Hermione took a final look around her quarters to make sure she had packed everything. Satisfied she was all set, she put her wards in place.
“Are you ready to go home, Crooks?” she said, picking up her small leather bag which contained the entirety of her quarters. Her trusty beaded bag had finally given up the previous summer during her Apparition home; spreading books, ink and underwear all over their sitting room floor. Once he had finished laughing, Snape had helped her pick up her things and purchased a new bag for her.
Crookshanks chirped low and pushed his flat face against her shin. He spent most of his time sleeping these days, old man that he was. Picking him up, Hermione put him into his carrier and left her quarters on the third floor. She took the spiral staircase by the stained glass window down to the Entrance Hall, enjoying the silence. The students had left a few days previously, and the castle was empty and quiet.
The late June breeze was warm on Hermione's skin as she practically sprinted down to the Apparition point. She hadn't been this excited about the summer hols since she'd started teaching four years ago. Without Severus by her side, the year had been long and rather dull. The Hogwarts gates swung closed behind her, and she Disapparated without looking back.
Hermione arrived in the bright sitting room. Crooks yowled until she complied and unlatched the door on his carrier. He immediately disappeared towards the conservatory, most likely to re-establish his dominance over the house. The stairs creaked, and her heart sped up.
Severus leant against the open doorway to the sitting room, arms crossed as he regarded her. “Welcome home, Professor,” he said, lips tilted in a smile.
Hermione chuckled, tossing her bag on the couch. Unpacking could wait. “I am very happy to be home.”
His arms were comforting around her, and she exhaled deeply. She had missed him so much. While she was so proud of him for Heading a newly founded research department at St Mungo's, it had been an adjustment going back to Hogwarts without him. Between his new job and her duties as Head of Gryffindor, they had only been able to see each other every other weekend, which was not enough. But now she had eight weeks, and she was over the moon.
They had dinner in the garden, surrounded by fragrant star jasmine and rose bushes. Crooks was stretched out in the sun, tail flicking lazily against the grass. A sense of calm and peace washed over Hermione. This was truly her happy place.
Hermione had traded her weekend patrols with Pomona, so barely five minutes after the students left her classroom she was stepping into the Floo and calling out for home. Snape was waiting for her on the other side, catching her arm and pulling her close. His mouth stole her breath away, and her bag slid from her grasp and onto the floor.
She moaned when his hands found her arse and pressed her against his body. His erection was hard against her, and she tried to pull his shirt up from his trousers to touch the bare skin of his back. Why did he always have to be so sensible?
“Severus, wait,” she managed to get out between kisses, drawing in big gulps of breath. His mouth trailed down to her neck, and her eyes rolled back. He was too good at that. “Severus!” it came out more like a moan than she meant to.
He lifted his eyes, looking at her with a smirk. “Yes?”
She finally succeeded in pulling his shirt up, fingers meeting his warm skin. Her hands covered as much surface as they could. “I've missed you.” And she'd had – something fiercely. She hadn't seen him since before term started, which was entirely too long.
He smiled, one hand leaving her arse to caress her face. “Happy birthday, Hermione.”
Five minutes later he had her spread out naked on their bed, trailing kisses down her heaving chest. She fisted the sheet in her hands as her back bowed, trying to get closer to his mouth. Sweet Circe, his wonderful mouth. She could focus on nothing else but his warm lips and talented fingers tugging on her nipples.
“You're so fucking beautiful,” he murmured against her skin.
Hermione could only whimper in reply. His hair tickled her stomach when he moved lower, and her muscles clenched when he dipped his tongue into her navel. Lifting her head, she opened her eyes. Seeing his dark head between her thighs was almost too much. Her hand ran over his hair. Gods, she loved him so much.
He lifted his gaze to hers, and his eyebrow quirked. Smirking, he stroked her inner thigh. Then he lowered his mouth to her dripping centre, and her head fell back. She clenched her hand in his hair, keeping his mouth right where it was as a drawn-out moan left her mouth. His tongue parted her folds, and her thighs started shaking.
When his mouth fastened around her clit, she was done for; it had been too long and he felt too good. She was careening towards the edge quickly, and when two fingers slipped into her channel she fell, fell, fell and her thighs closed around him as her body thrashed and shook, her head filled with white noise and her own moaning voice.
