Severus Snape was enjoying the quiet October morning, cup of tea in hand (dash of milk, no sugar) while he perused the latest rubbish in the Prophet. He didn't know why he continued to even pay for the subscription other than the amusement he got from making derisive remarks to himself while reading it. The sky was overcast and when he had opened the window just a bit ago for the delivery owl it felt like it might rain. He was just about to read an article on the dragon pox outbreak when there was a large crash, as if something smashed straight into his heavy oak front door. He refolded the paper neatly, sat it next to a plate of crumbs, and rose with a groan. His left knee had been bothering him again and he kept putting off making an appointment to have it looked at. Shuffling as silently as possible along the dark hall, he approached the door with caution, wand raised. A quick spell showed that there was indeed a someone on the other side, though they were no longer upright. He gripped his wand tightly and slowly opened the door with the other hand.
The person outside the door was curled up in a heavy cloak with a hood and spattered with blood. Were they dead? Was this some sort of sick joke? Just then the lump of a human groaned. Ok, so not dead. Rather than risk further injury, he levitated the person inside and locked the door, strengthening the wards in a fit of paranoia. He guided them down the hall and directly into his tiled shower where they were gently lowered onto the floor, cast a medical diagnostic charm, and peeled back the hood. He blinked a few times, but was rather certain that he was peering into the face of someone he'd long tried to forget: Hermione Granger. She was older now, but so was he. Merlin, it had been at least ten years since he'd seen her.
"Miss Granger," he said sternly. "Miss Granger, you need to wake up."
That voice, she thought. I must be dreaming.
"Miss Granger," he said a bit louder. "Wake. Up."
She tried to answer, but her throat was on fire. Cautiously, she opened one eye and saw who was peering down at her. She'd somehow made it to him. Her face wrinkled in pain as she tried to turn her neck.
Severus took notice and gingerly pulled more of the cloak back. She wasn't just spattered with blood. She was drenched in it. He hoped that it wasn't all hers.
"Miss Granger, I will have to remove this cloak. I need to locate and attend to your injuries. Blink if you understand."
She blinked a few times just to be sure.
With a snort (still an overachiever, he thought), he peeled the cloak away completely and cast it aside. She was in some sort of long-sleeved black dress that perhaps was decent before it became a grisly sponge. She had no shoes. Most of her hair was matted and likewise soaked. With care, he pulled the ends of it up away from her neck and that was when he saw it surrounded by some purpling bruises: the distinct puncture wounds of a vampire. It didn't explain all the blood necessarily, but it was a start. Not wanting to ruin his grey jumper, he cast it to the side, pale arms a stark contrast to his black t-shirt.
"Did you know you were bitten?"
"Unngh," she groaned, trying to nod.
"When you're no longer making a mess of my bathroom floor, we will discuss how in Merlin's name you ended up here," he griped. "The dress is going to have to go unless you want to die here."
She squeezed her eyes shut which he took as acknowledgement of her circumstances. He knew that he could have taken her straight to St Mungo's, but there would be questions he couldn't answer if he showed up with a beaten and bloodied Hermione Granger. He'd cross that bridge if it came to it, but it was better to avoid it.
With a few quick slicing hexes, he was able to remove her dress and begin a clinical examination: some bruising, scrapes, a nasty gash across her stomach, and blood crusted beneath her fingernails. Another few slices and her thick stockings fell away. He noted more bruises, including a large one on her left hip and another gash down her right leg. He's seen enough and turned on the shower, making sure the water was warm before it would reach her. It wouldn't do to have her go into shock. She continued to hold her eyes shut as the water made everything go red. Severus quickly realised his error and helped her sit up, soaking his shirt in the process. He grabbed a bottle of shampoo and worked it into a lather in her hair, vetiver slowly overtaking the stench of copper. Her hair was much longer than his, nearly to her elbows, and it took a few washes to be sure that it was finally clean. Satisfied, he handed her a flannel and soap.
"I assume you'd rather finish this yourself? Don't try to stand. I'll be back with a pain potion."
Hermione felt the fog that had settled into her mind slowly start to clear. The fact that she was sitting in her bra and knickers in a shower in what she assumed was Snape's house was beginning to sink in and she flushed with embarrassment. She quickly washed with her left arm which wasn't quite as sore, not bothering to take off her underthings. When he returned a few minutes later, he shoved a vial to her lips.
She opened her mouth and let him dump the contents in. Less than a minute later, she felt relief.
"Thank you," she squeaked in a dry voice.
"Blood replenisher with a pain inhibitor. My own brew. Have you washed?"
She nodded and he turned off the tap. Towel in hand, he peered at her once more.
"Do you think you can stand?"
"Help me?" came the tiny reply.
He wrapped the towel around her shoulders and gently held her upper arms through the protective barrier of terrycloth as he helped her to her feet. He grabbed the bathrobe that was hung on the back of the door and laid it on the sink before her.
"Try not to fall," he snipped as he stepped away.
He opened a small cupboard and pulled out a container of bruise paste, essence of dittany, a green medicine she was unfamiliar with, and a clean cloth.
