposal as a compromise.”

Hermione was surprised to hear this. She thought she had been the only one not impressed with the points system.

“I thought we might foster inter-house relations while keeping the points system, starting with the seventh years as a test group,” Millicent continued in that honeyed tone of hers. She looked to Pomona. “For example the Ravenclaw Herbology students and Gryffindor Potions students could work together on creating an original potion from start to finish using only ingredients they can cultivate from the Greenhouses. Everyone would have to work as a team.”

At this, Pomona looked over at Slughorn who glanced at her and gave a shrug of acquiescence.

“That sounds grand,” Pomona said with a smile. Slughorn nodded.

“Wonderful,” Millicent said with a gentle clap of her hands. She smiled broadly showcasing her very nice teeth, straighter and brighter than anyone else’s on staff. As Hermione not only had dentist parents, but also performed a bit of self-cosmetic dentistry in her youth, this proved to be especially irritating.

“Wouldn’t this take a lot of time to organize properly?” Hermione asked sharply, drawing surprised looks from the teachers around her.

“I don’t mind writing up a few suggestions on class swaps,” Millicent said uncertainly. She looked around the room with a tentative smile as if afraid the other professors would revolt.

“I think it’s a marvellous idea,” Minerva said with authority.

“As do I,” said Snape with what looked like a twitch at the corner of his mouth. “All in favor?”

The entire staff room raised their hands (save for Filch, Poppy and Pince) and the motion was passed. Millicent took her seat and scribbled something hurriedly into her notebook.

Hermione, cognizant of her earlier slip, was sure to keep all eye-rolling, sighing, and doodling to herself for the rest of the meeting.

An hour later, the meeting was adjourned. Most of the staff filed out quickly, yet several of the older women continued to sit, chatting animatedly on the topic which had previously been interrupted. Hermione gathered her notes from the meeting and bid a hasty exit. She had no desire to be further humiliated.

Snape began to gather his own papers, his ears attuned to the whispers of the women nearby. It was an old habit, listening in on others conversations.

"She writes Wizards so well," Poppy was exclaiming passionately patting the book. "The strong, stoic nature of-"

They stopped their conversation when they heard the completely non-subtle snort of Severus from the other end of the table.

"Something to say, Severus?" Minerva asked thin-lipped, reminiscent of the time she'd offered Dolores a cough drop during her class.

"No, no," Snape said with a bemused twitch of his lips. "Far be it from me to interrupt this group's true literary pursuits."

"Not everything needs to be Most Potente Potions to be considered true literature," Minerva said with a dramatic roll of her eyes.

At this Snape straightened, looking aghast. "Minerva you can't honestly tell me that this rubbish has the same merit as, say, Magical Drafts and Potions."

"You sound like such an absolute snob!" Poppy observed. "Who’s to say that this isn't as literary as some workbook?!"

“You can’t be serious,” Snape said flatly. “It’s like telling Pomona that ‘One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi’ are in the same league as ‘Madcap Magic for Wacky Warlocks.’”

"You've never even read it!" Pomona defended alongside Poppy. "How would you know if it's got merit or not?"

"Because they all follow the same formulaic plot,” Snape said with a derisive chuckle. “Wizard meets witch. Because of arrogance or misunderstanding, they hate each other. They work together against a common obstacle. Someone rescues someone. Witch and wizard somehow overcome said obstacles and fall helplessly in love."

"Such a well thought out perspective," Minerva said, glancing at him out of the corner of her eye. "One might think you'd read a few."

At this the women gave amused titters at the thought of Snape holed up in his rooms reading "To Catch a Witch" and sighing melodramatically.

"Hardly," Snape scoffed. "You hens just never stop talking about them."

"Honestly Severus it sounds as if you're jealous."

Snape stopped gathering his papers to straighten his spine and peer into Hooch’s face, who was looking just as deadly as he was.

"And how did you arrive at that ludicrous conclusion, Rolanda?"

"Well, Pansy Parkinson is of your house, and she's published," Hooch shrugged. "And if I recall one of your pieces was recently turned down for publication, was it not?"

All the air seemed to be sucked from the room at that comment. Hooch began to falter under the heavy glares of the other women seated at the table.

It was well known that to several of the older women, Snape was like a surrogate son to them. A son who never visited and often criticized, but a son nonetheless. Hooch volleyed with a low blow to a raw nerve, and the other woman felt instantly protective of their gloomy, billowing, proud Headmaster.

Snape fixed Hooch with a thunderous look before striding off down the corridor, but not before he slammed the staff room door soundly behind him.

Chapter Text

Snape stormed down the corridor, nearly running over a wayward Hufflepuff in his haste to escape the staff room. When he was carefully encapsulated within the comfort of his office he fell into his chair. He absently tugged at the cuff of his robe, a habit he indulged in when privately upset.

“Running off like a child,” he muttered to himself. “Some Spy you are. Letting them know they got to you.”

Snape was furious and ashamed of himself. He hated that Hooch had touched on such a private insecurity and he’d publicly responded to. How had the blasted woman found out about the rejected article anyway? He hadn’t told anyone else of his submission.

He threw himself into his work, willing his mind to focus on anything else but this bitter disappointment. He spent the remainder of the day answering his post, working on budgetary projections for the following year, and ordering classroom supplies. After every solitary boring work detail had been done for the day he thrust himself to a standing position and looked out the window into the dark night sky before deciding to himself:

“May as well get battered.”

***

Several minutes later he found himself in The Leaky Cauldron, looking morosely into a pint and trying to remember why he had believed staying on as Headmaster of Hogwarts had been a good idea after the war.

It hadn’t been an easy decision, but more a favour to a very beleaguered and a very persistent maternal McGonagall. Traditionally, as Deputy Headmistress she would have taken on the Headmistress title but she felt her strengths laid elsewhere.

“I’m too old and too tired,” she told him as he lay recovering in St Mungo’s, his neck bandaged thickly. “And despite what you think, you did a marvellous job as Headmaster. You kept the students safe from the Carrows and that horrid werewolf.”

“I did it because I had to.”

“You did it because you care for the school,” Minerva disagreed. “You did it because Hogwarts was where you always belonged. We all know it, why don’t you?”

“Minerva, the parents would never allow it,” Snape argued, ignoring her question. “The Headmaster a former Death Eater? The man who killed Albus Dumbledore?”

“A spy, brave enough to double-cross Voldemort, doing it all for the love of a Muggle-born childhood friend?” McGonagall snapped. “A man who sacrificed the majority of his life to ensure the safety of the wizarding world?”

Snape said nothing, choosing to look out the hospital window as she continued quietly.

“A man who received an Order of Merlin first class?” she touched his arm gingerly. “Severus, I would be proud to have a child attend such a school.”

She had been right. The day he was formally announced as Headmaster via the Prophet, he had been inundated with owls from all over the Wizarding Britain citing what a brilliant choice he was, how thankful they were for not abandoning the post, and how they felt safer than ever having their children attend Hogwarts.

Enrollment had skyrocketed, and much to Snape’s surprise, he enjoyed the position of Headmaster and had done an admirable job ever since. He was respected by his colleagues, and up until this afternoon had never had issues with them. But Hooch’s comment, offhandedly said in jest had deeply wounded him.

To Severus Snape, public humiliation was far worse than Nagini’s bite had ever been.

He took another sip of his drink, gesturing for Tom to pour him another. The barman nodded before pouring a new tumbler of Ogdens and sliding it down the bar to Severus.

“Cheers, Tom.”

Snape was suddenly accosted with the sight of vivid red hair at his right and he held in a groan.

Ron Weasley stood there, looking uneasily at his former Professor. The young ginger had grown a rather patchy beard and years of butterbeer and house-husbandry had given him quite the paunch. It gave Snape perverse joy to know he was in much better shape than a man twenty years his junior.

“Hullo, Professor.”

Snape gave a short nod in reply before taking another long dreg of his drink. He hoped his noncommittal response would indicate he felt like being alone, but in true Weasley form the young man blustered on, needing to fill the silence between them.

“I was just coming to grab some takeaway,” Ron said awkwardly. “Lavender’s pregnant again and she insisted on chips from here and since she scares me, especially with the hormones I-“

“Spare me the fascinating trials and tribulations of your life, Weasley,” Snape slurred. “Simply take your grease-laden items and leave me be.”

Ron looked momentarily stunned by this vitriolic response. He blinked rapidly before going pink around the ears. Snape eyed the ginger as he curled his hand into a loose fist at his side before ordering the meal from Tom. After a minute of looking between Snape and the bar Ron finally spoke again.

“One would think with Voldemort dead you’d be a bit more pleasant. Or, at the very least, not still vying for the trophy of being the biggest git in the world.”

“Yes, well...” Snape replied with a careless shrug.

“Tell me,” Ron said leaning forward conspiratorially. “Why are you still so... Snape-ish? Everything worked out for the best, didn’t it?”

“For some,” Snape growled.

“For you, too!” Ron insisted in that forceful, boyish way he still possessed. His passionate deference turned his face red, and highlighted the balding patch atop his head. “You’ve had a chance for a fresh start!”

“Oh, yes,” Snape said sarcastically, taking another sip. “Despite the fact that I am now viciously scarred and unable to sleep longer than two hours a night. Oh, and we can’t forget that the details of my entire miserable life were splayed on the front page of the Prophet for a straight month thanks to your friend.”

“Harry did that for-“

“I know why he did it,” Snape hissed. “And thanks to Potter’s misguided attempts at clearing my name, now everyone knows of my obsessive love for a former classmate. A woman who turned me down, and yet I carried a torch for. How well do you think that plays out in day-to-day life? Do you think the witches are willingly throwing themselves at a wizard who they believe to be hung up on a dead woman?”

Ron was quiet, contemplating this information.

“You’re alive, though, aren’t you?” Ron insisted, unable to understand why this wasn’t enough. “Why, we saved you from dying in the Shr-“

“Stop there,” Snape said quietly, his voice waspish. He had straightened, and the hand clutching his glass tumbler was suddenly claw-like. “I will not sit here and listen to this self adulation any longer. Take your crisps and leave me in peace.”

Snape let his curtain of black hair fall over his face, effective blocking out the freckled face of Ron Weasley and ending the conversation. His black eyes were now fixated upon his drink, his sweet salvation. He heard Weasley take a few steps backward.

“Tom, I’ll be right back,” Ron said over his shoulder. “Hold the chips!”

He was gone out the door and Snape sighed in relief. However, it was short lived because the red-headed menace reappeared seconds later looking out of breath. He strode up to the bar and slapped a book down in front of an increasingly tipsy Snape.

"Twelve Fail Safe Ways to Charm Witches,” Snape said, reading the blurry title. “Why on earth are you-“

“It helped me,” Ron said quietly, his light eyes dancing around the room. “When I was trying to date. . . Well, anyway. It’s really effective. It helped me land Lavender the second time around.”

“What a prize,” Snape said silkily.

“Yeah,” Ron replied with a bit of a wince, unaware of the sarcasm in Snape’s tone. “Look, I understand what you’re saying about the dating. It can be frightening to try new things. Try some of these tips in here. It’s not all about foolish wand waving. Might help you land a good shag.”

Before Snape could shoot back with a scathing retort, Ron had grabbed the proffered brown paper bag from Tom and rushed from the pub.

The book lay there like some humiliating totem. Snape scowled at it before pocketing it. Snape was going to rush from his seat at the bar when he suddenly viewed Hooch coming in the front door.

For fuck’s sake.

Snape tried his best to look engrossed in his drink, hoping his hair would block out---

“Hello, Severus.”

Snape tensed, his free hand curling into a fist atop the bar. He sighed loudly through his nose before speaking in a quiet, clipped tone.

“Rolanda.”

He felt her take the stool next to him. He felt the severe look she fixed him with and he felt compelled to glance over at her. Her yellow eyes were uncharacteristically dulled, combining with her pale grey hair to give her the look of a particularly sad rabbit.

“I think an apology is in order,” she said, strangely muted. Snape said nothing, but instead raised a brow in the direction of his near empty glass in response. “The minute you left Minerva, Poppy, and Pomona gave me the tongue lashing of my life,” she added embarrassed. “Seems I might have taken things a bit too far.”

“I didn’t give it a second thought,” Snape lied, his fingers tracing the edges of the tumbler absently.

“I know how proud you are,” Hooch insisted, indicating to Tom with her finger that she wanted what Severus was having. Snape said nothing as Tom sent it sailing over to her, but she didn’t drink it. She just held it between her hands, still fixated on the slumped view of the Headmaster to the side.

“I only said it for a laugh, Severus,” Hooch said, wincing a bit at Snape’s lack of reply. “But it was a shite thing to say. I’m sorry.”

Snape glanced over, prompted by the warmth in the woman’s tone. He had never heard Rolanda apologize to anyone for anything. She was a sturdy woman of action. She wasn’t big on touchy-feely emotional talks. She looked sheepishly at him, her mouth tense.

“Thank you, Rolanda,” Snape said quietly, raising the glass to his lips and draining the glass. “Although the apology is unnecessary and rather out of character, I might add.”

“I’m a Slytherin, aren’t I?” Rolanda asked, cocking her head to the side with a coy smile. “I know I have to stay on the good side of the Headmaster, or I’ll be teaching Quidditch over in Durmstrang come spring.”

Snape gave a wan smile at that, noticing that Hooch was drinking now, the seriousness of the situation dissipating quickly.

“So, why’d they turn your article down then?”

If it hadn’t been for their previous conversation, Snape would have assumed she was trying to mock him again. But there was a genuine interest in her tone. The drinks were weaving their way through his system and he found himself feeling more amiable than he had been hours before.

“Not enough field research on--“ Snape stopped abruptly, his brows furrowing. “How do you know about that?”

“A gent I’ve been seeing works at Potions Today,” Rolanda offered with a shrug. “He mentioned you submitting a paper but that his higher ups had turned it down. I’m meeting him a bit later on. He’s a good shag and-”

“That will do,” Snape said with a delicate raise of his fingertips. “The less I know of your extracurricular romantic entanglements the better.”

“Understood,” Hooch replied with a resolute nod before ordering another drink for them both. “So, is the article not being published really the reason your wand is in such a twist over that twat Parkinson’s books?”

“It’s not,” Snape replied honestly, slanting a look at her as she gulped down her second firewhiskey. “I genuinely believe that the writing Parkinson produces is utter troll shite. To put it on the same level as writers like Wakefield and Lima is absurd. It’s adding to the decline of magical literacy.”

“You’re really such a literary snob,” Hooch laughed. “If it’s not one of your textbook favorites it’s not worth reading, is it?”

“I read literature outside of textbooks,” Snape sniped, taking a long pull from his tankard.

“Such as?”

“Plenty of Wizarding history books, autobiographies,” Snape replied easily. “And Muggle authors like Bronte and Orwell.”

“Never read ‘em.”

“My point exactly,” Snape said with a dramatic roll of his eyes towards the heavens. “But I suppose you’ve devoured Wizards are from Neptune, Witches are from Saturn?”
Hooch said nothing, but the tip of her nose went pink. He gave a supercilious eyebrow raise and lifted his drink to his lips. “I believe my point has been made.”

Rolanda frowned into her drink, having been sufficiently embarrassed by the wizard to her left.

“Well, its fun to read,” Hooch said sullenly. “That’s why people read them.”

“They read them because they’re simple.”

Indignant, she cried, “That’s not true!”

“It’s very true,” Snape said emphatically. “Simple plot, simple characters, simple readers.”

“Lies!”

“Its barely even writing,” Snape offered, giving Hooch a tipsy smile. “It takes no talent to do so. I could do it half drunk and with one arm behind my back.”

“Then do it!” Hooch said, shooting him a dark look.

“Pardon?”

“Don’t just sit there pouting. Beat them at their game!” Rolanda slapped the bar for emphasis. “Prove to them that all the stories are the same formulaic tripe!”
Snape stared at Rolanda for a long moment, giving an exaggerated blink in her direction.

“You’re seriously suggesting that I write some trope-filled book for the gormless literary masses?”

“I am,” Hooch insisted, blinking drowsily at him. “It could be good for you.”

“Good for me to write rubbish?”

“Ever since the end of the war you’ve been withdrawn and even more keyed up than usual,” Hooch said, trying to steady herself on her bar stool. “You need to relax! Voldemort is dead! Live a little! Have a bit of a laugh!”

“Having a laugh is far different from being laughed at,” Snape said with a frown.
Hooch paused at this admission from the younger man.“You’re worried they’d laugh at you?”

“I’m certain they would,” Snape said, throwing back another drink at the thought of Poppy, Pomona, and Minerva mocking him behind his back. Despite his best efforts he cared what those women thought of him. In truth, he cared what most people thought of him.

Ever since the end of the war, with his romantic history with Lily Evans printed for all to see, Snape had been uncharacteristically preoccupied with wanting to come off looking in command of his life. Strong and powerful. Not hung up on a girl he’d been obsessed with since his youth.

“So what if they laugh?”

“I don’t like being laughed at,” Snape said thickly, ordering them both another fire whiskey. Hooch was looking thoughtfully blottoed, her eyes unable to focus for too long.

“Then write it and I’ll read it, Severus,” Hooch said with a dramatic wave of her hand. “I’ll give you a fair shake. If its rubbish you have to admit to everyone that you were wrong and buy us all copies of Parkinson’s newest book.”

“You’re joking.”

“I’m not. And if you’re as good as you say you are, well, you’d get the satisfaction of knowing you’re right,” Rolanda said with a sloppy smile. “And if it’s any good, I’ll publicly agree with you about it during the next staff meeting.”

“That’s hardly a prize worthy of my time.”

“And I’ll chaperone the next student event,” Hooch said with a drunken giggle. “I’ll even dress as father Christmas this December.”

The image of Hooch dressed as Father Christmas with Slughorn perched upon her lap suddenly fluttered across Snape’s alcohol-soaked mind and he held in an uncharacteristic guffaw.

“I’ll shake on that,” Snape said, knowing that this was a strange idea but not really caring. Right now, in the welcome embrace of drunkenness, he felt warm and good and amused. Everything was less serious and he felt animated.

“Forget a shake,” Rolanda said with a loud clinking of their tankards. “Let’s drink to it!”

Chapter Text

Snape bid Hooch a slurry farewell and miraculously Disapparated into his private chambers without splinching a limb. Apparating through the wards was one of the many benefits Snape had enthusiastically taken advantage of since taking up his old post of Headmaster. It worked in his favour tonight especially, considering he could barely walk in a straight line at present.

As Snape entered the room, he threw his outer robe onto a nearby chair and stumbled over to his bookshelf. He gripped a shelf to steady himself as he scanned the titles on the nearest shelf.

Sonnets of a Sorcerer

Extreme Incantations

Hélas, Je me suis Transfiguré Les Pieds

No, none of these would work. These were the books of a Professor, not a writer of fiction. The sonnets were from fourteenth century England (and mentioned various potions used at the time), they would do little good in being a modern source material. Romantic mores were very different now in comparison.

Snape would have to use his imagination.

It couldn’t possibly be that hard. Hadn’t his mother enjoyed romance novels? He was sure he recalled discovering them in her room at one time, only to have her insist he return them at once. One of the covers displayed a shirtless man with wind-blown hair caressing the face of a woman with her mouth parted in erotic expectation. Surely, with his taut intellectual mind he could replicate the tripe.

Severus could certainly write something better than Parkinson. Not that he’d actually read anything she’d produced which was a mistake, he’d admit, it was always better to know ones enemy.

Snape also hadn’t ever done any creative writing in his entire life. But, honestly, how hard could it be? He’d practically re- written the Potions textbook at age sixteen. Surely, writing a orgy-filled romp would be a walk in the park.

Snape quickly summoned all his writing supplies and dumped them on his writing desk before collapsing into the chair and spreading out a fresh sheet of parchment. He gripped the quill -and after missing the ink pot the first few times- raised it above the stark cream coloured parchment and held it there, the ink dripping off the end.

He didn’t know how long he was stuck in this position of immovability, and waste of ink, before his mind suddenly began whirring properly. The warm feeling of drunkenness was slowly leeching away from him, leaving Snape terrified.

How on earth do I begin? I’ve never written anything so trite. Only scholarly articles and as my latest submission proves I may be losing my touch.

In a desperate haze, he quickly pulled over the article he had failed to publish from one of his piles. With misplaced hope, his dark eyes scanned it for any semblance of guidance on how to begin the first page of his manuscript.

When dealing with the Lingua Potion, one must take precautions to-“

He groaned aloud, thrusting the page to the side and burying his face in his hands. No. No, that would never do. It was too detached, too clinical.

“What a bloody cock up,” Snape murmured to himself. “And I’m going to be out forty bloody galleons buying all those books.”

Although he could not voice it aloud, it wasn’t the financial burden that was bothering him. It was the thought of having to admit he had been wrong. To see Sprout and Poppy and Minerva and even Granger looking at him with mockery.

He suddenly felt very warm, almost claustrophobic. He needed to go for a walk to clear his head. He had drunk far too much and his aging body was reminding him of it. Once he walked and stretched his legs he’d feel better.

He grabbed his outer robe from the chair and pulled it on. As he did, something thudded against his thigh in his pocket. He frowned before reaching into the pocket and producing the book Weasley had given him.

Twelve Fail-Safe Ways to Charm Witches.

Snape snorted, about to toss the thing in the bin when he caught view of the book’s cover and it gave him pause. It portrayed a man with windblown hair holding a sexy witch who was blatantly ogling him. This was exactly the kind of rubbish that Hooch and the rest of them would devour.

Would the book give practical advice? Would it help to start his book off?

In the end, he decided it couldn’t hurt to look. He also decided it couldn’t hurt to enjoy a glass of fire whiskey as he read. He was starting to feel the gentle start of sobering up and Merlin knew that wouldn’t do at a time like this. After summoning a new bottle he took a swig from it before he sat quickly, opening the book, and blinking as the words swam into view.

If you’re reading this book, odds are the witch of your affection has no idea you’re interested. Or worse yet, she does and just isn’t impressed. Instead of playing it safe you need to put yourself out there! But you may be telling yourself it’s too frightening, too stressful. That’s where this book comes in.

There were a few initial pages that included an introduction to the author, a summary of what was hoped to be accomplished by the end, and a short dedication. Severus read these passively before skipping to the first section.

Chapter One: Compliments

“That scarf looks lovely on you. Red is certainly your colour.”

“You’ve really got an eye for that sort of thing.”

“I’d love to be as good at Potions as you.”

These comments may seem innocuous, but rest assured the witch who has your attention will be delighted to receive such adulation. When you understand basic witch behaviour, you will understand-

Snape slammed the book shut soundly, unable to read a single letter more. He threw back another large gulp of fire whiskey before shaking his head.

“Oh, for Merlin’s sake,” Snape snorted. Of all the ridiculous garbage he’d come across this had to be just about the worst. How it had landed Weasley anything other than a slap across the face was beyond him.

He was about to push the book into the bin when his eyes snagged on his abandoned article.

Not enough field research, read the note from the publisher.

Snap nodded to himself. Field research. That was something he could do.

He stood wobblily, making his way to his chamber doors. He needed to move quickly before he second guessed this decision.

***

Hermione entered her private room with an armful of books, her cheeks pink from her walk. Crookshanks gave a cheerful mew as she entered. He weaved around her ankles in a greeting before returning to his favorite napping spot on his mistresses’ chair in front of the hearth. Hermione hovered her books to the adjacent side table. She lit the embers in her fireplace nonverbally, and her familiar gave her a grateful chirp.

After shrugging off her teaching robes, she gently moved Crookshanks enough so she could sit next to him. Then, she cracked open the first book on the stack, and began to read feverishly. Idly, she scratched the bandy legged creature at her side as she flipped through the pages.

She had gone to the library in hopes of forming an idea for the upcoming cross-course group projects. After some careful consideration, Hermione assumed she’d be paired with the Charms class.After all, Defense and Charms went hand in hand. It would be absurd to be paired with another discipline..

She’d divested Pince of a large section of the charms books before skiving off dinner to return to her rooms and begin her research. She was halfway through the second book when a gentle pecking sound came from her window.

She glanced over to see an unfamiliar, uninterested barn owl looking at her, a sealed envelope tied to its leg. Hermione gave Crooks a gentle nudge before standing. Hermione glanced at the wall clock and was surprised at how late the missive was arriving. What could be so important this late at night?

She quickly untied the note, and gave the barn owl a treat from the nearby bowl. It ate greedily then took off without a look behind it – obviously not waiting for a response.

Dear Professor Granger,

Thank you for being so open to the idea of this project. The seventh year Defense Against the Dark Arts students will be paired with the Alchemy classes for the next six weeks.

Thursday mornings at eleven will be your team’s meeting time.

A final exam in December will be created by you and the Alchemy Professor (myself!) to test the suitability of the program. It's my most ardent hope that we may bring inter- house cooperation into the fore here at Hogwarts.

I look forward to working with you.

Sincerely, Millicent

Alchemy?

But it made no sense. Charms would have been a much better fit for her students – or hell, even Care of Magical Creatures! Granted, the class wasn't as exciting without Hagrid teaching it. Although, there could be something to be said about blast-ended skrewts being removed from the syllabus this year.

Hermione walked to her writing desk, with the intention of drafting up a letter citing exactly this argument. However, her wand vibrated and sounded a soft tinkling indicating that she needed to begin her evening patrols. Annoyed that her counter-argument would have to wait and with a huff she pulled on her robes.

***

Snape needed inspiration.

Not just in regards to the romance part of this book he was supposed to write, but also the human interaction of his characters. He may be able to formulate some basic smut out of thin air, but understanding human motivation – especially of the female variety would likely prove to be a challenge.

He stalked through the dark corridors silently, his hands folded behind him as he weaved his way over the flagstone floor.

He needed a heroine type. Someone attractive and fiery to base his fictional woman on. Who could he use? What female had he ever spent enough time with to glean their emotional motivations aside from Minerva? And no offence to her, but picturing her as a romantic lead made feel ill.

Lily Evans? No. He was well past that maudlin part of his life.

When Voldemort fell, he practically felt the chains of his Lily Evans obsession break free. He was no longer tied to that promise or that infatuation. He had done right by her, and he felt good in moving forward. When he thought back on her now, it was through gentler, kinder eyes that viewed her as the friend she had been to him, not the lover she hadn't. Snape had been feeling good about that until Harry Potter had popped up, defending him to the Prophet that sought to malign him. Snape inwardly cringed, thinking of how everyone must view him. Some pathetic, soppy thing desperate for love.

Was that why he had come back to Hogwarts? To prove that he was more than that? That he could be successful on his own without a memory of another pushing him?

He was deep in these thoughts as he stumbled around the corner, surprised to see another lone figure in the corridor. They quickly raised their wand and cast a Lumos in his direction.

“Hello?”

It was Hermione Granger, looking curiously around in the darkness. She was dressed in her teaching robes, and her hair was even wilder at this time of night. Snape gave a small sigh and tried his best to look professional as he staggered forward.

“Hello, Professor Granger.”

Hermione jumped back at the sound of his voice as Snape moved into the light of her wand. He knew he must look bleary-eyed and short tempered. He internally cringed at looking so unkempt in the presence of a junior staff member.

“Oh, hello, sir,” she replied politely.

“Out on patrols?” Snape asked, wincing internally at the stupidity of the comment. Obviously, he knew the answer seeing as he was the one to bloody well draw up the patrol calendar.

“Yes, sir,” Hermione said looking uncertain.

Snape studied her intently, deciding if this rendezvous was a blessing in disguise. She was not the heroine type, but she was a female. He had been privy to her emotional outbursts in the past - prone to tears as fast as she was to fisticuffs as a student. He needed to research how to woo a witch properly and compliments were Chapter One after all.

After several moments of awkward silence Snape finally spoke.

“That’s a very fetching scarf,” he slurred, his alcohol soaked brain clinging to the last thing he read, “Red is certainly your colour.”

He waited, holding his breath, to see her fawn over this compliment, bracing himself to take mental notes of her reaction. She may not be the heroine of a soppy novel, but she would surely give some valuable insights into the female mind.

“Oh,” Hermione’s hand went to her bare neck in confusion. “But I’m not wearing a scarf.”

Snape was heavily discouraged with this minor detail. His eyes dipped to her neck and then back to her face. He fixed her with his fiercest glare.

“I know that,” Snape snapped, “But if you were to hear someone tell you that how would it make you feel?”

Granger stared at him for a long moment, a look of concern flickering over her face. He swayed under her intense gaze.

“Sir, have you been poisoned?”

Snape gave a long suffering sigh, and attempted to twist his face into something formidable. However, by the worried expression on Granger’s face, he had to assume he was failing miserably.

Hermione looked worried that she’d answered incorrectly; as if somehow her job might hang in the balance. Her eyes darted around the empty corridor and then back up to Snape’s face.

“If someone complimented something I was wearing I would feel...pleased,” Hermione offered in a rush, obviously hoping that this would do.

Snape wobbled slightly, peering at her. “Pleased?”

“Yes.”

“Describe how that feels for you.”

“What being pleased feels like?”

“Yes.”

Hermione blinked several times again in quick succession. “Erm... well, it feels... nice.”

Snape looked as if he were going to throttle her. “Nice is not descriptive.”

“Sir what is-“

“Can you not answer a simple question, Granger?” His palm came to rest on the stone wall above her left shoulder. He was finding it harder and harder to stand still without shifting. Hermione was wide-eyed, staring up into his pale face.

“Who am I to imagine is saying this to me?”

This stumped the bleary eyed Headmaster and he pursed his lips in thought.

“Someone who you think might fancy you,” Snape replied finally. Hermione colored at this, her voice a bit shaky.

“Do I fancy him?”

“Of course. Secretly.”

Hermione swallowed; and Snape wondered if she thought he was looking into her mind. She needn’t have worried, he was far too gone for that. He didn’t notice the way her eyes darted down his front, obviously unnerved with the closeness of his body in relation to her own.

“Are you looking for advice, sir?”

“Of sorts,” Snape replied tiredly. He was suddenly very sleepy. “I’m trying to understand how women think.”

“Oh.”

“Yes,” Snape nodded. “It’s quite vexing. In my experience, it seems they often say one thing but then do another.”

A strange smile came over Hermione’s face. He didn’t like it. He worried for a moment he was sounding too chummy.

“And why are you trying to decipher female motivations and behaviours, sir?”

Snape paused, knowing that he couldn’t admit what he was doing. He’d have to be craftier than that. What was a believable excuse?

“There’s a woman,” he said in a sombre tone. “And I’m trying to understand how she feels so I can act appropriately.”

He knew it was such a strange sentence to be coming out of his mouth. He knew this because the amusement in Hermione’s face only increased.

He felt exhausted though, and she must have seen as such, for instead of peppering him with more questions (even though it was obvious she longed to do so) she answered him.

“If I liked a man and he gave me a compliment I would feel as if I had captured his attention,” she whispered, her eyes scanning the ceiling as if searching her mind for the right words. “And that would make me feel... warm and light. I would feel like smiling, I think.”

“Light?”

“Yes sir.”

Snape nodded slowly at this, and Hermione looked relieved. He also noticed the sudden tears in her eyes, but he didn’t point them out. She searched his face, looking suddenly overcome with emotion. He thought he saw pity in her face and he recoiled slightly.

“Sir, if you really care about this person, I think you just need to be honest with her,” Hermione said.

