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Tedium Of Time

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“Miss Granger!” The volume may have been soft, but every student knew the menacing hiss of its slow and certain intonation.

The young woman in question startled badly, a tiny shriek issuing from her bow-like mouth.

“You will pay attention,” her teacher warned tersely, through clenched teeth.

The Slytherins present snickered nastily at the Gryffindor witch’s discomfort. Their smiles grew as the Potions master continued his tirade, sneering, “Is your head now so crammed with knowledge you think you can no longer learn in my class?” He stood, body stiff, leaning over the work bench in front of her. Arms rigid, fingers straight, buttressed on the desk for support.

“N-no, sir,” she stuttered, but thought, this is so utterly unfair.

Snape loathed this so much. Having to favour some of these ungrateful little Slytherin heathens made the bile rise in his throat. He was growing tired of this game, he was just marking time now, waiting for the day this young woman graduated and was away from here.

The taciturn Potions master had his private reasons for wishing this. He admired her for her intelligence, regardless of the fact she was a Gryffindor, especially now she had grown into said extraordinary brain, and he longed to talk to her, converse with someone like-minded.

Over this past two years his admiration for her had strengthened into something that truly frightened him. Something that made the knife edge he walked daily even sharper and more lethal. He needed to protect her at all costs, but without revealing a single scrap of information to either of his so-called masters.

Snape had come to realise that this particular witch was part of a Prophesy his mother had told him about many years ago. It was a little known fact that Eileen Snape was a seer, far more powerful than Trelawney would ever be.

His sigh was almost inaudible, but for now he must continue to play his part. It was slowly killing him from the inside out, but it protected what was dearest to him. Internally he grimaced. Not able to arouse her ire, but needing a result for their audience, the taciturn wizard intentionally levelled a malevolent set of eyes towards a specially chosen student, confident in the reaction it would garner. The young man in question obligingly cowered and gulped nervously. Sometimes the Potions master was amazed how simple it was to unnerve people, nevertheless it had the desired effect.

Hermione huffed. Yes he’s caught me day-dreaming, but my work’s complete, the bench is tidy and cleaned. She glanced at it as if double checking. Then something unexpected filtered through her displeasure. Did the professor just sigh? No, she decided, I must have imagined that, and she went back to her annoyance. I’ve even worked my way through all the additional extension exercises contained in the text book, and off the top of my head. How dare he pick on me! Damn it, I was just plain bored. The fact that she had let her imagination wander was probably unwise, but her teacher had an effect on her. No matter how poorly he treated her, she adored him, and that was the bit that hurt.

Hermione hadn’t asked for additional work on top of what she had already completed. That would have surely earned her a caustic know-it-all comment. What the Gryffindor witch had done was much more than anyone else ever did. I’ve even finished it willingly, and now he’s baiting me by picking on poor Neville.

Snape heard her irritated sniff. His gaze ranged casually back towards the young woman, “Yes, Miss Granger?” One elegant raven eyebrow swept up as if in challenge. “A further comment, perhaps?” His voice was pitched to intentionally goad her, “Mmmm?”  

Don’t cry, don’t cry, she chanted in her head as her eyes started to prickle and the back of her nose stung. I hope this term improves, so far it’s been simply awful, she thought sadly. I’m so over this, maybe school’s not the right place for me anymore. There has to be something better than this, for God’s sake I’m an adult. I’m almost two years older than all these pathetic children, even Harry’s so caught up with stupid, his… Her thoughts swirled, but she couldn’t bring herself to leave, or even answer.

Swallowing hard, Hermione finally forced her head to rise and her narrowed amber-flecked gaze met his inscrutable black resistance. Their eyes remained locked; every student in the lab, both Slytherin and Gryffindor now trained eager attention toward the standoff.

That’s right Professor, I’m going to be the adult here, and after some moments the petite witch lowered her gaze apparently flustered and muttered, “No, sir,” proud that her voice remained even, although her thoughts circled ominously. How am I meant to keep enduring this cruelty just so I can finish bloody school?

There was a collective intake of breath. Everyone had come to look forward to the continuing battle of wits between the Potion master and his bright Gryffindor student. They were actually disappointed with the outcome of this encounter. Hermione Granger could always be counted on to fly to the rescue of the down-trodden and hapless. They were like children denied a sweet, all wanting to see Snape belittle the smartest girl in the class again.