Coming back down, Hermione wet her dry lips. Snape was pressing soft kisses to her thighs and hips, and she relaxed the tight grip she had on his hair. A sated smile spread over her face.
She could practically hear the smirk in his voice, and she let out a floaty chuckle. “Yes.” Her head felt heavy to lift, and their eyes met. His head rested against her thigh, fingers drawing light patterns on her skin that made her shiver. “Now come up here so I can enjoy you as well. It's my birthday, after all.”
The look in his eyes made her want to climb him like a lamp post, but she didn't get the chance before he crawled up her body and pressed his mouth against hers.
“I just don't understand why we can't Apparate; we would be there in two minutes,” Hermione said, wrapping her thick scarf around her neck. “Don't you remember how long it took last year?”
Snape rolled his eyes. “Witch, will you just get in?”
Hermione chuckled and opened the car door. “Fine, I will.”
For some reason she wasn't quite sure of, Snape was very fond of driving, and during the summers they would regularly take road trips along the coast and even into Devon. Not even the traffic jams caused by tourists going to the coast could deter him. They stayed in small bed and breakfasts, ate Fish and Chips by the beach and explored sleepy villages.
Soon they were off, moving down the snow covered country lanes towards Padstow. They had visited the Christmas Market in the coastal town for years, since Hermione's first Christmas living in Cornwall. Christmas songs were playing low on the radio, and snow-topped trees lined the road. Snow had arrived a few days previously to the shock of pretty much everyone, and though it was only a couple of centimetres it was enough to put Hermione in a proper Christmas mood. She was spoilt by winters in Scotland, and it never quite felt like Christmas without snow.
Less than an hour later they parked the car in a cramped car park and walked towards the main marquee. It was a cold and sunny afternoon, and Hermione's breath came out in little clouds. Snape's hand was firmly clasped in her own as they browsed the food and arts and crafts stalls. They bought homemade fudge and preserves, which Hermione sneaked into her leather bag.
“Oh, Severus, look at these!” Hermione dragged him over to a stall from a local jeweller. while she wasn't one to wear much jewellery – other than her charmed pendant – she still appreciated the craftsmanship and attention to detail went into creating the bracelets, rings and pendants that lay on display in the stall.
He squeezed her hand. “I need the loo. Meet me by the stage in about 10 minutes?”
“All right.” Tilting her head up, she brushed her lips against his. She bit her lip watching him stalk away through the crowd; a black form against the colourful stalls and twinkle lights. How she adored him.
Hermione took her time looking through the other stalls; buying a sparkly Christmas ornament in the shape of a cat and getting them some mulled wine before moving towards the festival stage. She carefully sipped her mulled wine and people-watched while waiting for Snape. Finally, she spotted him through the crowd and smiled.
“I got you mulled wine,” she said when he reached her, holding out the paper cup.
The corner of his mouth quirked up. “Thanks, love.”
She hooked her arm in the loop of his as a group of carollers entered the stage. As they started singing, she burrowed further into his side. Christmas Day was less than a week away, and she was so looking forward to spending some much needed time with Harry and Ron. Though their relationship with Snape wasn't exactly loving, it was amicable enough that they could stand each other's company for a few hours every few months.
The carollers held their final note to thundering – though slightly dampened due to gloves – applause. The presenter, a local celebrity with too bright teeth and an air that reminded her of Lockhart, urged them all to go towards the harbour for the fireworks display. The fireworks were the highlight of the market; set over the north outer harbour wall, they were visible all over the city and always attracted a large crowd.
Finding a good spot, Hermione leant back against Snape's body, hands clasped over his on her midsection. With a bang, the first firework went off, and she jumped slightly. It burst into red and green sparkles in the dark sky. More fireworks followed – though what kind they were, Hermione couldn't say – to the cheers of the crowd.
“Hermione,” Snape said, voice close to her ear.
The seriousness in his tone made her turn in his arms. She searched his face but saw only determination. Her brow furrowed.
Time froze. Another bang from the fireworks, illuminating his face in green and gold. She stopped breathing. Looking into his dark, glittering eyes, she knew what the answer was.