“That won’t do,” he replied distractedly, his mind already working out the plot for his novel. “People don’t want an easy romance.”

At this he pushed himself off the wall, and drew himself up to his full height. “Carry on with your patrols.”

With that, he went clumsily soaring down the corridor with a bewildered Hermione staring after him.

***

Back in his rooms, after his run-in with Professor Granger, Snape decided he needed to focus on the characters of his novel first. He could always base the male character after himself –tall, dark and... well, the book version of himself could be handsome. At the very least he would understand the motivations of his character as he put them through the paces. It was less work than modeling his lead after some sop like Gilderoy Lockheart.

Snape lit a cigarette – a poor habit he’d picked up as a youth and only indulged in during nights of drinking – and took a drag. The smoke tendrils curled out of his nose, giving him the appearance of a pale dragon.

Now, he needed a female he could base the heroine character around. She needed to be compelling. Beautiful. Strong. He wrote the word Heroine down, tapping his quill against the title in thought.

His mind flitted to the few women he knew, all older and rather matriarchal figures. None would fit the bill of a siren. There was that new Professor Bulstrode – beautiful, clever. . . But there was no inner fire that he could glean. All the heroines in these books needed to be fiery.

A letter on the far end of his desk caught his eye, the one Professor Granger had sent to him a few weeks ago, pleading with him to end the point system entirely. Her looping name at the bottom stared back at him: Sincerely, Hermione Granger

As he looked from the letter back to the parchment in front of him he was struck by a similarity. He quickly observed that Heroine and Hermione were quite close in spelling and that made something in his brain do a strange whirring.

 Would Hermione Granger make a good basis for the heroine in his story?

The hair? Constantly ink-stained fingers? The forever nagging way she spoke to everyone? The desperate desire to prove she was right and yet the simultaneous need to be praised? Even now, in the corridor, she’d been compelled to overreach, desperate for his affirmation. What kind of advice was that to give him? Be honest? And her descriptions - light and warm? What kind of bollocks was that?

No, he decided firmly, she’d be a rubbish stand-in.

“She’d nag my hero to death,” he murmured with a wry smile to himself. He could only imagine the uptight and perpetually grating Hermione Granger telling the hero of his book exactly how he was underwhelming her.

And yet . . . If he were honest . . . Didn’t a part of him find a peculiar amusement in the way she was forever passionate about topics that others found dull? That when he’d received her missive about the archaic nature of house points he’d chuckled as he imagined her writing it? T

And yet, whenever he saw her, it was so hard not to bait her. So difficult to resist the temptation of seeing her eyes darken with frustration during a staff meeting or her cheeks pink in embarrassment when he caught her out.

In his heart of hearts, Snape knew that a large part of why he was so hard on her was because he knew she could take it. She was brave and loyal and strong – she had proven as much during the final battle. She was an inspiration to others – starting S.P.E.W. and being the best in her grade, despite being treated as a second class by many of the students.

She fought tooth and nail for the rights of house elves – he had kept up to date on her Ministerial work via the Prophet. As one of the golden trio, everything the woman did was splashed about the front page. He’d ignored it the first few months, but seeing the respect for the girl from Rita Skeeter had surprised him.  It was one thing for the Quibbler to cite her glorious talents and skills. But for Rita Skeeter herself to grudgingly admit (if you read through the lines) that Hermione Granger was making great strides had been enough to capture his attention.

 It had impressed him – she had grown away from the annoying frizzy haired annoyance she’d been as a student. He found the more he read about her diligent campaigning for the rights of others and her endless desire to do good in the world, the more he was beginning to respect her, to view her as someone he could relate to. When he thought of her she was no longer a past student; she was a young woman with remarkable potential.

When he’d heard rumours of her leaving the Ministry he had dropped the fact casually in a conversation with Minerva. Snape knew her old mentor would be able to convince her to apply. He also knew Granger would be the ideal candidate for the vacated DADA position. Since her hiring, she had woven herself into the fabric of Hogwarts seamlessly. She was praised by her colleagues, and the students gushed over her teaching methodologies.

Yet, she was always striving for more, striving to be a better individual. She was forever trying to improve her classes and was often found researching in the library long after Pince had left for the night. However, she was forever skittish, her dark eyes scanning at the briefest sound. When she spoke, she did in bursts, often running out of breath before reaching the end of her soliloquies.

But then she had that annoying habit of trying to overachieve. Her desperate desire to be liked by her coworkers and students. Her endless chatter about the unfairness of point taking. She was tightly wound and could truly grate on his nerves.

He never saw her with any men around the castle nor did she have a glowing romantic social life outside of her brainless friends if the papers were any indication. And considering how closely they paid attention to the relationships of Potter and Weasley, he assumed he would have heard something.

The errant thought that perhaps her lack of sex might be the reason she was so keyed-up skittered across his brain.What she needed was a good shag -- A sinister thought occurred to him then and an oily smirk spread across his features.

He took another long pull from his firewhiskey and began to draft an outline, writing so hurriedly his hand was threatening to cramp. No matter, soon he’d move to a dict-a-quill.

“Perhaps this version of you won’t interrupt me during meetings,” he chuckled darkly as he continued to write furiously. He was suddenly inspired, and he couldn’t hold back the creativity that seemed to flow from his fingertips straight from Erato herself.

It was passively decided, then, that his heroine –Selene Moonglow- would be based loosely on Hermione Granger, with all the attributes he knew she would despise. It gave him a perverse amusement to do so and imagine herself compared to the soppy Selene.

After writing feverishly throughout the night, he was shocked when he completed the last page. He could not believe it was this simple to write an erotic novel. In his glee, he sent his patronus to summon Rolanda from her rooms. She arrived minutes later, still clad in her pale green nightdress and glowering at him as he answered the door.

“It’s almost dawn, you berk. You woke me out of a dead sleep,” Hooch complained, rubbing at her eyes. “And you didn’t even have the good sense to turn on your floo.”

She glanced around at the empty bottles and the swaying Severus and gave him a surprised look. “Have you been drinking all night?”

“And writing,” Snape slurred, thrusting the parchment into Hooch’s hands. He sat himself rather unsteadily on the chesterfield. Hooch gave him a tired quirk of an eyebrow but began to scan his manuscript. When she reached the the second page she took a seat next to him.

Snape watched her read, her eyes scanning the pages quickly, intrigued at the way her eyebrows rose steadily up her forehead. The tip of her nose flushed and she clutched the top of her nightdress.

Half an hour later, she looked up to see Snape smiling craftily at her, a cigarette hanging loosely from his fingertips. She lowered the manuscript slowly.

“You did this all tonight?”

“I did.”

“But...” Hooch was looking from the parchment to Snape and then back again. “But, it’s. . . Well, it’s good, Severus.”

“I know,” Snape said emphatically, rolling his shoulders.

“I mean it could use a bit of editing but. . .This is good enough to be published,” Hooch said with a tone of mingled awe and genuine surprise.

“I agree,” Snape agreed proudly, suddenly finding it hard to keep his eyes open. Hooch was staring at him, her eyes blown wide in surprise.

“You do?”

“Mhmm.”

Before Hooch could say anything more, Snape had put out his cigarette in the teacup next to the chesterfield. He then slumped over, and began to snore loudly as Hooch surreptitiously slipped out his chamber door, manuscript in hand.

 

Chapter Text

When Snape awoke to the tinkling of his wand alarm he had little recollection of his previous evening’s adventures. All he knew was that his stomach felt sour and his mouth tasted of an ashtray which meant he’d smoked; a pastime often paired with drinking copious amounts of alcohol.

He frowned, glaring at the firewhiskey bottles littered throughout the room. Bottles of ink had been tipped over and reams of parchment were crumpled on the floor. Whatever he’d been doing, he had been at it a while.

He stumbled over to his desk, his back protesting at him for having slept on the poorly stuffed leather chesterfield. His rejected article sat in the centre of the desk and his frown deepened.

“The article,” he muttered to himself, rubbing his chin roughly with one hand. Based on the evidence it was easy to assume that his drunken self had been hard at work trying to re-work the article he’d originally submitted to Potions Today.

He glanced at the parchment surrounding the offending document, and was surprised to see that the pages were blank. He peered over the side of the desk to see, many more haphazardly stuffed into the bin. Now, the evidence mounted that he’d written something, but it was no longer here. Perhaps he had incinerated it into ash after being displeased with his revisions – it was certainly like him to do it.

He frowned before raising his wand and tidying the space up. Regarding the early hour he decided to lie down once more in his bedchamber. He silently cursed the bell as it rang for breakfast an hour later. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d slept through the night. Or had he? Why was he so exhausted? Had he been writing the damned article all night?

***

Hermione took a long, hard look at herself in her bathroom mirror that morning. She had bags under her eyes and her hair was a matted mess – worse than usual. She frowned, tilting her head to the side. When had she gotten so… old? When had she decided that work was more important than a healthy romantic life? Hadn’t she always been able to strike a balance perfectly fine before?

This was all Snape’s fault.

After her run in with him last night she had spent most of the night tossing and turning, wondering what he could have been talking about.

“People don’t want an easy romance.”

What on earth did that mean? Was Snape talking about himself?

Surely he knew he would attract the attention of the Prophet and their salacious readership if he was seen out and about with a witch. Was he going on a blind date perhaps? Did Snape think he needed to create a compelling narrative in order to be seen in public with another woman? Or was it that he meant that people enjoyed the chase rather than the capture?

The different scenarios filled Hermione’s mind as she gave her teeth a thorough scrubbing. She was surprised to find she was in a rather gloomy mood now. Between Snape’s bizarre behaviour and Millicent’s stupid programme she felt like giving up on the day entirely and returning to the comfort of her bed.

“Oh put a smile on your face!” the mirror encouraged. “You’ll look younger if you do!”

Hermione scowled at the mirror before throwing a towel at it and stalking into her main chambers. However, her mind was still stuck on Snape and their cryptic discussion.

Why had he asked Hermione such personal questions? Surely Minerva would have been a better choice – they were old friends. Often found discreetly sharing a flask during Quidditch games and exchanging novelty gifts at Christmas.

Snape hadn’t seemed that impressed with Hermione’s answers and judging by the way he was acting Hermione was decidedly not the woman he was interested in. She drew to the hearth, picking up the letter she’d left there earlier. It was from the annoyingly Millicent outlining Hermione's pairing.

Millicent.

A horrible thought occurred to Hermione. A thought so disturbing that she staggered to a stop in front of her hearth and almost stepped on a slumbering Crook’s tail. She gripped the mantle to get a hold of herself.

Had Snape asked Hermione because she was the same age as the witch he truly fancied? The same witch that he seemed to favor at meetings. The same witch that seemed to get through to him with her requests for house point alternatives.

Was Millicent Bulstrode the woman Snape secretly desired?

“No,” she whispered, dismayed. “No it can’t be.”

All her charitable notions of Snape finding happiness from the evening before were suddenly erased. Yes, he could find happiness – but not with Millicent-former school bully-Bulstrode!

Almost immediately she knew she was being unfair – if Snape found happiness with the annoying witch who was she to begrudge him that?

And why did it bother her so much?

***

Hermione was one of the last of the staff to arrive to the breakfast. As she scanned the bustling Head Table, she realized the only ones still missing were Snape and Millicent. Hermione observed this bitterly and her mood darkened further. What if Snape had already made his move and the two of them were entertaining each other in private?

She gave a polite nod towards the table of Gryffindor students waving at her, putting on a false smile of cheer before slumping into her chair. Her customary seat was always between Hooch and Poppy. The Matron Poppy was chatting amiably to Sprout while Hooch was doing the crossword in the Daily Prophet – her usual morning ritual.

Hermione tucked half-halfheartedly into her breakfast, sipping her tea gently and stifling a yawn. She’d had such a rough night it was a miracle she wasn’t face down in her porridge. Hooch suddenly spoke up beside her.

“Granger, I need a muggle invention designed for bread.”

“Toaster,” Hermione replied without thinking, staring ahead into space.

“Yes, that fits. I thought it might be one of those… erm… blendy things.”

Their weekday mornings often went like this. Hermione would answer the crossword clues that Hooch got stuck on. Often it was usually only Muggle based clues that really stumped her. However, this morning Hooch was more bleary-eyed than normal. Her voice, normally commanding, was instead quiet and raspy. But Hermione was far too distracted with her own morose thoughts to be properly observant of anyone else’s malaise.

“Alright, finished. Here you are.”

Hooch handed the paper over to Hermione who promptly flicked it open and began reading the headlines. Hooch summoned another coffee, drinking it very quickly.

“You seem to have had a late night,” Sprout offered to Hooch from the other side of Hermione. Hooch’s eyes fluttered closed and she began massaging her temples with her stubby forefingers.

“Mmm,” Hooch replied with a groan.

“You must be exhausted,” Sprout added with saccharine concern.

“You have no idea.”

“Did it have anything to do with the fact that you were sneaking out of Severus’ chambers early this morning?” Sprout said with an evil glint in her eyes. “In just your nightdress?”

Poppy gave a dramatic gasp, Minerva’s eyes were wide and they were all momentarily distracted by the sound of Hermione’s spoon clattering on her bowl loudly. Hooch winced at the noise and shot her a particularly nasty look.

“Sorry,” Hermione muttered said ducking her head. “Slipped.”

“Is it true?” Poppy asked, her mouth ajar. They all whispered so the nearby students eating breakfast wouldn’t hear. “You were in his rooms all night?”

“Not all night!” Hooch defended in an urgent whisper.

“So then you were in his rooms!” Sprout added with a devious expression as she slapped her fork to table. “I knew it!”

Hermione shovelled porridge into her down turned mouth, her mind whirring. Hooch had been the woman Snape was trying to seduce? The mysterious woman who had captured his attentions? Hooch?!

She thought back to the interactions between Severus and Rolanda. They were always bickering with each other at meetings, laughing during Quidditch matches... and most damning, they both were single. How had she overlooked their obvious chemistry for so long?

Because you wanted it to be you.

No. Hermione shook her head at herself, ignoring that niggling intrusive thought as it swirled in the back of her mind. She swallowed a large sip of tea, scalding the inside of her mouth.

“Rolanda,” Minvera said with a slow shake of her head from beside Sprout. “Tell me it’s not true.”

“Oh, enough, you nosy things,” Hooch scolded with a frown. “For your information I was having a meeting with him. A professional one.”

“In your pyjamas?” Sprout asked, demurely swirling the spoon in her café au lait.

Hooch did not answer, but the tip of her nose went pink.

The door to the Great Hall creaked open and the group of women suddenly went quiet as the Headmaster’s tall figure appeared. He sauntered up towards the Head Table while flanked by Millicent who was chattering merrily away at his elbow.

Snape looked as if he had been trampled by a Thestral, his face drawn and his hair more depressingly lank-looking than usual. He recoiled and winced from the bright morning light filtering in through the windows.

Hermione watched his long-limbed walk towards the head table and felt her stomach twist uncomfortably. Seeing the two of them together brought another horrible idea to the fore: Who was to say that Snape was only after one witch?

He parted from Millicent once they reached the dais to take his seat at the center of the long table. Hermione forced her eyes back to the Daily Prophet beside her bowl. She was so caught up in feigning an interest in the paper that she barely noticed Millicent standing behind her.

“Good morning Hermione,” Millicent said with a large smile. “Did you receive my owl?”

“I did,” Hermione replied shortly.

“Oh good,” Millicent said, still standing behind Hermione’s chair and leaning forward as if they were friends exchanging a secret. “I was just saying to the Headmaster that-“

But Hermione never heard what Millicent was talking to the Headmaster about. Suddenly she was in no mood to talk to Millicent about that asinine project or anything of the sort. She wanted to be away from the head table, and away from the debauchery of her colleagues.

She shot up from her chair, ignoring the wincing from Millicent as she moved past her, and stalked out the doors of the Great Hall. Millicent watched this all in minute shock, but she was the only one. The rest of nearby staff had their eyes solely on Severus Snape’s figure hunched over his coffee.

“Good morning, Severus,” Minerva said with a small quirk of her thin-lipped mouth.

“Morning.”

His voice was uncharacteristically gravely, a sure sign that he’d been smoking if she was to guess. After all, she did have the past thirty years of working with the man to base her assumptions on. Which also meant that he’d been drinking.

“You look exhausted,” Poppy said with a barely suppressed grin.

“Mmm,” Snape replied, oblivious to the titters that were coming from the three women to his right.

Hooch, suddenly red-faced, jerked out of her seat and rushed out of the Great Hall in quite a similar fashion as Hermione. Snape watched this with passive interest before going back to his coffee. There was a sudden niggle in the back of his head. Why did he feel like he had to talk to Hooch?

“Late night?”

“Extremely,” Snape replied evenly.

He was completely baffled when the three women suddenly began to roar with unexplained laughter.

***

Hermione was furiously marking essays later that afternoon when Millicent came into the classroom, looking uneasily at her. She smoothed down her hair nervously as she took in the cowed form of Hermione hunched over her papers.

“Hello,” she offered politely. Hermione gave a grunt of a reply before getting back to her grading.

“I came to talk about the project,” Millicent said with an uneasy smile. “The one with our combined classes.”

Hermione threw down her quill, her dark eyes darting from her desk to the raven-haired girl in front of her.

“Why on earth do you think Alchemy would be a better mix with Defence when Charms or Care of Magical Creatures would have been a much simpler fit?”

“Oh,” Millicent looked affronted at Hermione’s vitriolic tone. “Well, I had already paired those other ones up and-“

“And you thought you’d just give me the dregs,” Hermione finished for her, looking scathingly at the girl. “How little you’ve changed.”

She went back to her marking, unaware that the woman in front of her was looking furious.

“Hey!” Millicent burst out, curling her hands into fists. “I’ve changed a lot since school.”

“That’s true,” Hermione said harshly. “You haven’t put me into a headlock or held me down even once.”

“That was almost twenty years ago,” Millicent said lowly with a strangely hurt expression on her face.

“I’m glad our contentious past it was so easy for you to get over,” Hermione said with a sniff. “But I suppose it wasn’t you being bullied, was it?”

She went back to her papers, suddenly feeling angry at everything. She was furious at Millicent for pairing them together, at Hooch for seducing Snape, and she was irate at the man himself for asking her those stupid questions in the dark corridor and making her feel… Something. She just didn’t know exactly what.

Millicent was still standing there, looking as if she were going to be sick. She wrung her hands together as she shifted her weight. Her eyes became glassy as she fought to keep her emotions in check. She seemed to debate what to say a long time before finally spitting it out.

“The reason I matched our classes was so I could get to know you better. I thought in order to do that we’d need to spend more time together.”

Millicent suddenly blanched as if she had said far too much, and took an unconscious backwards step towards the door. Suspicious, Hermione lowered her quill slowly and gave Millicent a skeptical look. The other woman looked everywhere but Hermione’s face, pink at the cheeks.

“Spend more time with me?”

Millicent nodded shortly, looking at her feet.

“Why are you doing this?” Hermione suddenly insisted. “You were always awful to me in school. Why are you acting like we’re suddenly friends?”

Millicent’s round face went more scarlet around the edges and she slowly lowered herself onto took a seat at one of the student benches. She looked as if she wanted to expand on her declaration but was carefully choosing her words.

“When we were in school I was very unhappy,” she began slowly. “My parents come from a long line of purebloods. There were certain expectations.”

“And you couldn’t think for yourself?”

“It’s not like that,” Millicent defended. “I didn’t have parents like you. They weren’t supportive or kind. They were cold. They told me that I needed to show them I was worthy of the name Bulstrode and worthy of being a Slytherin. The Sorting Hat nearly put me in Ravenclaw but I begged it to change its mind.”

Hermione paused as Millicent explained this in a rush. Her chest heaved, as if she had been holding in this secret for so long that now she could finally breathe properly.
“It wanted to put me in Ravenclaw too,” Hermione said, surprised at the softness of her own tone. “But I wanted Gryffindor.”

Millicent said nothing, but smiled a ghost of a grin at Hermione. Hermione, suddenly remembering that she was supposed to feel angry glaredd back at her.

“And so your parents told you to bully other students?”

“No,” Millicent said with a shake of her head. She pushed her mane of glossy black hair over her shoulder. “They expected me to be the smartest in my classes. But I wasn’t, you were. They expected me to have loads of friends like they did, but the only people who hung out with me were people like Malfoy. And that was only because his father told him he had to.”

Hermione was quiet, but listening intently. She’d never spoken this long with Millicent and she was surprised to see the humanity that the girl appeared to have lacked in her youth. Or perhaps, Hermione just hadn’t looked hard enough then.

“You were the cleverest in our class,” Millicent said softly. “I knew I couldn’t beat you during the duelling club, but I could overpower you. That’s why I put you in that headlock. I was so jealous – you had everything.”

“Me?” Hermione was surprised at this. She had never considered she’d had “everything” when she was being called a Mudblood or having hexes aimed at her teeth.

“Yes, you,” Millicent said a bit irritated. “You were always the top of our year. Everyone talked about how clever you were. Then you got to go to the Yule Ball with bloody Viktor Krum! Everyone thought you looked beautiful, even Draco. Then you were part of the trio that found all the Horcruxes and… You had everything I wanted. Beauty and brains and friends.”

Millicent’s eyes were closed now. Her cheeks went pink again and a few tears had slipped through her lashes down her cheeks. Hermione felt a lump in her throat, and blinked back tears. She’d always felt empathy for others - even Kreacher as he called her foul names. And now with Millicent standing there looking so broken it seemed impossible to continue hating her.

“Well you certainly have it all now,” Hermione croaked, feeling sympathetic. “Puberty was very kind to you. And as for brains, as far as I know you’re the youngest Professor to ever teach Alchemy. As for friends, well… You can consider yourself in having a new one, at the very least.”

There was a pause and Millicent blinked at the floor before her ice blue gaze met Hermione’s. Hermione gave a lopsided smile and nod as Millicent returned the gesture.

“I’m very thankful for that,” Millicent said gently, her smile growing wider in relief.

The silence in the room grew awkward at the girls’ shared vulnerability and Hermione rushed to fill the silence before it stretched further.

“Alright,” she said in her familiar bossy way. “Let’s discuss our group project.”

Hermione nodded and the two began to discuss the upcoming joining of their classes. Hermione was woman enough to bridge this gap – even if it meant Millicent had won Snape’s heart.

***

Later that evening as Snape was glancing through his second draft of the Lingus article he heard a loud rap on at his office door. It was late, outside of office hours and he frowned at the intrusion on his personal time.

“Enter.”

Hooch came into the room looking unnaturally tetchy. However, she hovered by the door, unable to speak. Snape lowered the parchment he was working on and gave her an expectant look.

“Rolanda?”

“You don’t remember do you?” She asked in a rush, her yellow eyes wide and fearful.

“Remember what?”

“Last night?”

“Of course I do,” Snape replied with a sardonic smirk. “You and I drank far too much.”

“And?”

“And what?”

“And then what happened?”

Snape gave her a long, appraising look before answering.

“I returned to my chambers. From the looks of my room I tried in vain to work on that blasted rejected article while continuing to drink myself into oblivion. Then, I assume, I passed out from said overindulgence.”

Hooch began to pace back and forth across his office, and her uncharacteristic motion made something in his stomach flip unpleasantly. He knew the signs of bad news far more easily than good. Lily Evans had looked very much the same during their first fight over his friendship with the members of the Death Eaters.

“What’s this all about, Rolanda?”

“You think you attempted to rework more about that article?”

“I know I did,” he said with a shrug. Hooch nodded as if she’d been expecting that. She reached into her robes and produced the manuscript Snape had actually been working worked so tiredly on all evening before shoving it into his hands.

The Witch in the Tower

He stood, preparing to hand the offending sheaf of parchment back to the Flying instructor who was staring at him in disbelief.

“What is this?” he whispered. “Another joke at my expense? Was your apology really so hollow?”

“Oh for Merlin-“ Hooch shook her head in frustration. “Severus, you wrote this.”

“I most certainly did not.”

“Read a few chapters and tell me I’m wrong then,” she said, gesturing to the parchment in his hands. Snape felt his stomach twist harshly.

He began to read immediately, his eyes roving across the text at a rapid speed. He ignored her and rose a finger every time she tried to interject. Finally at chapter three he finally he lowered the sheaf’s parchment with shaking hands.

As he had read flashes of the previous evening assaulted him. Even his awkward run in with Professor Granger had surfaced. He closed his eyes, wincing. Had he really said something about a bloody scarf?

“You don’t remember me coming to your room late last night?” Hooch asked said with a frown as Snape stood silently across from her. “Because I was answering your rather rude patronus summoning?”

“I do not.”

“Then I suppose you don’t remember that I suggested it be published? And that you agreed?”

Snape fell back onto his chair, his black eyes blown wide in horror.

“I’ll take that as a no,” Hooch said, wincing slightly.

“What have you done?” He asked in a voice just a shade louder than a whisper. Hooch was disturbed to note that his face was even paler and more waxen than she had ever recalled seeing it before.

“I made two copies. The one you have in front of you and… I sent the other off this morning before breakfast,” she said solemnly. “After I made a few edits.”

There was a very disconcerting visible pulsating tic in Snape’s jaw as he sat there, his hands curled on his desk and his eyes still closed in mock serenity.

“I thought you’d be pleased,” Hooch mumbled.

Pleased?” Snape bellowed, his eyes snapping open and piercing Hooch. “Pleased?”

He threw the pages to the ground, noting with displeasure that there were so many he couldn’t even keep track of the way they scattered around the room.

“Yes, pleased!” Hooch argued. “Pleased that you’d be able to prove to Pomona and Poppy that you could write a better story smashed and half asleep!”

“I’ll be ruined,” Snape groaned, cupping his face in his hands so that his voice came out a dark muffle. “A laughing stock.”

“No, no!” Hooch insisted. “Your name isn’t attached to it at all. I gave you a pen name. And I’m the one who submitted it, so if anything it would get back to me as the author. And I don’t mind humiliation of that sort half as much as you do.”

This seemed to calm him a fraction.

“And what ludicrous penname did you give me?”

“Miss Anne Throppe,” Hooch declared proudly. She was rather deflated when she saw Snape’s sneer aimed in her direction.

“A woman’s name?”

“It would throw anyone off the scent!” Rolanda defended. “If anyone comes looking for Anne Throppe, the last place they’d look at would be you!”

Snape suddenly popped up and began pacing the room, his head shaking over and over as if he were trying to wipe the entire thing clear from his brain.

He was buggered, well and truly buggered. If anyone found out he’d been the author of some simpering romance novel – filled with what appeared to be smut no less – he would be forever marked. Instead of the lovelorn anti-hero he would become the perverted leader of a school filled with impressionable young students.

“Besides, you’re getting your wand in a twist for nothing,” Rolanda insisted, pressing a comforting hand to his shoulder. He wrenched away from her touch, feeling mightily betrayed.

“Oh am I?”

“Yes!” Rolanda crowed, throwing her arms in the air. “I sent it to a publisher. One single bloody publisher.”

“I’m aware,” Snape snipped, making his way over to the window. He felt he needed a breath of fresh air. Or at this rate, a vacation somewhere, anywhere as long as it was far from Hogwarts.

“Well, what do you think the odds are of a new author writing a very specific erotic fiction actually being published?” Hooch asked earnestly.

Snape’s tight shoulders which had been up around his ears suddenly lowered. He turned a fraction so that only his profile was shown in relief. What she was saying was completely true – what were the odds that it would be published at all?

“You’re quite sure?”

“I am,” Hooch asserted. “I only did it because I thought we’d all have a good laugh over it.”

Snape said nothing but his attention was once again out the window and into the crisp fall air. He glanced down, seeing that the pumpkins that had not yet been collected for October were plump, and bright despite the foggy evening.

“Hear me when I say this, Severus,” Rolanda insisted with her palms raised in supplication. “It probably won’t even be printed, much less distributed.”

***

December blew into Hogwarts with a fresh blanket of pristine snow. Icicles clung to the turrets and the chill in the air turned from damp to stinging. Hermione was making her way up the snowy steps of the small family restaurant, her scarf bundled tightly around the lower part of her face.

She entered, throwing off the snow from her jacket as she pulled it off. The warmth of the restaurant was a welcome reprieve from the biting cold and it smelled divine. The woman at the front gave her a saccharine smile.

“Reservations?”

“I’m meeting friends,” Hermione replied, her eyes scanning the large and bustling establishment until they landed on two familiar figures. She gestured towards them. “Ah, there they are.”

Draco and Harry were already sitting cozily in a booth near the back. Draco was speaking, gesturing animatedly and Harry laughed loudly in return. Hermione took a moment just to observe the scene, her heart swelling.

There was something soothing about seeing Harry, the boy who had become her brother of sorts, looking so happy. He had such a horrible childhood, had gone on to defeat the most horrible Dark Wizard of their generation, and had suffered from the heavy expectations of who he was and what was expected of his station. To know that he was now happy and in love gave her a joy that was fairly unparalleled.

The trio often met in different restaurants in and around Muggle London. The locations, so far removed from Wizarding society meant that, thankfully, they were usually not recognized. And if they were discovered, they were mercifully left alone. Today, they were at a delightful eatery that specialized in fresh fish and chips and Hermione’s stomach rumbled in anticipation.

“Hello, lovebirds.”

Harry’s head jerked up at her voice and he automatically stood, pulling his friend into a tight embrace. It had been months since they’d had a proper sit-down to catch-up. With his Auror work and Hermione’s demanding teaching schedule it was hard to find any spare time.

“Hello, ferret,” she said with affection over Harry’s shoulder. Draco gave her a wry smile before nodding in return. Hermione and Draco’s relationship was an odd one to say the least. Despite their tumultuous past, as soon as he became Harry’s paramour all animosity between them dissipated.

Hermione, so thankful that Harry was truly happy, would never consider being horrible to someone who had been the reason for it. And Draco was just so bloody grateful to have a bloke like Harry in his life that he made a concentrated effort to be congenial to Hermione.

She sat down and Draco slid a full, tall wineglass in her direction. She grabbed the wine they’d pre-ordered for her, took a sip and smiled. The tension began releasing out of her shoulders and she could have sighed it felt so heavenly.

She and Harry began to immediately talk about their respective jobs – Hermione and her paired project, and Harry with his upcoming werewolf assignment. Draco watched their rapid-fire conversation in amusement, noting the shorthand way of speaking they used with one another. They animatedly spoke over each other when the other thought of something to add and a smile slipped over Draco’s pale features.

“Seen Ron much?” Harry asked her over his pint when they’d finally exhausted the usual topics.

“No,” Hermione said dismissively, not much caring for this subject. “You?”

“No,” Harry shook his head. “With all those kids... and Lavender barking at him? It’s a miracle the man’s allowed to get away to take a wee.”

It was fairly well public knowledge that Lavender kept a very short leash on Ron. Ron, who had always longed to be in charge of everything when they were young, was now the very image of subservience. He was often seen following his wife from shop to shop in Diagon Alley, holding her purse, and trying to cart their litter of red-headed energetic girls around with him.

“Well, he did get the kids he always wanted,” Hermione said with a careless shrug. That had always been their sticking point – she hadn’t wanted kids right away but Ron did and the sooner the better, if anyone asked him. They’d parted amicably, but the rift between their friendship had been irreparable.