Said Potion master’s eyes narrowed as her gaze slunk back towards her lap. Her internal mantra becoming more insistent as her hands shook with rage and pain over the injustice of it all.

Her actions flustered him far more than the heat he felt rising to his cheeks from the transferred warmth of her eyes. He realised this had slipped unknowingly into a particularly nasty standoff, yet no one stood up for her or offered comfort. This seemed much worse than he’d thought. Damn the lot of them, I need to act. I think the time has finally come.

Forcing his brain to more forward, he intentionally curled his lip in distaste and snipped curtly, “See me after class, Miss Granger.”

“Yes, sir,” the young woman muttered, her head down. Hearing the sneer in his voice, she didn’t dare to meet his eyes, but was pleased that this might be an end for a moment.

His countenance inscrutable, Snape stood examining the top of her head a moment. He’d heard the quaver in her voice, but his thoughts were hidden. A collective gasp rippled around the room as he then spun on his heel, robes whirling around him without saying another word.

Brusquely glancing at the clock, Snape instructed the class as a whole. “Those who have not finished have five minutes remaining.” His steely gaze slid from desk to desk scrutinizing the many unfinished, and plainly pathetic looking brewing attempts. “Incomplete potions will attract a mark of zero. Homework assignments in a neat pile here.” He tapped his desk with his wand as he passed around it and settled in his chair, black robes falling elegantly, surrounding him like a flowing pool.

The professor’s eyes were down cast, apparently marking assignments. His rapier-like quill poised in his hand, glistening with ruby red. However his thoughts were with the intelligent amber-flecked eyes of the young woman in the front row. Damn it, she’s an adult. Her record indicates that she’ll be twenty next year. This is the last place she belongs.

He chanced a quick look at her, she still sat quiet and grave, he could see a tear glistening on her lashes and his heart twisted painfully. Shit! I’m a monster. Now how do I fix this?

~~~***~~~

The new school year was only two weeks old and Miss Hermione Granger had been hesitant about coming back to complete her last year. The young woman had realised that she was already in possession of all the knowledge she required to pass the exams scheduled for the end of this year, and from that point onward everything just seemed to spiral out of her control.

Snape sat at his desk and wished with all his heart that she was no longer a student in his class. Surely she had nothing left to prove. He thought back to when she had first arrived, even at that tender age she’d been a formidable force. A hungry sponge eager to soak up all the knowledge she was able to access, and made worse by the need to prove herself as a Muggle-born witch.

Covertly glancing at her through his long lashes, he saw her as she was then and now. Gone were the buck teeth, wild frizzy hair and over enthusiastic know-it-all manner. She was now graceful and poised, serious and mature.

Her hair tamed to the greater extent, fell in copious silky chestnut curls down her back. The baby fat that had seen her look chubby as she matured, had given way to a soft well-rounded figure she had trouble hiding, though her robes were always modest, buttoned tight and neat in their appearance.

However, recently there was one thing that had disappeared as well, somewhere between years six and seven.  Snape had noticed it immediately, at the Welcoming Feast. She had looked so tired and drained, like she hadn’t slept well for a long time, and he didn’t want to admit how much that had bothered him.

Her eyes were sunken and troubled with dark, black circles. The life he had always envied her in those pretty amber-flecked eyes was gone. They now appeared almost as dead as his own.

Being back here and occupied once more seemed to have assisted in partially rectifying the situation because the appearance of tiredness had lessened, indicating she was sleeping marginally better. However, it made him keen to find out what may have transpired before or during the summer holidays.

Scoffing internally at his own stupidity, he pondered, there’s little chance in the present circumstances that I’ll find out unless I come by the information accidentally, but it didn’t stop him from wanting to know.

The class finally finished, and it was the last one of that day.

~~~***~~~

As usual Miss Granger quietly approached his desk. She was always the last to come. The Potions master watched under his lashes as she reverently placed the sample of her perfectly brewed potion in the rack with the others, and attempted to surreptitiously add a fairly hefty pile of parchment to the homework assignments stack.

The professor huffed as he looked at it. She obviously heard him as she jerked backwards, apparently weary of any acid tongued comments about it. Snape took a deep breath, and glancing around the room to indeed ascertain they were alone finally. A flick of his wand shut the door.

He noticed her jump at the noise of the door shutting as well, but spoke anyway. “Miss Granger, this,” he pointed to the extra homework with the same wand, “has got to stop.” His dark gaze calmly levelled with hers.

