Six years and two degrees degrees from Cambridge--one in Potions, one in Chemistry--after graduating, Hermione Granger returned to Hogwarts to teach Potions. Rather than the ostentatious rooms Horace Slughorn had occupied, she took over the rooms which had been unoccupied since the tenure of Severus Snape.
To her immense surprise, the rooms were not down in the dungeons, but a level above the classroom, reached through a stairway in the office, and had a gorgeous view overlooking the Black Lake. They’d felt stale and airless, as if the doors hadn’t been unsealed since his death, though thanks to the elves, the rooms themselves were spotless. The colors were not at all what she’d expected--cobalt blues, sage greens, warm cream, and dove grey--and she found she liked the effect, especially in the sunny, cozy office/library space. The only personal effects that appeared to remain were books, though perhaps they had been his only personal effects; he’d not seemed to be a very materialistic man, from what little she knew of him.
She kept the color scheme and the books, expanding the shelves to add her own extensive collection. There was just enough room left over in the library space for Crookshanks to stretch out in a sunbeam while she did some yoga in the afternoon sunshine after classes, appreciating the French doors that opened onto a balconette just large enough for a flower box. It was her third day of such exercises, following the second full day of classes, when she was desperately in need of a little centering and relaxing, that there was an harrumphing snort from an alcove with a painting she’d thought was a library still life that worked well with the room.
That startled a gasp out of her at the end of her sun salutation, she padded in her bare feet across the worn oak flooring to peer more closely at the modest canvas, which had hitherto appeared empty of anything save a parchment, quills, and pile of old books on a table in front of heavy bookcases. She was met with the sneering face of Headmaster Snape, a finger marking his place in one of the books as he scowled down at her.
“This is not a gymnasium.”
Tucking a curl back into the braid it had escaped, she cocked an eyebrow at him. “No, but they are my quarters.”
“Your quarters?” He blustered, but the effect was a little dampened by the size of the painting.
“I’m the Potions Professor now, sir.” She wasn’t quite sure of the proper address for a deceased former Headmaster, but ‘sir’ seemed polite enough.
He scowled down at her for a moment longer, shook his head, then took the book he’d been reading and disappeared from the frame. She puttered around the room for a few minutes before going to shower, but he did not return.
In fact, he didn’t return while she was present for nearly six weeks, though close observation showed that the stack of books changed every few days. And seeing him again was probably mostly by accident—she was up late grading exams when she caught motion in the frame out of the corner of her eye. He was standing by one of the book shelves, long fingers grazing along the books’ spines. She paused in her marking to watch as he slowly turned and looked at her, their eyes meeting in silence before he began marching back out of frame.
“Were students always so foolish?”
He question caused him to hesitate just before stepping out of frame. While he looked at her with a raised brow, he did not speak.
“Explain one of the uses of dragon blood. Answer from Gryffindor Owynn Miller: ‘fueling race cars so they shoot flames out the exhaust.’”
Something that may have been a smile twitched across his face, and he stepped fully back into frame. “That’s not the worst answer I've heard.”
“Oh?” She met his maybe-smile with a real one of her own.
“A Slytherin girl once suggested it was useful in making hair dye.”
She couldn’t contain her laugh at that, sitting back in her chair and dropping her quill.
And so a tentative rapport, and then a friendship began to develop between the former and current Potions professors. They swapped stories about hilarious test answers, discussed theories, shared lab disasters. Then she began to discuss her memory potion research with him, which naturally segued into reading journal articles aloud to him, and engaging in long discussions that often led to very late nights, since one of the participants didn’t require any sleep.
After two years of teaching and countless, endless discussions with Severus—for she had long ago been invited to call him by his given name—she realized that she spent more time with his portrait than she did with any member of the staff, even Minerva, with whom she’d grown closer. A few times she almost told the Headmistress of the portrait and her friendship with it, most notably when the older witch wondered why the former Headmaster never appeared in portrait form in the Head’s Office. Instead, Hermione had merely shrugged and shook her head, and muttered something about him never being one to socialize anyway.