“You don’t think he’s the one that got away?” Draco offered with a smirk over his drink. Hermione threw a napkin at him and he ducked, chuckling before continuing. "Mother says that Millicent Bulstrode is making quite the impression at school. And that you've become quite close?"

"It's true," Hermione answered. “She’s a very good Alchemy teacher. But how does your mother know that?”

“She’s good friends with the Bulstrode family,” Draco replied. “In all honesty, I thought Millicent was a bit of a bint when we were younger. Her family was always ashamed of her. But the years since then have been good to her.”

"The same Millicent that had you in a headlock when we duelled?" Harry questioned, his green eyes wide in disbelief, despite the civil tone between Hermione and Draco. "The same one on the Inquisitorial Squad?”

"The same, and no one is more surprised than I am," Hermione said with a smile.

It was true; her relationship with Millicent had grown after their vulnerable conversation in her classroom. A tentative friendship had begun, although Hermione had been unsure of the woman’s motivations. But, now, an entire month later,they had fallen into an easy groove.

Millicent began to sit beside Hermione at the bimonthly staff meetings. During especially boring parts, when Minerva would read out various anonymous complaints from the suggestion box, the pair would play noughts and crosses on a piece of parchment between them under the table.

They had even taken to going out for drinks every so often, talking about their project over butter beer and trying to come up with creative ways to merge their two classes’ interests. Along the way, Hermione had shared the details of her disastrous, mismatched relationship with Ron and Millicent had hinted at her own heartbreak. Unlike Hermione she was more reluctant to share these parts of her life. And because Hermione understood the woman’s need for privacy, she didn’t press her.

Hermione glanced over to the waitress as she approached their table. Her sleek blonde hair was tied in a plait and her full lips were outlined in a ruby red. She leaned her hip against their table and faced her entire body towards Harry.

“May I take your order?” she asked, her eyes settling on Harry, Who was, of course, oblivious at the waitress’ intentions as he was still staring at Hermione in disbelief over her blossoming friendship with Millicent. Draco wasn’t oblivious to the attention being laved on his beau however, and he gave the woman a dark gaze.

“Three orders of fish and chips,” Draco said firmly before inclining his head towards Harry. “Extra chips for this one.”

“Of course,” she said, giving Harry a bright smile before flouncing off to put in the order. Hermione caught the daggers that Draco shot her back. She could see a storm brewing there and attempted to change the topic lest they would never be welcome in this establishment again. It was one of her favorites after all.

“So does your mother keep up with many of her old friends?” Hermione asked, genuinely curious. Draco very rarely spoke of his family. She didn’t want to allow the opportunity, no matter how small, to gain some insight into his family’s dynamics to slip by.

“Some,” Draco said, lifting his pint glass to his lips. “She and father have a very small circle of friends now, of course. But they still keep in contact with Millicent’s mother and Blaise’s father. They had Severus over to dinner last week. The bugger is even more keyed up than I remember from my school days. How is that possible?”

Images of Snape from the past month flew through Hermione’s mind. It was true, Snape had grown increasingly more on edge as the month stretched. Frequently tense and quick to frustration. It was almost like the Snape of old was returning and rearing his ugly head at times. But then someone else flickered through her mind and Hermione went pink. Draco noticed immediately and gave an impish grin.

“What is it? Spill it, Granger.”

“No, it’s nothing,” Hermione said, lowering her face to her wine glass, hoping Draco would get the hint. Harry was watching the exchange in amusement.

“Don’t make me use Occlumency on you,” Draco teased. Harry laughed, and Hermione giggled along with him before raising her hand in deference.

“Alright, alright,” she said with a laugh. “There was a bit of a… strange occurrence, last month.”

“Strange and Snape?” Harry quipped evenly. “How shocking.”

Hermione gave him a stern look before continuing. She lowered her voice, “Hooch was seen exiting Snape’s chambers early one morning wearing nothing but her nightdress.”

There was a loud silence, as if the minds of the two young men across from her had been fried. After some difficulty, Harry was the first to speak, albeit slowly and hesitantly.

“Are you sure?”

“Sprout saw them,” Hermione said, her voice dipping lower. Even though they were in the muggle world, one never knew when a Wizard or Witch was lurking surreptitiously nearby. “And when she called Hooch out on it, Rolanda didn’t deny it!”

“Impossible,” Draco insisted. “Snape would never be with Hooch. Ever. She's completely not his type. I've known the man almost thirty years."

“Besides I thought he was in love with…” Harry trailed off, going scarlet. “My mum.”

“Sorry to disappoint you,” Draco said with a familiar clap to his shoulder. “Ol’ Snapey hasn’t been carrying that particular torch for at least ten years.”

Hermione’s eyebrows rose at this. “Why do you say that?”

“I told you, he comes over for dinner. I see him at least once a month. My parents have known him since they were teenagers – no topic is off limits. I remember him saying something about how when the war ended he felt like he could finally move on from her.”

“Doesn’t mean he has,” Hermione offered. “And even if he hasn’t, it doesn’t mean he wouldn’t want a shag every now and then!”

"New subject, please!" Harry begged, swallowing the rest of his drink with a wince. Apparently, it didn’t matter if Snape had been on their side after all, the thought of the Headmaster getting a rogering appeared more than poor Harry could accept.

“But then why would Hooch be coming out of his rooms?” Draco questioned, his fingers drumming against the table.

“For a shag,” Hermione said flatly, ignoring Harry’s wince at her side.

“You’re like a dog with a bone,” Draco said wryly. “Use that prodigious mind of yours and try to come up with another scenario. Because I’m telling you right now, Snape is very selective on who he beds. And Hooch is not on that list.”

Hermione’s mind whirled at this. Selective? List? What was Snape’s selection process for shagging witches? But, before she could come up with traits that she thought would best suit the man, she became distracted by the boys’ ridiculous guesses.

“Pyjama party?” Harry offered with a laugh into his pint.

“Hooch braiding Snape’s hair while they talk about unicorns?” Draco added.

“Eating fairy cakes and drinking-“

“-Painting each other’s toenails!“

“Talking about how cute Gilderoy Lockhart is-“

“I’m convinced they’re shagging,” Hermione said sharply, drawing surprised looks from the boys. The humour was gone from their faces as they took in the serious rather cloudy look on their friend’s face. “And if it’s not with Hooch it’s with Millicent Bulstrode.”

“Millicent?” Harry blurted confused. “I thought you said Hooch.”

“Ridiculous,” Draco snorted. “He’d sooner shag Filch than Millicent.”

“That’s not true,” Hermione insisted. “Millicent is beautiful and young and-“

“Again, not his type,” Draco insisted. “And he’s known her family for years as well. All us purebloods run in the same circles. Trust me, if Millicent Bulstrode captured Snape’s attention the world would know about it, starting with my Mother. There’s no gossip that woman doesn’t know weeks ahead of everyone else.”

Hermione faltered a moment at this, finding that her wine glass was in need of her attention.

“Yes well, it seems he’s quite close with them both,” Hermione said airily as if it didn’t bother her.

"Why does it matter?" Draco shot back. "Why do you care if Snape is getting a leg over with Hooch or Millicent?"

"I don't," Hermione said turning red. “It’s just…. It’s just inappropriate is all.”

"I think you do care," Draco's pale grey eyes were unflinching as they gazed into her face. "Maybe you were hoping it was you he'd give a good rogering.”

Harry let out a large guffaw at this, almost snorting his lager out his nose. The idea was so laughable that he couldn't contain himself. The image of his cheerful friend and the dour dark wizard was nearly enough to make him cry with laughter.

"Or perhaps it's been so long since you've had a bit of rumpy pumpy,” Draco continued, encouraged at his beau’s laughter. “That the thought that Snape might be getting more action than you has you rattled."

Hermione couldn't help but laugh along at the ribbing at this, although her stomach flipped strangely. Before she could say anything more, the waitress was back with three steaming plates of fish and chips. She placed Harry’s plate down first, leaning over Hermione to do so. At the very least it smelled delicious, Hermione thought.

“Extra chips,” the waitress said, giving Harry a small wink. Draco’s pale face suddenly flushed and Hermione prepared herself for the verbal attack that was sure to follow. But to her surprise, Draco merely gripped Harry’s hand tightly in his own.

“Darling,” he purred, loud enough for the entire table to hear. “Would you mind sharing some of your chips with me? I’m absolutely famished after this morning together. You were insatiable.”

Harry went beet red but was able to stammer out that Draco was welcome to as many chips as he wanted.

The woman gave a dark look in Draco’s direction before dropping the rest of their food onto the table with a clatter and rushing off in a huff. Hermione and Draco exchanged looks of amusement before bursting into muffled laughter.

***

Snape stormed down the hall, his cloak billowing behind him. His dark eyes were set straight ahead and his mouth was in a thin line of displeasure. He had been summoned to see Hooch in her office and he was anxious as to the reasoning.

The last month and a half since his drunken writing night had passed by in a blur. Not only was it a busy time for him at Hogwarts with meetings, budgets and the requests of the upperclassmen to have a winter dance, he was also haunted daily by the fear that the horrid thing he’d created would be published.

He’d tried in vain to have Hooch retract her submission, but she had cited that this would attract even more unwanted attention. She also refused to tell him which publishing house she’d send it to, for fear he would burst in there and demand it back himself. He was willing to concede that the hypothetical reaction was not too far off the mark.

“Just let it fade out of their minds,” she insisted. “It’s likely at the bottom of a bin somewhere.”

By the end of November he had almost pushed the entire unsavoury affair from his mind, consoling himself with the realization that if they’d liked it, it’d be published by now. The wizarding publishing houses put out books en masse, with quick turn-around time.

But now? Now Hooch had sent him a missive asking to see him after classes. And the lead stone that had been so summarily forgotten presently weighed heavily in his gut.

He walked into her office, filled with Quidditch equipment and smelling faintly of old socks and sweat. He saw her frame, normally so sturdy, look diminutive and anxious as she stood by the window.

“Severus.”

And in it he knew. He could see it in the way her yellow eyes were dimmed, the way she was holding her mouth in a tight grimace. It had been published.

“How could you let this happen?”

He was looking at the floor and his hands were in tight fists at his side. His voice was like dead leaves on the wind – quiet and dark. Hooch crossed the room to hand Snape the book with a hangdog look on her face.

"I’m so sorry. But here-"

She thrust a clattering pouch of galleons at him. Snape looked at the tan pouch being pressed against his sternum before dragging his gaze back to her face.

“They said that there was more where that came from,” she said with a grimace. Snape pushed the heavy pouch back towards her, stalking to the window and talking over his shoulder.

“What is that supposed to mean?”

“It means that initial sales have been so strong that-“

“Initial sales?” Snape whipped around at this, his dark eyes wide. “You mean it’s already in circulation!?”

Snape could feel the room spinning. Despite her deference to the contrary, this could get back to him. He barely remembered what he wrote that night – remembering only the name Selene Moonglow. He had refused to read the manuscript that he shoved unceremoniously into his desk. He was terrified at what may lay inside those wicked pages.

“It was sent to bookstores last night,” Hooch said, her eyes on the ground. She was unable to keep looking into the grim, horrified face of the Headmaster. “And by the afternoon the entire lot was completely sold out.”

Snape collapsed into the nearest chair, closing his eyes and trying to remain stoic. He had done so as a Death Eater for so many years. Why would now be any different? This was merely a new battle, a new challenge to overcome.

When minutes had passed in uncomfortable silence, Snape finally opened his eyes and fixed his gaze on the still form of Rolanda. She looked near tears, surely expecting to be formally dismissed.

"We can only hope that it fades into obscurity sooner rather than later,” Snape muttered softly.

He saw the Flying instructor look nervously around the room.

"That might be a bit of a problem.”

Snape felt his lips curling into a familiar, impatient sneer. "And why is that?"

Hooch looked as if she'd rather be anywhere else in the world.

"Because as of this morning it's also number one in the Witches Weekly's Book Spotlight.”

***

That Friday, Hermione stumbled into the staff room almost walking through the Bloody Baron as she read her notes written last night. The idea to have the Alchemy students create a spell for her Defence Class to break down had come to her in the middle of the evening, petting Crooks before the fire when she’d shot up, knocking him to the floor. She’d written in a mad frenzy for a good hour before giving up and going to bed.

The room was almost full, only a few Professors were absent. Snape was at the end of the table, looking much worse than he had in years. He looked as if he hadn’t slept in weeks. To her shock, Hermione thought he rather looked like how he did at the end of her sixth year. Things certainly weren’t that bad, were they?

Millicent sat at his right, chatting quietly at him. Snape, rather than listening seemed to be staring off into space. Hermione thought back to Draco’s comment and seemed to note that there was no frisson between them that she could see.

Hooch was in the corner, looking much less jovial than she normally was, in fact, worryingly, she looked even worse than Snape. Sprout seemed to be the only professor enjoying themselves, huddled over a book that Hermione didn’t recognize.

"Another Parkinson book?" Hermione offered pleasantly. She took the seat next to Millicent who smiled up at her friend, passing her the notebook she’d been writing in.

Snape, stiffened immediately.

"No," Sprout said, looking a bit surprised as she proudly displayed the slim red novel in the air. "It's by a brand new author. And I've got to tell you ladies, she's even better than Parkinson!"

"Really?" Minerva said, lowering her coffee cup. She was still slightly embarrassed at her actions from the previous month over the last book, but her interest was nonetheless piqued.

"As far as Witches Weekly is concerned it's the best romance novel to come out in the past decade."

"High praise," Minerva said blandly.

"Yes," Sprout agreed. "As soon as I read that review I had to rush out and buy myself a copy. It was the last in Flourish and Blotts. Apparently, they've been selling out every day since it was released."

Hermione felt her attention being drawn to this announcement. She could never allow a well-reviewed book to go unread, the very idea made her skin itch. She took great pride in being the most well read amongst her circle, and to not know the details of what they were talking about bothered her more than she cared to let on.

“What’s it called?”

“The Witch in the Tower.”

None of the women noticed as Snape suddenly jerked in his seat, as if he’d been stung by a Doxy.

"Quite the title,” Minerva observed in amusement. “And you've enjoyed it?"

"More than enjoyed!" Sprout said with a devilish smile. "I've read it twice already."

"I wouldn't mind giving it a read," Millicent said in a whisper to Hermione who giggled in return.

They were distracted when Poppy suddenly walked into the room and spotting Pomona quickly slid in the chair by her side.She slipped the same slim red novel out of the folds of her dress.

"Oh, you've been reading it as well!" Poppy said, eyeing Sprouts own copy. "Isn't it just marvellous?"

"I adore it!" Sprout said passionately.

Hermione soon became aware of a repetitive beat coming from somewhere in the room. Hermione glanced around to see that Snape was tapping anxiously on the table with his forefinger. It was unlike him to show such blatant outward signs of stress and she wondered what could have him so out of sorts.

"I'm halfway through it and, honestly, I don't think I've ever read anything better," Poppy continued.

"You can tell it was written by a very sensual woman," Sprout said knowingly. The way she uses such alluring language and imagery.”

Snape looked stricken, which alarmed Hermione. The rest of the staff appeared, falling into their seats. Hermione began to wonder if the fire behind them was affecting Snape as beads of sweat broke out over his brow. Merlin, was he coming down with a fever?

"I agree," Poppy nodded. "It's not so bold and to the point like so many I’ve read. It’s more delicate and even lyrical at times."

“I’ve recommended it to all my friends,” Sprout said.

Snape seemed to force himself into a standing position. His face was pinched as if he was in great pain. To Hermione’s surprise she seemed to be the only one to notice that he had risen to his feet.

"The meeting will begin," Snape said, his voice faint. The Professors didn’t respond. But then he cleared his throat and the familiar action gathered their attention. Hermione knew she should continue to pay him mind, but her attention was inexorably drawn to the book sitting beside Sprouts coffee cup.

"We need to discuss chaperones for the winter celebration," Snape said. "The prefects and head girl and boy have come to me with the request for it to be a winter dance."

"I think it's a fine idea," Flitwick said. Everyone knew the diminutive professor loved to dance. Several of the other professors nodded in agreement.

"As do I," replied Vector. "The students have been so well behaved this year."

“And it’s been so long since we’ve had a proper party,” Minerva added.

Hermione knew that Snape would have had a litany of reasons as to why it shouldn't go on. The cost, the frivolity of it all. The organization of the chaperones and the decorating. But at this moment he looked so unbearably flustered. It was as if all he wanted to do was just to blow through this meeting.

"Fine yes, the Saturday after exams," he said in a hurry, looking at his parchment. "We'll need chaperones and decorations. I’ll post the sign-up tomorrow."

The meeting went on in a dull hum with Professors detailing some of the minor issues their houses were having. Mostly troublesome students and assignments that may have been plagiarized.

The meeting ended much earlier than usual with Snape dismissing them and basically leaping out the door and into the corridor. Hermione watched him leave with an absent interest before Millicent pushed her notebook back to her.

"I'll see you at dinner," Millicent offered with a smile before heading off to her class.

Hermione began to gather her parchment and quill, noting that Sprout and Poppy were happily chatting at the far end of the table. The mysterious red-covered book lay between the two of them as they flipped through it to share specific passages.

"I wish I knew more about the author!"

"She's green can you credit it? No other published works, believe me, I checked."

I think Selene is just divine," Sprout said. "A brilliant character. I wonder if the author based her on herself!"

Poppy was about to respond when the face of Snape appeared in the flickering embers of the staff room hearth. He still looked as grim and miserable as when he left in a hurry.

"Poppy you're needed immediately," he drawled, irritated. "The Thomas boy seem to have swallowed one of the Weasley products again."

Without another word Poppy fled from the staff room and hurtled her way towards the infirmary. It was just Hermione and Sprout left in the staff room now. Snape’s head disappeared from the fire with a crackle.

Hermione eyed the novel in Sprout’s hand. Hermione couldn't help her growing curiosity about the novel that appeared to have women falling over themselves. Before she could stop herself, she spoke without thinking.

"Excuse me, Pomona," Hermione said, suddenly shy with broaching the subject. "Do you think I could borrow that book? I'll bring it back on Monday, or even Sunday if you wanted."

Sprout seemed surprised at this and then summarily delighted, as if Hermione had just passed some unspoken female initiation. She pulled the book back from her bag, the title “The Witch in the Tower” gleaming on the crimson cover.

"Of course!” She exclaimed thrusting the slender book into Hermione's hand. And then with a wink she added, "Just be sure to charm the cover if you're going to read it outside of your room."

“Of course.”

“And don’t rush through it,” Sprout said knowingly, patting Hermione’s arm. “Take your time with it. You’ll thank me later.”

Hermione nodded, taking the slim novelette from Sprout and glancing it over. After Sprout bustled out the door, Hermione felt free to peek at the first few pages.

Chapter Text

Snape was miserable. More tenebrous than he had been since his days of working as double agent.

He stalked the corridors at full billow as if he were once again searching for signs of Voldemort breaching the wards. Instead the beast he had to face was much more insidious and far more cruel. As he passed the atrium, he caught sight of an out-of-place individual.

A seventh year girl, Prudence Mayweather, was sitting on one of the benches, her blonde curls a halo around her head and her face buried deeply in a book. That fact alone was very strange; however, what truly made him take pause was that the girl was willingly reading outside of classes. Mayweather was known as quite possibly the worst, most lazy student Hogwarts had ever had the misfortune of teaching. Considering that Crabbe and Goyle were alumni, that really was saying something.

And then when his eyes slid down to see the name of the crimson book she was reading, he felt his heart lurch. There it was, glinting impertinently out at him as if it were winking knowingly at him.

The Witch in the Tower

His book. His bloody filth was being read by a student! Before he realized what he was doing, he flew across the corridor and whipped the book out of her hand.

“Hey-“ she began with a snarl. However when she realized who had taken the book she immediately paled and a look of horror filtered over her face. She watched, dismayed, as he shoved the book into his pocket, and winced when he focused his thunderous gaze on her.

“These are not the kinds of books we allow at Hogwarts,” Snape said darkly, noting with displeasure that the corridor behind them was starting to fill with students.

“But sir-“

“Twenty points from Ravenclaw,” Snape replied, leaving no room for an argument. “And consider it a mercy that I’m not assigning a detention as well.“

Resigned, Mayweather sighed as she hooked her satchel onto her shoulder and slunk off in the direction of the Alchemy classroom. Slowly, Snape felt his heartbeat return to normal. On the way to his office, he was relieved to not come across another copy. Otherwise, come dinnertime, the House Point Hourglasses would be completely bare.

***

At the other end of the school, Hermione felt the book burning a hole in her robe pocket all morning. She had only managed to peek at the first page before she dashed off to her classroom before she was tardy.

She didn’t see what the fuss was about really, the introduction didn’t seem particularly remarkable. However, the way that everyone had become obsessed with the story made the book’s contents irresistible. Despite the eagerness of her students to explore Muggle audio players today, she embarrassingly found herself distracted by the book’s siren call.

Its allure was a mystery and she was determined to get to the bottom of it. What could be so good within the pages of this book that the women of Hogwarts – nay the wizarding world - were so wild about it? Her fingers itched uncomfortably to throw the book open and furiously begin reading.

Infuriating, it wasn’t until luncheon that she was able to find the time.

She sat near the end of the table, beside Millicent who was chattering away to Trelawney about the upcoming Quidditch match. Hermione was thankful for the break in being Millicent’s sounding board as sometimes the Alchemy Professor could be a real chatterbox.

Hermione covertly glanced around the Great Hall and upon seeing most everyone distracted, pulled the book discreetly from her pocket. The golden script greeted her, but with a soft murmur and a drag of her wand she changed the title to something more staid; Magical Maladies.

Feeling satisfied with the disguise she cracked the book open a fraction, took a bite of her sandwich, and began to read.

The story was basic in the realm of romance and fantasy – a young witch named Selene Moonglow was sold off to a richer, powerful wizard named Odin Rancor from a neighbouring town. Odin was beautiful, but he was unnecessarily cruel. He held Selene captive in his manor and broke her wand the minute she became his wife. He thought Selene simple and as if she was his property.

The only saving grace appeared to be that he was impotent, therefore keeping her virtue safe from him. However, he compensated for his shortcomings by torturing her instead. Vividly. Things that made Hermione wince and squirm in her seat. The details felt uncomfortably familiar, similar to the horror she had witnessed during the War that she felt compelled to skip them altogether.

After forty pages of basically nothing but heartbreak Hermione had decided that she simply didn’t see what all the fuss was about. Selene was boring, her cruel husband Odin was a monster and this was to be an epic romance? Hermione vowed that if Selene somehow turned soppy for Odin she was going to burn the book and simply pay Sprout out of her next paycheck.

She glanced at the clock and was horrified to see that she only had twenty minutes of lunch left. To her great surprise, while she found the book itself overrated, she had been so engrossed that she hadn’t eaten very much of her lunch.

Agitated and unable to leave a book abandoned she became resolute in finishing it. If she were lucky she could finish it by this evening. And then she could put to bed the curious allure of this tome once and for all.

She took a sip of water and began to read quickly, the faster she consumed the material the sooner it would be all over. And so without further ado, Hermione allowed herself to be absorbed into the world of Selene Moonglow.

Selene had noticed her husband was on edge for the better part of the day. She knew better than to ask him what had him so addled or she would taste the back of his hand.

“Set three for dinner,” he barked at her as darkness fell. The night sky crackled with magic and anticipation for the evening that lay ahead.

So they were to have a guest?

She did as he bid, retreating only to wash and dress before she heard the familiar sound of the bell announcing an arrival. She hurried down the steps into the kitchen, disappearing around the corner to grab the vol au vent Odin had requested.

She heard her husband give an appreciative cry as he swung the door open. Selene hurried forth, trying to appear like the properly poised and regal lady of the house her husband expected. Odin gave her an appraising look, narrowing his eyes as she approached.

“This is Favian Starr,” Odin said with an appreciative look at his old friend. The two shook hands and Selene finally had the courage to meet the eyes of the stranger. Almost as immediately as his dark blue eyes pierced hers, she dropped the vol au vent she had been carrying.

Favian was tall and slender with glossy raven locks that flowed in gentle waves to his chin. He stood in exquisitely tailored robes, showing off the taut firmness of his body and the power within those muscles that lay below. But it was his eyes, his dark blue eyes, that captured and held her. They stood out against the pale wash of his alabaster skin.

“I-I am sorry,” Selene stuttered.

Favian went to speak, but was brutally cut off.

“For Merlin’s sake!” Odin roared. He called forth the house elf to come and tidy the mess she’d made. Selene stood cowed; her dark head tipped down to face the carpet. She was unable to meet those open, inquisitive eyes once more.

“Perhaps you can teach this useless thing some manners,” Odin insisted, shoving Selene brutally from behind. “She is no better than a house elf. In fact, at least a house elf can clean. She is in fact, good for nothing.”

“Why did you marry her then, Odin?” Favian asked. “If you find her so... unworthy?”

“I needed a wife,” Odin sniffed in reply. “Besides, she came cheaply.”

“You should do well to remember that you get what you pay for,” Favian replied coolly as Odin laughed gruesomely. Selene felt her cheeks burning with humiliation at the way they spoke about her, as if she wasn’t even in the room. Crestfallen, she followed them both, eyes focused on the rug at her feet, into the formal dining room. She took her expected seat between them.

The two men continued to talk over her, pretending she was not there. Sadly, she had grown used to this when her husband entertained guests. The men drank and ate long into the night as Selene dutifully kept their wine glasses full.

“You mentioned in your missive that you required a favor of me,” Favian said smoothly. “I can only assume that this delicious dinner and ample wine was meant to make me more congenial to the idea?”

“Things have not changed,” Odin laughed uproariously, his regal face contorted in drink. The end of his long nose was red and he slammed his glass down onto the wood table. “Still the same suspicious Favian!”

“Not suspicious,” Favian replied with a small smirk. “Just aware of your past.”

Selene felt her head droop heavily with fatigue and she startled, gathering the attention of her husband.

“Selene,” Odin scolded. “Go to bed. You will drown in your soup at this rate and be an even bigger embarrassment.”

Despite the insult, relief flooded her entire body – she could escape from this stifling dinner! A meal in which she had done all she could not to stare at the beguiling stranger.

Selene jumped to her feet, preparing to make a hasty getaway when Favian surprisingly stood politely at the same time. Selene watched transfixed as he came around the table and gently took her fingers in his. His fingers were cool and smooth and she took in the scent of him; pine and earth. Something crackled between them, causing Selene to start.

“It was a pleasure, Lady Rancor,” he muttered low, his light eyes never leaving her face as his lips brushed over her knuckles. Selene felt her entire body alight at this murmured comment. A tightening of her nipples and lower belly accompanied this and she pulled away as if burned.

“Goodnight, sir.”

She rushed from the room, her heart thudding heavily in her chest. She heard Favian take his seat once more and the conversation resumed. She knew she should continue up to bed, away from them and get the precious sleep she had been afforded.

But instead, she stilled at the base of the staircase that led upstairs and into her lonely, cold, ornate bedroom in the tower of the manor and away from Odin’s private bedroom. However, something compelled her to remain, to listen to what they spoke of in her absence. She pressed her back to the wall and willed her breathing to be silent.

“You are not wrong,” Odin acknowledged, his tone was sober. “It is the wife. I need your help.”

Selene immediately stiffened and she covered her mouth with her hand to keep from gasping aloud. Why should Odin be unhappy with her? Wasn’t she everything the cretin desired? Did she not cook and clean? Did she not laugh at his jokes and act the part of a dutiful wife?

“She is simple.”

“Is she,” Favian replied flatly. “I saw no indication of that.”

“You’ve not spent enough time with her,” Odin said with a resigned sigh. “She is dull. She knows little of the customs expected of her. I am utterly ashamed to bring her into civilized wizarding society. I would be a laughing stock if I were to do so. When I took her as my wife I was promised she was a quick study and a wonderful beauty. Now she is beautiful, that can’t be denied. But a quick study? She is not well read at all. Knows so little history. I knew she was poor and came from a small town, but I didn’t realize how simple she really was! If the scandal wouldn’t be so great, I would have already sent her back.”

He gave a rough laugh and Selene felt tears welling up in her eyes. To be talked about in such a manner was so brutal, so uncomfortably sub-human that she felt her entire will faltering as she slumped lower against the stone wall.

Favian spoke so silkily next that Selene had to hold her breath in order to hear him.

“When a flower does not bloom do you kill it, Odin? Or do you change the environment in which it lives? Do you give it more fertile soil? Change the water it receives?”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“That the environment in which she is being taught is obviously not working,” Favian retorted in a voice of boredom. “It’s apparent that your current method of teaching isn’t effective. And I can only assume that you’ve brought me here because you know that.”

The sound of more wine being poured gave Selene a moment to recount what had just been said. Was her husband suggesting that she be tutored by Favian, this stranger, of all people?

“You are right,” said Odin in a soft tone Selene had never heard before. “There is the Camelot Ball in three months. Where she will be presented to the upper echelon of wizarding society. I cannot present her like this – she will bring such shame upon my house and my name. But if you were to tutor her in the old ways?”
There was a long pause.
“I am a busy man, Odin.”

Favian’s voice was tight and cold. Selene wondered why – he had been so quick to mock her when he’d met her. And now he was, what? Offended on her behalf?

“I know,” Odin replied quickly. “But not only would you be doing a favor for an old friend, you’d also be paid handsomely.”

There was a pause in which Selene found herself silently willing it. Despite the strange way he made her feel, she was drawn to him. She wanted to spend more time with him, even if it was under the watchful eye of her husband’s home. She wanted to explore this, to understand why he made her feel this way.

“What of her magic?” Favian sounded intrigued. “How does she handle her wand?”

“She has no wand,” Odin replied through a mouthful of rabbit. “No wife of mine needs it.”

“I see.”

Selene was pressed right against the wall, almost embracing it, needing to know what Favian was thinking.

“I will tutor her.”

 

“And what is this?”

Hermione dropped the book in shock, not realizing that she’d become so engrossed in the plot. Snape was standing behind her, looking down at the crimson book as if he were going to personally murder it. His dark eyes flicked over the title and Hermione saw the tension release minutely from his shoulders.

“Oh,” he muttered with a small blink. “I was concerned you’d fallen victim to the same literary hysteria that’s plagued the rest of the female staff.”

“Oh no,” Hermione responded, feeling sweat collecting at her hairline as he continued to glance down at her. His eyes swept over the book once more, laying beside her plate.

"Magical Maladies?" he murmured before darting his eyes back to her face. She felt her face flush and dampen further. Worst case scenario, she hoped he merely thought that she took it upon herself to self-diagnosis whatever affliction it looked like she must have.

"If you're ill, Professor Granger I'd advise you see Poppy instead of trying one of these yourself,” he said.

"Yes. Of course, sir. I was just reading this for leisure,” she reassured him.

“I’ve come to talk to you about the party,” Snape said then, moving from one topic to the next so quickly it was jarring and she forced herself to keep up with him. “I seem to recall that you were one of the Professors who thought it a wise venture.”

“I did,” Hermione nodded. “I do.”

“You’ll be in charge of decorating,” Snape interrupted. “And since the date falls on the night of your patrols, you shall help to chaperone. All the other volunteer positions have already been filled.”

Hermione wanted to reply in the affirmative but Snape was already moving to his customary seat at the center of the long table. Hermione let out a small breath of relief that she was able to pull the wool over Snape’s eyes before shoving the book back into her robe’s pocket.