“B-but… s-sir,” she stuttered aghast. “I’m sorry if the extra work is an inconvenience but I…” Then suddenly assuming from his tight expression that he was seriously displeased with her she continued her sentence with an air of resignation in her posture. “Of course, sir, if you do not wish me to hand it in, I will take it back.” Slowly her hand came forward to retrieve the pages, but she found it instantly batted away with the large eagle feather quill he now held in his hand.

“No, silly girl that is not what I meant,” he snapped, exhaling noisily in apparent frustration. He placed the quill down, and leaning back in his chair he pinned her with fathomless eyes. “Why did you come back this year?”

She blinked in disbelief several times before her spluttered reply finally managed to leave her lips. “T-to complete my schooling, sir.” How could he ask me that?

He nodded. “Does this,” he motioned to the pile of work, “satisfy your craving for knowledge?” His lips were tight, but his manner appeared genuine as he continued, “Your desire to complete your schooling?”

Hermione did not answer she simply looked down at it and shook her head.

“As I thought,” he affirmed, watching her closely. “It is not extending you at all.”

Again she shook her head. “You are correct, sir, I could sit my exams now and pass them all.” Her breath was more a sigh of frustration, “I am merely going through the motions so I’m not bored senseless.” Then she bit her lip, wondering if she was about to be smacked down again. It was very unusual for Professor Snape to inquire after personal satisfaction. Although he did temper it by calling me a silly girl. The young woman tried to think past his barb. Lifting her head she stared at him thoughtfully. This is the first time he’s engaged me in conversation, better tread carefully, Granger. This could explode in your face. It was something she had longed for, craved even for a very long time, but she didn't trust the situation. So still weary, but seeing he didn’t appear to object to her forwardness, she decided to level with him. “Although I haven’t yet had the opportunity to brew the potions prescribed for seventh year, I am already aware of how to brew each of them, their properties and also their ingredients.”

Putting his quill back in the ink pot, he sat back and folded his arms across his chest. “Of that, I have no doubt,” but his smirk this time contained no malice. This confused Hermione further. After six years of battling insults and scathing criticism from the austere figure in black sitting before her, she was more than a little weary of his civil tongue.

“Do not be alarmed, Miss Granger, opportunity will still be afforded you to remedy this situation,” he added out of the blue. Severus appraised her contemplatively a moment longer, I shouldn’t have called her a silly girl, damn, it seems that old habits die hard. He really wanted to know what was going on in her head, but he had never used his formidable skills as a legilimens to gather thoughts from this particular young woman.

There was of course a reason why he had refrained when he had no such compulsion with the rest of the idiots. For one thing this girl was definitely no idiot, and the other reason was that he was actually afraid of what would be revealed to him. Of course, this didn’t mean he didn’t long to know at this very moment exactly what she was thinking.

There were of course other ways to find out. Raising an eyebrow smoothly, he stirred the cauldron a little. “Have a seat, Miss Granger.” Pointing his wand, the other chair quickly scurried closer to his desk.

Hermione observed him, and without taking her eyes off him tentatively perched herself on the very edge of the offered chair and carefully folded her hands in her lap. A little like a cautious prey animal observing a known predator.

Now that look speaks volumes, he thought. Although, I really can’t blame her. Snape was fully and painfully cognisant of why she was so apprehensive of his sudden interest in her situation.

She had been frank with him, so after some moments of silence, he suddenly spoke. “Miss Granger, I do not wish you in my class anymore.” He watched, as her eyes widened and that beautiful mouth dropped open. In fact, her countenance wore an expression of complete horror. “Your presence is both a disruption and an impediment to others.”

Hermione fought to hide her shock as tears instantly welled in her amber-flecked orbs, could this day get any worse. “I… I b-beg your pardon, s-sir?”

“Your very presence in the class that has just finished, guarantees other students do not have to put any effort towards learning.” Severus to this point had managed to remain impartial and cool, but seeing the stricken expression now residing on her sweet face, he couldn’t continue with the charade.

Oh, for fuck’s sake, don’t make it any worse. I’ve got to concede something to her if I want her opinion of me to change from the callous bastard. He flinched slightly, when he realised he’d just reinforced that persona in her mind again.

The problem was that amending her view of her treatment at his hands, was going to be a difficult exercise. I mean, exactly how you tell someone that even though you have treated them like dirt, for as long as you’ve known them, that you are actually more than extremely fond of them. Studying her bowed head, he reflected on how to continue. It really would take away the last thing keeping him sane if this failed. Although, sometimes Snape thought it might be best if any extenuating circumstances stayed undiscovered... Let her leave at the end of the year. If all was revealed he was certain she would run a mile, and this was his greatest fear as he contemplated the next step.