"Can you move your hair to the other side…?" He dabbed some of the green goo onto the bite wound and it made a hissing noise. She cringed at the sound.
"Can you see to the rest?" he questioned. To his relief, she nodded. "I'll be back shortly."
He strode back to his kitchen, put water on to boil and began making more toast as he muttered to himself. "Of course it would be Granger. And bloody vampires. As if I need more problems." He noticed that he was still in a wet shirt and, with a huff of irritation, he pulled it over his head and flung it over a chair to dry. Once the toast was ready and water hot, he went upstairs for a moment to put on a fresh shirt and then back down to check on his former student.
Hermione used the time alone to peel out of her underclothes and fish her wand and a vial from the discarded cloak. She stuffed them in the pockets of the bathrobe and washed her hands again. Then she vanished the cloak and cast Scourgify on the place where it had been lying in a heap. At last she then turned her attention to the medicines left for her and treated her various wounds.
When he returned to the bathroom, Severus flung open the door without knocking. It was a terrible mistake and he hadn't meant to stare – it was simply the shock of it all: she was naked aside from his borrowed robe held wide open, looking in the mirror and examining her various scrapes and bruises that were now slathered with salve and ointment. He quickly occluded to block out the unseemly thoughts that had popped into his head.
Her cheeks coloured as she quickly closed the robe. "You could have knocked," she sniffed.
"It's my house." Two could play that game. "Get your arse out here now and follow me."
The floor was cold to her bare feet and she hissed at the sensation. She followed all the same to the kitchen. He pointed to a chair and she sat herself wondering how she would explain her presence there in a way that wouldn't infuriate him. He parked a mug of tea and plate of toast before her. There was butter and marmalade already on the table and she began helping herself.
"Milk or sugar?"
She hesitated. "Both."
A bottle of milk and tin of sugar were placed next to her. He installed himself in the other chair where he'd been sitting forty minutes earlier and studied her movements as she buttered her toast and added an absurdly thin sheen of marmalade (why bother at all?).
"So. Vampires." He really was rubbish at small talk.
"And the blood?"
"Not mine," she replied between bites.
"Did you kill him?"
A shake of the head. The fact that girl who used to recite entire swathes of textbooks was presently saying so little amused him.
"And you're here because?"
She gave him an uneasy glance. "I need help."
He crossed his arms and made a sour face. "And if I refuse?"
'You might." She took a long drink from her steaming mug.
"Dammit Granger, I'm giving you ten minutes to explain yourself or I'll turn you out of my house. And you won't get to keep the robe."
She squeaked and sat down the mug.
"I'm sorry for causing you trouble, Professor. I have a potions issue and you're the first person I thought of."
"I'm not your Professor nor have I been for over a decade. Continue."
"It's to protect victims of vampires from being turned."
"It's not possible."
"It is. It just needed.." From the pocket of the robe, she produced a small vial that was full of what looked like to be more blood.
"Why should I help?"
Whatever could be said of Severus Snape, one thing that he was not was easily persuaded. No matter how Hermione explained, fretted, and eventually cried, he sat there unmoved, unconvinced. It wasn't that the experiment sounded dreadfully boring. On the contrary, it had caught his academic mind and promised a lovely distraction from his otherwise mundane existence. But he knew that it would possibly come with strings attached and he was not inclined to embroil himself in anything nasty.
At last she finally happened upon the right argument.
"You're the only one I trust."
Something shone in his eyes just then. She trusted him. Were it one of her other miscreant friends, he would have taken it as a joke. He supposed that one couldn't show up on just anyone's doorstep covered in blood and clutching a vial that would be worth thousands of galleons to the right buyer.
"And you're fucking brilliant," she concluded.
"You truly think I'm the best wizard for the job, Miss Granger?"
"Severus Snape, you're the only wizard for the job."
It was shocking hearing his name roll off her lips like that. He found that he liked it. And she could see that she had him.
She spelled out her case as a barrister before a judge. He had always known she was thorough, too much so usually, but in this instance it seemed useful. His own mind worked through it as she spoke and he found himself nodding in agreement on occasion. She kept fiddling with the belt of the robe, tightening it each time she felt it loosen, which was rather often. After quite a bit of talking, she yawned and apologised.
"I've been awake since yesterday morning. Do you… would it be possible for me to sleep for a bit?"
"Does this look like a hotel?" He couldn't help being gruff, even if he wasn't as put out as all that.
"Oh, I don't mean to impose. How selfish of me. No, never mind."
He rolled his eyes at her response. Since when had Hermione Granger cared about imposing? He had to remind himself that it had been a long time and maybe he no longer knew her. "Follow me, Miss Granger."
He led her up the narrow stairs and down the hall to what was once his grandmother's old bedroom when he was a small child. It had barely been touched since, aside from when he cast cleaning charms on it once a month to keep away doxies and dust. He agreed to wake her by late afternoon and closed the door behind him.
He went to his own room and flopped onto the bed, completely out of sorts. He'd been in a mostly self-imposed seclusion for years now. How long had it been? Ten years? Fifteen? And here was this chit of a girl, no, woman, who threatened to upset his entire way of living in one fell swoop. He closed his eyes, feeling tired from the unexpected interaction.