Images of the Favian Starr she’d concocted in her mind were dancing through her imagination.

She looked forward to continuing her ‘literary pursuits’ that evening.

Chapter Text

Snape was in his office staring gloomily out the window when he heard a light rapping at his door. His hands tightened behind his back at the intrusion. He had been trying to come up with a devious plan that would allow him to remove the book from Hogwarts without relaying suspicion back to himself. He absolutely couldn’t be seen as interfering - the Professors would simply ignore him, or worse, accuse him of using the power of his position improperly. The very idea of the staff thinking that little of him was enough to make his stomach harden.

His first tenure as Headmaster had been a brutal one under Voldemort’s reign. He had no desire to bully the staff once more into doing as he said. He couldn’t tell them what to read. The students were one thing, being under his care, but the professors? Snape couldn’t instruct fully cognizant adults to stop reading a book simply because he thought it ‘not very literary’! He would be laughed out of the Staff Meeting if that was his only criticism.

The person on the other side of the door knocked again, interrupting Snape’s internal quarrel.

His rich baritone rumbled around the room as he commanded, “Enter.”

Millicent Bulstrode flounced into the office, her raven locks swinging out behind her. She looked remarkably upbeat and Snape’s brooding sensibilities took personal offense at this.

“What is it, Professor Bulstrode?” he bit out. The venom in his tone appeared to slow her gait by a fraction.

“Sir, I wanted to speak with you about something rather. . . delicate.”

Her smile suddenly disappeared, being replaced with a frown. Suddenly, Snape realized the girl often wore her upbeat look as a facade. It was her default outwardly expression, only used to encourage kindness and patience with others.

Snape remembered back to her time as a student, one of his own house. She had been browbeaten and teased. She had been mocked and misused by not only the students here but by her own family. He could not in good conscience continue on in this fashion of sniping at her or turn her away. She didn’t deserve it. But she had been from the illustrious Bulstrode family, and been instructed to leave her be. Her father, a fellow Death Eater was often heard to remark: “She’s too soft. She needs to toughen up.”

He had a role to play here as Headmaster, and up until recently he had done so fairly well. He had balanced the books accurately, he had hired well trained and highly educated professors, and most importantly he had cultivated the office into one of honesty and respect. He couldn’t allow a trivial book to distract him from continuing to be proficient at his job.

He nodded towards the chair in front of his desk and Millicent took it gratefully. Snape lowered himself into his large wingback chair and glanced to his left.

“Winky,” Snape called into the air.

The house elf popped into existence, looking expectantly up at Snape with a fresh tea towel wrapped around her body.

“Yes, Master Snape?” she squeaked.

“Tea service, if you please.”

Winky nodded and popped away before reappearing moments later with a silver tray full of tea, cups and biscuits. She placed it carefully on his desk. She gave a deferential nod to Snape when he genuinely thanked her.

As he began to serve the tea, he asked, “What can I help you with, Millicent?”

The woman accepted the cup he offered her and took a grateful sip. She lowered it to her lap, the steam swirling between them.

“Sir, I don’t normally come to you with trivialities,” she said, her face pinking. “I know you don’t suffer fools gladly.”

Snape couldn’t help but smirk at how well she knew him. He waved for her to continue as he sipped his own tea.. She adjusted her position in her seat and rustled in her robe’s pocket for something. When she finally produced it, she thrust it onto Snape’s desk, her hand snapping back as if the object burned her. He immediately stiffened.

It was his novel.

“What-” Snape croaked, his mind whirring. “Why have you brought me this?”

Did she know? How did she know he’d written it? What was he going to do?

“Because of all the things you said this morning, sir,” Millicent implored. “This is nothing but filth. Dangerous filth.”

She pressed a forefinger to the cover and tapped angrily. “I confiscated this from one of the seventh years in my class today!”

Fuck, he thought. So more of them were reading it?

“You did?” he asked evenly.

“Yes,” Millicent nodded emphatically. “Robbie Smith. He and a few of the other lads were reading passages aloud and giggling to one another. They were meant to be working on their group project instead.”

Snape felt his stomach grow cold and leaden. He was going to murder Rolanda, he should pull out her personnel file to see who was listed as next-of-kin.

“Now imagine if more of the students had begun to read it!” Millicent continued on. “It could give them a very distorted view of sex and love and well. . . It’s dangerous.”

At her mention of the possibility of other students reading the book, Snape’s mind immediately went to earlier in the day and his confrontation with Prudence Mayweather.

“I fear that may have already begun,” he said, pressing a forefinger to his temple and rubbing slightly. He could feel a strong migraine coming on and the girl’s shrill voice was doing little to quell it.

“I knew it,” Millicent said with a disparaging moan. “Something needs to be done about it!”

Snape stared at Millicent, wondering when she’d gone from the quiet, brutish girl to this passionate and ardent advocate for ‘dangerous’ publications.

“We have a responsibility to the students here,” Millicent continued in a dramatic fashion that was all too reminiscent of Gilderoy Lockhart. “We can’t allow filth like this -” she pointed to the book in disgust “-to permeate this sacred institution! We need to make sure not a single copy is found here on school grounds! If that means burning all the Professors’ copies as well then so be it!”

Snape didn’t know why, but the way she was saying ‘filth’ about his own writing was starting to grate on him. However, in true Slytherin fashion, he looked past the irritation and straight into the opportunity presenting itself.

“You seem very…passionate…about this,” Snape observed wryly.

“As we all should be,” Millicent insisted with a defiant look in her eyes. “I mean if Hermione Granger can start an entire campaign for house-elf rights at fourteen, I should damn well stand up for what I believe in at almost thirty!”

Snape recalled the disastrous attempt at S.P.E.W. that Millicent was referencing. Who could have guessed that the young Gryffindor Granger had had such an effect on the pink-faced Slytherin sitting across from him? The end of the War had really altered things from the traditional status quo, he realized. There was a beauty in that, which was not lost on him.

“I admire your dedication to the cause,” Snape said softly. “And believe me when I say I support you in every possible way.”

“I knew you would,” Millicent replied with a coo, her eyes shining.

“But as Headmaster it isn’t within my rights to tell Professors what they may and may not read,” Snape continued. “All I can control is what the students read...” He trailed off, looking at her through his curtain of dark hair. She looked concerted, her dark brows gathering together a moment in thought.

“But I could speak to them,” Millicent said. “I’m allowed to have my own opinions. I could get them on my side! To see why they mustn’t read it here!”

“Or even at all,” Snape added, trying not to appear too eager.

“Agreed,” Millicent added. “It’s nothing but boring writing and unrealistic sex scenes. I don’t see what all the fuss is about.”

“So you’ve read it?”

“I skimmed it when I confiscated it,” Millicent faltered a bit. “To know your Enemy, you must become your Enemy.”

Snape looked at her quizzically a moment before nodding.

“You understand I cannot be associated with this in any way,” Snape almost purred. “It would be seen as a gross misuse of my position.”

“Of course,” Millicent assured him. “Leave it to me, Sir. I’ll handle everything.”

After she left, Snape jumped to his feet. If he had been the dancing type he would have done a jig in celebration. As it was his physical talents lay elsewhere, so he went to his chambers, poured himself a liberal glass of wine (no more firewhiskey for him, he had decided) and enjoyed it thoroughly in front of his fire. When he retired to bed that night, he anticipated that he was to get his first proper night of sleep in weeks.

***

Hermione let Crookshanks out the window for a full night of hunting. The cold weather had meant he was stuck indoors most evenings much to his chagrin, but today he had been incessantly restless. If she didn’t allow him this time to roam she was liable to wake up to a present left in her slipper.

Without her steadfast companion she decided to take advantage of the cozy quiet and take a long, leisurely bath. She had been on her feet all day today with lessons, and when she wasn’t thinking of work she couldn’t stop thinking about that damned book.

Hermione had been able to sneak covert glances at the book, tucked under parchment, when her students were working on their independent projects throughout the day. But, to her great frustration, she hadn’t been able to really get into the book properly since lunch.

Fresh from the bath she savoured her silent and warm chambers. Hermione tugged on her most comfortable set of pyjamas and snuggled under the coverlet. Barely able to contain her excitement, she pulled the crimson book towards her, her dark eyes scanning the text eagerly. Within minutes she was transported to another time, into a large antique looking sitting room filled with books.

Selene was now anxiously waiting for her first tutoring session with Favian and Hermione felt her skin tingle in anticipation at the two reuniting without the watchful eye of Odin.

The knock sounded gently, surprising Selene despite the fact that she had been waiting for it. She had been aching to hear the sound of Favian’s voice once more in her home. She had tried to push him from her mind, but his face swam into her dreams unbidden. His best attributes played the starring roles: his beautiful eyes, dark glossy hair, his deep melodic voice, and his thin tapered fingers.

“Enter.”

Selene watched from the corner of the room as he advanced. She was surprised to see him looking at her with naked tenderness in his dark blue eyes. It was such a contradiction to the imposing figure he had at first cut, standing in the entrance of her home.

And now he was here in the flesh again, but not to visit her husband.. but her instead.

“Odin mentioned you were to tutor me,” Selene said after a moment of silence. She motioned towards her large bookshelves lined with tomes. “What shall we begin with? Magical history? Alchemy?”

Favian was still staring at her, noting the way she worried her rosebud lips with her front teeth. She was so fetching there in the morning light, her dark hair falling in curly waves over her shoulders. It was large, messy and in the sunlight its brown colour seemed to be threaded with gold.

“Please, sit,” Favian said, indicating the chairs by the window. “I should like to know you better before we begin. It will help me to teach you more effectively.”

She did as he asked, noting with pleasure how his long legs carried him gracefully towards her. She tried to stop the acceleration of her breathing in his presence, but failed miserably.

“What would you like to know?” Selene asked her dark eyes large and focused on him as he took a seat opposite her. She had nothing by way of interesting stories. Her life had been so dull and her marriage a complete nightmare. What could he possibly want to know about her?

“I want to know why Odin thinks you unremarkable.” Favian tilted his head slightly to the left, surveying her. “When you are so obviously not.”

“You don’t know that,” Selene replied with an embarrassed shrug. She’d never been complimented by anyone and the feeling of his attention and sweet words didn’t sit well with her. “Perhaps I am unremarkable.”

“But you are not,” Favian said softly. “I can tell. So tell me the truth.”

Selene wanted to tell him. To explain to him why she so often kept silent in Odin’s presence. She looked at the lithe man with his beautifully tailored robes and handsome face. She wanted to confide in him about everything. And despite her initial misgivings she found herself speaking quickly, as if a tap had been turned and all her secrets came spilling out.

“I despise speaking to him. If I play stupid he leaves me alone. So I pretend not to know the answers to questions. But I do. I’ve read every book in this library twice over. I could tell you anything about the Goblin rebellion or Merlin’s sword. But I cannot let him know. He needs to think me daft. I do it so he will leave me in peace.”

“But not for long,” Favian said. “That’s why I’m here. To teach you how to act in wizarding society, to teach you the books you have clearly already read. All in time for the Camelot Ball.”

“The Camelot Ball,” Selene scoffed. “I would rather sit at home and knit scarves for toads than be caught up in that pretentious show of stature. You know that they would rather spend all those galleons on some pretentious party rather than to feed their own people? Odin has more resources than half the county and yet the people who follow him starve.”

But Favian was distracted, as if the mention of the dexterity of her hands had caused him to scrutinize them fully. She noticed this and tried hide them under her many layers of robes.

Without warning, Favian took her left hand in his. Selene found she was scarcely breathing as his forefinger traced her upward facing palm. She felt a crackle of electricity brewing between them. Favian’s forefinger was dancing along her fingertips, eliciting a jump of her insides.

“These ink-stained fingers,” Favian observed with a soft murmur, “they anger your husband.”

“I enjoy writing,” Selene breathed. Her dark eyes were still raptly focused on his face. “Sometimes it escapes my notice that I have smudged ink on my fingers. It can be quite hard to scrub at times.”

“And you do not use magic to remove it,” Favian said not in question, but in observation. Selene nodded sadly, feeling her eyes fill with heavy tears. She pulled her hand from Favian’s warm grip, startling him into staring at her.

“He destroyed my wand when we were married,” Selene said simply. “I cannot do magic without it.”

“You can of course,” Favian replied evenly. “Unfocused and perhaps not as easily controlled, but possible.”

“Not for me,” Selene said shaking her head. “I fear for what may happen if my magic were to go out of control.”

In truth, Selene had let her magic get the better of her already. It had been at the very beginning of her marriage to Odin. He had been particularly vindictive, stringing her up with a wordless spell and slicing at her bared back with an enchanted switch.

She felt such fear and then such intense, overbearing anger towards the man surge through her. Without meaning to she had let out an anguished cry. One so loud that Odin had been blown out of the room completely. A cry that travelled out the window of the tower she was being beaten in. It travelled into the paddock where her sheep were grazing and sleeping.

The next morning, beaten and exhausted, Odin had insisted she go to feed the sheep. He’d worn a strange expression on his face that day. She had dutifully gone to feed the sheep only to find them all laying dead in the paddock. Old and young, sick and fit, all seemed to have died where they stood.

It was then that Selene realized the horrible power of her uncontrolled magic.

Odin had only survived because he was a strong and powerful wizard. But what if an infant had been nearby? What if she had killed a child? Or an innocent Muggle? Could she ever forgive herself?

No. She could not.

Favian seemed to sense that she was conflicted. He brought a forefinger to her face and traced her jaw. Selene, unaccustomed to the gentle touch of a man flinched back.

“I will tutor you,” Favian said, his dark blue eyes capturing hers. This close in proximity she could see how long and lush his dark lashes were.

“You are tutoring me,” Selene replied in confusion. Her beautiful face was twisted in confusion, with her dark brown eyes scanning his face for clarification of what he was speaking about.

“Odin has instructed me to tutor you in the ways of old magical families,” Favian replied. “But we know you have read all the books here. And you may need a brushing up on old customs, but you are a quick learner, I can tell. So that leaves us plenty of time.”

“Plenty of time for what?”

“To study something useful,” Favian said as if the answer were obvious. “To hone and control your magic without the means of a wand.”

Selene knew she was gaping at the man, but she couldn’t help it. What he was suggesting was so dangerous that she actually felt her heart stop a moment out of sheer fear.

“Why would you do this?” Selene asked suspiciously. “Odin is an old friend. He trusts you.”

“I know.”

“If he ever found out…” Selene trailed off. “He’d never forgive you. He might even kill you.”

“I know,” Favian replied once more.

Selene found herself defensive at his cavalier attitude. But worse than that, she couldn’t understand his motivation. What would make a stranger do something like this? For her of all people? A simple witch with no wand? What could she possibly offer him?

“Why would you do this for me?” she whispered. “For someone you’ve only just met?”

Favian’s eyes searched her face as if he were trying to memorize every curve and line. His face, normally stoic and serious curled into the smallest of smiles.

“I don’t know.”

The clock beside Hermione’s bed rang eleven and Hermione let out a small wistful sigh. The book, while cliché in every possible way, still captured her attention. And she knew why – it was this Favian character. He was tall, dark and handsome. The type of man Hermione noted with a passing interest, who seemed to be her type. She could almost picture him tall and lean with striking looks and beautiful eyes. He would have a dark, silken voice that promised sin and sweetness all at once.

She could now see why the women were fawning over this book. Normally, the heroes in books like these were blond, brutish men like Odin. Not sensitive, clever men. Hermione knew without a doubt that the latter was definitely her type.

And Selene, while rather dull at times, was starting to show more and more backbone and internal fire. Hermione could almost imagine herself as the heroine in this novel of forbidden romance. The thought thrilled her and made her tummy flip. With her own ink-stained fingers, Hermione placed the book on her nightstand and blew out the candle.

It wasn’t until she was nodding off that a passing curious thought skittered across her brain. The voice she had attributed to Favian as she read had been none other than Headmaster Severus Snape.

Chapter Text

With the knowledge of the puerile dance quickly approaching and the damnable book still being sold at astronomical rates, Snape exiled himself with increasing frequency in his office, trying to distract himself with revising his research paper.

While Snape was not privy to sales numbers, the pouches of galleons continued to appear on his desk like clockwork once a week. His animosity did nothing but grow whenever he saw them and he shoved them unceremoniously into the large cabinet on the side of his office. Out of sight and out of mind, or so Snape tried to convince himself.

Snape very well knew that Hooch was furtively leaving the royalties when his office was empty. As petty as it was, his friendship with the woman had suffered greatly since the day she’d confessed she’d sent his book to be published. However, she seemed to understand his outrage over the betrayal, and was giving him time to come around, not pushing for a reconciliation. He was thankful for this. While it was true Snape had agreed with Hooch that the book was adequate enough for publishing, he did so under the influence. A part of him wished she had taken his inebriated state into account and Snape couldn’t help but feel taken advantage of.

It wasn’t about the money, really. He lived a comfortable enough life as is. And if Snape wanted to, he could easily donate the royalties to charity. Merlin knows, there were plenty established after the War. However, the more he exiled himself in his office, the more tortured his thoughts became about the book of his own creation. Apprehensive, he hadn’t been able to bring himself to read past the first two chapters.

He felt humiliation as well. According to Millicent Bulstrode, the only thing he had ever gotten published for mass consumption was full of lurid copulation. Shame engulfed him whenever he caught a student reading it, and Snape tossed every confiscated copy into his office’s fire without delay.

However, there was something in the back of his mind Snape could no longer ignore, a prickling sensation of… pride was it? Pride in having been published to such acclaim? Pride that his words had such an effect? Pride that according to Hooch the editors wanted more?

Snape glanced over at the most recently confiscated book from the Hufflepuff common room. His mortified paranoia forced him to do weekly checks of the common rooms and other living spaces of the castle. Horrifyingly, no matter how many copies Snape gathered, there was always more the following week. Irritatingly, no one, not even the normally courageous Gryffindors, ever admitted to reading the books or purchasing them.

The clock struck midnight, the sound echoing around his silent chamber, and he lay his weary head upon his knuckles before glancing over at the slim novel. It sat there primly on the edge of his desk, mocking him, and yet enticing him all at once. Before it could torture him further, he took it in hand, stood, and threw it into the crackling hearth in the corner of his office.

Afraid of a book? What a coward, Snape admonished himself.

The epiphany made Snape immediately stiffen. It was true – he was acting like a coward. Afraid of the written word for Merlin’s sake!

Snape had convinced himself that he was doing it to evade blame. That if he didn’t know exactly what lay within the book, he couldn’t be responsible for it. But that wasn’t true at all… even if his name wasn’t on the cover, the words were still his. All he’d been doing is putting off the inevitable.

Snape found himself pacing about the room, his feet intent on wearing a hole in the Persian, talking to himself as he had done when he was a nervous lad back in Spinner’s End.

“I’ve not read the whole thing,” Snape murmured. “Perhaps it’s not as bad as I think. Perhaps it’s an overreaction. And Hooch is right; no one would possibly think it was me who authored it.”

Suddenly the words of Millicent Bulstrode echoed around in his mind; “To know your Enemy, you must become your Enemy.”

Snape didn’t truly know his enemy. All he knew were the first two chapters in which very little of the plot had been detailed. Snape knew enough to know how things started and the eroticism it promised as the story progressed. And, thankfully, nothing so lurid as to horrify him from reading it in its entirety.

Truly, what harm could it do?

With that in mind he strode towards his writing desk and threw open the drawer. There, staring back at him like some demon in parchment sat the original manuscript. His spindly writing stared back at him in accusation.

He hesitated for only a moment before extracting it from the drawer and slamming it down onto the table. With a low sigh he lowered himself into the chair and flipped to the first page. He took a deep steadying breath and began to read.

He read of Odin and found himself thinking of Lucius Malfoy – handsome, cold and cruel to those he thought beneath him. He thought of Selene, and remembered how in his drunken stupor he’d thought it amusing to cast Granger as the lead in this story.

Why had he chosen her though?

Snape knew that initially it had been to embarrass her through literary means. That he knew the girl to be intelligent and a know-it-all and that casting her as the submissive Selene would make him chuckle. But in the sober light of day it didn’t seem funny – it seemed odd.

Odd to choose a woman he knew, a woman who was his employee, to base such a story around. It caused Snape’s cheeks to pink as he read descriptions of her beauty, and then he went pale as he read the sections detailing the torture.

As he read through the chapters he realized what he actually had put to paper. This wasn’t a strange romance story. It was a secret history put in the frame of an erotic tale. The torture described was the same he had seen under Voldemort’s leadership as a young Death Eater. The things Selene cried out when under the Cruciatus curse were the same things Muggles had cried when they were taken prisoner under Voldemort’s orders.

The memories curled around him, threatening him, and it was enough to make Snape stop reading. He stood, suddenly unable to continue, and feeling ill. The story wasn’t just about mocking Miss Granger and the women who read books like this. This story was about Severus himself and his long, sordid history. His vulnerabilities, his aching loneliness, his desire to do good but failing time and time again.

The knowledge of that brought with it the realization that such things were out in the open.

And that was terrifying.

***

Before breakfast Thursday morning Hermione had read a scene in which Favian had begun to teach Selene to harness her own power through a lot of hand touching and focused thoughts. It was completely puritanical but remarkably sexy regarding the restraint of both parties. There was something about the forbidden nature of their obvious mutual attraction that had Hermione squirming through breakfast as she thought of them.

Between her first and second classes, she read as Selene had confided in Favian about her powers and the sheep. Favian had, of course, been understanding and even marveled at her strength of power. Selene was falling more and more in love with him with each passing lesson.

Between her second and third classes, Hermione had quickly read a scene in which a drunk Odin had confided in Selene that Favian had been married years ago. Hermione felt her mind spinning at this sudden unexpected plot twist. Was Favian's wife still alive? What had happened to her? Why hadn't he mentioned her?

On her way to the Great Hall for lunch, Hermione began to brainstorm a reason for such an unpredictable plot point. So caught up in her mental musings, she almost ran into Millicent who was looking increasingly anxious by the day. The other woman was wearing a tiny green pin on her robes that drew Hermione's attention, despite the fact that she could barely make out the small lettering without squinting.

S.N.A.P?”

“Smutty Novels Are Prohibited,” Millicent said with a dignified tilt of her head as she showcased the button. “I’m making the case that those silly, smutty books that Sprout and Poppy read need to be banned from the school. Would you like a button?”

“Are you serious?” Hermione asked incredulously.

“As a case of dragon pox,” Millicent sniffed. “What if these books fell into the wrong hands? What if the youngest students were to read them?”

Hermione paused. She supposed there was a truth to this – the younger students really should not be exposed to this type of literature. This was a distinguished educational institute after all. But still, this righteous censorship didn’t sit right with her.

“Why are you so up in arms about this?” Hermione asked. Millicent looked taken aback, as if surprised that Hermione didn’t share her views. She stood a little straighter, but her eyes held worry within their depths.

“Because we have a responsibility as educators to ensure that our students come away from Hogwarts with a sense of magical responsibility and talent. Imagine how our funding would be disrupted if parents were to find out that the esteemed teachers here were sex-crazed deviants!”

At first, Hermione felt embarrassed. After all, she was one of the staff members currently reading the book in question. However, she knew she wasn’t a deviant or some sex-addicted individual. Hermione felt she had a healthy, mature view of sex and romance. Besides, the plot was intriguing and well-written with rich characters. It was simply a fictional fantasy.

Suddenly, Hermione felt annoyed and angry. How dare Millicent make it seem as if enjoying a fictional universe was something to repress?!

“How do you even know that the book is so bad?” Hermione hedged. Millicent seemed prepared for this however. “Seemed rather bland to me when Sprout was talking about it.”

“To know your Enemy, you must become your Enemy.”

Hermione recognized this quote immediately – it was from the Sun Tzu book Hermione had been reading in the summer. She had told Millicent all about it over breakfast one morning and apparently the girl had taken the book to heart.

“It’s just… Forbidding books seems, well, wrong,” Hermione said honestly. “No matter what the subject matter.”

Millicent’s face went an unsightly red. “I thought you’d be pleased. I was inspired by S.P.E.W. after all!”

With a dramatic flounce, Millicent rushed down the corridor, heading not to the Great Hall as expected, but in the direction of the greenhouses. Hermione let out a small sad sigh and continued on her way to lunch. She was disheartened that her mind was no longer able to focus on the growing relationship between Favian and Selene. Instead, she was attempting to make sense of Millicent’s strange behaviour and motivations. Even if Millicent had good intentions, there was something incredibly unsettling about censorship… even if the media’s content made people uncomfortable.

Hermione took a seat next to Sprout who greeted her cheerfully and congenially asked how decorations were coming along for the winter dance. Hermione felt a flutter of panic touch her insides, she hadn’t given this event her full attention at all.

“Oh, in all honesty I hadn’t really been thinking about it,” Hermione said low, embarrassed. She glanced around and dropped her voice further. “In fact, I’ve been quite distracted by a certain couple.”

Sprout giggled with girlish glee at this. “So you like it, then?”

“Well, like is a strong word,” Hermione deferred. “But it has definitely piqued my interest.”

She fell silent as the doors opened and Snape strolled towards the table. For some reason Hermione felt her stomach do a strange flip as he approached, glancing around at the students.

Realization dawned on her, it was that bloody book.

For some reason, her subconscious had pictured Favian as Snape. She saw bits of him in the character, his voice and, to her dismay, even his physical attributes, and the way he moved.

As she read she had begun to think of herself when Selene was mentioned. Selene was after all a feisty and knowledgeable witch! However, the result of picturing Favian as Snape and herself as Selene caused her to feel rather… well, funny at the sight of Snape.

Had he always been so…graceful? As he pulled out his chair to sit she couldn’t help but notice the elegant way his long, tapered fingers moved. Or the way his tall frame cut such a dashing figure as he sat at the Head Table, a quiet power rippling off his form.

“Hermione?”

Embarrassed, she realized that Sprout had been repeating her name over and over. “Pardon? What did you say?”

“What part are you up to?” Sprout repeated.

“Selene and Favian are strolling by the seaside,” Hermione said quietly, her eyes trained on Snape as he took a sip of coffee. For some reason she was finding his thin lips completely distracting.

“Odin has just told her that Favian was once married.”

“Oooh!” Sprout clapped in barely suppressed excitement. “You’re coming up to one of my favourite parts!”

Sprout was about to go on, however Poppy arrived and took the seat next to Hermione. She looked incredibly ill-tempered. After the soup and bread appeared, Poppy spoke through a mouthful of tomato bisque.

“Have you heard about Bulstrode’s latest campaign? Tried to corner me during my break this morning. Insisted we need to stop reading our books. Said they were dangerous and that if we continued we were deviants.”

“Oh, you mean the books full of despicable, dangerous smut?” Sprout said with mock horror. “Surely on the same level as an Unforgivable curse!”

“Worse!” Poppy replied in a tone of mock agreement, a wry smile covering her face. “I mean, of course I had to sign up right away to support the cause.”

“As did I,” Sprout insisted. “I bought all the buttons she had plus placed an order for a hundred more. Right before burning all my filthy books of course.”

The two dissolved into laughter and Hermione did all she could not to laugh into her soup spoon. If she weren’t so distracted by the hysterics of the women next to her, she would have noticed that Snape’s mood was agitated. But she missed his deep frown entirely, and his icy glare he shot at the tittering older women


***

The dance was fast approaching and as such, Snape had called an informal staff meeting for all of those unlucky enough to have been scammed into volunteering. Hermione was surprised to see nearly all the Professors in attendance looking displeased. It seemed while many thought it was a good idea to enjoy some revelry, no one actually wanted the responsibility to plan it.

Hooch arrived behind Hermione, taking a seat as far away from Snape as possible. Hermione noted this with passing interest, feeling uncharacteristically curious in their interactions.

They barely spoke to one another unless forced to. The pair no longer took lunches together or chatted amicably in the halls. Hermione wondered if their intimate rendezvous had gone sour and she decided that Draco’s assessment of their ‘romance’ may have been correct.

She didn’t know why, but the thought pleased her.

Snape flew into the room, tossing out parchment to each of them before taking his customary position at the end of the table. Hermione was struck at how “Favian”-like he was standing there so quietly powerful.

Could she sneak a peek at the book? Just a few pages?

“Before you are time tables,” Snape drawled, daring them to refuse. “You are chaperoning and with this responsibility-“

Hermione knew that she needed to pay attention during the staff meeting. She knew that it was rude and disrespectful to do anything else. But as Snape droned on at the front about acceptable distance between dance partners, Hermione couldn’t help but think of the book in her robes pocket.

It was still spelled to read Magical Maladies and as she slowly cracked it open on her lap, hidden from view, her eyes scanned the room. No one noticed her and so doing her best to be subtle she began to read.

Favian and Selene were walking by the brook. Odin was gone on business for several days and the two were taking advantage by extending their lessons. Hermione eagerly read on, her blood pumping in anticipation.

“Do you not wish to stay on the grounds?” Selene offered primly. She knew it was improper to offer him a room at her estate, especially as her husband was out of town. But it had been at Odin’s suggestion.

“I enjoy the room I’m renting,” Favian said with a shy smile. “The Inn is quite adequate.”

“I see.”

Selene felt rejected and Favian seemed to notice this. He took her hand in his, causing her to blush high on her cheekbones. Then, as if he realized what he had done, he quickly pulled his hand back, dropping hers and turning away.

“It’s for the best,” he explained.

The two walked on in companionable silence until they reached a small waterfall at the edge of Odin’s property. Selene smiled, listening to the babbling waters as they approached.

“A beautiful sunset,” Favian observed, pointing ahead. Selene nodded, sighing softly before glancing up at Favian. His eyes were clear and gleaming in the warm rays of the dying sun.

She felt she could ask him anything and he would not hold it against her. He was soft and kind in ways that Odin could never even hope to be.

Odin says you were married,” Selene said, her dark eyes scanning his face. “Is it true?”

Favian looked uncharacteristically uncomfortable at her pointed question. He didn’t speak for a moment, and seemed to ponder how to best respond. Briefly, she wondered if she had gone a step too far.

“Yes,” Favian finally nodded, looking glumly into the water below them. “Her name was Marigold. She was a wonderful woman. Smart and clever. I loved her dearly.”

Jealousy, subtle and stinging, skittered its way through Selene’s stomach. But she pushed past it, desperate to know more. “What happened?”

“I am afraid nothing very exciting.”

“Please,” Selene implored. “Tell me.”

“Things change, people change,” Favian said, his dark eyes seeming to grow damp as he spoke. “We grew apart. She did not enjoy the company of my friends. She hated Odin with a passion. But I’d known him since we were lads. I did not have the luxury of having many friends growing up. Odin is a right bastard, I admit, but he was, at times, the only friend I had. He was there for me when many times others were not.”

This surprised Selene who could not imagine her odious husband being anything but a thorn in everyone’s side.

“But why not choose your wife over Odin?” Selene asked, confused as to how he could even struggle with the choice. “Surely Marigold was worth a thousand Odins!”

“Because the issues were not just with my friends,” Favian admitted reluctantly. He crouched down to touch the lapping waves of the water. “There was another wizard. He was more handsome and clever. He made her laugh. I was never very good at that.”

They lapsed into a thoughtful silence. Favian seemed suddenly distracted by the swirling water at their feet.