After her third year of teaching, she was offered the position of Deputy Headmistress, and took it only after breathlessly discussing it with Severus. She’d been the youngest in history to take on the position, and enjoyed the role for all that it did cut into her late night conversation time. The promotion also obligated her to take a greater role in formal events at Hogwarts, of which Headmistress McGonagall was particularly fond. There were now formal balls for Samhain and Yule and Beltane, and all sorts of other events, including exchanges with other magical schools. She was kept busy, but Severus was always waiting for her when she returned at the end of a long night, willing to listen to her tales of students trying to spike the punch or enchant the musical instruments or collide in the middle of an inter-school quidditch match.
She never saw him in any other painting in the castle, so where he went when he disappeared form her chambers she never knew. His absence was a rare occurrence after a few years, though, and almost exclusively when she had guests in her chambers. That was a rare event,however, outside of other staff members; she’d gone on quite a few first dates over her summer holidays, and significantly fewer second dates, and only once had brought someone home, to her parent’s former home. None of them were ever as clever or engaging as her friend Severus, so it was always with great delight that she returned to the Potions professor’s quarters each fall to catch him up on the happenings of the world outside Hogwarts; long evenings would be spent discussing potions articles that had been published over the summer, debating theory and method.
Her second year as Deputy Headmistress, she swirled out of her bedroom in a shimmer of deep green silk and gold lace, still fiddling with a few pins in her hair, almost ready to chaperone the All Hallows’ Eve Ball. When she spun around the room, looking for her bag, she noticed Severus staring at her from his frame.
“Too much?” She waved a hand at the full skirt of the gown.
He shook his head slowly. “No. You are lovely.”
She could feel herself blush, though she wasn’t quite sure why his compliment filled her with such warmth. “Thank you. I wish I could dance with you this evening.”
What possessed her to utter such a thing aloud she had no idea. Naturally such thoughts had passed through her head during many a long night’s conversation, or summer evening spent away from the castle. She may have even fantasized about him a time or two dozen. But she has kept all of that safely contained and unspoken, for not only was it awkward to converse with him while such thoughts drifted through her head, she was well aware that he was deceased--having watched him die--and merely existed as a portrait.
He looked at her oddly, and if there was a strange rippling to the painting, she attributed it to the vagaries of a magical portrait—it was also likely to snow on Christmas and darken in tint at night or when Severus was grumpy. The portrait was magical, after all, and there was so little information publicly available about all of the magic involved in the creation of such a thing.
Instead, she ducked her head, looked away from him, and headed for the door. She walked out with a little wave at the portrait, unable to look back at him or risk uttering something even more foolish. As the heavy oak door closed behind her, she assumed the shimmer of magic that ran over her were merely her wards falling into place.
There was little time to think of portraits or wards as she spent the evening in the Great Hall. Two different students made very poor efforts at trying to spike the pumpkin juice. One sixth year girl had spelled her dress to turn transparent when she was spun; it was an impressive bit of spell work, but terribly inappropriate, and so she was sent along to the Headmistress’s office for a lecture and a discussion of suspension, leaving Hermione in charge of the whole affair. Thankfully the dress incident seemed to take the wind out of a lot of the other troublemakers, and the night ended quietly, at the stroke of eleven.
After supervising cleanup, it was nearly midnight before she returned to her rooms. Something felt odd as she passed through the wards to the rooms, as if they recognized her but were not all her own. A shiver ran up her spine as she passed through the door, the oddness of it causing her to freeze just inside the doorway, trying to put her finger on what was not right while simultaneously trying to decide whether or not to send her patronus to Minerva. But whatever was different about her quarters did not feel malicious, merely different, and too many life experiences had taught her that there was a particular feel to Dark magic; this was not that.
Instead, she lit the candles and stepped cautiously inside, gaze roaming over the main rooms with a new eye. Nothing seemed amiss at first.