He awoke with a groan a few hours later, hand down his trousers as he drifted out of a dream concerning his current houseguest that, upon waking, left him feeling awkward. He forced himself to think instead about her potions problem and the potentials of vampire blood which was usually too difficult to obtain to bother considering. Satisfied that he was once more in control of himself, he went back downstairs to the kitchen for something more substantial than his earlier bit of toast.
It was nearing 4 o'clock when he heard her descend the creaking staircase. She entered the kitchen only moments later, that infernal robe wrapped as tightly as possible around her, highlighting her figure. It made him increasingly uncomfortable and he came to the conclusion that she was going to need actual clothing if they were to work together.
"Hullo, Severus," she murmured with a yawn.
He raised an eyebrow in reply. "On a first name basis now, are we?"
"Well, you didn't like me calling you 'Professor'."
"You could address me as Mr. Snape, as I call you Miss Granger."
"I don't think I shall, Severus," she grinned. "And you may call me Hermione."
"You enjoy being impertinent."
"And you enjoy telling me off."
Touché, he thought.
"You need to get dressed," was his gruff reply.
"Is there something I could borrow?"
An image of her in one of his oxfords appeared in his mind, which he promptly squashed.
He moved through the house in silence out of habit, avoiding the odd noisy floorboard or creaking stair. He'd been doing it since his youth and no longer thought anything of it. He flung open a wardrobe and reached into the back where he still had a few things from his younger years. A few minutes later, he had found a pair of black trousers, an old Bauhaus t-shirt, and a thick charcoal jumper. He pulled a pair of woolen socks from a drawer and spare pair of slippers. All but the socks and slippers were too small for him now, but would likely suit the girl.
He thrust the offerings at the witch currently occupying his kitchen chair.
"I'm sure you can do something with these."
She took them and went back up to "her" bedroom and, with a few careful charms, adjusted the trousers so that they were snug on her hips and shrunk the slippers to her size. The socks were a bit itchy, but she was grateful for their warmth.
He started when she walked back into the kitchen. Seeing her in his clothing did something to him. Something that would only further complicate his life. It was best if he ignored it.
"I didn't know you liked Bauhaus," she commented. "How cliché of you."
He rolled his eyes. "We need to get to work."
She rubbed her hands together eagerly. "Let's," she agreed.
They'd been working in his lab that was housed in a stone shed at the far end of the garden for over two hours. He was impressed with her methodical approach, though he would never say so, and felt like he did very little to actually help her aside from give advice every so often. As a final step, she added three droplets of vampire blood, making the concoction foam angrily and turn a violent orange hue.
"How long have you been working on this, Miss Gr- Hermione?"
"About two years now. Or at least, that was when I began doing the research for it."
"And what happened before you crashed into my door?"
"I'd finally tracked the vampire I needed to get the blood sample. He's ancient but more or less comatose, so I thought the only problem would be avoiding the traps protecting him. Unfortunately, another vampire rushed in on me as soon as I was about to leave. I managed to incapacitate him in the fight, but not before he bit me."
"You didn't kill either one?"
"You do realise that this other vampire will come hunting you, do you not?"
"How did you end up here exactly? At my house?"
"I'm not exactly sure. I was thinking of you, but I didn't know where to look. I apparated before he could kill me and when I came to, I was in your shower."
He wasn't entirely convinced of her story, but he would sort that matter later when they weren't brewing a volatile potion.
It wasn't an altogether terrible experience brewing with Hermione Granger. She wasn't as chatty as before and she actually knew what she was doing, even if she lacked the finesse of a master. To his surprise, she deferred to him throughout the process, thanking him whenever he helped her work through a new issue. Once they'd reached the point where it simply needed to simmer for the next few hours, they went back to the house.
"I'm afraid it's going to be take away for dinner. Indian?"
"Sounds brilliant," she nodded as her stomach rumbled.
He remembered that she had slept through lunch and he hadn't bothered to offer her anything.
"Right, I won't be long. You can read if you'd like," he offered, nodding toward the room beyond that was teeming with shelves, "but please put things back where you find them."
She followed his gaze and waited for him to leave before she opened the door to the room he'd indicated. She immediately felt her mouth begin to water. The shelves were crammed with old tomes and new alike on such a variety of subjects that she knew she could spend at least 2 months working through all the ones that piqued her interest.
By the time he came back, she'd slipped off the heavy jumper and used it as pillow as she lay on her back, sprawled on an oversized ottoman with her feet propped on the bookshelf that encompassed the entirety of the wall and forearms partially propping up the book she was holding over her face. She'd been so engrossed in it that she didn't hear him return. He cleared his throat as he stood in the doorway.
She started and nearly dropped the book on her face. The finest of smiles tugged at his lips.
"Sorry, I must not have noticed that you're back." She got up and carefully put the book back on the shelf.
"Obviously," he drawled. His eyes took her in once more, the black t-shirt dangerously snug. Even the trousers were tight across her bum. He'd realised something earlier, of course, but seeing her there in her native habitat of massive tomes only highlighted the fact that Hermione Granger had grown up. She was no longer simply an obnoxious child with her hand waving in the air.