“Do you still love her?” Selene asked, almost unable to speak the words aloud for fear of what his answer may be.

“In a passing way,” Favian admitted after a beat. “As one loves a happy memory. Because happy memories hold all the good and none of the bad.”

Favian tossed the remaining pebble into the babbling brook and abruptly stood straight. Selene was watching him, feeling her heart swell as this man shared all of this with her. But still, melancholy touched her as she spoke next.

“Is your heart forever broken?”

“I think there is hope for my heart to recover,” Favian said, unable to meet Selene’s eyes. “In fact, I feel it mend a little more with every moment I spend with you.”

There was something so hauntingly beautiful in that moment of vulnerability. Something that stirred a feeling in Selene that she could not name. An intimacy she had never felt with another human being.

Without thinking, she had turned to face him, gathering the front of his robes in her ink-stained fingers. Before he could say anything in surprise, she had pressed her mouth to his.

His lips were petal soft and welcomed her own greedily. With each caress Selene felt herself melting into the arms that had come to circle her waist. It was only the sound of a raven crying overhead that broke them apart.

Selene jumped back, out of his arms and horrified at her own boldness. Without thinking she had run off in the direction of her home with Favian staring after her with a look of shock etched across his features.

“Oh my God!”

Hermione clapped her hand over her mouth.

They kissed! Favian and Selene had kissed! A kiss that Hermione realized she had secretly been aching to read. She immediately felt her body alight with not only intense arousal, but also sudden horror at her extremely public outburst in the middle of the staff meeting.

All sets of eyes were upon her as she shoved the incriminating crimson novel under the notebook on her lap. Snape was staring at her down the long table, his forefinger placed gently at his brow as if he had struggled to stay awake up to this point.

“May I ask what that outburst was about, Professor Granger?”

Hermione ignored the pointed look that Sprout was giving her. She knew the woman knew exactly what had just happened and it caused her to blush further, all the way to the roots of her thick hair.

“Sorry, Sir,” Hermione said, ducking her head. “I was just excited because I thought of something, erm, for the dance.” She waved her hand dismissively.

“In the middle of Professor Trelawney’s suggestion of tarot reading for the students?” Snape said, barely concealing the mirth in his tone. “How interesting. Do go on.”

Hermione panicked. Oh bugger, she thought.

“I thought we might have the Weird Sisters perform for the students.”

It was a perfectly stupid idea because as far as Hermione knew, the Weird Sisters were already scheduled to perform. However, she was clutching at straws and trying to keep her flush from travelling down her neck. She could feel Sprout’s gaze practically sticking her to the spot.

Snape, sitting on the far end of the table, looked none too pleased at having had his perfectly dull staff meeting derailed with such an inane interruption. He stared her down, his dark eyes flashing.

“And you thought this banal idea was worth such coprolalia, Professor Granger?”

“I did, Sir.”

There was an uncomfortable beat in which the other Professors looked repeatedly between the pair. Millicent shifted anxiously in her seat, glancing at Hermione with such sympathy Hermione wished to melt into the floor.

“Moving on,” Snape commanded, obviously trying his best not to roll his eyes dramatically in her direction.

Trelawney huffed before continuing on with her idea of the students coming to the dance with a particular memento for her to use as a way of channelling their future.

Hermione had never been so thankful to hear Trelawney ramble on endlessly in her entire life.

 

Chapter Text

“Headmaster?”

Snape snapped out of his reverie as the gaze from a familiar pair of brown eyes fell on him. He had been staring out the north window in the library. He had come down to ensure that the blasted book wasn’t being hidden amongst the stacks.

Millicent had suggested that this was perhaps how the students were getting away with reading it. But he had discovered nothing during his rummaging. Then, he became distracted by a commotion by the great lake – a snowball fight of the various houses of students - when Snape heard himself being called. The voice was familiar and in an instant he had tightened up and turned to face her.

“Professor Granger,” he said, his voice strained. “What can I help you with?”

For some reason, ever since Severus had begun reading that blasted book he hadn’t been able to shake her from his mind. He internally chastised himself, knowing he had done it to himself after all. He had based Selene Moonglow on the woman before him. He had dug his own grave with his prose.

“Well, I know you wanted me to organize the decorations,” Hermione said helpfully. She was wearing her hair up and her slender neck was exposed above her robes. “I mean the colour scheme and the like. I don’t mind doing the work, but some direction would be helpful. I figured you might have some suggestions for me.”

‘You always do’ seemed to hang unspoken between them. Snape was well known for being meticulous in detail, even for the most frivolous of things.

Snape squirmed a bit, noting uncomfortably that the library was fairly empty. It was a beautiful December afternoon; most of the students had taken advantage of it by enjoying their luncheon amongst the falling flakes of snow and newly blanketed grounds.

“No,” he croaked, wincing. “Anything you decide will be fine. I trust your judgment.”

Hermione looked at him strangely, scrutinizing his face in a way he had never noticed before. Had she always looked at him like this? Or was he imagining it? He noted, in that moment, the way her eyes seemed so much older than the rest of her face.

At times, he was guilty of separating the woman he knew now from the bushy haired know-it-all of her youth. It was almost as if he had fooled himself into thinking she hadn’t been through actual hell at a young age.

He knew why he did it – because if he began to relate to Hermione Granger, if he began to truly see her as his equal, it would unravel everything. The carefully constructed shield between him and the outside world would fracture. The girl was so similar to him; it would be all too easy to feel a kinship. But that would not do. He needed to keep a professional boundary between them.

“Is that all, Professor Granger?” he asked when it appeared that Granger was not leaving of her own volition.

Hermione’s gaze seemed to waver and she gave a weak smile and a nod.

“Yes, sir. Thank you for your time.”

She turned, obviously preparing to go off and begin her decoration planning. Hermione Granger was nothing if not prepared. He noted the defeated way her shoulders slumped, obviously taking his dismissal as cutting.

How had he never noticed how his words affected her? Had she always looked so downtrodden when walking away from a conversation with him? Guilt began to poke at his insides. She had been through so much and he couldn’t give her the decency of treating her kindly?

“Miss Granger,” Snape said, his voice abrupt enough to make her stop turning away. He didn’t know why, but he needed to say something to her. Needed her to know that he didn’t overlook her fighting spirit.

“There are times when I find that I am quite harsh with you,” Snape said evenly. “I sometimes forget what you’ve been through. I hope you know how valuable an asset you are to our staff.”

Hermione looked as if she had been struck by a bludger. Her eyes blew open wide and she blinked rapidly. She stood there, fixing Snape with this dumbstruck expression until she swallowed and nodded.

“T-thank you sir,” she said, smiling brightly. “It’s truly an honour to work under you.”

There was no malice or mockery in her tone as she said this. Snape realized with small wonder that she was being genuine – she liked working for him. And that knowledge caused his skin to tingle.

Before he could properly accept this, she gave him a shy wave and moved out the library’s door, leaving Snape to stare after her, wondering what had compelled him to say all of that.


***

As penance for her outburst at the staff meeting, Hermione had refused to let herself read the book for nearly three days. She was still so summarily humiliated at her behaviour. Besides, with marking and the dance coming up, she had little time to devote to personal flights of fancy.

But then, Snape had been so strangely kind to her this morning. So gentle and sweet and…Favian-like. And she’d found herself suddenly desperate to know what had happened between the two fictional lovers.

She skipped dinner in favor of a cup of tea and desperately rushed Crookshanks out the window for another night of exploring. With the fire glowing and her body warm under the covers, she opened to the page she had left off on.

She read of Favian’s carnal explorations of his own body, feeling her face and chest flush. Favian was horrified with himself at having let himself give into the kiss with Selene, and yet he could not push her from his mind.

And now, days later he had re-appeared at her front door on a greying April morning. Odin was leaving for a conference with the other nearby landowners. As if a harbinger for what was to come, a thunderstorm had begun just as Favian stepped through the threshold.

 

--


“I want you to stay here a few days,” Odin whispered to his old friend. “There’s something strange with Selene. She’s not been herself. I want you to watch over her while I’m away.”

“I couldn’t impose-“

“Not an imposition,” Odin assured Favian with a clap on the shoulder. “You’d be doing me a favour.”

And so as Odin left off, disapparating into the chilly air, Favian had entered into the foyer just as Selene was walking down the staircase. She was a breathtaking beauty with luminous skin and a wave of errant chestnut curls that fell down to her back. She was holding a book in her gloved hand, obviously in the middle of reading.

At the sight of Favian, however, she stilled. She had rushed off from him after their clandestine kiss the other day, and she still felt such immense shame about it. The sight of him standing there, looking up at her with such obvious lust, sent a shiver of anticipation through her. He shrugged off his travelling robe and placed it by the nearby chair. His eyes never left her face as he did this.

“Hello,” she offered tentatively.

“Hello.”

“I didn’t realize you’d be here so early,” Selene said, still rooted to the spot on the stairs. “I thought our lessons were to resume this afternoon.”

“I couldn’t sleep.”

Selene swallowed thickly, knowing exactly what he meant.

"Selene," Favian began, his eyes impossibly fixed on hers. "You must know how I-"

Before the final word of that sentence began, Selene gave the smallest whimper. A soft, cooing sound that stilled Favian from speaking further.  His eyes searched her face, desperate to say more.

All at Selene she dashed down the stairs, shouldering past the surprised Favian, and out into the forest that buttressed Odin’s land. The rain was coming down in torrents and without thinking Favian gave chase.

She was in the depths of the forest before he reached her. She was panting, her clothing was drenched and her hair clung to her pale face. He was soaked to the bone, his white linen shirt sticking to his body and showing every sinewy muscle. It was most improper to see him like this and she whirled away from him, facing a tree and leaning on it for assistance. She was certain she was going to swoon into oblivion.

His ragged breath was hot on her neck. But she refused to turn, refused to let the man know that he affected her. She clung to the trunk of the tree, her hands curling into the gnarled bark.  She was worried what her hands would do if they were not occupied. But Favian's mouth hovered near her ear, shaking and intense. He stood there, staring at the back of her head for several moments, mesmerized by the colours in her dark tresses. 

"I should not say this," he said, his warm breath buffeting her bare neck. "But I cannot move you from my mind. I, too, have felt the way our magic is entwined. It was fated that we were to meet.”

“This is a falsehood.”

“It is not,” Favian insisted, his hands curling at his sides. They itched to be on her body and he allowed one hand to rest gently at her hip. She trembled under the gentle warmth of his hand.

“I am not the witch you want,” Selene whispered, still unable to turn to face him as she spoke. “I am wild and bold. This is not fate, this is a dangerous coincidence.”

“I see no difference.”

“I see no difference,” Hermione said softly to herself as she read this line. Why was that line so familiar? There was something there, like an echo of a memory. But she couldn’t quite remember why she thought this. She shrugged deeper into her bed before turning back to the book.

The warmth in Favian’s voice suffused her entire body. She turned her neck so that she was looking over her shoulder at him. His eyes were burning brightly, the arousal so evident in his look that she swallowed. No one had ever looked at her like that; wIth a look that burned right through her body, silently devouring her.

“We cannot do this,” Selene whimpered. “If Odin were to ever find out…”

“I know I should care,” Favian insisted, his pelvis pressing into her from behind. “But every moment I am overwrought with feelings that defy all reason.”

“I am not in control of myself when you are around me,” Selene whimpered in agreement. “I thought I was, but ever since we have met I find it impossible to control myself.”

“Selene-“ He was leaning down, his hands coming to the bottom of her skirt and gather them in his grip. He didn't know what was compelling him, but he needed to touch her bare skin there. To feel the crackling heat between them.

“My magic calls out to you, compelling me to you," Selene said breathlessly. "I am powerless to defy it...”

She trailed off as his hands began to lift her skirt higher. She still faced away from him, unable to look into his face without collapsing in shame. Instead her hands were on the tree trunk and she pressed her forehead against its cooling bark. As Favian's hands continued their journey, she did not pull away from him or flinch. Instead her pelvis curved towards his palm which was now sliding downwards in eager exploration. The other held her skirt aloft, allowing for easier access.

"Favian..."

All of a sudden his hand was cupping her sex, feeling its warmth through the layers of fabric, of her undergarments. She twitched in his arms, knowing she should pull away but wanting desperately for him to continue. He could sense this, and his hand found its way inside her lacy waistband. The silken touch of her bare skin and the soft curls at the apex of her thighs wrought a moan from him.

“I need you desperately, witch,” he groaned in her ear. His fingers trailed down her stomach and moved to the warm dampness between her legs, spreading her nether lips and sliding two digits over her aching bud. Selene shook her head weakly, all the while arching into him.

“It is wrong.”

“My thoughts are drawn to you. Only to you. I think of you at all times. Of your body. Your voice. I want you. All of you. Not just a few stolen hours. I want you to be mine.”

“It is wrong,” she repeated in a moan even as she writhed against his palm, inching herself closer and closer to release. His fingers continued to delve in and out of her, bringing her to the edge of pleasure.

“I need you,” Favian panted in her ear. “All of you. I want all of you.”

Hermione snapped the book closed, her body singing for release. Her hands were already under the waistband of her knickers, sliding down until they found the slickness at the cleft between her legs.

It had only been a climax at the hand of Favian, but for Hermione it was like an inferno. In her mind it hadn’t been the simple actions of restrained lust, it was full blown desire. As her imagination continued, her fingers sought out her pleasure centre, slick and welcoming.

Favian and Selene were writhing against one another. Selene faced away from him with Favian slipping his fingers up inside of her. It was so wanton an image that Hermione let out a small groan of desire as her toes curled.

Favian’s fingers were sliding in and out, causing Selene to moan breathily – was it Selene anymore? Or was it Hermione? Yes, it was Hermione – she was the one writhing in this man’s arms, arching and wanting more.

She was suddenly topless, her breasts bared and the nipples tightening. She was going to come and she wanted this man to bring her there. And Favian, standing behind her was hard. Her hands searched behind her and she gripped his hardened length through his trousers.

In her mind Favian – no, it wasn’t the faceless Favian anymore, it was Snape. Snape was grunting and thrusting into her hands as she moaned. Snape was the one who was making her come. She had always imagined him as Favian, and now in her mind it was him. His voice and his endless tunnel-like eyes that enchanted her. It was forbidden and wrong and this caused a new surge of arousal to go through her.

“You’re mine, witch,” he growled into her ear. “And you’re going to come for me.”

“I want you, Headmaster,” Hermione moaned aloud and in her imagination. “I want to come for you.”

Then do it,” Snape purred in her ear, his mouth pressed against her earlobe. “Come for me, Hermione.”

A knock sounded.

And all at once the orgasm that had been threatening to consume her had ebbed away. Hermione sensed her wards being touched – someone was waiting to speak with her outside. Hermione gave a frustrated groan before pulling her hands from her knickers and standing shakily.

Had she really been about to climax over the image of Headmaster Snape? She let out a small, mad giggle at the realization. She couldn’t believe it – it was so taboo! She washed her hands and caught sight of her blotchy face in the mirror. She splashed some cold water on her skin in the hope that the colour would fade.

She pulled open the door to her chambers, and was surprised to see Millicent standing there, looking anxious. The other woman took immediate notice of the rumpled bedding and the way Hermione’s cheeks were flushed.

“What were you doing?”

“Napping,” Hermione said, rubbing her eyes dramatically. The last thing she needed was to tell Millicent Bulstrode she’d been frigging herself to thoughts of a wanton Severus Snape.

“I see,” Millicent said, her eyes narrowing. “Do you have a minute? I wanted to talk to you.”


***

Back in the safe confines of his chambers, Snape took the manuscript he had been hiding next to his bed and decided to take another stab at reading it. His meeting with Hermione this morning had seemed somehow cathartic and in a strange way, he had the book to thank for it. It had shed light on a subject he hadn’t realized was an issue.

He opened to the page he’d finished at and chose to move quickly over the torture scenes; Miss Granger’s haunted gaze was still etched within his mind. He was several more chapters in, and was starting to wonder what had the women so besotted with this book in the first place, when the introduction of Favian Starr took place.

“For fuck’s sake,” he moaned into his hands. Favian Starr. Could it get more pathetic than that? Moonglow was bad enough but now Starr? He frowned and kept reading.

He read of the dinner and of Favian’s desire to tutor Selene in the ways of magic. Snape grimaced as he realized he had based Favian after himself – but cast him in a much more attractive light! This act of egomania gave Snape the sudden urge to throw himself from the astronomy tower a la Dumbledore. But he forced himself to continue, because Favian Starr and Selene Moonglow were starting to be drawn to one another, and he found it intriguing.

In their tutoring sessions Favian found excuses to touch her. He admired her strength of character and intelligence. Selene was everything Favian had wanted in a woman. But when Snape got to the scene that (unbeknownst to him) had sent Miss Granger into a public outcry, he felt his breath leave him.

“Because the issues were not just with my friends,” Favian admitted reluctantly. “There was another wizard. He was more handsome and clever. He made her laugh. I was never very good at that.”

Snape paused a moment, feeling his throat tighten. It was no mystery about who he had been writing about in this scene. Lily and her decision to end their friendship. And then later, her choice to marry Potter. It had hurt him so much at the time.

But, just like Favian, as the years went on he felt his heart mending a bit more and more. He thankfully did not need to have a Selene to heal, he only needed himself. After years of introspection and working on his emotional stability he was mostly whole once more and the knowledge as to how far he’s come cheered him slightly.

He continued further into the book, reading of their clandestine kiss, and of Selene’s sudden horror at her actions. He read of Favian returning to the Inn he was staying at and the condemnation he felt.

Favian paced back and forth in his rooms, shaking his head in frustration. This afternoon had gone so brutally. How had she found out about his ex-wife? The woman who had cut him so brutally?

And how had he allowed himself to reveal so much of his heart? It was true; he had been hurt by Marigold’s desire to leave him. It had crushed him. But how had he found it so easy to confide in Selene?

He continued reading, suddenly compelled to continue. These words were like echoes, the more he read the more he could almost remember writing them. But still, so much was missing from his memory.

But now, there was this Selene Moonglow. Something in her warm brown eyes that made him want to trust her. Something in the gentleness of her voice that made him want to tell her everything.

There was an unspeakable attraction to her. One he couldn’t properly explain himself. It was wrong – she was the wife of a friend. But Odin treated her horribly. She didn’t deserve it. She deserved a man who cared for her mind, not just her beauty.

He cared for her. She was open and vulnerable with him. She was softness and sweetness combined with passion and desire. He found himself unable to think of little else since he had agreed to tutor her.

It had started as a favour for an old friend. But the minute he’d beheld her there had been a spark. When he touched her, he felt her magic calling out to him. It ensnared his senses and drove him to distraction.

And this afternoon he had succumbed to his emotions and kissed Selene by the brook. He had allowed himself to think of her in the most carnal of fashions. He had wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her against his aching body.

He had spoken to her freely and she had not turned from him.


Suddenly, Snape thought back to his interview of Hermione Granger for her position as a Professor. She could have came in looking at him with pity. She could have used all the entrapment and accolades that came with being Harry Potter’s best friend at her disposal. And yet she hadn’t – she had been summarily professional. She didn’t pretend they were old friends from the Order. She had never mentioned Dumbledore or Harry for that matter.

She had not been disgusted when he’d turned his neck during the meeting and she’d seen his scars from Nagini. If anything this seemed to have emboldened her, and made her look at him with renewed respect. It was this which had compelled him to give her the position. Aside from her perfect grades and immense knowledge, Hermione Granger was so understanding. She cared for everyone from house elves to giants. She would be a wonderful teacher, nurturing and kind to her charges.

Snape stopped this thought immediately, finding it hard to find himself looking at her objectively. There was a warmth starting to grow within him. A tender softness for the girl he hadn’t felt before.

He had to stop thinking of Hermione Granger. He simply had to.

So he turned back to Favian, a man tortured by the love a woman he knew he should not want. Snape could find comfort in this familiar path, a heart of regret and fear that he kept closely guarded.

Back in his small rented room, Favian had touched himself over and over at the remembrance of those lips of hers in the hours since they parted. The feel of Selene in his arms.

Even now, he grew hard and ached for her. He could almost imagine her here in his room, calling his name as he pressed her into the mattress. His hands found his lengthening member and he gripped it, wincing at the friction of his hands against the velvet steel between his fingers.

“Selene.”

As he pumped he thought of her. Of her sweet smile and soft lips. Of her unruly hair and ink-stained fingers. He thought of her brilliant mind and the way her words tumbled out of her when they spoke.

Snape lowered the page ending in Favian’s climax, horrified to note that his own cock was lengthening traitorously within the confines of his trousers. He sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. He knew why he was suddenly hard and aching and it had nothing to do with Favian Starr or Selene Moonglow and everything to do with Hermione Granger.

***

“Is this about the project we're all working on?” Hermione asked as they entered the Alchemy classroom. She was surprised to note that the room was warm from the light of dozens of candles.

“No,” Millicent said, licking her lips nervously. Hermione immediately caught sight of a large bouquet of red roses sitting on the desk and she quirked a querying eyebrow in Millicent’s direction. Did the girl have a secret paramour?

It would help explain the strange way Millicent had been acting as of late. Whenever Hermione pressed her for information on romantic entanglements Millicent always went red and moved the discussion to new topics.

“Why do you have roses?”

Millicent scurried over to the desk and picked up the bouquet.

“They’re for you,” Millicent said, boldly handing them to her as she approached. “As an apology for the way I was acting before. It was wrong to be so pig-headed about the books. I hope you can forgive me.”

“Of course I do,” Hermione said, gathering the flowers into her arms and inhaling the light, floral scent. “You don’t have to buy me flowers you know. Friends fight. A simple apology is all that’s necessary.”

“Yes,” Millicent said, almost shyly. “Friends fight.”

They lapsed into an uncomfortable odd silence. Millicent looked to be fighting an inner battle, so Hermione tried to busy herself with examining the soft silken petals of the roses. After several minutes of watching Millicent unable to come to grips with herself, Hermione placed the flowers down on the desk and stepped towards the other woman.

“There’s something else, isn’t there?” Hermione asked softly.

Millicent looked surprised. “You can tell?”

“Of course I can,” Hermione said with a small smile. “You’re my friend. Now, tell me what’s wrong or I’ll transfigure a tail on you.”

Millicent laughed shakily, and Hermione joined her in solidarity. Whatever Millicent had to say, it must be pretty serious to have her so out of sorts. Millicent sobered abruptly and straightened her shoulders.

“Hermione, I haven’t been honest with you about everything. And... Well, I want to be. Now.”

Hermione watched as the woman dragged her wand from the tip of her forehead and murmured a spell Hermione recognized immediately. A glamour.  Millicent slowly dragged the wand down the length of her face until it reached her chin and as she did so, the glamour she had been using melted away.

Smaller, watery eyes stared back at Hermione from under a heavy brow. The hair, which had fallen in flowing raven waves, was now limp and dry looking. The nose, which had been pert, was now wider at the bridge. The lips that frowned at Hermione were thinner and chapped.

“Why?” Hermione searched the girl’s face, confused. “Why do this to yourself?”

“Because I’m hideous,” Millicent whined in a tone reminiscent of Moaning Myrtle. “When I was a teenager I had all these blemishes and I was so fat and I hated myself.

Tears pricked at Hermione's eyes then. The anguish in Millicent's tone was unmistakable.

"I told myself I would get proficient at glamours and I did. I’m one of the best casters of glamour spells. I’m so good that no one even knows I use it.”

Hermione took a moment to digest this. “Why are you showing me?”

“Because I want you to see the real me,” Millicent explained, her eyes still damp. She finished in a low whisper, “Even though the real me isn’t beautiful.”

“I still think you’re beautiful,” Hermione said honestly.

Over the months, Hermione had grown to know Millicent and her true self. Millicent may be a harridan at times, but she was also warm and funny in a self deprecating way.

Millicent was intelligent, and above all, she learned from her mistakes. And for Hermione, who had never taken much stock in physical beauty, this made Millicent more beautiful than any empty-headed witch.

Seeing Millicent be so insecure with herself, to the point of believing she was ugly enough to warrant daily glamours broke Hermione’s heart. She felt her eyes completely filling with tears and Millicent’s did the same.

“You do?”

“Of course I do!” Hermione exclaimed, bringing a hand to the girl’s shoulder and squeezing encouragingly. “Millicent you are kind and-“

She was about to say more when something strange happened.

Millicent’s cheeks went bright red. Before Hermione could do anything, Millicent gripped Hermione on either side of her face and brought her lips to hers. Millicent’s mouth moved against Hermione’s shocked lips, sighing gently as they touched.

Hermione’s eyes blew open as she staggered back. She quickly glanced around the room, noting the candles and the wine, and realizing how much she had overlooked. This hadn’t been a talk amongst colleagues. This was something else entirely. Millicent was flushed and breathing heavily as she stared at Hermione.

“I’m afraid there’s been a mistake,” Hermione said shakily.

“I followed all the rules,” Millicent insisted aloud. “Twelve Fail-Safe Ways to Charm Witches was very clear.”

“What?”

Compliments,” Millicent said, counting off each subsequent point on her finger. “Common Interests, Active Listening, Good Grooming, Giving Gifts, Being Supportive, Quality Time, Romance, Slow Seduction, Kissing! I followed all of those things to the letter! We just haven’t got to bedroom section yet but that’s only because-”

“Millicent!” Hermione interrupted, still not completely believing what the girl was going on about. Was she trying to say that she fancied Hermione? No, it couldn’t be. But then she had just kissed her... quite passionately in fact.

“Didn’t you think it was strange I always went after you when we got in scuffles as students?” Millicent said softly.

Hermione paused a moment, her mind flying back to their school days. To the duelling club where she’d pulled Hermione into a tight headlock. To the way her sweaty face had been staring down at her when she held Hermione down in Umbridge’s office when they were trying to use the Floo network.

“You were always so cruel to me,” Hermione said weakly.

“I’ve fancied you for years,” Millicent said with an embarrassed wince. “From the moment I met you. You were the cleverest girl in our year. Only I didn’t want to admit it to myself. A pureblood Slytherin girl, in love with a muggle-born Gryffindor girl? I was tormented enough at home, the last thing I needed was that.”
“So that’s why you picked on me?” Hermione said softly, ticking several puzzle pieces together. “And said all those mean things about me?”

“Yes. And I only signed up for the Inquisitorial squad because I knew it would give me an excuse to follow you without suspicion,” Millicent said, her eyes sorrowful. “I thought now that we were colleagues you’d see me different.”

“But-“

“I suggested that bloody joint class project so I could spend time with you,” Millicent wailed. “Why do you think I put our classes together? You said yourself it was an odd fit! But when you love someone you want to be with them all the time!”

In love with her? Hermione felt completely blindsided by all of this. She had thought Millicent was a friend – someone who had similar interests. But from the sounds of it she had built up their relationship in an attempt at seduction?

“I started that stupid campaign against the book for you! I knew how passionate you were about S.P.E.W. I thought for certain you’d see that we were so similar!”

Hermione was silent, unsure as how to explain that she has no romantic feelings for Millicent whatsoever without completely dashing what little self-confidence the woman had already. But Millicent looked so upset, so distraught that the very thought was causing Hermione to second guess herself. With a flash of Gryffindor courage she had crossed the room and placed a kindly hand on Millicent’s shoulder. This seemed to calm her a fraction.

“Millicent, I am so flattered,” Hermione said with a ghost of a smile. “To know you went to all this effort for me? It’s... it’s very humbling.”

Millicent said nothing, but her eyes searched Hermione’s desperately.

“Then you feel the same way?”

“I… I can’t,” Hermione said diplomatically. Millicent had trusted her with something sacred and she didn’t want to act as if it didn’t matter. Unfortunately, Millicent took the rejection badly and pulled away from Hermione.

“You fancy someone else,” Millicent said, her eyes narrowing. The shadow of the hardened former bully of her youth skirted across the woman’s face. Hermione was shocked to discover that she was suddenly anxious to be alone with her, and she took a small step back.

“I-I do,” Hermione admitted reluctantly. It was a half truth, at best – she did fancy Snape after all. Even if it was an unrealistic crush, at least the honesty would let Millicent down as gently as possible.

“Who?”

Hermione refused to speak. She didn’t need Millicent to know that she fancied their employer! If anything, it would prove to be a silly crush and would resolve itself in time. She needed to ignore it. And besides, she needed Millicent to understand that it was nothing to do with her feelings – Hermione simply wasn’t interested in her beyond friendship.

“Millicent, even if I didn’t fancy someone else, you need to understand that I’m not... I don’t see you in that way,” Hermione said as tenderly as possible. "I'm so so sorry."

If one had looked up devastated in the dictionary, one would have found a photograph of Millicent Bulstrode in that moment. Her eyes overflowed and her mouth hung open in a low moan.

With a sudden flash of fury Millicent grabbed the roses and thrown them to the floor. She grabbed a nearby phial of asphodel and hurled it against the floor as well. Hermione watched all of this in silent anxiety, contemplating the best way to defend herself if necessary.

“Millicent-“

“Say nothing of this to anyone,” Millicent insisted with a snarl. She looked so summarily angry and hurt that Hermione felt her heart twinge in sympathy.

“I would never-“ Hermione began, but Millicent had fled before she could finish, running as fast as her legs would carry her. Hermione stared after her for a long moment before joylessly heading back to her chambers.

The roses lay forgotten on the floor amongst the shards of glass.


***

Snape knew he should stop reading immediately. He knew that reading more of his book would only stoke the fires of unnecessary and inappropriate sexual tension. However, he was already hard and his mind groggy with lust-addled thoughts.

Despite himself, he thought of Hermione Granger as his cock lengthened. As he slipped a hand under the waistband of his trousers he groaned at the contact. He could almost imagine it was her hand.

His eyes fluttered shut at the thought of her there with him. She was straddling his lap, her chest bare and her face flushed with arousal.

“Keep reading,”she groaned against the shell of his ear. “Keep reading and think of me.”

He gave in to his baser desires immediately. He quickly threw open the manuscript once more, his dark eyes greedily devouring the words as he stroked himself.

“You must concentrate. Focus your mind.”

“I am concentrating!”

“Focus your mind, it is the only way.”

Favian urged Selene from several steps away as they stood in the glowing sunset of the afternoon. It was the first time they had seen each other since their first intimate encounter and the two had been vigilant in not succumbing to touching each other again. They had not spoken of their tryst that rain-soaked afternoon. It seemed imperative for them to pretend as if it had never happened.

And this day had proven to be quite a busy one. Selene had insisted on practising her wandless magic, to see if she was progressing as she had hoped. Favian had agreed to it because of the strong desire to see her.

Now they stood across from one another, only a few steps away but it felt like a gulf.

“Why will it not work?” Selene pouted, holding her hand aloft and in the direction of the log at the side of the forest.

“You are distracted,” Favian replied. “Close your eyes. Imagine the log moving before you cast the incantation.”

Selene licked her lips before closing her eyes tightly. She knew that what Favian said was true. She was distracted – not by the magic she felt swelling within her, but the nearness of the man she could not stop feeling drawn to.

Favian watched as Selene’s hand wavered, her forefinger trembling as she aimed it towards the log. Nothing was happening. He frowned at her, concerned that she would be disappointed in herself.

“I can’t do it,” Selene sobbed, wiping at her eyes as a child would. “I need a wand.”