Then she stepped into her study. Immediately the difference in her quarters became apparent as she realized she was not alone. A dark, lean figure sat on the couch, reading her latest Potions Quarterly.
“S-Severus?” There was no one else it could be, no one else who could cross her wards, who would be sitting on her couch reading that.
He turned towards her, the profile of his face leaving no doubt as to his identity even before his voice resonated. “Hermione. How was the ball?”
Heels were dulled by the soft carpet but still her steps were loud as she stalked across the room to stand in front of him. “‘How was the ball?’”
“You were chaperoning, were you not?” He blinked at her, looking expectant, as if he was waiting in her quarters every evening to converse with her. Which in some ways, he was.
“I was. But you--how are you here? Did Hankins manage to spike the punch after all? This has to be an hallucination.” She turned and marched out of the room, through the bedroom and into the bath, shedding heels and dress as she went, washing her face and trying to clear her mind.
Severus was dead, had been dead for more than a decade, now. Portraits were enchantments, they were not real, and certainly didn’t come to life in one’s study. The only explanation was something in the punch.
Rinsing her face with icy water, she crossed back through the bedroom and peered around the door. Severus Snape was still sitting on her couch, potions journal closed in his lap as he stroked Crookshanks, who’d curled up beside him. Cautiously, still not believing her eyes, she stepped back into the study.
His jaw dropped and his eyes goggled, and only then did she realize she was wearing nothing more than a strapless black bra and knickers. She shrugged, figuring she’d wandered around her quarters in even less--this was nothing he hadn’t already seen.
Crossing the room she settled on the couch, just close enough to touch him. It surprised her when she reached out and touched wool and flesh and bone, warm and solid and real. “How did you do this?”
“I did nothing,” he said, with a slow shake of his head. “I watched you walk out the door, and suddenly I was watching it not from my portrait’s desk, but the desk in this room. How did you do this?”
“Me? I didn’t do anything. I couldn't even begin to--well, no, theoretically--”
“This is hardly theoretical. I’m sitting in...my?...your?...” He paused and frowned. “Sitting in the potion professor’s quarters. Not deceased, not confined to my portrait.”
“But you were a portrait when I left!”
He canted his head, studying her, eyes roving down as far as the edge of her bra before snapping back up to her face. “What precisely did you say before leaving?”
“I...I thanked you for complimenting my dress.” She hesitated and blushed, embarrassed at what else she had said. But he raised a brow, apparently fully aware that was not all she’d said. “And I said that I wished I could dance with you tonight.”
“Ah.” He looked at her seriously, eyes not straying from her face.
“Ah? That’s not a spell! There’s no spell that brings back the deceased via portrait!”
“What is at the core of magic, Professor Granger?” A brow raised, and he suddenly looked every inch the intimidating Professor Snape she remembered from her time as a student, expecting the wrong answer.
Cocking her head, she thought for a few seconds before sitting up and looking him square in the eye. “Intent.”
“Precisely,” he nodded. “Wizards use wands and spells to focus their magic, but the truly skilled are quite capable of remarkable wandless and nonverbal magic--as I know you are aware. Magic is about intent.”
“All the intent in the world can’t resurrect the dead. If it could, everyone would—“
“Few are as skilled or powerful as you, Hermione. Nor do many have the desire you obviously did.”
Something in the atmosphere of the room shifted at his mention of desire, as she felt the blood thrum through her veins and a light flush rise to her face as her state of undress came back to her awareness. Still, she'd fantasized about him before, power and desire couldn’t explain it alone. And she said as much.
“If all it took were power and desire, why didn’t you appear in my bed two years ago, or in my shower last week?”
Severus barked out a laugh, shaking his head, even as his own cheeks flushed. “I can only assume it is related to the date the desire was pointedly expressed.”
“Indeed. Just as certain potions ingredients must be harvested at the right cycle of the moon or day of the year. In this case, All Hallows’ Eve.”
“The idea that it is somehow possible for the dead to—“
“And yet here I sit.”