Looking across at the uncomfortable and plainly upset young woman he realised that he couldn’t put this off any longer. No, I have to forge ahead. If I don’t she will suffer soon as I do. He scrutinised her a moment longer, and decided she may already be suffering, based on her reaction to him this afternoon. Hermione Granger just didn’t buckle under like that. No, she needs me to do this for her

His expression did not waver, although his voice was soft, even kind as he continued. “Miss Granger, this is not the end of the world.”

Hermione was at the end of her tether, again she’d started chanting to herself, Don’t cry, stay calm, “That’s a matter of opinion, s-sir,” she managed to stammer.

Severus huffed. “Miss Granger I am not planning to abandon you. I was merely stating the obvious. I feel I have a fair idea how much your Potions class means to you.”

This statement had Hermione’s head shooting up, her total disbelief written on every line of her face. “I’m sorry, sir?”

He watched her struggling to comprehend what his statement inferred. “Will you allow me to recommend my proposed cure to your predicament?”

“M-my predicament?” she stuttered, anger rising once more. “Wouldn’t that rather be your desire to be rid of me once and for all.” The tears were forgotten a moment. “No, sir, it is your enforced predicament,” she finished bitterly.

He sighed and leaning forward, studied her intently, ignoring her claims. “So am I to understand that you wish to remain bored stupid and completely unfulfilled in Potions as well as every other subject this year, Miss Granger?”

Hermione stared at him in mistrust and confusion, then blinked before stuttering, “Err, no, s-sir.”

Severus sighed. “Miss Granger I am about to offer you an opportunity. One I have never offered another student. I offer it because I can see your thirst for knowledge has well and truly moved beyond the seventh year syllabus.” Here he added privately, and I can’t help wanting to quench it. This thought made him strengthen his barriers against her charms, knowing that quenching her thirst for knowledge was not all he’d love to do. He was aware it was going to be a difficult job, working so closely with her.

After all, it was in his own best interest if he did, even if he did have to keep her at arm’s length. This made him internally shudder again. You have to get over this, to see the way forward, stupid fool, he cursed at himself. Although many would disagree, Severus was an honourable man, and sometimes his thoughts about the young woman troubled him. He turned his attention back to her and found her watching him wearily. “Miss Granger, I advise you to drop your Muggle Studies class, and amend your Potions tuition.”

This statement was met with a rapid intake of breath. “What!” Her blurted exclamation gained a raised eyebrow, and she hastily added, “S-sir.”

He took a deep breath and started to clarify. “Muggle Studies is a useless subject, taught by an inept fool of a teacher. Which, considering your Muggle background, you should have realised by now is completely wasted on you.”

Her eyes narrowed. However she didn’t contradict him, and Severus was not about to tell her the real reason he wished her to be rid of the subject, and he watched her take that in. “I have a better alternative for you than merely seventh year Potions.” He could see her interest gathering, “However, it will require all your then free lessons per week, and possibly one or two evenings to complete.” His gaze appraised her once more and found her now listening intently.

“Oh… I see,” but her answer was still cautious.

“I propose that you commence a Potions apprenticeship while completing your N.E.W.T. year,” he continued calmly.

It crossed his mind to wonder if Hermione’s eyes could get any larger. The expressive hazel pools were huge and looked absolutely luscious. Severus was certain he saw a lick of the missing passion there, just for a second, and he also registered another very vocal opinion from his nether regions and clamped down on it quickly. He so wanted to know why the passion that had burnt so brightly in those eyes last year had left them, and why she appeared now to be so alone. It was this above all other factors that led him to the conclusion that without doubt it was time he started privately taking her under his wing. Guiding, and protecting her as best he could, in preparation for what was to come. He didn’t begrudge her his protection, even if it would make his life even more segmented, convoluted and distressing. It irritated him intensely that Albus Dumbledore would have to approve this step, he wanted the old wizard to know as little as possible about this development.

The young woman sat there, still stunned.

“If you agree to my suggestion, the appropriate papers will be drawn up, among them your withdrawal from Muggle studies.”