"How old are you now, Miss Granger? And is it normal for a grown woman to be reading in such a fashion?"
Her little half-smile as she turned to face him was almost beguiling. Almost.
"I'm 33 now. And I've asked you to call me Hermione."
"Come to the kitchen then, Hermione. It's time we ate."
They quickly tucked in and she was astoundingly quiet once more while she ate with gusto.
After he was nearly finished with his own tandoori, Severus fixed Hermione with a stare. "What's so cliché about me liking Bauhaus?" Her remark had been nagging at him the whole afternoon.
"They're a bit dark and gloomy, wouldn't you say? Like you?"
He tutted. "Have you ever listened to them?"
"Actually, I have."
Her confession sparked an unexpected discussion they would have never held in the past that continued through the end of their shared meal and until it was time to check on the potion.
He opened the back door and quickly looked around. Night was approaching. The garden was empty. Satisfied, he motioned for her to follow him back to the lab where they made an unpleasant discovery: the cauldron was empty, turned on its side, its contents sloshed over the floor. Their eyes met and he saw a hint of fear.
"Back inside," he snapped, grabbing her by the arm and practically dragging her back into the house. He realised that he had tightened the wards earlier on the house itself but not the garden and cursed his foolishness. He reset the wards, changing them slightly, and added an alarm. The door secured locked, he turned his attention back to the troublesome witch.
"We need to talk."
Hermione wasn't shaking, but she admitted aloud that she thought she would be safe here, though she was still unsure where "here" was. He continued plying her with questions until at last she revealed something he'd begun to suspect: she was an Unspeakable. But as the conversation shifted, he discovered that she was harboring another secret: the vampire hunting her used to be a coworker.
It was the classic tale of a mission going pear-shaped: accidental discoveries led to further curiosity, which led to a colleague in peril and help came too late. She was determined that it wouldn't happen again.
"You do realise that you're at risk as well, since you've been attacked once already."
"Now you know why this potion is so important." She smiled grimly. "I didn't expect sabotage. But now you know why I didn't just go home."
"So instead you've embroiled me in this mess that you and your department have made, correct? Are you expected to Obliviate me afterward?"
"Er, well…" She faltered. "No one knows where I am. Or rather, I didn't think anyone knew."
"So aside from your turned colleague, no one knows you went vampire hunting?"
"Just you. Severus." She smiled awkwardly.
"So now is when you throw me out on my arse, right?"
He blinked back at her. The notion had crossed his mind, but he had already committed himself to this thing, whatever it was. But he could test her a bit.
"I'd be out of your hair," she suggested, her smile now coy. This was not a self-deprecating remark in the slightest.
"Perhaps you should try to convince me why you should stay, rather than why I should wash my hands of this whole debacle."
"It's a puzzle to solve and lives will be saved through your self-less actions. Though… you've probably had enough of that, hmm?"
"I could prove that I'm not a terrible lab assistant."
"I don't need a lab assistant. But continue."
"You need a diversion?"
"It's hardly the sort I would choose."
"Well, I'm running out of reasons." She crossed her arms and he half-expected her to start tapping her foot. "You're impossible. Either you want to see this through or you don't. If you don't, I'll Obliviate you and be on my way."
"How can I be sure that you won't bollocks this up?"
"You can't really. You'll never hear from me again."
For some reason that last statement didn't settle well with him. He was intrigued by her, there was no denying it. She was still likely to be the most intelligent witch he'd ever crossed and she had certainly not grown less powerful. If he'd never had her as a student, it would make this sudden awareness of her less awkward, but he'd also taught nearly every witch in the UK under the age of 50.
"And if I allow you to stay?"
"I'll list you as co-creator for the potion so that you earn royalties."
"I'll let you keep your memories."
"I'd want to remember this day?"
"It's difficult to say just yet. At least it hasn't been boring."
"You're an odd witch."
"Says the hermit."
They were able to re-create the potion and Severus found a way to speed up the time it needed to remain on the fire, taking about an hour off the process. Once it was poured carefully into small vials that Hermione charmed to be unbreakable, she packed them in a small crate that Severus had found in the shed. It was going on midnight. They were nearly back to the house when the alarm on the wards sounded. Not a moment later, the crate landed on the ground with a crash and Hermione was gone.
Adrenalin flooded Severus's system as his eye swept over the crate. There was a vial missing, but he'd no idea if she'd had time to take it. He pocketed two just in case, stowed the crate in the kitchen, and set off to find her.
Cokeworth was a decaying town clustered in the shadow of an abandoned mill, the relic of an era long past. The metal supports to the now non-existent roof gave an eerie skeletal look to some of the main buildings. The hair prickled on the back of his neck as he apparated just inside the massive rusted gates and scanned the area that was still visible from the streetlights. His keen senses told him that there was something lurking in the vicinity. Off to his left, there was a rattling noise somewhere in the depths of a large hanger followed by something that sounded like a metal door being ripped off of its hinges. He sprinted across the glass-littered lawn toward an open door and he silently slipped inside with a wandless silencing spell.