“And yet,” she said, slightly breathless at the very idea that she’d somehow been able to summon him back from death. The impulse to reach out and touch him again was irresistible, and she felt like she was in slow motion as she stretched a hand out to touch his arm. Through the wool of his robes and coat, she could feel the muscle and sinew and bone, firm and real as her own.
“Shall we dance? It was what you desired.” His voice seemed richer, deeper than she’d ever heard it. And for the first time, his hand reached out to her, index finger trailing down her bare arm, goosebumps rising in its wake.
Unable to find her voice, she merely nodded. When he stood and extended a hand, she let him pull her to her feet. There was a second’s hesitation before his warms wrapped around her, enveloping her in his scent and warmth. She breathed deeply, taking in the scent of parchment and herbs, and the feel of his robes against her skin, far softer than she’d expected. Her arms stretched around him and she pressed her cheek against his chest.
There was no music, but still, he spun lazily around the room with her, legs tangling and bodies rocking together. She could have waved the wireless on, but she didn’t have the desire or intent for that, all of her desire focused on the man improbably here with her, arms around her, robes swirling around them. Her hands found the small of his back and pulled him closer against her.
The first kiss, against the curls falling out of the evening’s updo at the crown of her head, was barely more than a breath. It intensified quickly, though, as she tilted her head up to look at him, then tipped up on her bare toes to meet his lips with her own. That felt like it’s own magic, with a rightness and rush of desire like she’d never experienced before. When her lips parted to admit his questing tongue, their slow dance came to an end and they stilled, lost in one another.
As she nipped at his lower lip, his hands roved her bare back until, after several teasing passes, he released the clasp on her bra and let it fall between them. She tugged it quickly out of the way and tossed it aside while his hands cupped her breasts reverently.
“Perfect.” One thumb grazed a nipple as he watched them peak with arousal. Pressing her breasts into his hands, she stretched up to kiss him again, until they were both breathless and flushed.
When they parted, she set to work on the layers of his clothing, wasting no time on teasing as she focused on undoing all the blasted buttons. Desire seemed to come to her aid once more, as each jet button slipped easily from its hole, and she made short work of his robes and coat, pushing him away only to let them both slide together to the floor.
“So many clothes.” Her hands now rested on the work cotton of his white shirt, teasing at the ends of his cravat. His hands left her heated flesh and covered her own, directing her in undoing the elaborate knot at his throat.
When she pulled the silk free and began to undo the mother of pearl button of his shirt, she paused again, staring at the unmarred skin of his neck. She’d seen what the snake had done to his neck, had watched as he bled out from it, heard the rattle of his last breath as it whistled out his punctured trachea. A tentative finger traced the line of his carotid artery, feeling the rhythm of his heart. “How?”
He shrugged, shallowly enough not to dislodge her fingers. “I do not know. My portrait was painted over the summer, before the school year began. Perhaps I am as I was then.”
“Perhaps.” Her fingers found the buttons again, pushing open his shirt and running her fingers over his chest, down his ribs. He was on the thin side of wiry, bones too easily traced. “You’re thinner than I was, after all that time on the run.”
“The last two years of my life were not pleasant or easy. I was always thin, but the stress of those last years were not kind to me.”
Looking up with sympathetic eyes, she wrapped her arms around him and pressed a kiss to his prominent sternum. He closed his eyes and sighed, melting against her. The touch of skin on skin late altered the tone of their interaction again, something sparking between them as her lips made their way up his body to meet his.
“Come,” she whispered when their lips finally parted. Catching his elbow with a few fingers, she tugged him along for a few steps before he realized her goal and swept an arm around her as they entered the bedroom.
Never had she been happier for the massive four-poster than when she tumbled back in it, wiggling her hips to slide off her knickers as she did. He still stood, watching her with hungry eyes, before shedding his own bottoms. When he finally joined her, hands skimming up the sides of her body, his lips found her ear with a nip to her earlobe.
“What did you imagine, when you thought of me in your bed years ago?”