Favian knew he should keep away from her. But he couldn’t stand the sight of her looking so discouraged. Without thinking, he crossed the distance and slid beside her.

“Relax,” he murmured, pressing his left hand to her waist and positioning himself behind her. His right hand came to her wrist, urging her to try again.

“You have the power within yourself. You need no wand. You need no master. You are stronger than you realize.”

Selene’s sobs ebbed away at his words. They warmed her because as he spoke the words she could feel the belief he had in them. He thought her powerful and strong. And this alone caused her body to sing as he pressed against her. It was as if his words had spun a golden web within her insides, causing something to flow through her.

‘I love him.’

Without thinking, her eyes fell on the log and it began to move. Briefly at first and then suddenly it was lifted into the air. Selene’s eyes were wide and fixed upon it, her chest heaving in surprise.

“Are you doing this?” Selene whispered to Favian who still stood with his hand at her waist.

“I am not.”

Selene was suddenly aware of his closeness and she pulled away from him. Almost immediately the log fell to the ground with a mighty thud. The two figures looked at this in surprise before Selene gave a gasp.

“Favian,” Selene whispered. “Your hands.”

Favian glanced down to see his hands giving off the faintest golden glow, leading into his wrist. As if his veins were suddenly gold and able to be seen outside of his body. Selene watched as the small thin lines began to highlight all over Favian’s body, making him glow as if he were enchanted.

Favian in turn watched transfixed as Selene’s body too was covered in these thin, golden glowing strands from head to toe. She looked like some angelic creature from a story book. She was exquisite.

And then just as soon as it had occurred it was gone. The golden threads were dimmed and the glow was gone, leaving them in the encroaching darkness of night.

“What was that?”

“I have no idea,” Favian replied in earnest. “I-I’ve never experienced such a thing.”

“Nor have I.”

Favian gaped at her, his dark blue eyes taking in her worried face. She was so close he could smell the rose petal of her perfume. He could see the sparse dusting of freckles along the bridge of her nose.

“I feel strange,” Selene said, rubbing her wrists and arms as if trying to warm the glow back to life. “I feel...magic within me.”

At the words Favian knew what she was saying was right. He had read, of course, of twinning magic, but it had been only in the guise of fairy tales. He had never heard of it happening in real life. The mythical fated magic of those who were destined to be together. But the woman standing before him was real flesh and blood, not the written word.

He had felt the same... As if she had woven her way around his heart. He could still feel her there, lingering within him. Laying dormant until they touched again.

“Your magic flows through my veins,” Favian breathed. “Still now I can feel it here.”

He pressed a hand over his heart and without thinking Selene did the same. Her eyes were damp as she spoke.

“I feel it as well,” Selene said in a whisper. “When it happened... Favian I must tell you this. I was thinking how ardently I care for you.”

Favian felt his throat constrict at her words. Words he had longed to hear and yet could not believe. Instead he said nothing, feeling his breathing coming out in quick huffs.

“You must know how I feel for you,” Favian finally spoke. “And this...magic between us. It only confirms my adoration and love for you. It was as if it were a magic of its own, born of our love for one another. Filling us.”

Selene’s dark eyes searched his face. “Does it only happen when we touch?”

Favian said nothing, but drew over to her. She did not flinch as his hand came to tip her chin ever so slightly. She closed her eyes when his lips pressed to her own, gentle and sweet and full of such longing.

When Favian pulled back he expected a sting of accusation. A slap across his face for taking advantage of her. Instead she was smiling, and blushing prettily under his gaze.

“Come with me.”

***

Hermione was in her room, her heart still hammering after what had occurred. She didn’t know what to say to her friend. Hermione had sent Millicent an owl hours earlier, hoping to speak with her. But she’d heard nothing back from the woman.

You fancy someone else, Millicent’s words rang in her ears.

Hermione couldn’t have told her the truth, due to the embarrassing nature of it. That Severus Snape was dominating her fantasies. That she was so besotted with her employer that she was having a hard time looking at him without blushing. It would not have gone over well and she knew it.

The book lay next to her laundry on the floor. It taunted her, silently willing her to pick it up and be transported. The book promised a tale so unlike her own – with a life she could throw herself into. A world that didn’t have strange Snape's and bizarre Millicent's.

“I need a distraction,” Hermione insisted to herself.  She gathered the book in her hands and looked at the glinting golden title.

The Witch in the Tower.

She smiled as she realized she had once been a witch in the tower. Gryffindor Tower to be exact. Is that why she thought of herself as Selene?

She didn’t allow herself to think much more on this because she was already cracking open the book to the place where she had left off.

Favian could scarcely believe what was happening. One minute he was kissing Selene in the garden and now she was leading him up the marble staircase within her home.

They came to the bedroom that Odin had for himself. It was lavish and had a large four poster with emerald green sheets that looked spun of silk. Favian immediately recoiled from the space.

“I cannot take you in the bed of another. I cannot have you where he has.”

Favian knew that he was being headstrong.

“He has never had me,” Selene said shyly. “You will be my first.”

Favian’s shock amused her, and in this state he allowed himself to be led down the long corridor until they came to the steps leading upward.

“The tower is mine and mine alone,” Selene explained. “No man has ever entered.”

The two carefully made their way up the winding staircase, entering into a simple yet feminine space. Drapery hung around the bed bathed in the glow of the moon out the large window. It was a romantic, calming space.

Favian noticed that Selene was trembling ever so slightly and without pause he wrapped her in his arms.

“I know that we should not do this,” Selene whispered against his jaw. “But in your arms everything feels safe and right. I still feel your magic thrumming in my body.”

“And yours in mine,” Favian added in a whisper.

“Then it is not wrong,” Selene offered. “The fates have brought us together.”

She said nothing more, choosing instead to press a gentle kiss to the corner of his mouth. He responded eagerly, his palms cupping her cheeks as he pressed tender kiss after tender kiss upon her face. He wanted to kiss away the tears she had shed for Odin, kiss away the concern in her furrowed brow. He wanted to kiss away any bad memory she held because to him, she was utter joy and heavenly promise.

He led her to the bed and underneath the low hanging moon, he removed her clothing. Her outer robe was unclasped from its brooch at her slender neck. Next came the dress robes and under things. He took these off with delicate care and infinite patience. As he did so Selene whimpered, unable to tear her gaze from his handsome face.

Soon she was naked before him, bathed in the moonlight and looking like a nymph from a fairy tale. She could not be real, for nothing in this world could be as breathtaking as her nude form. She smiled and ducked her head under his slack-jawed awe.

And just like that, the moment went from sweet and slow to a maelstrom of passion. Before he could say anything more, Selene had come to divest him of his own clothing. He helped her along until the two stood before one another, panting and naked and aching.

They were on the bed, their tongues probing one another's mouths. All pretense of propriety was left on the ground with their clothing. All that was left was their animalistic need, the desire to fill one another. As their bodies touched, the golden glow from before was back, emanating from them like beacons.

“You are so beautiful,” Selene said into the glowing face of Favian.

He gave a small smile, pressing a kiss to the end of her pert nose. “You are the most beautiful thing I have ever seen, Selene Moonglow.”


His hands found her breast, plucking at the hardened nipples there as he continued to ravish her mouth. She groaned, sucking at his tongue wantonly and arching into him. His hand snaked between the two of them, coming to rub and swirl between her nether lips.

“Oh,” Selene cooed in shock. “I have never felt so... so...”

She could not put into words how she was feeling. The sensation of electricity was dancing from her swollen nub of desire all the way up her spine. As his fingers continued their dance, she found herself bucking against him like a witch possessed but she didn’t care. She couldn’t hold back.

“More,” she breathed raggedly. “More, please!”

Favian was enraptured with this open desire, the way her body glowed more vibrantly with every deft motion of his fingers. She was wet, soaking his fingers and he felt light headed.

Then suddenly, a flash of light so brilliant he almost had to look away erupted from her chest. She screamed a throaty cry of completion, of found desire. She was shaking and her tears leaked as she came down, her body still in the aftershocks of orgasm.

Favian positioned himself at her entrance, looking down at her with such indescribable affection and tenderness. She gasped at the sight, still not quite believing that this was happening.

“Oh please,” she begged. “Please now.”

He needed no further encouragement. His cock pressed tentatively into her soaking quim, his eyes searching her face. She was smiling beatifically at him, encouraging him with a nod.

Inch by inch he slid inside the body of the witch who had captured his affections. She welcomed him in, pressing the heel of her feet against his upper thigh. Soon his body was rocking against her in a dance as old as time itself.

He felt her inner walls milking him as her body, beautiful and fevered under his mouth urged him on. She whispered how good he felt, how right this felt. His hips were moving quickly, his eyes cracked open long enough to see Selene reach that apex of pleasure and come rocking into it with her.

As he erupted inside her walls, marking her as his own, his lips dipped to hers.

“I love you,” he whispered against her mouth. “I love you.”

---

Hermione’s hands were searching desperately under her knickers, her hands finding the slippery warmth there. She arched into her hand, groaning as her swollen nub begged for release.

She was so close.

Favian, his long fingers and his low, baritone voice. She knew in an instant as the electricity fizzed within her that it was Snape she was thinking of.

It had always been Snape.

And as this realization hit her, she was too far gone to care. She gave into the desire the washed over her, causing her to cry his name into the darkness.


***

In his rooms Snape was in a similar repose, his dark eyes closed and his hair falling into his flushed face as he pumped his aching cock as he finished the same book passage.

He was laying in bed, the book at his side as images of Hermione flashed within his mind.

He imagined her with him in the room, and kissing the swollen head of his cock. She would have her hair tied up as he kissed down the length of her neck. More details bubbled up from the recesses of his mind... The way her dark eyes blazed when she was angry. The unbridled way she laughed. And yes, the body that tantalized him when she was near.

It was mere moments before he had spent himself all over his hands, warm and sticky as he sat panting in his bed. As he realized he had come all over himself at such lurid thoughts of his employee he couldn’t help but give a dark utterance.

“Fuck.”

Chapter Text

Millicent didn’t arrive at breakfast the next morning and Hermione felt simultaneously guilty and relieved. She felt awful that Millicent had been so open with her and that she couldn’t return the feelings nor the vulnerability.

She sat next to Hooch at the Head Table, and the woman looked better than she had in months. No longer was she wincing and looking green. It seemed whatever had been plaguing her was no more.

“Granger -- musical instrument, lime curd. Eight letters.”

“Dulcimer.”

“Ah, yes that’s it,” Hooch replied, happily marking the boxes as Hermione watched on thoughtfully. It had been months since Hooch and Snape had been caught together in his rooms. Hermione still didn’t quite know what to think about it but it felt wrong to speculate on it. No matter how much she tried to picture the two colleagues together it just didn’t seem to fit... Hooch was too loud, too gregarious. Whereas, Snape was much more quiet and private.

As if on cue, the Headmaster entered from the far door and strode towards them. Hermione felt her heart thrumming angrily against her rib cage, causing her to inhale sharply.

Snape was dropping envelopes at all the Professors’ plates as he passed. As he gave Hermione and Hooch their missives, Hermione noticed the dark look he gave Hooch before continuing on.

Hermione glanced over to see the momentarily sunny Hooch now looking withdrawn and miserable. When Snape was out of earshot, Hermione turned to the woman who had unsealed the envelope and had begun to read.

“Seems we have an emergency staff meeting,” Hooch sighed sadly. “Just what I needed today.”

Hermione nodded, though her mind was elsewhere.  She couldn't keep from fixating on Hooch and Snape together. She didn't know why but she couldn't shake these visions and opinions. Were Hooch and Snape an item? How had it happened? Had it gone on a long time? Or did it start when Hooch had been seen exiting his rooms one morning? Hermione felt her cheeks flushing.

“Is there something going on between you and the Headmaster?”

Hermione couldn’t believe that she’d just blurted it out. And judging by the response in Hooch, she couldn't believe it either. Her eyes darted to Hermione’s face, wide and yellow.

“What?”

Hermione was immediately regretful.

“It’s just the rumours...” Hermione added awkwardly. “I - I just know that a few of the others said that you and he were-“

“I’ll stop you right there,” Hooch replied in a cutting tone. She folded her hands atop the table and fixed Hermione with a deadly stare. “What I do in my private life is no one’s business. I can have whomever I choose as company.”

“Of course,” Embarrassed, Hermione felt her cheeks glowing red.

Hooch continued harshly, “But for your information, no, there is nothing going on between the Headmaster and me.” Hooch’s voice lowered as she finished, “We’re just old friends. Or at least we were.”

Before Hermione could say anything more, Hooch stood abruptly and made her way out of the Great Hall. Hermione watched this with a face so red she felt she could have led Father Christmas’ sleigh herself.


***

The emergency staff meeting was to be held over the end of the lunch period. As Hermione filed into the staff room with the rest of the confused teachers, she was relieved not to see Hooch. They’d never had an emergency staff meeting under Snape’s Headmaster tenure. Not since the days of Voldemort.

“Have you finished with the book yet?” Sprout whispered to Hermione with a devilish smile as Hermione took the empty seat next to her. Poppy sat beside her, listening in and smiling widely.

“Not yet,” Hermione admitted with a cheeky grin. “Been a bit busy as of late. Almost finished though.”

Last night, after her disastrous experience with Millicent, Hermione had come back to the bed desperate to take her mind off of what had occurred. She had read for a while.

After a week of stolen kisses and mutual touching, Favian and Selene had finally made love in her bed chambers the night before Odin was to return. It had been delicious and naughty and Hermione couldn’t help but imagine Snape as her Favian once more. She looked forward to reading the rest when she returned that evening.

“Oh, I won’t say anything then,” Sprout said, miming a zipping motion across her lips.

“Don’t want to spoil it,” Poppy added saucily.

Hermione realized now, as Sprout and Poppy exchanged knowing looks, that Hermione was starting to become one of the fold. By embracing something she normally would have ignored, she was being treated as an equal. She smiled to herself, shocked that a thing such as a smutty book would be her way of bonding with her colleagues.

“Thank you,” Hermione said, about to expand on her gratitude when Snape stalked into the room in his usual dramatic swirl of robes. He passed by Hermione and she felt her insides jump as the hem of his robes brushed against her bare calves.

“So why have you called us here?” Minerva asked, a bit miffed at not having been privy to the information before hand as Severus’ Deputy. To her astonishment and slight mortification, Hermione found it impossible to ignore the rumble of Snape’s voice as he began to speak. It seemed to siphon all the way from the soles of his dragonhide boots, coming out low and silken.

Oh for goodness’ sake! Stop acting like a soppy teenager.

“Millicent Bulstrode has tendered her resignation,” Snape said swiftly, blatantly ignoring the surprised whispers that followed. “I will be taking over the instruction of her Alchemy class in the time being. It is far too late into the school year to find an appropriate substitute. My hope is to find someone qualified for the start of the next term.”

Hermione was shocked at several things at once. One, Millicent had left the job entirely? Over what had happened last night? Hermione wanted to be sick. Surely Millicent hadn’t done something so rash over something they could have moved past eventually?

The other was that with Snape taking over Alchemy, this meant that the two of them would be working closely together for the next few weeks as their classes operated together. This thought sent a delicious thrill through her body that she immediately felt guilty about.

“The workload will be tremendous,” Slughorn huffed from his seat near the hearth. “She’s left at a most inopportune time. And to not let me know! She was my assistant after all.”

“I apologize for the late notice,” Snape said without sincerity. “But this came as quite a shock to me as well. I only found out this morning before lessons began.”

Chattering began in earnest as everyone speculated why the girl had left.

“If the students ask, we are to tell them Miss Bulstrode is taking a sabbatical,” Snape continued officiously. The teachers nodded at this and Snape dismissed them all, looking harried.

“Professor Granger,” Snape said as they all stood. “Stay behind, please.”

Fuck.

Millicent had told him – and now she was going to have to explain exactly what had occurred. How could she do this? Explain to Snape that she had turned Millicent down romantically?

When the room was empty Hermione walked up to Snape who looked distracted and frustrated. It was, no doubt, due in part to losing a member of the staff in such a rushed manner. Hermione could not stop herself from feeling a pang of guilt, as if there was something she could have done differently while still staying true to herself and respecting Millicent. He glanced over at her as she approached.

“As I am taking over Alchemy lessons I think we should meet later to discuss the group project you and Miss Bulstrode were finishing with your classes. Would eight tonight suit?”

And that seemed to be all there was. Simple and to the point with no mention of Millicent and her unrequited love for Hermione. Nothing out of the ordinary at all.

“Yes sir,” Hermione said, relieved that this was all that he wanted to speak about. Then, her scholarly mind chirped up, reminding her of the encroaching exam deadline.

“But, in that case, I should run this past you now. These are the students that I have paired up from the different houses for the final. I wanted to announce the partners this morning in class. I’ve come up with two options.”

There were two options for appropriate student pairing, many overlapping and looking similar. Hermione had thought long and hard about the students she wanted paired up – this was about inter-house relations after all. It wouldn’t do to pair up an acrimonious pair or two students who would not complement each other’s skills.

She stood at his shoulder, reading along with him to ensure she hadn’t made any errors. Distracted, Snape glanced the paper over quickly, pushing it back into her hands and answered gruffly.

“I see no difference.”

With that, he stalked off towards his office and Hermione, surprised at his cold response shoved the notebook into her robes pocket. She was almost at the door when something stopped her cold in her tracks.

I see no difference.

Hermione felt as if she had been slapped.

The memory of Snape telling her that he saw no difference with her hexed teeth.

Favian telling Selene he saw no difference.

The big hair, the love of books, the ink-stained fingers.

No, it couldn’t be.

And yet all the evidence pointed to it - Selene was her! The character had been based on Hermione!

And who else would know the things that Snape had said to her if not the man himself? The book had to have been written by Snape! She was sure of it!

Why else would he be acting so strangely about it? Tense and irritable over the thought of people getting their hands on it?

Which meant that he saw her as he wrote Selene.

Hadn’t she been described as beautiful? Luminous? The thought was causing Hermione to flush in both embarrassment and excitement. Her heart began a rapid staccato against her rib cage as a singular thought occurred to her:

Did Severus Snape fancy her?


***

Hermione felt her stomach flipping uncomfortably as the clock in her classroom rung eight. She had been sitting there since seven, anxiously awaiting her meeting with the Headmaster.

All she could think of was Snape and the book. How Selene bore such a familiar resemblance to herself. How Favian was very little like Snape and yet reminded her so much of him. Was she projecting? Did she simply want Snape to be the author? She was unsure.

However, she inexplicably brushed her teeth three times and attempted to smooth her hair with her hands for several minutes more than necessary in preparation for this meeting this evening. Was she pleased at being included in this story? She wanted to say no, that it was a breach of privacy to cast as such a character. But then again who would really know? If anything it was like a dirty little secret.

Her body tingled.

What am I thinking? This is Snape! Why do I care if he fancies me?!

All at once the answer came; bold and unrelenting.

Because you fancy him!

As if on cue, the door to her classroom burst open and in walked Snape, looking dismal.

“Hello sir.”

Snape gave a murmured hello and took the seat across her desk. He looked as if he wanted to get this meeting over and done with. Not the sparks and longing looks Hermione had been hoping for.

Am I so wrong to think him the author?

“I was sorry to hear about Millicent leaving,” Hermione offered by way of breaking the ice. She brought out the notes from the top drawer of her desk and scanned through them until she found the ones that she and Millicent had drawn up.

“As was I,” Snape replied gruffly. “She was a fine teacher.”

“Did she say why she was leaving?”

Hermione held her breath, anxious for the reply. Had Millicent said she’d been rejected? Had she mentioned Hermione? Snape looked nonplussed at this question.

“She didn’t name anything specific,” Snape said.

Hermione felt relief and pity surge through her.

“I admit I’m a bit worried about her,” Hermione said with a frown. “To rush off like that...”

She trailed off, feeling an insurmountable amount of guilt for Millicent. It was her fault that Millicent had run off. She may not have told her to leave, but her rejection had surely driven her to it.

“You often worry for others,” Snape said silkily. “Even if they don’t deserve or require it.”

There was a tenderness in his voice that drew Hermione’s attention momentarily to his face. Did he think Millicent didn’t deserve her friendship and worry? Or was he referencing Ron and Harry? Merlin knew he still wasn’t their biggest fan. But most of all, he noticed this about her? She felt touched.

“You think so?”

“I have witnessed it first hand,” Snape said with a small smirk. “S.P.E.W. was quite the ambitious project, after all.”

Hermione gave him a broad smile. Snape had rarely shown her such good humour. Usually, it was laced with something cruel and cutting that would leave her weeping. But now, despite the rigid way he sat, he seemed almost conversational.

“I have come a long way from S.P.E.W.,” Hermione said good-naturedly. “I was, after all, very successful in championing for several of their advancements.”

“I am well aware,” Snape said. “The victories of the golden girl of Gryffindor do not go unnoticed. Especially by Minerva McGonagall.”

“The Golden Girl of Gryffindor?” Hermione cocked her head to the side. She had never heard this nickname before and it stuck out to her as odd.

“I thought it appropriate,” Snape said with amusement dancing in his dark eyes. “Not only of your house, but of your Order of Merlin first class.”

Hermione blushed at this, embarrassed by the acknowledgement. She never knew that Snape had ever paid any interest to her or her career. She didn’t even know he was aware of her award.

His eyes lingered on hers for a long moment and she couldn’t find herself able to look away.

Are you my Favian?

“I’m afraid you’ll have to catch me up in what your classes were working on,” Snape said with a cough, breaking the warmth of the moment. “Miss Bulstrode left me without a syllabus.”

Hermione could see how weary he was – having to balance the responsibility of being Headmaster and now the temporary Alchemy Professor. He was sitting tiredly in the chair beside her desk, looking at the notes upon it with passing interest.

“Of course. The Alchemy seventh years were working on creating an elemental spell, and my seventh year Defence students were working on breaking it down. They’ve been working in teams and for their final I wanted to switch up the partners. Hence the paper I was showing you earlier.”

When you said you saw no difference. Just as Favian said to Selene. Just as you said to me all those years ago. Do you even remember?

Hermione bit the inside of her cheek to stop herself from asking him these questions. He looked thoughtfully at her notes, taking time to read each sentence thoroughly. Hermione took advantage of this, noting the sweeping way his eyelashes fanned over his pale cheekbones. The way his mouth pursed ever so slightly as he read something he didn’t agree with.

“This seems fine, all but for this pairing,” he said, pressing a forefinger to one of Hermione’s notes. “The two are romantically linked. In the interest of inter-house friendship it would be wise to pair students who don’t have a history.”

Hermione glanced over the line his finger was pressing against to see the two students he was referencing. She could barely make out her writing from this angle, and leaned over further to read what she had written. Claudia Briggs the Gryffindor and Taylor Markson the Slytherin. So they were dating? And Snape knew this? What else did he know?

Hermione was surprised to find she was leaning quite close to Snape in the process of reading the names on the parchment. He seemed to notice her proximity as well, because he leaned back and surveyed her.

“I didn’t know they were together,” Hermione said with an awkward laugh. “But to be fair, romance isn’t something I’m very well versed in.”

She had meant it as a joke, a lightening of the mood. But it had come out sharp and shrill. An awkwardness descended and Hermione found it impossible to look Snape in the eyes. Instead, she fixed her gaze on his chin - a most innocuous piece of his face and spoke directly to that.

“I appreciate you giving your time to this. I know how busy you must be.”

Snape dipped his head in agreement.

“And I wonder, will you be attending the final class next week?” Hermione tried to keep the hope out of her voice. “To see how this inter-house experiment plays out?”

“Afraid not,” Snape replied. “I’ve much to do by way of Headmaster duties. I have no doubt you will be capable enough to oversee the final exam yourself.”

Hermione felt herself deflating at his words. She had been eager to see him in the classroom again. He had always been such a commanding force and she would have been thrilled to work alongside him.

He stood abruptly, gathering the notes Hermione had prepared for him. Snape gave her a stiff nod before turning quickly and making his way out of the room. Hermione watched the billowing robes swirl neatly around him, following him out of the classroom like a dark cloud.

As his tall, rigid form made its way out of the classroom Hermione couldn’t help but be assaulted by a fact – Severus Snape was not a sensual man. He had been in love with only one woman for his entire life. And something told Hermione he wouldn’t be throwing that old love off for a girl like her.

Shame suffused her face. A restrained man like this was writing about the sensual exploits of a witch? Was Hermione mad? Relief and disappointment flooded her. There was no way Snape could have written the book.

Who said he had to have written it? For all she knew he had simply read it! Yes it would be out of character, but then again Snape was meticulous in all things. The chance that he read the book simply to see how inappropriate it was to have on school grounds would not be unbelievable. He had discussed the book with Millicent hadn't he?

Hermione wanted to seep into the floorboards in humiliation. Why had she come to believe that Snape of all people could have written this lust filled tale? Had she been so desperate to fix him in the role that she’d overlooked such obvious reasons he could never be the author? He was the most private man she had ever met – there was no way he would put his reputation on the line.

There was no way Snape could have written the book.

Chapter Text

Snape hurried back to his office, his face feeling unnaturally warm. Being alone with Professor Granger had him feeling out of sorts. Her soft brown eyes had showcased the hope that he’d attend the final dual class. Something about her expectations, even though they were unexpected, were welcome.

“...To be fair romance isn’t something I’m very well versed in.”

This didn’t ring true. The Hermione Granger that Viktor Krum took to the Yule Ball? The same girl who had Weasley following after her like a lovesick puppy? This girl wasn’t well versed in romance? He scarcely believed it.

For a brief, shining moment he wondered if this was Hermione’s covert way of testing the waters. To see if Severus himself was willing to enter into a romantic arrangement. Then he’d realized the stupidity of this and tried to shut it down.

Anguis,” he muttered, watching as the gargoyle jumped to the side, allowing him to continue traveling up the circular staircase to his office.

He entered into the bleak office with its walnut walls and various measuring contraptions. It was as if his potions lab had matured, becoming less cluttered. Items in jars no longer lined the walls. It was dim, yes, but it was warmer. The warmth must be some left over magic from the previous Headmaster, Dumbledore.

His mind went back to Hermione and her limpid expression. The way he could smell her hair - lilacs - as she leaned over to read the names he pointed out.. The way he could see the deep brown of her iris in contrast to her dark pupil. They were eyes he felt he could get lost in if he weren’t more careful.

But he had been kind earlier hadn’t he? Telling her that she cared for others who may not deserve it? Potter and Weasley came to mind – she’d always cared for them through the years. Even if they hadn’t always deserved her kindness. Such as that ridiculous lie about the troll in the dungeon in her first year. She forgave them their childish faults then, and saw past their shortcomings.

Could she do the same for him? Did she want to?

“Enough,” he growled at himself, prowling around his desk and slamming his body into the chair. But even as he told himself this, his long fingers were searching the desk for the manuscript, starting where he had left off.

---

Selene and Favian slept soundly in each other’s arms until the morning’s rays of dawn shone on them. Favian was the first to wake, glancing down at the chestnut head that lay upon his shoulder. Her even breathing and soft coos in her sleep made him sigh in contentment.

“You are fitted exactly for me,” Selene said serenely, snuggling into Favian’s warm body. “Our bodies were made for one another.”

As the sun rose in the sky, Favian made love to Selene once more. But this was slow and tender, their bodies still warm from sleep. They moved languidly upon her bed, swaddled in fine sheets as she came once more for him in the glorious light of day. Again they glowed with an inner light as they found release, dimmed only by the bright day out the window. He followed quickly after, his body still not quite believing what was happening.

“Why do you suppose that light happens?” she later asked, her fingers absently playing with his. “I’ve never read anything about it.”

“Is that how you know everything,” Favian said with a smile. “Through books?”

“I have had no other opportunities,” Selene frowned. “How else would I?”

“I don’t know why it happens,” Favian said, not answering her question. “But I believe it is the physical manifestation of our magic. It grows stronger through touch.”

Selene smiled happily, content with this explanation. It made sense and she was a girl who prided herself on making sense of the world. She pressed a merry kiss to Favian’s stubbled cheek, her hands slowly slipping down the base of his abdomen towards where he lay already hard and wanting.

“We should start the day,” Favian said with a small smile at her drowsy face. “Odin-“

Selene frowned at the mention of her husband, but quickly brushed it off.

“He does not return for another fortnight,” Selene said, her hands now tracing along Favian’s outer thigh. “You have plenty of time to teach me how to do more of...that.”

Favian smiled against her throat before placing a delicate kiss there. He was so remarkably happy. Deliriously so to be holding the woman he felt so much for. He cared for her so deeply he couldn’t imagine letting her go.

They dressed shortly thereafter, but Selene insisted on more time spent in bed, just touching, being in each other’s company. They were wrapped up in one another's arms, napping so sated that neither heard the footsteps coming up the tower steps until it was too late.

The door burst open with merciless strength, and Favian was thrown across the room before he could react. His body landed with a hard crunch against the stone wall of the tower before falling to his knees onto the wooden floor. Favian’s wand fell between the slats on the floor, forgotten.

“No!”

Odin stood at the entry to the door, his eyes wide and furious. Selene let out a cry as Favian struggled to stand, her eyes brimmed with angry tears. Odin had crossed the room, his wand at Favian’s neck.

“I suspected,” Odin spat, looking at his friend in disgust. “But I never imagined. Behind my back?”

“Please!” Selene cried out, her eyes overflowing now. “Please don’t hurt him!”

“Hurt him?” Odin growled, his mouth twisted into something ugly. “What of me?”

“You never cared for me,” Selene insisted with an anger she hadn’t felt in a long time. “You want me on your arm, but, you care nothing for me.”

“You are my wife!” Odin bellowed, causing the other two to wince. “I bought you, you are mine!”

“I am sorry,” Favian insisted. “But you do not deserve her, Odin.”

“Crucio!”

Favian fell to the ground, his body jerking and spasming at Odin’s feet.

“Stop!” Selene insisted, rushing over and grabbing Odin’s ropey arm. He swatted her away as if she were an imp, sending her crashing to the floor and crying out in pain.

“It pains you to see your lover like this? Defeated and shamed?” he called over his shoulder. “Imagine how I feel as your husband!”

The spell ended and Favian, breathing with a rasp, still trembled. Selene unsteadily brought herself to standing, preparing to go over to him. Her head pounded and there was a deep cut on her forehead. Still, she tried to move towards him.

“One move and he gets more,” Odin promised her darkly. His wand was still trained on the sputtering Favian. He watched as the handsome man struggled to stand, sagging against the wall for assistance.

“How long has this been going on for?”

The two were silent and Odin pressed his wand into the hollow of Favian’s throat.

“Answer me.”

Selene was sniffling, feeling that all hope she had been holding within her was somehow gone. Odin would never let them be. He would never let them live a life together.

“I knew it the minute I took her hand,” Favian answered. He was staring at Selene with a look of supreme apology. “But the consummation was only last night.”

Odin let out a feral roar before bringing his meaty fist and striking Favian harshly in the face. Favian felt the blood spurt from his nose, his back teeth loose and wobbling in his mouth.

“You shall not take her from me,” Odin bellowed, now holding his wand to Favian’s throat. Favian knew that there was nothing to be done - nothing but to tell the truth.

“You don’t love her!” Favian replied through a mouthful of blood. “You treat her as property. Why do you care?”

“And you love her?” Odin scoffed. “A simple, peasant witch with no magical ability?”