It was much darker in the building with only the pale moonlight glinting through, leaving large areas drenched in utter darkness. He held up his wand and light flooded the space. It was perhaps a storage room once, though now it was mostly empty. A few crates littered the floor. The corners were full of trash and broken bottles, signs of others sneaking in for their own purposes. A door at the far end was hanging from its hinges and he hurried toward it. Through it was yet another immense building full of old machinery, rusted and slowly falling to pieces. He heard her before he saw her.
A woman's strange whimpering noises were coming from several yards away. Out of caution he quickly swallowed the contents of one of the vials. There was no telling if she was still human from this distance. His eyes searched frantically until he at last found her, hidden behind one of the machines. She was clothed in only his t-shirt, blood smeared on her neck where she'd already been bitten once before and down the inside of one of her thighs.
"Severus," she breathed. She slid a hand along the blood that slicked her thigh and her eyes rolled back in her head.
He approached warily, wand clutched tightly in his hand.
She squinted at the light, her other hand moving to shield her eyes.
"Come here, Severus," she called. "Without the light." She pulled herself slowly to her feet, but did not move toward him.
"Nox," he whispered and plunged the room into darkness.
He felt her hand grip the front of his shirt, pulling him down as she whispered in his ear, "Shhhhh, relax."
One his hands bumped a bare leg and he pulled back with a hiss as if he'd been burned.
"I drank our potion and glamoured my teeth before he stole my wand," she breathed faintly along his ear. "But he doesn't know. So just.. pretend with me."
His skin prickled and knew they were being watched. Whether she was lying or not he wasn't sure just yet, but allowed her to guide him to the floor. She crawled over him and, though he could see nothing, he could feel her thighs snug against his sides and her breath along his cheek. He swallowed nervously and tried to not think of the things that had crossed his waking mind earlier that day, but she ruined that in the next breath.
"I'm supposed to be seducing you, Severus," she whispered in his ear before tracing the rim with her tongue.
He groaned and his eyes rolled back. He was thankful that she couldn't see his face.
"Like that, hmm?" she teased.
It was so wrong. He shouldn't have liked it at all. He should have been disgusted. The only redeeming thing in the moment is that she thought he was playing along. He allowed a hand to drift to her non-bloodied thigh, her skin like silk beneath his fingertips.
She nipped gently at his neck where his old scars were hidden beneath a glamour which elicited a whisper of pleasure from his lips.
Something streaked by a broken window and he held her tighter. It was simply habitual, or so he told himself. He'd spent 7 years of his life protecting her whether he'd felt like it or not. Some of her errant curls tickled his nose, bringing with them the scent of the shampoo he'd used on her hair that morning.
His hand that was still clutching his wand pressed into the small of her back, forcing her body against his. She allowed herself a small noise of pleasure. Just an act, she reminded herself. She continued to lick and nip at his neck and he made another noise that made her toes curl. She regretted not having knickers because she was sure she was going to leave a wet spot on his trousers. She hoped he would overlook it.
She hummed with satisfaction against his skin, pretending valiantly that she was beginning to feast on him. She felt stirring in his trousers, which did nothing to make her feel less awful about the position she'd put them in. He reached between her legs and with one long finger stroked along her thigh, just next to her slick folds. She cried out, in shock and, to her chagrin, frustration. But it had the required effect: she sounded like she was enjoying herself.
It was a sound that he was going to have to remove from his mind later. He knew his action was a mistake the moment the back of his knuckles felt how slick she was, but by then it was too late.
Something darted in their direction. He assumed it was her once-colleague.
"Lumos Solem," he growled, sending forth the blast of light.
There was a cry of pain and Hermione scrambled off of Severus, leaping toward the noise. He cast it again and managed to hit the vampire in the face, stunning him.
"Quickly," she shrieked as she wandlessly cast bluebell flames that licked up the monster's clothing.
A modified severing spell was cast and his head was lopped off, landing on the dusty floor with a horrid squelch. He immediately cast another just below the ribs and Hermione, to his shock, shoved her flames inside the wound, cauterizing the blood that had begun pouring out and utterly destroying the vampire's heart. The burning carcass fell to the ground.
For a long minute the two of them looked warily at one another. Her hand that was previously holding tongues of fire was covered in blood.
"Accio wand!" Her wand flew from somewhere in the building into her waiting hand. "I'll need to report this," she remarked.
He nodded, keeping his gaze focused on her face.
"I won't tell them about you."
"Why is that?" He took a step toward her.
"They'd come for you." Her voice was shaky.
"I'm not afraid of the Ministry, Hermione."
"They'd Obliviate you."
"Don't you want that?" It came out as a whisper. He didn't trust his emotions that were threatening to rise to the surface.
His eyes widened at her reply. "No?"
"Only if you do. I'll do it if you want." She nervously licked her lower lip. "I don't see why you'd want–"
"Do not presume," he murmured, stepping even closer. He gently raised her chin with the tip of his finger, tilting her face to face his.
"Do you want me to forget, Hermione? Because otherwise I don't think I can."