“Years ago.” She kissed his cheek. “Last month.” She kissed his nose. “Last night.” She kissed him full on the lips, as he pressed her deeper into the mattress, his arousal evident between them.
“A frequent fantasy, then. Tell me what you imagined.” His voice was seductive and rich, whispered right into her ear. It sent a shiver down her spine, and she arched up into him. He growled, in her ear, and it went straight to her core.
She closed her eyes, breathing deeply, taking in the scent of him all around her. This was exactly what she’d wanted, him above her, around her. But not tender as he’d been so far, so gentlemanly. “Like this, but...more intense.”
He stared down at her with dark, focused eyes. “Intensity I can do.”
And his lips met hers again, demanding entrance, nipping at her tongue as a hand caressed down her side until reaching her thigh, which he hiked up around his hip. Grinding into her, they both groaned as his hot, hard cock met the wet, waiting heat of her quim. A few erratic gyrations brushed across her clit, and she sighed, wrapping an arm around his back, pulling him closer.
He took the hint, pulling back just far enough to position himself, then thrusting into her in one firm stroke. Neither could help the moan of satisfaction at the feeling; it was even better than she’d imagined, and she rolled her hips under him, encouraging him to move. She wanted more, wanted her fantasy of a hard, fast shag fulfilled. The near-grimace on his face spoke of a struggle for control, but at her urging, he seemed to let himself go.
That was what she’d wanted all along, his unbridled arousal and passion directed at her, and as his hips set a furious rhythm, she reveled in meeting it with a gyration of her own that sent shockwaves straight from her hammered clit to her ecstatic brain. Everything but the feel of Severus around her, his lips tracing her neck and his cock slamming into her pussy, faded away--now was not the time for questions of how, or what next. Now she lost herself in the reality of him, the taunt biceps and ropy forearms bracketing her shoulders, the straining tendon in his neck that he shuddered when she nipped, the dark curtain of his hair falling down over both their faces, cutting off the rest of the world.
There was nothing but them, now. That thought alone took her halfway to orgasm, and his unrelenting attentions did the rest, tumbling her over the edge into ecstasy faster than any partner had previously been able. He seemed relieved at that feat, and soon followed, burying his face in the crook of her shoulder as he nearly sobbed in release, grinding his hips into her and prolonging the spasming aftershocks of her orgasm even as he experienced his own.
He stayed atop her, inside her, but kept his slight weight off her, as he returned to himself. Then, to her surprise, he rained kisses along her hairline, and wrapped an arm around her, before rolling them both over.
“Hermione.” It was barely an exhalation, as he settled back onto the bed, draping her over him, a hum of contentment felt more than heard where her head rested over his heart.
She pressed a few sloppy kisses to his chest as he pulled the blankets around them, but dozed off almost immediately, cocooned in warmth and fulfillment and Severus. It had been what she’d been dreaming of, longing for, for years now. And it had come to pass.
When she awoke, the midmorning sun was streaming brightly through her windows, leaving the room warm and welcoming. But she was alone in the bed, the bedding a tangled mess. She felt rather a mess, as she thought about the night before, and wondered where Severus had gotten to. After a trip to the loo and dressing in a comfortable set of robes, she walked out into the study where she’d danced with him the night before. The room was quiet, empty but for Crooks napping in the sun; he looked up curiously at her as she entered, then tucked himself back into a sleepy ball.
“Severus?” It took all her control for her voice not to waver as she spoke.
“Hermione!” His tone echoed with more distress even than she’d been feeling, and she spun around the room, trying to find the source of his voice. With a cold dread, she turned around once more, to face what had been his portrait.
And was, now, again.
He sat at the library table where he’d been painted, a new pile of books stacked in front of him, and a candle already burned down to a puddle of wax. One volume was open in front of him, a hand resting on it to hold his place.
“You’re a portrait again.” She couldn’t help the obvious from spilling from her lips, then cringed as she waited for his derision.