Finally, Hermione nodded her understanding, but before she spoke her lip went between her teeth as she appeared to sum up what she’d heard so far. Could this be my opportunity to get out of some of these tedious situations? I’ll be frank with him, after all what’s the worst that can happen?  She chewed on her lip a moment longer before answering. “I very much agree with your appraisal of Muggle Studies, sir. It may be the wrong thing to say, but I can’t understand why they teach it. It does nothing to foster unity between Muggles and wizards. My reasons for taking it were to try and understand how wizard’s really view Muggles. I have to agree, it is a truly useless subject in its current form.” A tiny smile curled her lip. “However, it did provide some humorous relief on occasion.”

It was a twisted little smile she now wore. Severus wondered if she knew how adorable it looked. He listened as she continued.

“A great proportion of its offered information is about as useful as Mr Weasley’s demonstration of the correct use of a Muggle fountain pen.”

That twisted little smile became wider and Severus had trouble not exhibiting the same expression. He remembered with great joy the demonstration that had left none other than the Minister of Magic, spluttering, and with a river of blue ink running down the front of his white silk dress robes at last year’s Yule ball. Why a man of his age and obvious orientation needed to wear white?

Severus shook himself internally and watched that little smile’s curl. It was an expression he had never seen grace her pretty features, and he liked it. This undefined passion wove, and licked through her eyes, instantly telling him that this bookish, straight-laced little witch had undisclosed hidden depths. He was willing to bet that they were very undisclosed indeed, and also similar to his own. It wasn’t something a casual observer would pick up. They only see what she chose to show them. Is this a discrete show of trust in me that she’s chosen to reveal this smile? How very Slytherin, he pondered. There is far more to this young lady than meets the eye, why haven’t I worked this out before? This requires further thought, he reflected as she sat quietly waiting for him to speak again. Severus cleared his throat and continued with his intended theme. “So, you will withdraw from the subject?”

She nodded her assent. “Will I still sit a Potions N.E.W.T.?”

“Of course.” He watched a grin spread across her face, “But be under no illusions that this will be easy, it will require a great amount of diligent application, and most if not all of your free time. You will need to maintain your grades in your other subjects, and Miss Granger,” his scowl returned momentarily. “Let it be known, I am not an easy man to please. I will expect nothing less than your best efforts as well as your time consuming perseverance.” He watched her nodding joyfully.

“I do not wish the general populace of this school to know about this. This agreement is formed between you and I. Of course your head of house and Dumbledore will need to be involved.”

Hermione wondered why he flinched ever so subtly when he said that.

Snape drew breath. “I do not wish gossip or speculations of any nature to cloud our agreement.”

Her expression settled and she nodded. “That is fair.” She observed him pragmatically. “Besides, I have no one to tell.” Appearing to steel herself she held her head high and her expression closed off, but then a sudden thought crossed her mind. “But what do I tell people if they should ask?”

His eyebrow raised. “It’s perfectly simple, Miss Granger, you skirt the truth. I’m certain you can handle that, even though you are irritatingly Gryffindor.”

Hermione refused to let him see that he had rattled her with the comment. Him and his bloody compliments with the sarcastic chaser. Sitting there erect, with his arms crossed imposingly, and that amazing damned eyebrow raised. My god he looks sexy. NO!  The witch felt the twist of pleasure in the pit of her stomach. You’re mad you are, you’ve finally snapped, don’t think that. He’s sitting right in front of you, think evil Potions master... evil Potions master, and breathe woman. Evil Potions master who loathes you, she could feel the blush rising. Damn, just breathe and think, sexy evil Potions master. No… Damn and bugger.

Severus saw her blush and inwardly smiled. “Miss Granger, I take it you intend accepting this offer?”

Offer, oh yes anything. Damn it, get a bloody grip, Granger… What would you like me to grip? Hermione mentally shook herself, and replied quietly, “Yes, sir, it would be my great honour.”

“Good, but don’t be so honoured too soon. It will be very hard work,” he informed her calmly, his expression never wavering. Then his countenance abruptly closed off completely. “You will receive a message tomorrow morning, concerning our meeting with Dumbledore.” He picked up his quill, “Good evening, Miss Granger,” and with this statement he turned back to his marking, like nothing out of the ordinary had just been expressed, or even mentioned.

“Oh,” she said, quite taken back. “Err good evening, sir.” Rising quickly she turned away from him as she realised how much his polite, but cold dismissal had stung her. Without looking back she quickly headed for the door, collecting her bag on the way out.