"I– You know, I need a new partner," she stammered. "At work."
"You think they'd actually hire me?"
"I could convince them, Severus."
"The same way you got me to do whatever you wanted?"
"This morning, well, yesterday morning, I expected to have a day like any other."
"I ruined it, didn't I?"
"I'm sorry," she sighed.
"Well, I'm not. You're a fearsome thing. You're standing here, bloodied and bruised in nothing but my old shirt and yet I know you could destroy me in a moment if you needed to. Plus you created a brilliant potion that no one else has managed to brew."
"With your help," she interrupted. Did Severus Snape just compliment her? Multiple times?
"Hush," he admonished her. "You could have died doing all this, but instead you succeeded. You're intelligent, calculating, and someone I'm glad is not my enemy. Even if you thought I was yours for many years. You've grown up to be a powerful witch, Hermione Granger. This, whatever you decide to make of it, is ultimately in your hands."
He didn't wait for her to reply, but pulled her tightly against him and disapparated.
They reappeared in his garden, softly illuminated by moonlight. He led her into the house, washed his hands, and pulled out a kettle.
"Send your owl and then get a shower. The medicines are still in the bathroom. I'll make tea."
She scrawled a quick note for someone in her department of where to find the remains and promised to send a proper report the next day. He plucked it from her fingers and said he'd take care of it. Just minutes later he heard the water in the shower running. He took the note out to his short-eared owl Nirah and sent her off into the night.
When he came back inside, he sat down at the table with a sigh. He was tired, yes, but he was also feeling out of sorts. It had been a long time since he'd formed a relationship of any form with anyone. It made him feel anxious and uncomfortable. The idea of working with her appealed to him in a way. She worked in the only branch of the Ministry that wasn't run by people he outright refused to answer to. In fact, he wasn't even sure who was in charge of the Department of Mysteries anymore.
"I sort of barged in, didn't I?" Hermione reappeared, wrapped in that infernal robe, her hair partially dry. "I just assumed and you let me keep assuming that you had nothing better to do than help me. Why did you do it?"
"Perhaps I really did have nothing better to do," he shrugged.
"You don't work?"
"The school gave me a nice retirement for services rendered when I refused to go back. I make potions for several families who feel that they cannot trust their local apothecary because of their…. notoriety." He poured a cup of tea, added milk and sugar, and sat it at empty place at the table that had all too recently become hers. She slid into the chair and took a grateful drink. He poured his own and sat opposite her.
"Does that mean you're open to the idea of.. of working with me?" Her caramel eyes hid nothing in that moment. Even without probing her mind, he could tell that she was serious about it.
"I'll give it some thought."
She nodded and looked away.
"I'm sorry about your colleague."
"He was an arse," she remarked, sounding both sad and relieved.
"Well, I'm regret what's happened, but personally he was a nightmare." Her voice was quiet and he didn't want to pry. He drank his tea to cover for his lack of response. "Working with you would be a good change," she admitted after several minutes passed.
"How is that?"
"You said earlier that I am fearsome. I find you to be equally intimidating. You've always been. Though it's easier to bear now that you don't constantly insult me."
"Yes, well…" He exhaled loudly.
"It was a long time ago, Severus." She slid a hand on top of his. "But you're still brilliant. I still trust you. I hope that.. that you saw that."
"Yes." He stared at her hand, but made no move to remove his own nor push hers away.
"Your trust is likely still misplaced."
"Is it? You saved me. Again."
"You were quite capable to handling things."
"Only because I knew you would come." A beat. "We work well together, you know?"
He made a noncommittal sound and stared into his mug.
"I told myself earlier that it was all just pretend, but.. I'm rubbish at playacting."
He still said nothing.
"I'm sorry for any liberties I took today. Well, I'm not really sorry. But I apologise if you were offended."
He let her prattle on. He knew she was going to anyway. She seemed to relish telling him exactly how she felt about everything, even if she had difficulty in doing so. But he found that he wasn't minding this time. In fact, he very much wanted to know.
"I'm sorry that you had to touch me," she continued. "And I'm sorry that I enjoyed it, which I'm sure you noticed. You must think me a tart."
"You're unbalanced perhaps. But not a tart."
He rolled his eyes. "You should have gotten ill from it." His easily slipped into his usual clipped tone.
"Well I didn't." She sat down her mug and crossed her arms, tucking them just below her breasts that were now peeking from the opening in the robe. He willed himself not to stare.
"And so that makes me a bad person?"
"No, not bad. Certifiable. "
"Excuse me?" She was getting a bit huffy.
"Off your little trolley." He smirked, winding her up a hair more.
"It must be true."
"Right, because no sane woman would so much as look at you."
"Now you're understanding."
"Well, it's too bloody late. Because I'm standing in your Merlin-forsaken kitchen wearing only a tatty old robe and you…" She paused, a mischievous smile tugged at the corners of her lips. "You like that, don't you? Even if you won't admit it." She stood and walked toward him. He remained seated and didn't so much as flinch. "You liked what I did earlier, too," she softly added. She stepped behind him and gave a low chuckle as he continued to school his expression to one of disinterest. "And now that I'm clean again," she purred in his ear, tugging on the belt that had been holding the robe closed, "I'd like to pick up where we left off."