Favian’s eyes darted to Selene’s worried frame standing beside the bed. She looked so despairing that he felt his body sag a fraction before he fixed Odin with an icy stare.

“I do.”


***

“Draco?”

Draco’s eyelids fluttered open as his name was called. He had been dreaming pleasantly about a certain green-eyed wizard when the familiar call of Hermione Granger sounded from his hearth.

“Draco are you there? I need to speak with you!”

Draco grudgingly stood with a groan, stretching to pop the protesting bones of his back. He ambled over to the hearth where the worried face of Hermione looked back at him through the flames. Relief covered her face as he came into view and crouched down before the crackling embers.

“Granger, what is it?” Draco demanded with a yawn. “I was trying to nap.”

“Is Harry there?”

“No,” Draco shook his head. “He’s off at some Auror meeting. What’s the matter? You like a fright.”

Hermione did look a fright. Her eyes were wide and her face looked pinker than usual. Or perhaps that was just the colouring of the fire? Still, he rarely saw the unflappable Gryffindor looking anything other than put together.

“I need to speak with you about something,” Hermione said, looking anxiously around. “But I need you to keep it between us.”

“An intrigue,” Draco said with a small laugh. “Go on then.”

“You promise you won’t say anything?”

“I promise.”

“You swear it on Harry’s life?”

Draco paused, the mockery on his face suddenly gone. “I swear it. Now, what is this all about?”

“It’s about Snape.”

“What about him?”

“Well... I need your advice.”

Draco tried to suppress the smirk that was threatening to cross his entire pale, pinched face. So he had been right - the girl did fancy Snape! He’d known it the minute she’d been in a huff over the Snape and Hooch rumour.

“What advice do you need?” He gave a look of triumph at her over the flames.

“Draco have you ever known Snape to write fiction?”

Well this was not what he’d been expecting. Draco faltered a moment, staring at the flames as he processed what she was saying.

Fiction?”

“Yes, stories and the like,” she clarified, as if Draco had never stepped into a library in his entire life.

Draco thought back through all his many years of knowing Snape. The man was exceedingly scholarly and spent an excessive time reading. He wrote many articles, but those were all potions based. He couldn’t think of any time when Snape had ever done anything that didn’t have a distinct purpose. Writing fiction simply didn’t line up with what he knew of Snape.

“No,” Draco shook his head. “I can’t say that I have.”

He noted the disappointed look that flashed over Hermione’s face. What a strange line of questioning this had been? Why on earth was she asking about something so bizarre as Snape’s writing habits? She should be asking him tips on how to get the reticent Slytherin into bed!

“What is all this about, Granger?” he demanded, curious as to what exactly she was on about.

“Nothing. Just an idea I had. A stupid one.”

She closed the floo connection before Draco could ask her any more.


***

Hermione stayed awake late into the night, her mind whirring with information. She held The Witch in the Tower on her lap, surveying the typed pages in earnest. She had gotten to the fight of Favian and Odin when she suddenly felt compelled to re-read certain sections of the book from the beginning, highlighting pertinent passages and descriptions.

Ink stained fingers.

Wild, chestnut curls.

Library filled with books she had read over and over.

Living in a tower.

Was it really possible she was simply projecting? Did she merely want to find herself in the story so badly she’d let her imagination run away from her? Was she so desperate to think that someone had found her desirable enough to immortalize in print?

She snorted, no one thought of her like---

She stopped as the image of Millicent Bulstrode suddenly entered her mind. Millicent with dark glossy hair and deep blue eyes. Shy but sensitive Millicent. Professor and sometimes Tutor Millicent. In love with a woman who she should not desire. Millicent insisting that the book not be read by staff... As if everything slid into place before her eyes, Hermione let out a small groan.

“Oh no.”

How had Hermione not seen the obvious parallels?

She placed her head in her hands. Her eyes squeezed shut as she groaned. It was so painfully obvious now – Millicent was the author!

Millicent had obviously based the character on Hermione. And given the romantic feelings she had admitted days earlier this revelation was no surprise. She felt so remarkably embarrassed that she’d overlooked this possibility.

Yet, another part of Hermione was so flattered that her eyes watered. Selene was described not only as beautiful but powerful and forgiving. Traits that Hermione found herself touched to be compared to.

She thought of Favian’s desperate yearning, the self recrimination at loving someone he should not desire. Poor Millicent! The girl must be beside herself right now!

Hermione rushed to her writing desk in the corner of the room. Ignoring Crooks mewling at her feet, she pulled her favorite parchment from the desk, a new quill, and a fresh ink bottle.

Dear Millicent,

I was so sorry to hear that you've left the school. Hogwarts will be lesser for having lost you. I hope that you may reconsider your choice - you are such a beloved teacher here. The students already miss your lessons and I miss having my friend.

In your absence, I find myself wondering how much more I didn’t know about you. There was so much of yourself that you kept hidden from me and the rest of the world. It makes me wonder, and forgive me if this is strange, but I know you are aware of The Witch in the Tower. A story with characters that seem almost familiar.

I admit I have been reading it, and was rather shocked to find that the main character Selene Moonglow seems to have certain similar qualities to myself. Upon reflection, it made me wonder if you might have written it?

If this is completely offensive to you, I deeply apologize. I simply wondered if it was perhaps a way of airing feelings without the fear of recognition? If this is true, please know I will forever keep your secret. I am so touched you based such a strong, brave character after myself.

Millicent, please know I want our friendship to continue. I miss your brilliant ideas and the way you inspired the students. No matter all that has occurred, I think our friendship can survive if given the chance. Please let me know what you think, when you are ready.

With affection,

Hermione

Chapter Text

Exams were finally over and a sense of relief swept through the castle. The weather was crisp, and a new blanket of snow had arrived just in time for the student’s dance that evening. The students were laughing and rushing all through the castle, obviously intent on having a marvellous time.

Snape was slogged down in the Alchemy assignments to mark on top of his regular Headmaster duties. He’d had barely any time to devote to ponder Professor Granger’s odd behaviour as of late.

The past two weeks had been strange to say the least. She had gone from the open woman chattering on about her lack of romance to a stoic Professor that rarely met his eyes during meetings or passing in the hall.

Before, she would give a small wave, a nod or even a smile and “Good morning!” Now, she ducked her head as he passed, pretending to be enraptured with her notes.

Last night as he entered the Great Hall after dinner he had found her completely immersed in a spell that cast cascading waves of light from the ceiling. She had been inspired by Muggle lasers, or so he overheard her saying to Professor Vector.

He found himself doing that far more often now, going out of his way to overhear her conversations with others.

Granger had been so focused on the task at hand that she hadn’t noticed him as he approached her from behind. He found himself entranced not only by her elegant wand movements, but the confident way she held her body during the incantations. She was the very image of proper wand control, taut muscles and smooth gestures. When she tilted her head to better appreciate her work, her soft hair glinted in the descending magical light.

“Oh,” she said, her mouth forming the shape. “Headmaster, I didn’t hear you come in.”

“I came to check on the progress of the decorations,” he lied.

In truth, Snape had earlier overheard her saying to Sprout that she’d be finishing up the decorations this evening, and he’d wanted to see her. He’d wanted to catch her alone so she’d be forced to interact with him. He found himself desperate to be closer to her, even if it were such ham-fisted subterfuge.

Her hair was wild around her face and a thin sheen of perspiration dotted her forehead.  She'd obviously been hard at work based on the litany of decorations around them. Large, realistic looking snowflakes were dancing above their heads. They dimmed as she lowered her wand so that she could properly face him.

“The rest will be finished tomorrow afternoon,” Hermione said, her eyes filtering everywhere but his face. In a desperate bid to look busy she grabbed the nearby bouquet of ice flowers she had been creating.  She could feel Snape's gaze on her face and yet she couldn't find the strength to look up at him.

Look at me. Look at me.

Snape's body silently screamed for her gaze to lift from the floor.

Tension crackled between them and Snape was certain that she felt it as well. He wasn't imagining it. . . Was he? He stepped closer under the guise of looking at several of her twinkling ice flowers in her tight grip. His hand moved between them and his forefinger trailed along one crystalline petals.

Hermione's breath caught in her throat.  Snape was so close and she was feeling heady. She saw the firm clench of his jaw and the way his hair shifted as he tilted his head to get a better look at her work.  She knew that the bundle of flowers she was holding were trembling in her shaky grip.  Did he notice? If he did he wasn't saying anything.

His eyes were stuck on the flowers, obviously impressed with her charm work. Hermione took advantage of the moment, taking in the contours of his mouth and the sharp angles of his cheeks. His fingers moving along the petals with deftness were long and pale and elegant looking. They were easily his most appealing physical feature.

As if he could feel her scrutiny his hand fell to his side and he took a step back, his appraisal obviously concluded.

“I wanted to test out some of the more experimental magical décor before the dance,” Hermione said in a breathy voice.

Snape was immediately taken by the dark brown eyes that came swimming up his body and landing boldly on his face. The pupils were blown wide and Snape could see a tinge of pale pink along her cheeks.  Was it from exertion of her magic? Or was it a result of him?

If he weren't so disciplined he would have dipped into Hermione's mind immediately to know what she was thinking. But to do would be a grave violation and he would never do that to anyone, lest of all the woman standing across from him.

“I’m sure whatever else you do will be perfect,” he finally muttered, his tone free of mockery.

He felt the air rush from him. Being in such close proximity to Hermione had his body feeling tingly. She seemed to not realize his distress, because now she was simply staring up at him, her beautiful face completely impossible to read.

Say something.

“Yes, well,” Hermione finally nodded, looking surprised at his closeness. “I should go. It’s getting late.”

She shouldered past him, almost running out of the Great Hall, and leaving him standing there feeling wrong-footed.

He couldn’t pretend that the slight didn’t bother him. After last week he had almost thought that they could... What? Have a romance? He sneered at himself for the puerile thought. Professor Granger was not only his employee, she was also far too young for him, too bright, too social too...perfect. His hands curled into furious fists, knowing that he was completely lost to her.

"What was I thinking?"

He could only hope that he never let Hermione know of his pathetic, growing affection for her.


***

The dance was hours away and Hermione was looking at herself in the mirror with a scowl. The decorations had been finalized and after a luxurious soak she had towelled off and prepared herself for chaperoning duties.

The dress robes she had bought were a silken pale blue that set off her complexion. Her hair was worn in loose curls, and had been smoothed by Sleek-eazy giving her a regal and polished look. She looked positively lovely and the mirror was quick to voice this.

But then why did she feel so... blah?

Was it because her short lived dream of Snape being the author had been dashed?

“I can’t believe I thought it was him,” she whispered to Crooks as he jumped on her bed, demanding to be pet. She acquiesced, her cheeks burning in memory. “Can you imagine? What if I’d confessed all I feel for him because of it? He’d have laughed in my face!”

Hermione sat on the edge of the bed, feeling morose and anxious. Very shortly, she would be going to chaperone the bloody dance. She would watch the amorous students, a public reminder that she was still pining after someone who simply didn’t want her back. How long had she really felt like this? Since the night she had come to his aid in the Shrieking Shack? When she discovered he would be returning as Headmaster? When he'd given her the position based on her talents and not her reputation? When had it all truly started?

She thought back to last night and the mysterious look Snape had given her. He’d been so close to her that she could see the softness of the normally flinty black eyes. She saw herself reflected in that inky gaze looking flushed and awkward.

He’d almost seemed... flirtatious? If that were possible. Was it possible for Snape to flirt? She’d never seen it before but it surely wasn’t out of the realm of possibility. He was a sensual man, had a history of ardent love. Was it really so impossible?

He had stood much closer to her than necessary. They had been alone in the room. What would he have done if she leaned in and kissed him? The thought sent an erotic jolt filled with delight and fear down her body. She could lose her job for one, her practical mind reminded her! And secondly, would he have pushed her away from him? Grimaced and wiped furiously at his mouth?

With these thoughts in mind, she’d panicked as he gave her the compliment that whatever she did would be perfect. Was he joking with her? Mocking her? It was so impossible to say with him. And if he was being genuine, did it really mean she could spill out her heart to him? Admit that she felt something for him?

No. That was stupid.

Even now, she could only assume that Millicent was writing her back, confirming that she'd been the one to write the best seller. Or at least she hoped she was. She still hadn’t heard back from the woman in three days and Hermione wondered if the owl had even been able to locate her.

Actually, no one had heard from her - not Draco or Harry or even the Longbottom's when she checked in on them. Millicent had seemed to disappear without a trace.

Hermione’s eyes fell on the book beside her bed, tempting her to read before she left for her duties. She hadn’t read more of the book since her letter to Millicent. Somehow it seemed wrong – almost illicit to read the girl's innermost thoughts and potential fantasies.

That is, if she actually wrote it.


But as Hermione sat there on her bed, desperate to distract her mind from thoughts of Snape, she found her hand moving of its own accord She rested the lightweight tome in her lap.

“Just one more chapter,” she promised herself as she cracked it open.


---

Odin stood looking down at Favian and gave a bitter laugh that echoed within the tower room.

“You love her?” He mocked, kneeing Favian harshly in the ribs. He took enjoyment as the taller man buckled. “You’re pathetic. The pair of you.”

He glanced over to see Selene struggling to a standing position. Blood was running into her eyes.

“I shall prove it a thousand times,” Favian promised, his eyes settling on the wobbly standing Selene. “She is my soulmate.”

Odin paused a moment before throwing his head back with laughter. It was obvious he found the entire idea farcical.

“Soulmates,” he murmured, wiping at his eyes with his forefinger in amusement. He bent down to meet Favian’s eyes.

“You are a fool, Favian. Hypnotized by her beauty and the promise of her cunt,” Odin sneered. “She is nothing more than a whore. Something I bought to amuse myself. You shall not ever possess her. She is mine. I bought her.”

He lowered his wand a fraction, pointing it at Favian’s feet. Selene was stoic, standing with her head down and her body shaking as Odin finished his threat.

“Now get out of my sight before I kill you.”

Favian had lost track of his wand completely, but he felt no fear. There was an eerie calm he felt staring into the dead gaze of Odin.

“You shall have to kill me, then,” Favian said, straightening, with a grimace, to his full height. “Because I will never willingly leave Selene’s side.”

Odin’s wand was at his throat but Favian merely gazed over Odin’s shoulder into the dark eyes of the girl he loved. Her beautiful face would take him beyond the veil. He would die with her longing eyes upon him.

It would be enough.

“I love you, Selene.”

But something was happening to Selene as his eyes met hers. The glow that only seemed to occur when they touched was beginning independently within her. The soles of her feet were sputtering with golden light, and she gave a serene smile to Favian as the glowing strands wove through her body. In seconds it was if she were made of the most exquisite sunbeams.

Her head tilted back, and her hands rose palm up at her sides. Wordlessly, she was lifted from the ground, her magnificent hair floating all around her as if she were underwater.

Odin, so fixed on Favian, took no notice.

“Stand away from him,” Selene spoke. Her voice was soft yet carried easily to Odin who turned abruptly, his wand raised.

When he saw her in the golden hue of her raw power he took an inadvertent step backwards. She was suspending herself midair with no wand, and the look in her eyes was deadly.

“What sorcery is this?”

“My own,” Selene said, still bobbing in midair. She was looking icily down at Odin. “My own power.”

“Y-you have no power,” Odin sputtered, confused as to how this was happening. “I took it the day I married you.”

He still kept his wand trained on Favian, sure that this would keep Selene at bay. But Favian was smiling widely up at the love of his life, basking in the warmth of her glow.

“You took my wand,” Selene said. “But you did not take my power.”

“You think your power outshines my own?” Odin demanded, bringing his wand to face Selene. “CRUCIO!”

As if she were swatting a meddlesome fly, Selene gave an absent turn of her hand. The spell intended for her, ricocheted back into Odin’s body and he fell to the ground, grunting and squealing as the pain enveloped him.

His wand clattered beside him on the dusty floor. Favian rushed to grab it before moving to stand near Selene, looking up at her as she stared coldly at the twisting form of Odin.

“He is cruel,” she said aloud. “But I am not.”

As the words were spoken, the spell was broken. Odin stopped writhing and instead twisted his heaving body to a standing position. He was searching for his wand and his face was mottled red.

“You will leave us,” Selene said, still bobbing majestically in midair. “I shall pack my belongings and leave. You will not pursue us. You may tell them I died. In many ways I did because I have been reborn.”

She looked to Favian and gave a beaming smile. “Reborn in love.”

Odin’s teeth gnashed together in fury at the sight of them. They were looking sickeningly at one another, the love apparent in their twin gazes.

Before they could stop him, the dagger he kept sheathed in his boot was thrown. It soared through the air, coming to slice into Favian’s neck before landing on the ground behind him with a clattering thud.

Favian fell to the ground, his eyes wide as blood spurted out at an alarming rate from the wound at his neck. Selene gave an unholy screech as the glow died within her and she fell to her feet before clamouring over to Favian.

“Favian!” she shouted, propping his head upon her knee. “You cannot leave me!”

But the blood was leaving him, pooling underneath them like a sickening blanket. 

"Stay with me," Selene insisted through sobs. "You can't die. Don't give up. Stay."

Odin watched in muted glee as the woman he called his wife cried over his oldest friend.

“No,” she was still screaming. “No Favian! Not now!”

“He’ll be dead within the minute,” came the satisfied rasp of Odin at the far end of the room. “And the minute he’s dead you shall pay. You will pay in pain and flesh.”

But Selene could not hear him; every one of her senses was attuned to the man in her lap. The coppery taste and scent of his blood, the staggered breathing, the feel of his skin cooling under her fingertips. She stroked at his hair, whispering over and over for him to stay alive.

“Thank you,” Favian said, his eyes welling. “Thank you.”

“For what?” Selene sobbed.

“I know what love is because of you,” Favian whispered, his hand attempting to staunch the flow of blood at his neck. “Carry me always in your heart.”

Favian was fading, his eyelids fluttering as she caressed his cheeks. He gave the weakest of smiles.

“I love you,” she whispered, kissing his cooling cheeks. “I love you.”

Her eyes shut tightly, blocking out the world. Memories of her time with Favian were flooding into her mind and body. The sensation of him in her arms was causing her to feel electric.

As he lay dying, Favian stared amazed as Selene’s body once more broke out into a full body glow. Without a word she pressed her mouth to his, and Odin watched enraptured as the glow seemed to travel from Selene into Favian.

“Stop,” he demanded.

The glow grew brighter, so bright that Favian had to squint against it. And yet, the warmth of it felt so inviting, so safe that he turned his face to it.

But Odin was reacting differently. As warm as the glow was for Favian, the sensation to Odin was as if someone had set a match to his bare skin. He winced away, patting furiously at his arms.

“Stop!” Odin shouted, pulling at his clothes. “Stop the burning!”

No one paid him any heed. Selene kissed Favian as tears slipped down her cheeks. His eyes were still open, fixated on her lovely face as she smiled down at him.

“Live,” she breathed. “Live for us.”

With that, Favian’s eyes blew open, the wound on his neck knitting itself together with the golden strands that moved within him. His face broke into a relieved and joyous smile.

“I will.”

He brought himself up to a sitting position, capturing Selene’s face in his hands and kissing her soundly. Odin screamed something foul as the two kissed, Selene’s glow increasing by the second.

As the glow burst forth from them both, the screams of Odin became blood curdling. His entire body caught fire, his skin bubbling, and stinking of fried hair and flesh.

Selene and Favian broke apart, looking down at Odin’s charred body. Selene gave a small cry of shock as Favian held her, pulling her away from Odin’s outstretched hand.

“YOU WILL PAY!” He gurgled, trying to crawl towards them. “YOU WILL PAY WITH YOUR WRETCHED LIVES!”

Selene and Favian watched in mute horror as the man known as Odin, charred and gurgling became ash at their feet. The two stood in shock as the glow ebbed away, the power radiating back within them. When the inner light was gone, Selene seemed to come back to herself.

“Take me away from here,” Selene sobbed into Favian’s shoulder. “Please.”

The two made their way out of the castle, back to the stream where they washed the blood from their bodies and clothing. Favian watched as Selene shuddered at the edge of the stream, her eyes clenched tightly shut.

“He was an odious man,” she whimpered as Favian drew her into his arms. “But to die like that?”

Favian was amazed at the capacity of her heart. Odin had abused her, had attempted to strip her of every dignity. And yet, she sat here mourning him.

Time passed as he held her, listening to her sobs and tearful gulps for air. He patted her wild hair as she clung to him like a port in a storm. He would always be here for her.

Always.


---

Hours later they sat in the quiet rented room at the Inn. The fire crackled as they huddled around it. They were dressed in fresh linens and sipping soup from the bowls the innkeeper provided them.

“You are the most amazing, brave and powerful woman I have ever known,” Favian said in a voice akin to awe. "You saved me from death."

"I don't know about that that," Selene said, pinking prettily under his gaze.  "I just wanted so badly for you to live. I would have done anything."

Favian regarded his lovely Selene, tossing over in his mind the ardent love she felt for him. If she hadn't loved him, if she hadn't been there . . . He would have bled out. He would have died on the dingy floor unloved and forgotten. 

Did she realize  the power in what she had done?  That she had saved more than his body? That in many ways she had saved his soul?

“Your magic," he offered gently. "It was truly astounding.”

Selene gave him a weak smile before lowering the empty bowl to the floor.

“I never knew I could feel power like that,” she admitted. She stole a glance over to the stoic man at her side. “You gave it to me.”

“No,” Favian shook his head. “It was always there.”

The two lapsed into a quiet silence. Soon Favian’s arm was around her shoulders, holding her to him as if terrified she would be gone. As if sensing his hesitation she turned her face up to him.

“It was love that defeated him,” she said bluntly. “And saved you.”

“And how do you know that?” Favian teased. “You know all, now?”

“Perhaps,” Selene replied with a grin. She snuggled more contentedly against him; her eyes falling shut a moment in gratitude. This day could have gone so differently. If Favian had never come she never would have known of this power.

She felt him shift and tilted her head, seeing that he was lowering his face to meet hers. His piercing gaze dipped to her mouth and then to her eyes once more.

"This will always be complicated," Selene whispered against Favian’s lips. "Our relationship shall never be a simple one."

"I don't want an easy romance," Favian replied with a smile before capturing her mouth once more in a searing kiss.

---

Hermione dropped the book onto the ground with a thud as the clock rang seven. The dance was beginning, and all her previous suspicions were coming to the fore with the book’s simple sentence.

All at once, the memory of running into a drunken Snape all those months ago assaulted her. When he’d blearily asked her about the scarf she wasn’t wearing. When she’d given him advice - that she’d assumed was for he and Hooch. With crystal clarity she was transported back to that moment when he’d given her a memorable utterance.

“People don’t want an easy romance.”

He’d said it – Severus Snape. Perhaps Millicent overheard his cruelty of “I see no difference.” Perhaps she had even been able to pick up on other things about Snape. But that moment, that very memorable moment, had happened in the corridors at nightfall between only she and Snape.

"He couldn't have just read it," Hermione whispered to herself as realization dawned on her. "He said those words months before the book even came out." There were too many coincidences, too many things that pinned Snape as the author. Too many small undercurrents in the story, too many sayings only he seemed to use and in her presence.

Without thinking she had bunched her dress robes in hand and begun racing down the corridor filled with chattering students. She needed to see Snape, she needed to confront him about this.

Her eager heart spilled out hope at the thought that perhaps Snape was the author. And perhaps, just perhaps, she was his Selene Moonglow.

 

Chapter Text

Hermione rushed down the corridor to the Great Hall. She nodded politely to the students who greeted her as they passed. Everyone was dressed in the loveliest of robes and rejoiced in the air of excitement that had fallen over the castle. She recalled a similar feeling, of joyous youth, when she attended the Yule Ball.

She rounded the corner just in time to see the Great Hall’s doors open to signal the start of the Winter Dance. She heard the students gasp in wonder as they strode in, arm in arm with their dates.

Hermione was glad that her eleventh hour spell work had come off without a hitch. Despite being distracted by that bloody book she had still been successful in creating a memorable ambience for her charges. It had been a nice opportunity to practice some of her charm work, which had gone rather rusty since taking her Defence post.

As Hermione stepped into the Hall she allowed herself to take a moment to take it all in. The floor was charmed to look icy, and the lights from her ceiling charm shimmered off the glossy surface. The walls were blanketed in realistic looking snow piles. Icicles made of bubbles hung atop the door jambs, causing the students to duck and giggle as they passed underneath them.

The ceiling bewitched to cascade Aurora Borealis-like lights was particularly popular. Students stood underneath marvelling and pointing. Large fir trees stood near the stage covered in fake snow and decorated liberally with candies so the students could treat themselves to a sweet. The Weird Sisters began to play their classic “This is the Night”, welcoming everyone in.

Hermione scanned the now bustling hall hoping to see the expected scene of Snape weaving through the dancing students, and ordering them to stand further apart when dancing. He didn’t appear to be here, and she felt a frown cross over her face.

The music grew in tempo and soon the students were shrieking with delight, jumping up and down in the centre of the hall. Others stood shyly to the side, near the buffet full of delicious looking snacks and crimson-coloured punch. Hermione leaned against one of the walls, surveying the multicoloured robes and cheerful faces.

A pang of jealousy went through her at the sight – hadn’t she once been like that? Joyful and amorous with the boy she fancied? She felt disappointed that Snape wasn’t here. She wanted to speak to him before the night stretched on too much further. A sigh escaped her.

“Tired already?”

A cheerful voice sounded at her right as Pomona Sprout approached, offering her a cup of punch. Hermione took it with a grateful smile, drinking it quickly.

"I've finished the book," Hermione said with a forced smile. "I'll return it to you tomorrow, if that’s alright?"

"Oh, anytime is fine,” Sprout said with a dismissive wave of her left hand. She looked up at Hermione, a playful smile on her face. “How did you enjoy it?"

"It was... surprising,” Hermione offered with a shy shrug. “I admit, I didn’t think I’d really get into it, but Selene was a... compelling character.”

“As was Favian,” Sprout said with a gleeful chuckle. “What a dreamy character!”

Hermione gave a shaky smile, licking her lips in anticipation. The music swelled around them.

"Have you seen the Headmaster?" Hermione asked, trying to sound casual. “I thought he’d be here glowering at all the happy faces.”

She winced as she said it, knowing that in her effort to sound casual she’d come off as quite biting. Sprout gave her an inscrutable look, before agreeing.

“I admit I’m rather surprised not to see him,” she ceded. “If I weren’t such a kind woman I’d assume he was skiving off chaperoning duties.”

Hermione forced a laugh as they finished their punch. The two then lapsed into a comfortable silence as they surveyed the group of exuberant students.

"Honestly, these events don't need chaperones because the students do so well at controlling themselves," Sprout said, taking another sip of her punch. “I’d much rather be unwinding with a bath-“

At that moment a screech was heard from near the buffet as a Hufflepuff girl dumped a glass of punch over a Sytherin boy’s pale head.

"I spoke to soon," Sprout huffed, pressing her lips together in a thin line. "I'll be right back."

Hermione smiled as the small, portly woman rushed over towards the chaos, shaking her finger at the offending students. Blessedly, this allowed Hermione the freedom to circle the room herself to look for signs of the Headmaster under the guise of searching for wayward students. While Snape had yet to make an appearance, she was pleased that everything else appeared as it should. Well, besides the Hufflepuff on the end of a rather animated scolding from Sprout, of course. She returned to her former spot on the side of the room, watching passively.

“Hullo, Granger.”

Hermione glanced over to her right to face an approaching, waddling Hooch, looking forbidding. At first, she felt her stomach drop at the sight, fearful for another public confrontation after their breakfast several days ago. However, Hermione was actually more surprised to note that the woman was dressed as Father Christmas. Hooch’s normally bare face was covered in a great, bushy beard that would have made Hagrid jealous, and her slim frame was over-stuffed, looking as if it she had confiscated an actual bowl full of jelly.

“Hello,” Hermione said softly, her eyes scanning the woman’s bearded face. “Nice fancy dress.”

“Thanks,” Hooch replied with what Hermione assumed was a grin under the white beard. “It’s an inside joke.”

Hermione said nothing instead giving a nod of understanding before looking back over at the sea of students. Some of the more shy students had started to clap softly to the beat of the music.

“I apologize for being so headstrong during our last talk,” Hooch said suddenly, leaning against the same wall as Hermione and shooting her a look of regret from under fluffy white brows.

“I never should have asked you such personal things,” Hermione insisted with a shake of her curly head. “It was improper-“

“True,” Hooch agreed immediately. “But I didn’t need to get so shirty. It’s just that Snape and I have always been friends. Assumptions of something more are rather distasteful in my mind. Not that he isn’t completely fetching to many women-”

Hermione’s eyes widened at this.

“-But he’s more like a sulky younger brother to me,” Hooch finished, wincing. “Not my type in the very least.”

“I didn’t realize,” Hermione offered lamely. Curiousity getting the better of her she began to ask, “Then can I ask why-“

“Why I was in his rooms so late that night?” Hooch finished for her with an eye roll. “Because I had an idea for an article collaboration. It came to me in a dream and so I rushed to him in my night clothes. He has wickedly bad sleeping habits, I knew he would be up.” She shrugged. “That’s the whole story, nothing more and nothing less.”

Hermione nodded slowly, comprehension dawning. Hermione felt a pang of relief go through her at the knowledge that there were no romantic entanglements there.

“However, I’m afraid I betrayed his trust,” Hooch added suddenly. “And it’s hard for a friendship to survive something like that. Especially if someone has been hurt before. But I do miss my snarky friend.”

Hermione was surprised to see that Hooch’s yellow eyes had grown a bit damp. Hooch blinked rapidly before pulling Hermione into an awkward one-armed hug.

“I best mingle with the students,” she said absently with false cheer. “See what they want for Christmas. Chat later.”

Hermione’s gaze followed the retreating woman as she slipped into the crowd. She crossed her arms and leaned her shoulder against the wall, her back to the buffet table. Hermione’s attention swivelled to the stage as the song’s tempo ended.

Alright you lovely witches and wizards,” Wagtail encouraged. “Grab a partner and get ready to slow it down a tic.”

Hermione watched as the students began to pair off – she was particularly delighted to see some bold students take the initiative and lead the shy students to the dance floor. She smiled at the sweetness of the scene – she knew how important it was for her self-esteem and confidence to be in the arms of someone she fancied, dressed beautifully and beaming.

Did these sweet children realize how much of their lives lay before them? She hadn’t, not then. Hermione never could have anticipated this was where her life would lead her. The future had seemed so uncertain when she was a teenager. After the war, though, she eventually found herself on the path to become a Professor, a job she found to absolutely love. Unfortunately, her fickle heart had chosen a much more sinuous and tortuous path, and she found herself fancying the one man she knew she shouldn’t.

She was still in this reverie when she felt the warmth of a body behind her. She turned casually, assuming it was another Professor. Maybe Sprout had finally finished with her reprimanding.

However, she felt all the breath leave her when her eyes snagged on the tall, stoic form of Snape standing behind her. He was wearing his finest black dress robes and smelled of spicy potions ingredients and decadent dark chocolate.

He's so striking.

Snape looked down at her with glittering onyx eyes. They flickered all over her face, as if he was intent on memorizing her features. All she could do was stare up at him. She felt all the bravado regarding her purposed confrontation with him over the book seeping out the soles of her shoes.