Severus heard the door shut, after her rushed exit. He sighed, and reached into his desk drawer for his whisky and cigarettes, shutting his eyes a moment. Merlin, I really hate doing that to her all the time, why just once can’t I leave her feeling positive about something? He lit his cigarette, pinched the bridge of his nose, and then poured a large tumbler of whisky.

~~~***~~~

Hermione remembered vaguely saying good evening as she marched resolutely through the door, her vision already a blurred sheen. Making it to the top of the dungeon stairs, she hazily noticed she was on the next level.

She so yearned for his company; the exchange tonight had felt wonderful. Yeah, bloody wonderful until his curt dismissal, that was. Why am I getting so upset? I knew it would happen again. Because it bloody hurts, that’s why. It bloody hurts to have the man you think the sun shines out of treat you like nothing.

Needing to be alone, she quickly ducked into one of the numerous alcoves which lined the corridor. Now hidden from sight she leaned back against the strong, solid stone. She hoped its coolness might help the thoughts condense, as her mind raced light years ahead of her. Her breathing started to become laboured. I’ve just agreed to be his apprentice, she groaned. But he hates me. What hell, have I just condemned myself too? Then another voice in her head started whispering. But why would he offer you this, if he hates you so much?

Hermione Granger had an instant urge to run, but to where? Really there was nowhere to run, she had been doing that all summer, and she knew she desperately wanted to stay. She needed to stay, desired this chance more than anything. This once in a life time chance to spend countless hours with the sarcastic, brooding, brilliant, totally charming and completely unknown to her Potions master. But he hates me, she thought... Oh no! Hermione hugged herself tightly as her tears spilt down her face. Then the sudden realisation hit her of just how much this difficult and very private man affected her. She had been hopelessly attracted to him now for two years. However, somehow this year all the fantasies and yearning didn’t seem enough.

He has never shown you an ounce of encouragement, has always pushed you firmly into your place, he has just done it too you now, even tonight, he was civil but nothing else. Her head swam, and her mind went blank as she heard a strange roaring in her ears. Why? What makes that happen, why does wanting him feel so right, when everything is so wrong. The young woman crumpled under the stress, just too many things were going wrong, and she sat curled up in the corner of the alcove, knees drawn tightly up, head in her lap and sobbed.

~~~***~~~

Finally, Hermione managed to struggle out of her dark hiding place and wander further up the hallway. Quickly drawing her wand, she cleansed her face to rid it of the tear stains and headed for her rooms, not even thinking of dinner.

Having been made Head Girl, she now had private rooms. This pleased her, even if she did have to pass through the common room to get to them. She didn’t think she could stand another year with Lavender and Parvati. Especially, after last year when Ron had started receiving their sexual favours. The talk was... yuck, she shivered, remembering.  

Living in the same dorm had become very strained, because they all seemed to use their behaviour to try and wind her up. It was obviously their assumption that she was a prude, and their talk would upset her. They didn’t know her very well, and for that she was truly thankful. Hermione sighed; maybe she was being unfair to them. They were what they were, and worst of all they appeared happy with their lives. She could claim no such contentment. Everything for her just seemed to get more and more complicated.

By this time she had made it into Gryffindor tower, she would have loved nothing more than to blend into the furniture, and just slip into her room, but even this small wish wasn’t allowed her. The instant she appeared, she was beseeched with requests for help with homework. Some even outright offering to pay her to do their homework, and it didn’t stop at her own house. When she was in the library, even Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs approached her.

She had even had the occasional Slytherin seek her help. Of course unless they were desperate, they did it second hand, by bribing or threatening someone else, a Hufflepuff usually.

Hermione had no idea what time it was. She was unaware how long her interview with her professor had taken, or for that matter how long she had languished in the hidden alcove. She suddenly realised she must have missed dinner, but no one expressed concern that she hadn’t been present.

During dinner, anyone who had glanced at the teachers’ table at the appropriate moment would have seen a pair of coal black eyes stealthily scanning the Gryffindor table for a presence that was absent. When he did not find the head of chestnut curls he was searching for, he had quietly pushed his plate away mostly uneaten, and sat on tenterhooks silently waiting the appropriate amount of time before nodding sadly to the headmaster and leaving.

 

 

Chapter Text


The next morning Hermione had Muggle Studies first. She bit her lip nervously as she dithered over this fact. Should I include this text, or am I not in the class anymore? After picking it up and putting it down several times, she finally decided she should to be on the safe side and placed it in her already overcrowded bag.