He closed his eyes and told himself he was only dreaming again when he felt lips close around his earlobe and give a gentle tug.
"Don't tease," he grumbled.
"I have no intention at stopping at teasing," she whispered so quietly he was afraid he'd imagined it.
"You want this?" he murmured.
He stood as he grabbed the edge of the robe and pulled her in front of him.
"If you say it again, I'm not going to stop."
"Fuck me, Severus."
He all but growled as he pushed her onto the table and tore open the robe, exploring her smooth skin with both of his hands while he kissed her heatedly. His body was pressed between her thighs and her delicate fingers slid beneath his shirt, tracing patterns along his chest. One of his hands rested on a breast, squeezing as he brought his mouth down to suckle an already hardening nipple. He felt her unbuttoning his flies and pushing down his trousers. She made a delighted sound when she found that he wasn't wearing pants beneath them. It was a curious habit he'd taken to of late, but now he was quite glad for it when one of her hands immediately wrapped around his stiff cock, stroking him eagerly. He continued playing with her nipples as he cupped her breasts with both hands and kissed his way up to her neck, nipping at her pulse point.
"Shall I see if you're still wet for me?" his mumbled into her.
A hand dragged down her side and toward her core that was, as he had already felt once that night, slick with desire. He pushed a finger inside and then added a second while rubbing his thumb lightly over her sensitive button. She was still stroking him, her other hand slipping lower to gently massage his balls. He pulled his sopping fingers from her and licked them clean, watching her pant wantonly before him. She widened her thighs, guiding him closer until she could drag his swollen tip along her folds, making them both groan.
"Lie back," he commanded. "Knees up."
She held his gaze while she pulled off the robe and laid back, her bottom half of the table as he grabbed her calves, but not before he pulled off his own shirt.
"Time for dessert," he smirked and lowered himself, peppering her inner thighs with kisses until he suddenly licked her folds, making her gasp anew. He was punishing himself as much as he was pleasuring her, precum oozing from the tip of his cock while his skilled tongue and lips brought her over the edge, making her cry out. Satisfied he'd finished one delightful task, he stood and slowly pushed into her waiting tunnel.
"I'm on the potion," she feebly mentioned as she watched him, noticing that his eyes were devouring every inch of her body it could feast upon while he filled her to the brim. Severus was by far the most intense wizard she knew. His focus on her was nearly overwhelming. She squeezed her muscles, clamping down on him, making him swear.
"Is your little pussy hungry?"
"I'll make sure it get nice and full then. Would you like that?"
"Fuck yes," she panted as he began thrusting into her. It had been so long since she'd been with anyone and he was scratching an itch in ways that she was unable to achieve on her own.
He continued to stare down at her in amazement as her lithe body welcomed the punishing pace he was setting for them both. Her hands wrapped themselves around his arms, but he pushed them flat against the table, above her head.
"Just like that," he drawled. She was beautiful laying there with her body open and submissive, feigning helplessness for a moment when only an hour ago she was burning the insides of a vampire with those same lovely hands, the hands that also had just gotten his cock nice and hard so that he could fuck her with abandon. It was strangely irresistible. He flicked a thumb over her swollen slit and she clenched tightly around him.
"That's right, be a good girl and cum for me, witch." She made a delicious keening sound that reminded him of the noise she'd made earlier. He rubbed smaller, faster circles as he continued thrusting into her, paying attention to her cues until he knew that he was getting her close to the edge once more.
"Cum for me, Hermione. I can't last much longer," he all but begged her.
She swore again and her breathing became shallow.
"Say it again," she gasped. "Tell me who I am to you."
"You're my…" he hesitated and looked at her carefully, "my good girl, aren't you?"
"Oh fuck, yes," she hissed and came apart with another sound he wanted to tuck away forever. His own orgasm overtook him moments after, shooting rope after rope of cum into her. For a split second he thought he had just done something horrendous, but she reached for him and pulled him into a searing kiss.
"It's just not possible," she whispered.
"Of all the wizards in the world..."
Concern crept into his features although she still held him close.
"You're the one who understands me."
He tamped down his natural impulse to say something flippant and rude. It wasn't terribly difficult as his cock was still buried inside of her and he was feeling quite good about his current position. Instead he kissed her again, delighting in her lips and tongue while he slowly slipped from within her.
"Certifiable," he remarked with a smirk when he finally stood and helped her to her feet.
When Hermione reported to work two days later day, her boss was surprised, but not altogether shocked that she bombarded him for a good fifteen to twenty minutes of all the reasons why Severus Snape ought to become an Unspeakable. He'd had to send someone to Cokeworth to clean up what was left of his former employee and could only guess at how she'd ended up fighting him there. He just smiled and listened as she went on and on. To be fair, though he was her boss, he was hardly her senior. She was a year older than he and had just as much field experience. He knew he only got the job because she was off obtaining a mastery in Potions while he worked his way to the top of their department. When it came to hiring her, there was no question about it. Better his department than someone else's, even if she did make his work environment insanely frustrating whenever she was fixated on something. She seemed to suddenly remember to whom she was speaking and looked the tall blond in the eye.