“I'm very disappointed in the both of you,” Hermione said, arms crossed as she looked down at the students in front of her. “Report to Mr Filch tomorrow night at 7 o'clock for your first detention, and I will be writing home to your parents.”
The two students – fifth years Sophie Edwards and Adam Hopkins – were slumped in their chairs, heads bowed. Sophie was sniffling. “Yes, Professor Granger,” they mumbled in unison.
Hermione sighed. “You're dismissed.”
They practically ran from her office, and Hermione waved her hand to shut the door before collapsing behind her desk, head in her hands. The students were testing her patience. A full-on prank war had been going on between students from different houses for the past three weeks, and this was only the last in a long line of things that would have made Fred Weasley weep with joy. Half of the Ravenclaw seventh years were in detention for the rest of the month for putting a hair-loss potion in the Gryffindor Quidditch team's shampoo bottles.
She sighed. It was best to get started with the letters, and hopefully she could get them sent before dinner. It was not how she wanted to spend her Friday night, admittedly, but needs must.
Letters penned, she pulled on her thick cloak and left for the owlery. It was unusually cold for the season, and she sent an extra warming charm through her cloak. A handsome barn owl flew down from its perch and offered Hermione its leg.
“Thank you,” she said after she fastened the letters, stroking the owl's feathery head. “Fly safe, okay?”
The owl hooted, pushed its head against Hermione's hand and then flew out the large opening in the wall. Shoving her hands in her pockets, she went down the stone stairs to go back to the castle. The sun was setting, casting a pink glow on the castle grounds. Something silvery was bounding up towards her, and in a second her wand was raised. When the Patronus came closer she recognised it straight away, and her wand lowered. The silver doe butted against her hip. Hermione grinned.
Rushing towards the gates, she saw the familiar form of Snape waiting for her.
“What are you doing here?” she asked breathlessly, opening the gates with a wand of her hand.
His brow quirked up. “To see Sybill; I've sorely missed her company. Do you think she has time for a cuppa?”
Hermione rolled her eyes. “Funny. I just meant I thought I wasn't seeing you until next weekend?”
Snape stepped in close, brushing his lips against hers. “Is it not enough that I missed you?”
Stretching up, Hermione pressed her lips firmer against his.
They made their way up to the castle and to Hermione's quarters on the third floor, where Snape sliced a silencing charm through the air before taking her urgently against the wall, her legs wrapped around his waist and his lips on her throat. They eventually migrated to the bed – disturbing poor Crookshanks in his nap and scaring him from the room – where it was Hermione's turn to make him speechless.
Trying to catch her breath, Hermione placed a kiss on his sternum before lying down by his side and resting her head on his chest. He wasn't the most comfortable pillow, but she loved being near him.
“How is your research going? Any success since last we spoke?” she asked, glancing up at him.
“It's going as predicted; we may begin testing on humans soon.”
She smiled. “I'm glad.”
As she shifted, the candlelight caught in the stones on her engagement ring. It had taken her a few weeks to get used to its presence, and she had spent many nights just staring at it. She had never spent any thoughts on her wedding or the like when she was younger; it was kind of hard to plan for the future when a megalomanic blood supremacist was out to kill you. After she accepted Snape's proposal underneath the sparkle of the fireworks, they had returned to the vendor Hermione had admired to pick out a ring. It may not have been special or big enough for some people, but she loved it. What was a ring, anyway? It didn't say how much he loved her, or how glad she was that he was in her life. It didn't show how much he could make her laugh or how he would cling to her after night terrors shook his body.
“What's on your mind?”
His voice pulled her out of her thoughts, and she smiled. “Just you.”
He chuckled. “Oh? Good thoughts, I hope.”
“Always. In fact,” she grinned, rising on her elbows, “I was thinking about how I plan to ravish you thoroughly.” She swung her leg over his hips and ground down. “All. Night. Long.”
Snape groaned, hands grasping her hips and pushing up against her. “Minx.”
“You love me.”
His eyes softened. “I do. Very much.”
Gods, she hoped hearing him say that would always make her heart flutter. Leaning down to kiss him, she knew it would.