Wary of more trouble, the now ever cautious the young woman used a revealing spell before leaving her rooms. She found the immediate area, and indeed the entire common room, thankfully deserted, and exited her room, passed through the portrait hole and for once forgot her problems as she almost ran to breakfast. Having spent so much time deliberating, of course she was now late, but very eager, and even a little excited for the day to start. Mind you, it didn’t mean she wasn’t extremely anxious about it as well.

~~~***~~~

Hermione had taken to drinking coffee in the mornings last year, and was really looking forward to her mug this morning in the hope that it would settle her agitated stomach a little. It had taken her an age to finally get to sleep last night, and then her fitful rest had been punctuated with elusive images of pale hands and dark eyes, which really hadn’t helped matters at all.

As she sat contemplating her mug studiously, her head rose when she heard the flurry of wings heralding the post arriving, and instinct kicked in as she automatically dug in her pocket for the coins she needed.

A great tawny owl landed in front of her and plopped down the paper. Placing her mug mechanically back on the table, the young woman placed the knuts in the bird’s pouch and stretched her hand toward the bacon. The owl happily took the offered treat and was gone again.

A pair of surreptitiously watching dark eyes at the head table, wondered once more why the young woman was not interacting with her friends. Longbottom had been the only one who spared a half smile and a good morning for her, and her smile in return had not reached her eyes. There really is something amiss here, he pondered, going back to his coffee and picking up his own paper.

Reaching for her mug again, Hermione was surprised when a second bird landed gracefully on the table in front of her. She appraised him, as he eyed her haughtily. Isn’t it beautiful, she thought. I’ve never seen such a silky black owl before, his feathers look so soft and luxurious. Without thinking of the consequences her hand went forward, unable to contain the urge to stoke the bird’s feathers. Its reaction to her invasion of its personal space was razor sharp and painful, bringing her immediately back to her senses.

Cocking its head to the side she was certain it sneered down its large hooked beak.

“Okay,” she hissed, tears stinging her eyes. “I get it, untouchable. I bet I know who you belong to.”

Resisting the urge to glance up at the staff table, in case the probable owner was watching her, Hermione cautiously retrieved the note from the owl’s out stretched leg, and tried to hide her painful, bleeding finger.

Casting a quick glance up and down the table, to make sure no one had witnessed the incident, she grabbed a napkin to tie around the injury. At least that way the blood dripping off the end of her finger didn’t give her away, and even though the owl had bitten her she still very gingerly offered the beautiful bird the same kindness she had shown the tawny owl.

It gruffly accepted her offering, and she watched through tear filled eyes as it wheeled back into the air, and circled once before leaving. Hermione took in its graceful rise skyward, and she sighed. Why does everything have to hurt me? After she’d reined in her emotions, and blinking to focus, she turned her attention to the note which simply said – Headmaster’s office, first lesson. Don’t be late.

Finally she allowed herself a quick glance at the head table, only to see the back of her professor’s robes sailing out the teachers exit. Scanning further she saw Dumbledore getting up to leave as well. Hermione quickly gulped the last of her coffee without even bothering to look at the time. She grabbed a piece of toast, shoved her paper in her now bulging book bag and took off out the doors.

~~~***~~~

As she was hurrying towards the headmaster’s office, she finally thought to glance at her watch. The flustered witch breathed a relieved sigh as she saw there was still ten minutes to go, but hearing the rumble of stone as she turned the last corner, her eyes registered her dismay as the huge stone gargoyle guarding the entrance to the headmaster’s office slid closed.

She suddenly realised she had no idea what the password was, and she involuntarily panicked. Drawing level with the huge stone beast, she glared at it, trying to decide what to do. In the end she forced herself to calm and realised she could do little but wait. Maybe it will just open again when it’s time?

Turning with a huff she looked out the huge window at the grounds. It really is a magnificent view up here, she thought as she stood there, trying to keep her composure and patience, still unconsciously cradling her painful, throbbing finger in her other hand.

~~~***~~~

Snape was now in a bad mood, bloody Albus had chuckled as he walked past him in the hallway. “That bird of yours is a menace, Severus. I suppose you’re waiting to fix the damage to your apprentice’s finger?”

“The silly girl shouldn’t have tried to stroke him. You never touch an unknown bird,” Severus had replied haughtily. He wasn’t about to admit that he was actually waiting to do just that. “I’ll be up presently,” he finished curtly.

Albus had merrily gone on his way, still cackling.

“Bloody old fool,” the Head of Slytherin muttered, before he heard Hermione approaching and slunk back into the shadows.   

The dark wizard waited silently for her to pass. When he’d seen the wretched bird nip her, he’d felt like wringing its bloody neck. Snape had also watched her as she saw the gargoyle closing, and she’d looked momentarily lost. I wish I could tell her I would never forget her, would never take her for granted, or ignore her. Ah, but what’s the bloody use of wishing, it’s not going to happen.