His right brow raised a fraction of an inch before he spoke. "Professor Granger, may I have this dance?"

Hermione felt her tongue heavy, leaving her unable to answer verbally. However, she gestured to the floor and his lip curled in pleasure. He then swept her into his arms with a surprising grace. She'd always seen him as an elegant man, but she hadn't expected the fluidity in how he manoeuvred them onto the dance floor.

The students nearby all stood agog as their teachers began to sway to the music. Hermione allowed herself to giggle at Snape’s insistence at shooting the students a dark look.

"They act as if they've never seen a grown man dance," he rumbled. Hermione couldn't help it when her giggle erupted into an amused laugh.

"I think it's less the gender and more the individual" she responded, noting with pleasure how his eyes didn't leave her face.

"Indeed."

Hermione swallowed as Snape's hand moved from clutching her waist to curl around her lower back.

"H-have you seen that Hooch has come dressed as Father Christmas?" Hermione managed to sputter.

"I hadn't noticed," he offered.

One of his hands was resting firmly on her lower back, and the other was gently wrapped around one of hers. It was the traditional, formal, impersonal positioning and yet she couldn't help but feel tingles all over due to his close proximity.

His eyes continued to be focused on her upturned face. She marvelled at the chance to see him so up close. She was close enough to smell the mint on Snape’s breath.

They glided slowly to the music. Hermione couldn’t stop from peeking up at Snape from under her fringe. He was so striking, so masculine, and so strangely beautiful to her. Her mind immediately went to Favian and Selene. Was this a good time to confirm her suspicions?

Once she decided to bring up the subject she was jostled from behind by a bumbling student. The collusion caused her hips to bump against her dance partner. However, instead of Snape recoiling at the intimate contact as expected, his hand at the base of her spine stiffened, keeping her close.

The two continued to dance, their pelvises in tune with one another as the music swelled around them. Hermione was thankful for the voluminous robe she was wearing. She fought the urge to place her cheek against his chest, though she was starting to get the impression that she might get away with it.

She never wanted this dance to end.

***

As Severus looked down into the sweet and open face of Hermione Granger he couldn’t help but muse on his behaviour hours before.

Earlier in the afternoon Snape had been pacing his office, trying to reconcile with the idea that he may feel a true affection for Hermione Granger.

By the time that Snape had reached the end of The Witch in the Tower he was out of sorts. The final scene, where the lovers admitted their commitment to each other even in the face of a hard-won romance made his skin prickle.

He could no longer ignore the parallels between the story and his life. Everything was so bloody obvious and he was dumbfounded that nobody had approached him about it yet. The injury to the scholarly Favian’s neck, and the eager-to-learn Selene’s insistence on saving him. Replace the characters’ names with Snape and Granger and the plot would continue on without any trouble.

The revelation had caused him to ricochet into his office. He then rushed to the portrait of Phineas Black and pressed his hands against the wall on either side of the frame. The old man had been dozing, but woke up rather quickly due to Snape’s loud unsteady breathing. The older man gave a nervous glance at the inky-eyed Severus.

“What is it, Headmaster?”

For the next hour Snape spoke feverishly to Phineas about everything: the book, the troublesome publication, Hermione’s influence, and his growing feelings for her. Especially, his torment over the latter. When he finally had finished, hairline damp with sweat and eyes bleary, Snape fell into his chair and glanced up at the Portrait of the Slytherin wearily.

“You're a Slytherin, are you not? Phineas had offered with a sniff.

Snape had sneered. “I am.”

“Then you are wise enough to see the obvious answer. You both adore her and hate the woman for keeping you alive. We both know that you didn’t plan on living past the final Battle. Now you’re in a life you weren’t prepared for. You’ve always done everything because someone else wanted you to. Now you have no master and you feel lost.”

Snape had been surprised to find tears in his eyes at this.

“You want Hermione Granger because she has seen you at your worst and has remained loyal,” Phineas had said with a serious look in his dark eyes. “But she’s more than loyal, isn’t she? She respects you and enjoys your company. I don’t think that can be said for many.”

Snape then fell silent at this, and bid Phineas goodbye as the old man disappeared into the side of his frame. What the portrait had said was correct: it had been Hermione Granger’s quick thinking that made it possible for Snape to be alive at his very moment.

Upon returning to the castle after Voldemort’s death, Hermione had immediately seen that Snape wasn't in his memorial portrait in the Headmaster’s Office. On this hunch she made the connection he might still be alive.

She alone had rushed back to the Shrieking Shack, bezoar in hand. There, she had found him in a large dark pool of his own blood, his neck mangled. In an effort to staunch the flow, Snape had attempted to apply pressure to his wound, but he was growing very weak by the time she had returned. Then, Granger had rather unceremoniously shoved the bezoar down Snape’s throat. Whether it was from the pain of the mass being shoved into his body or the lack of blood, he had lost consciousness nonetheless. He woke up in St. Mungo's and it was there, several weeks after the Final battle, where he had made a full recovery. He had felt shame at being coddled, and lost at not knowing what he would do next.

Is that why he'd been so harsh on her at times? Because he didn't feel worthy to be alive? Or that Snape craved the independence, to not be indebted to another, that so often had eluded him?

He had gone to the dance to see how he felt about her after this revelation. He wanted to speak aloud the concerns he had held onto for so long. Was it a feeling of being indebted that drew him to her or was it something else entirely?

But when he saw her leaning against the wall looking so ravishing in her pale robes that he hadn’t been able to stop himself. All he wanted to do was to get closer to her.

He just, simply, fancied her.

She was strong, clever, and beautiful. Hermione argued against him when she felt she was right, and she listened to him when he needed it. She had tried so long to be his friend – how had he not seen it?

And now as they swayed side to side, their hips shifting in time to their movements, he knew what was growing between them was more than friendship. His skills in perception worked in his favor as he gazed down on her. Her cheekbones had been growing more scarlet under his regard and it was then that he knew. Whatever she felt for him must be more than just a cordial professional relationship. He allowed the thought to buoy him.

Snape was going to confess to everything. He would tell the woman in his arms that he was the author of The Witch in the Tower. She likely hadn’t read the book, considering her normal literary tastes ran more scholarly, but he wanted to be honest with her – that he’d based his heroine of Selene Moonglow off of her. She really did deserve to know. And when she inevitably asked why he had done such a thing, he could admit the feelings for her that he had long tried to bury.

But where to do it? He held her tightly, wanting nothing more than to explain everything but concerned as to where it would take place. His office seemed too formal. Perhaps down at the Three Broomsticks? Yes, that would do.

“Hermione-“ he rasped, swallowing as her surprised brown eyes fixed upon his mouth.

At that moment however, another voice called her name.

“Hermione!”

The two broke apart as if they were snogging fourth years caught in the astronomy tower.

“Millicent?” Hermione asked, looking confused and surprised. To Snape’s shock, a raven-haired girl approached. She sounded like Professor Bulstrode but she looked altogether different. It was then that he realized the woman must have employed glamours. As Millicent neared, Snape’s arm curled loosely around Hermione’s waist.

“So, this is your paramour?” she snarled, her cheeks colouring in anger... “Headmaster Snape?”

“Millicent-“

“Save it,” Millicent said. “I got your letter, Hermione. The one where you claim that I wrote that ridiculously smutty book?”

Hermione took a step back from the other woman, obviously surprised at the girl’s vehemence. Snape still held fast to her hand, feeling it necessary when he saw the look in Millicent’s eyes. There was a coldness in the girl’s tone that worried him.

“Millicent, I didn’t claim anything,” Hermione insisted. “I just thought that-“

“Well I didn’t,” Millicent cut her off harshly. “But your letter did strike me as strange. Particularly, that a character would be based so obviously on you. Then I did some more research, and on a hunch I contacted the publishing house. Turns out they were more than eager to help a witch from a pureblood family.”

“Miss Bulstrode-“ Snape warned.

“Just hear me out,” Millicent said, her eyes fixed intensely on Hermione. “They told me the manuscript came from Hogwarts. And while they refused to tell me exactly who wrote it, I can only imagine it was the man standing beside you.”

“Millicent that’s ridiculous,” Hermione said, her cheeks pinking. Even though she had been about to ask Snape that very thing, she would have never accused him so bluntly. He was a snake – wary and ready to strike at any danger. And the last thing she wanted to feel like to him was a threat.

"He's not what he appears to be!" Millicent continued, growing shrill. "And I want everyone in this room to know. Severus Snape is no proper man. He's a writer of perversions!"

Suddenly, Snape felt every set of eyes on him. Students and Professors alike had abruptly stopped what they were doing. Even the decibel of Millicent’s shrill accusation had overpowered the entertainment, causing the Weird Sisters to stop playing completely.

Snape felt his cheeks paling further as terror struck him, the lead dropping into the pit of his stomach. Before allowing himself to slip further into the panic he was beginning to feel he released Hermione. With a forcible turn and a hand on her shoulders, he marched Bulstrode out of the hall and into the corridor. He was vaguely aware that Hermione had followed suit.

"Millicent what are you on about?" Sprout called after them.

A crowd had formed at the entrance to the Great Hall by this point, including Professors and also students. Snape knew if he dismissed them it would only increase their interest.

Instead he frowned, his lips in a thin line of displeasure. He began to speak in a dangerous low tone, "Miss Bulstrode it's time you left-'

"I'm not leaving,” Millicent insisted in a growl. “Not until you admit it."

Without warning she produced her wand, aiming at Snape.

“Millicent, no!” Hermione cried out, quickly inserting herself between them. Without thinking of anything beyond her safety, Snape’s fingers curled around Hermione’s shoulder, and pulled her quickly out of the way. Snape stepped forward and raised his own wand in response.

The gasps erupted around them like dying fires. Some shrieked near the back at the sight. Snape very rarely raised his wand and as an ex-Death Eater he carried a certain gravitas as he did so now. The cries of the anxious students increased up behind him and he grimaced.

"Return to your festivities," Snape threw over his shoulder in a voice laced in irritation. "Before I cancel this dance altogether."

“Get inside,” Minerva insisted, ushering the students into the Great Hall. Everything became muffled with the doors closed with a subtle but tactful click.

Finally, it was just Snape, Hermione and a handful of Professors watching Millicent warily, hands twitching. Snape could tell them to leave, but he knew they wouldn’t. He was their Headmaster and they would defend him.

This was in stark contrast to the last time Snape was Headmaster and had unsheathed his wand at another staff member of Hogwarts. The significance was not lost on him and he felt incredibly moved by their gesture of loyalty.

"Deny it then!” Millicent insisted, glaring in rage at Snape. “Deny that you wrote it!”

Snape’s wand lowered only a fraction as he considered what he should do. Millicent looked absolutely beside herself – her glamours gone and her robes rumpled. It was evident she hadn’t slept in days.

There was no way anyone would believe her - the girl had no proof aside from her own insane ramblings. And yet he needed to deny it. Snape needed to distance himself from the book and all it held. This was not the way Hermione and the rest of the staff should find out.

"Stories like this are a perverse form of wish fulfillment," Snape said harshly. "A way for the author to live a life that can never be."

He didn't see as Hermione flinched behind him. He continued, seeing that he had Millicent's full attention. She had lowered her wand, and was staring at him like she had as a student, wide eyed and watchful.

"It's unrealistic and puerile. The story you're holding is full of flat characters and contrived situations. I would never debase myself by writing something like that," Snape bit off.

He could see Sprout and Poppy in the crowd, shaking their heads at him in disappointment. He had obviously struck a nerve by ridiculing new favourite author.

"So you deny writing it?" Millicent asked quietly.

"I do."

He didn't notice as Hermione slowly edged away from the crowd, her face crumpled. Indeed, no one noticed at all as she slipped away down the darkened corridor with shaking shoulders.

"I thought you might say that," Millicent said with a nasty smile. "But then why did I find this in your office?"

At this she produced, with a flourish, the manuscript that clearly read The Witch In the Tower. Snape felt all the blood drain from his face.

"How did you get into-"

"A bit of Slytherin luck," Millicent said. "And the help from an old ghost friend. But you're avoiding the question, Snape. How did this manuscript end up in your office? Hidden in your desk drawer of all places?"

He had no answer for this. No ready comeback to put the girl off balance.

Snape knew that this moment was going to come eventually. Hadn't he always suspected so? Hadn't that been his great, gaping fear? And now that it was here shouldn't he be prepared?

And yet he wasn't. His entire career, everything he had worked towards would be for naught.

Sacrificing so much in the war would be a footnote next to this egregious folly. He would be known forever as the man who wrote the filthy book.

He glanced to his right to see that Hermione had disappeared from his side. A quick scan of the crowd showed that she was no longer in the corridor at all. He felt truly alone in this. His mouth went dry, yet he betrayed none of this externally.

He opened his mouth to speak, and hoped that he could stop his voice from trembling. But before he could force a word out of his tightening throat, a voice rose from behind him.

"I wrote it."

A gasp went through the crowd. He spun in the direction of the voice to find Hooch stepping forth, coming to stand next to him.

Snape stared harshly at her, his flinty eyes on the proud looking woman at his right. Hooch looked boldly at Millicent, holding her greying head high.

Millicent was shaking her head as if trying to wake herself from a particularly insidious nightmare.

"You wrote it?"

"I did," Hooch replied calmly. She slanted a glance over to Snape, giving him a small smile. "And while Headmaster Snape finds it all a bit silly, he was kind to edit it for me before I sent it off for publication. That's why you found my original copy in his desk."

The wave of relief that went through Severus nearly buckled his knees. But he managed to stay standing if only to see how this would play out.

"You're lying," Millicent ground out.

"I'm not," Hooch replied calmly. "If you go to the publisher they'll confirm that it was me who submitted the manuscript."

"He was against the book completely," Millicent argued, pointing at Snape. "He supported S.N.A.P.! He'd never help you publish this."

"Yes, well, we weren't exactly expecting the book to become a best-seller," Hooch laughed. "I wrote it more for just a laugh. But he did edit it in good faith."

"You write scholarly articles!" Millicent’s eyes swerved to fix on the stoic form of Snape. "And you thought this fit for publication?"

Snape went to speak but Hooch was already enraged. "It may not be to everyone's taste," Hooch said with a sniff. "But I'm incredibly proud of it."

"As you well should be!"

The crowd turned as Sprout marched up to stand beside Hooch. Her round face was red with anger as she glared at Millicent.

"It's a wonderful book," Sprout said with conviction.

"Here here!" came a voice from the crowd that sounded suspiciously like Filius.

"It is engaging, beautiful, and erotic," Sprout continued. She gripped Hooch’s hand in a firm show of solidarity. The two women exchanged a look of warm friendship before Hooch’s golden eyes landed on Millicent once more.

"This is enough now, Millicent," Hooch insisted firmly. "This isn't about a silly old book after all. Is it?"

All the fire seemed to drain out of Millicent at that gentle observation. She dropped the manuscript, the pages fluttering to the floor.

Snape could see the devastation clearly written across the young girl's face. He knew he should be mad, furious even, yet he couldn't help but understand. She felt betrayed.

"Let us help you," he said gently. He moved toward her, raising a gentle hand of supplication.

"I don't want help from you," Millicent retorted through a glare of tears. "You're the last person I want help from."

"Why?" Snape asked confused. What had he done to offend the girl so? He'd always thought they had a good relationship when she was a student, and it rolled over when she became an adult.

"Because she chose you!"

Snape paused at this, confused. She? Who had chosen him?

"Who?" he asked not fully understanding.

"Hermione Granger!" Millicent screeched.

Snape's mouth opened as if to enquire further before it snapped shut. He felt the eyes from the other staff members as they stared at him in disbelief. The confirmation of what he had begun to suspect was evidenced in the heartsick way Millicent was staring at him. He was suddenly transposed back to his youth, finding himself in a remarkably similar situation as he once was with Potter and Evans. Except this time he was the golden Gryffindor who had gotten the girl. And Millicent had feelings for a girl who could not return them.

Hadn't Snape himself once felt the sting of rejection similar to what she is feeling? It had twisted so harshly that it felt like being cut by his Sectumsempra? Unexpected sympathy bloomed within him. Millicent’s head dipped towards the ground and tears began to fall.

Snape turned to the remaining staff and students. He gave a solemn shake of his head, indicating that he wanted privacy. All those who remained left silently into the Great Hall. The music drifted out into the corridor before the door closed once more.

“I think it’s best that you return home, Millicent,” Snape said, sheathing his wand and watching as she did the same. She wiped at her eyes with the back of her hand.

“I know,” she whimpered.“I don’t know what I was thinking. I don’t even care about the stupid book. I just. . . I just-”

“You wanted to make me look bad,” Snape finished for her.

Millicent’s head jerked up and fixed her watery gaze on Snape. Her lips trembled and she gave a shaky nod.

“I just want her so much,” she whispered. “Why doesn’t she want me?”

Snape felt a residual physical ache wash through him at these words. How often had he screamed these very things out loud into the silence of his home in Spinner’s End? How often had he beat his pillow and shouted himself hoarse, unable to understand why Lily Evans didn’t love him back?

“Feelings are incredibly complex,” Snape finally offered in a rough voice. “They are ever changing. And we cannot change ourselves to fit the mold others want of us. Nor can we change the hearts of those we love, no matter how desperately we wish to.”

Millicent nodded. Her eyes were closed but her eyelashes were damp with tears.

“But what we can do is try to move forward,” Snape encouraged. “We can find value in ourselves instead of looking for affirmation externally.”

“Easier said than done,” Millicent mumbled. Snape tried his best not to smirk at that, lest she take offence. He took a few steps forward until he was only a step away from the defeated looking Slytherin.

“The winter holidays are upon us,” Snape continued, bringing a gentle hand to rest on her shoulder. He was relieved when she didn’t pull away from him. “You have several weeks to do some self-reflection and find appropriate counselings.”

“Counselling?” Millicent’s eyes narrowed. This was not common practice within pureblood society. Counselings was seen as a “Muggle” thing and therefore was frowned upon, despite the continual influx of wizarding counsellors.

“Yes,” Snape said softly, his dark eyes searching hers. “You need to reflect. You need tools to learn how to deal with rejection and stress. You need to do this before hate begins to grow within you.”

Millicent said nothing, but he could feel her tense under his palm.

“I don’t say this to bait you, Millicent, but because I wish someone had told me the same. It would have stopped me from making several poor life choices.”

He pulled his hand back, letting it hang at his side as he looked at Millicent. “You might just find that there’s someone out there – someone who fits you much better. Someone who makes you realize you don’t have to change yourself to be loved.”

He surprised himself by getting choked up at the end. He knew he had feelings for Hermione Granger, but he didn’t realize how deep those feelings ran until now.

“I understand sir,” Millicent replied softly. “And I apologize about tonight.”

“I accept your apology,” Snape said. “And next term, after you’ve had time to reflect, I would like you to return to the position of Professor of Alchemy.”

Millicent’s eyes snapped up to Snape’s face. “You want me to come back?” Millicent breathed, her light eyes searching his face for any trace of mockery. “After all of this?”

“I do,” Snape said. He stood stiff-backed and his voice became authoritarian once more. “But don’t mistake my actions as generosity. You are a very talented teacher and I have no desire to waste my precious holiday finding a replacement.”

Millicent almost smiled at the Snape-ish way he said it.

“Yes, sir.”

“But my offer only extends if you complete the prerequisite of counselings.”

“Yes, sir,” Millicent nodded, looking serious. “I can do that.”

“Good.” Snape nodded towards the main entrance to Hogwarts. “Then get home safely. I will send word for you in two weeks where you will keep me updated on your progress.”

Millicent nodded in response, taking a steadying breath and preparing to turn when something stopped her.

“Sir, I just want to know one thing,” Millicent said softly. “Just one.”

Snape responded with the quirk of a coal-black eyebrow. Millicent took a deep breath, her eyes shuttering a moment as she spoke.

“Do you fancy her? Hermione Granger?”

Snape stared at Millicent a moment, wondering the most appropriate way to answer this. If she came back on staff there was a chance she would talk.

But Millicent had been open and honest with him. She had been vulnerable and he wanted to do the same.

He dipped his aquiline nose a fraction, unable to say the words aloud.

Millicent stared at him, her face thoughtful. Then a small smile emerged, it was very faint but it was there nonetheless.

“That’s good.”

With that Millicent turned and opened the exterior door and walked out into the lightly falling snow, disappearing into the dark night. Snape watched as she slipped into the shadows of the snowy night before sighing. He felt as if a weight had been lifted from his shoulders.

As he closed the door with a wandless flick of a hand, he turned back with the intent of returning to his office. However, he froze, catching the sight of Hermione at the entrance to the corridor. She was holding the book The Witch in the Tower in front of her. Snape felt his face pale further as she approached him in the empty foyer.

“I think you may have given me far too much credit,” Hermione said softly, motioning towards the book. “I’m really not so perfect.”

Snape said nothing for a moment, but his eyes darted from her face and then back to the book several times. How should he proceed? How could he explain all of this?

He needed to be honest. He needed her to hear it.

“She wasn’t entirely you,” Snape said with an embarrassed shrug. “Just parts I thought would fit the character.”

“She had ink stained fingers and big hair,” Hermione said. Snape thought that she looked disappointed. She’d obviously been hoping to hear something more. She stepped a few paces back as if she didn’t want his aura to touch hers.

“Not just physical attributes,” Snape grumbled. He knew that he was showing too much of his hand, but he had no desire to dance around this issue any longer.

“No?”

In for a knut, in for a galleon.

“She also had great intelligence and a desire to do good,” Snape explained. “She took pride in her voracious reading abilities and the way she made people feel safe around her. She saved Favian with care and love. She was powerful, and only those worthy truly understood her.”

Hermione blinked rapidly at that. She obviously hadn’t been expecting it.

You see me like that?” Hermione asked. He noticed the nervous way she was adjusting her weight between her feet, as if trying to remind herself not to faint away.

“I do.”

“For how long?” Hermione demanded, her mouth slack as if she couldn’t believe she was even asking the question.

“Since you saved me that night in the Shrieking Shack,” Snape admitted. “And it has only grown in the time since. You are an amazing and surprising witch, Hermione Granger.”

Silence descended and Snape felt his face growing hot. Had he said too much? He hadn’t wanted to scare her off. He just wanted to be honest. He had lived a long life of duplicity and he no longer wanted that.

“I was going to scream at you,” Hermione finally said. “I was ready to be hateful and lash out at you.”

“Why is that?”

“Because I knew you wrote this,” Hermione said. “And when you said it was distasteful and depraved it made me worry that this is how you felt about me. That I was distasteful and something you’d only write about in to mock me.”

“But that’s not-“ Snape went to intervene, his heart jumping. Hermione held up a hand to stop him.

“But when I returned, I heard you speaking to Millicent,” Hermione continued, winding her way towards him. His dark eyes were trained on her, watching her move until they were barely five inches apart.

“I heard everything.”

Before Snape could say anything in response, Hermione had stood up on her toes and with a burning intensity in her chocolate gaze, she gripped him around the neck and forced his mouth against hers.

Snape’s entire body went up in flames the moment her damp lips touched his. All hesitation within him flew out of his body and he furiously enveloped her in his arms, raising her off the ground slightly as he began to kiss her in earnest.

She moaned against his mouth, her fingers becoming entangled in the hair at the nape of his neck. Gooseflesh broke out over his body at the sensation.

It was quite apparent that their romantic feelings were mutual.

The doors to the dance opened, letting music drift out. The two broke apart, panting heavily, and turned to see Hooch slipping out of the Great Hall. She had divested herself of the Father Christmas costume and instead wore bright emerald-coloured robes. Hooch gave them both a cheeky smile, accompanied by a hand raise of innocence.

“Don’t stop on my account,” she insisted, obviously trying not to grin too broadly. “Just stepping out for a dart.”

Snape looked at the woman, giving her an appraising look.

“Rolanda,” Snape called after her, giving Hermione’s hand a squeeze as she buried her embarrassed face against his chest. “I want to-“

“No need,” she said with a wink. “But perhaps we can go back to the way things were before? Me taking the piss out of you about being an uptight git? You being secretly amused about all my cock-ups?”

Snape’s mouth twitched into a small smirk. He gave a brief nod and Hooch smiled widely in return.

“Good on you,” she said with a nod towards Granger. “And maybe we could talk about a sequel? The publishers-“

Rolanda,” Snape warned.

“Right, right,” Hooch nodded, raising her hands in defence now. “On my way. Talk later.”

As soon as Hooch was out of sight, Snape turned back to Hermione and gripped her around the middle. She gave a surprised squeal as he captured her lips once more. Snape groaned as her lips parted and he tasted her sweetness. She held fast to his collar, her mouth moving hungrily against his.

They broke apart slowly, savouring the sensations of one another’s mouth and body. Hermione looked as if she’d drunk five butterbeers and Snape knew he had the most juvenile smile on his face. He would need to get better at hiding that from the staff and students.

As if reading his mind, Hermione suddenly sobered.

“How will we accomplish this?” she asked breathlessly. “The professors, the students? There will be rumours. We’ll have to be discreet – especially around Millicent. Oh and what will I tell Harry and Dr-“

Hermione’s ruminations were cut off as Snape held her cheeks in his palms and pressed a searing kiss to her parted lips. She sighed contentedly, her hands falling to his forearms for balance.

Moments later Snape pulled back, fixing the blushing woman with a devilish look.

“Hermione, you must know by now that I don’t want an easy romance.”

Chapter Text

 

Headmaster Snape sat his desk facing the large iron wrought window that overlooked a lovely little garden. Summer was in full force and with it came sunshine that filtered through the windows and directly onto his face. A face which as of right now was contorted into a fierce look of concentration. His shoulders were hunched over and his nose almost touched the parchment.

He had been at it for hours and save for his quick breakfast of black coffee he’d had nothing to nourish him. Not that it mattered; his entire focus was on the parchment before him. Spidery writing crossed out words and small notes lined the margins.

The Witch in the Tower was the bestselling romance of the decade, even outselling Pansy’s latest efforts. As such, Hooch had been contacted by the desperately clamoring publishers and given an ungodly sum to pen a sequel. Snape had been most irritated to find Hooch had agreed when she showed up to his flat in London with a large bag of galleons insisting he start the sequel.

He’d wanted to turn it down of course, he had other things to occupy his time (such as a certain sexually voracious Gryffindor)  but he realized that there had been a freedom in penning the tale.  He was finishing  the last few chapters of “Odin’s Revenge”  when the hearth behind him sprang to life and the disembodied voice of Hooch reached out to him.

“Severus are we still on for Friday? The Three Broomsticks?”

“Yes yes,” he threw over his shoulder, not bothering to turn around.   He grumbled a bit to himself, frustrated that his concentration had momentarily been broken.

“Is Hermione coming?”

“Of course.”

“Good, Minerva is as well, I’ll make reservations.”

With that, Snape assumed that Hooch had closed the fire-call connection and he turned his full attention back to his pages. He continued to edit hurriedly, his hand starting to cramp when he heard her again.

“Are you almost finished? I need to submit the latest chapters to the editors,” she reminded him sharply.   

“I will be if you stop interrupting me!” Snape barked, turning in his chair and fixing her with a glare. He could see her head there in the fire, dancing along the embers as she fixed him with her most mischievous gaze.

“You said they’d be done Saturday.”

“And the last time I consulted the calendar, it was Friday,” Snape bit off with a scowl.

“But last time-“

“Rolanda, if you want these pages, you’ll leave before I give up this duplicitous venture altogether.”

“Severus,” Hooch soothed. “It’s not duplicitous! I’m simply the face of your brilliant writing so you can continue to write best sellers without a hint of your true identity. If you’d like to change our arrangement...”

She trailed off, giving a coy smirk within the flickering embers.

 “You know very well I do not.”

“Then stop being a grumbling arse and finish those pages.”

Before Snape could say something acidic, her golden eyes were gone from the flames and he was finally left in merciful peace. He turned back to the pages, making notes and revisions here and there until the sun began to lower in the sky.

Hermione came into the office a short while later, a steaming cup of tea in her hand. She placed it to the left of his parchment and balanced her hip on the side of his desk. Beneath his lashes Snape covertly took in her shapely body and felt his mouth go dry.  Six months later he still couldn’t get enough of her. His palms itched to grab her.

“I’m here to remind you that we’re to have dinner with my friends next weekend,” she said sweetly, pressing a kiss to his forehead and leaning back. “Somewhere new and Muggle so you’ll have to leave the robes at home.”

Snape exhaled loudly through his nose.

“I can only assume the feckless Potter-Malfoys will be there?”  Snape grumbled, giving a sardonic look in her direction. “Talking endlessly about their upcoming nuptials?”

“Are you nervous I might start pressuring you?” Hermione teased. “Asking when we’ll be stalking down the aisle?”

Hermione Granger was the last witch in the world to ever care about something like that, and they both well knew it. Still, it hadn’t stopped Snape from covertly visiting the jeweler in Hogsmeade last week for the engagement ring sitting in the bottom drawer of his desk.  

He shook her off of that train of thought. “Any others joining us?”

“Ron and Luna,” Hermione started and Snape raised a brow in question.

 "And Millicent?"

"If you’d let me finish,” Hermione started playfully. “I would have told you that’s she's coming as well. And she’s bringing a date!"

"I hope this one is better than the last," Snape scoffed. "Duller than gillyweed water that one."

"Now now," Hermione scolded playfully. "I'm glad she's getting out there! She can date a female Professor Binns for all I care! But I think this one may be the one. I haven't seen her this happy since I've known her." 

"I'll concede that," Snape nodded. "There has been a noticeable spring in her step.

After all that had happened, Snape would always have a soft spot for Millicent Bulstrode.  A woman he could see himself in.

When she had returned to Hogwarts she had done so without the glamour she had previously lived in. None of the students remarked on it – many were just overjoyed to have her back teaching Alchemy.

Hermione stared at Snape a moment, memorizing the lines of his face, the curve of his mouth. So strange to think that this man was her lover and friend, as well as employer. Of course they’d kept things fairly hush hush, but Snape was eager to retire at the end of the school year. Seems he had a new literary career ahead of him… One that only a handful of people knew about. But still. It paid handsomely.

Hermione glanced down at the marked parchment, smiling at the sight of familiar spidery scrawls covering the page.

“How are revisions coming along?”

Snape gave a noncommittal sound in the back of his throat, suggesting displeasure. Hermione smirked, bending forward to wipe away his knitted brows with a kiss. As expected they smoothed under her ministrations and Snape leaned back in his creaking chair.

Hermione gave a girlish squeal as he reached out his long arms before pulling her onto is lap. He brushed back a heavy curl and began kissing her bared neck. Hermione groaned, shuddering under the moist heat of his lips on her flesh.

“Headmaster Snape!” Hermione admonished playfully, arching back from his eager mouth. “This is most inappropriate!”

Snape gave a good-natured growl before his hand came to slide between her shirt and skin.

“I’m having a bit of trouble with the lovemaking scene,”  Snape purred against her neck. “I may need some. . . Inspiration.”

“I suppose that could be arranged,” Hermione sighed as her head fell back under the onslaught of his kisses on her neck continued.  “I am your muse after all.”

Her mouth found his and as her arms wrapped around his neck, Severus couldn’t help but think that his life wasn’t anything like the sweeping romances he wrote about.

It was even better.