"Well?" she blustered. "Aren't you going to say anything?"
"If he applies, then I will be sure he gets a proper interview. Satisfied?"
"As if you even need to do that."
"Formalities must be observed, Granger, even if they are pointless."
She stood there, shifting her weight from one foot to the next.
"It was too bad about McLaggen," he sighed. "You did well though, considering."
"He was good at his job, even though he was a slimy git."
He let the insult slide because he knew she was right.
"I just couldn't go back there, though... so thanks for sending someone."
"Not every day in the field is pleasant, Granger. We all understand. And once he'd been turned, there was only one way for this to go. You probably should have told me sooner, though."
"I thought I could handle it."
"Thanks to Severus, you did."
She gave a slow nod. "He saved my life. Twice."
"And I think you've just saved his," he replied knowingly. "Go on then. Send him an owl to tell him to make an appointment with me. I know you're dying to."
She flew out of the office like she had wings.
Poor Severus, he thought to himself. Now that she had her hooks in him, he was as good as… as… fuck that, he's a grown man and if he can't handle her, no one can.
A memo crossed his desk early the following afternoon and he knew it was only a matter of time before the elusive wizard arrived.
"Draco," he greeted him evenly when he appeared in the doorway.
He showed his godfather to the chair across from his desk.
"So, Granger tells me that you'd like to work with her."
An odd smile crossed his interviewee's face.
"Is that how she put it?"
"Well, no, but it's what she meant. So do you want the job? You already know what to expect."
He snorted. "Not entirely, but I'm here, am I not?"
"Brilliant, you can start tomorrow. Here's your contract."
After he read it over and decided that it was something he could sign in good conscience, the conversation quickly moved to other things. They hadn't actually been in the same room for at least 5 years. Not since his father had gotten released and thus Severus said he'd felt that he had done with "godfathering duties". He knew that wasn't the real reason.
"He's still a cunt, but less so now," Draco remarked. "I'm sure he'd like to see you."
"I'll think about it."
"Bring Granger with you. She's always the life of the party."
Severus raised an eyebrow.
"She tells my father exactly what she thinks. It makes for great entertainment." Draco was smiling, his feet casually propped on his desk.
Something twinkled in the older wizard's eye just then.
"She has a way with words sometimes."
"All the time. Bloody menace. But the best in the department. What's a wizard to do?"
"I suppose we lay down and take it."
Draco's nose wrinkled at the double-entendre.
"You know what? Keep your personal affairs out of my office and that's all I care about. You going to go tell her?"
Severus snickered. "I think I will."
Hermione was in her own office, bent over a table, searching through piles of paper that were covered with her own scribbles with her back to the door. Severus cast a Muffliato over the office, locking the door silently. He moved stealthily behind her, a hand slipping under her skirt and the other gently around her throat. She screamed, but he immediately kissed her cheek.
"You bastard!" she shouted, not sounding the least bit angry.
He chuckled and let her go.
"At least you didn't hex me this time."
"Only because I'm in my office and didn't expect to be attacked!"
"You expect it when you're at home?"
"Well, one never knows," she replied, turning to face him.
"I start tomorrow." He caressed her cheek with the pad of his thumb.
"Good. Are you coming over for dinner tonight?"
"I thought I could take you out tonight. To celebrate."
Her lips formed an adorable moue while she thought it through.
"Ok," she agreed at last.
"Draco wants me to go see Lucius sometime."
"Sunday," she corrected.
"Because it's Draco's birthday and we always go to the Manor for his birthday dinner."
"Well some of us from the department."
"And since that now includes you…"
"Yes, yes. Though I don't relish the idea."
"It will be fun. You can be my date."
"Well, I mean, we're… you know." She didn't really know, to be honest. They had shagged each other silly the previous few days, but she didn't know what that really meant.
"Together," he suggested.
We should probably take things slowly."
"Lucius can fuck right off if he doesn't like it."
"What? What does that have anything to do with–?"
"Sorry, I thought- never mind. And yes, perhaps we should. Dinner tonight would be lovely. And we'll begin working together tomorrow. By next week you'll decide that I'm a total nightmare anyway. Every wizard does."
"I am hardly every wizard," he scoffed.
"Of that I am well aware," she smirked and pressed her lips softly to his. "So." She kissed him again. "Dinner tonight and tomorrow you can help me with these reports we've been getting on zombies coming out of the peat bogs."
"Perfect," he murmured against her lips. He gave her arse a squeeze and offered to pick her up at 7.
She was locking up her office for the day when Draco was likewise leaving his own. He gave her a knowing smirk.
"Really, Granger? Severus?"
"You're bringing him on Sunday, right? You wouldn't forget my birthday?"
"How could I? You circled it in red on my diary."
"Make sure he comes. I'll tell my mother. We'll let Father be surprised, though."
They shared a conspiratorial laugh and Hermione decided that life had definitely taken a turn for the better.
And as for Severus? Well, he was content with the change in routine.