“Obviously. I awoke here in my chair. It was most unpleasant.” A deep frown marred his face as he looked down at the table, then he looked up at her with such longing.
“Was whatever magic brought you to me only effective for one night?” She could wish him into her rooms every day, that didn’t seem an insurmountable problem to her.
“Not just one night.” He shook his head and patted the book he’d been studying when she’d found him. “For the night of All Hallows’ Eve.”
“Oh.” Her heart did break a little then, and she allowed a few tears to fall down her face as she adjusted the chair she usually sat in to chat with him, and made herself comfortable. “So you can only cross back over one night a year?”
“I believe that may be the case. Though I am studying the other high holidays to see what lore surrounds them, and the realms of life and death.”
Research by both of them throughout the year, however, yielded few helpful results; it did prove to be a distracting topic of discussion for the months between each holiday. Nor did experiments on the high holidays prove at all fruitful. Severus could think of no potions that might be helpful, and experimentation on that front proved both fruitless and dangerous, as Hermione lost more than a few good cauldrons to the cause.
Yet on All Hallows’ Eve, when she wished, almost hopelessly, for his presence as she departed for the ball, she returned to find her wish granted. Severus had made himself comfortable, half naked and dozing in her bed. It had given her a terrible fright when she’d opened the door to her quarters, found him not in the portrait, and proceeded dejectedly to her bedroom, only to find him occupying her pillow.
As before, he vanished with the sunrise, hand around her wrist one second and nothing but pigment the next. She’d nearly wept in frustration and disappointment, then took a long, hot shower and began formulating plans to redouble her research efforts.
Try as they might, and wish as hard as she might, even on subsequent All Hallows’ Eves, Severus never left his frame for more than the duration of the night.
The third year after he’d returned, she asked Minerva if she could skip the ball, with the excuse of a delicate potions experiment that would be in progress. The Headmistress had not agreed to let her off the hook entirely, but had let her focus her attention on preparations and setup, departing midway through the festivities. It gave her several more hours with Severus, and an idea for the future.
For the next several years, she occupied herself with a seasonally focused brewing project, channeling the power of the high holidays and examining their effects on potion efficacy. It was interesting, led her to publish in several prestigious journals that brought positive attention to the Potions program at Hogwarts, and led to a few lucrative patents. But most of all, it got her out of working on All Hallows’ Eve, when she was ostensibly brewing.
And sometimes she was, for there was great joy in actually getting to work in the laboratory with the man she spent most of the year verbally sparing with and bouncing ideas off of. Working together, they accomplished great things, and she thought it a shame that she was unable to put his name on them as more than a note of thanks for being her teacher. As the years went by, they came to spend as much time working, and cuddling on the couch while chatting, as they did in her bed.
When the day came that Minerva retired and Hermione was promoted to the position of Headmistress herself, her first thought after accepting the position was of the portrait in her quarters. Moving it proved not as difficult as she’d thought, and no one questioned her fondness for the library still life that she brought along to the Head’s quarters. If the former Heads in her office ever overhead any of the late-night debates from her personal rooms, they never said a word to her, though often Albus Dumbledore looked at her with an odd twinkle in his eye. Everyone was so distracted by the modernizations she made to the Hogwarts curriculum that no one noticed that she ended the tradition of the All Hallows’ Eve ball, or that she was only seen that night for emergencies.
Long years later, when Headmistress Hermione Granger passed away peacefully in her sleep, her successor had her favorite painting moved to the library, where it was mostly forgotten in an alcove by the Potions section. The portraits of the former Heads spent so little time in their frames in the office--most enjoyed keeping an eye on all the activities of the school--that it was hardly noticed that Hermione spent much of her time in that frame in the library instead; if they had, it would have been written off to her life-long love of books, and pride in the upgrades she’d made to the Hogwarts library.
Only a rare student, studying late at night, occasionally heard the whispered banter and debate from the frame in the alcove, where two of Hogwarts former Heads were now able to spend most of their nights together.