~~~***~~~

Hermione jumped badly when a silky voice behind her drawled quietly, “Let me look at that finger.”

She squeaked, spinning around and bringing her hand to her heart. Hermione’s breathing hitched as she found herself face to face with her professor. He had his hand held out and his wand drawn, waiting for her hand.

Looking at his obviously concerned face confused her for a moment. She looked down at her hand and gasping, realised it was still leaking quite a lot of blood. Timidly, she held it out.

Snape reached forward and caught it, allowing it to rest in the palm of his. He vanished the serviette and tutted irritatedly at the nasty looking, but essentially superficial, gash on her dainty middle finger. “He always has been a vicious bird. I should not have used him,” the Potions master informed her gently.

The young woman looked on as he stopped the blood flow with a healing spell, and cleansed it away. “He is very beautiful,” she managed breathily, as her airways constricted and her heart beat wildly from the fact her hand was currently resting in Severus’ larger, warm one. However, her thoughts were unaccountable thinking of Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

“Superficial beauty often hides cruelty within. You would do well to remember that, Miss Granger,” the Potions master stated seriously, wrapping the digit in a small bandage to protect it until it was completely healed. He looked towards the gargoyle. “Shall we,” he indicated with a flourish of his hand, then spun and strode forward.

“Pink cotton candy,” he hissed most distastefully and the gargoyle sprang aside. Snape glanced sideways at Hermione as he heard her stifle a little giggle at his tone of disgust, and a huff escaped him. This was the only external manifestation of the thoughts that churned in his mind and made his stomach feel even more unsettled. Severus hated audiences with the headmaster. It reminded him far too clearly that he was encumbered to the old man.

They mounted the moving stairway and ascended. Hermione blinked several times, and then finally remembered to say vaguely, “Thank you for fixing my finger, sir.”

“Think nothing of it, Miss Granger,” he replied, brushing the act aside, and he ushered her into Dumbledore’s office as soon as they reached the door.

~~~***~~~

“Ah, good morning, Severus, Miss Granger,” Dumbledore said in greeting, and motioning to the chairs in front of his desk, as he indicated they should sit. After sparing a twinkling glance at Hermione’s repaired finger and pursing his lips, the headmaster’s obvious delight made Severus instantly see red.

Hermione, oblivious to their earlier exchange, smiled sedately and perched on the edge of one chair, hands demurely placed in her lap, expecting her professor to take the other seat. She was very surprised when she noticed him start pacing. In fact, he suddenly looked down right agitated, pacing aggressively up and down the side of the office. Every time he reached a confine, he scowled at it and span on his heel.

Hermione couldn’t believe the transformation in his manner from gently fixing her finger to barely restrained scowling beast. This really is a Jekyll and Hyde thing, wow. Why this sudden change of attitude?

She kept glancing at him as Dumbledore spoke to her, hearing the headmaster say, “Are you certain you do not wish to continue with Muggle Studies?”

Hermione nodded and Severus scowled. “Sir, I have given it due consideration and find that I would prefer the option of this apprenticeship,” she stated confidently.

“Yes, Miss Granger is certain, Albus,” the man in the black billowing robes stated in a harassed and irritated manner, almost like he was speaking to a particularly dense student.

Seeing Hermione nod again when his eyes moved back to hers, Dumbledore sighed, and continuing evenly said, “Very well, sign here.” He pointed with a rather gnarled, withered looking finger. She picked up the quill and glancing over at the agitated Potions master, quickly signed.

Severus stilled slightly to watch this process, his eyebrow raised, and Hermione could have sworn she heard him exhale a sigh of relief.

“Professor Burbage has now been informed of your withdrawal,” Dumbledore continued, his look was momentarily unreadable. “Strange woman that one,” he pondered quietly, shaking his head.

Hermione thought possibly that he was unaware he had uttered the phrase audibly.

Then forcing himself to brighten, the old Headmaster said, “Well enough of that.” Leaning forward to pat Hermione’s hand over his desk he told her, “You are moving on to better things, my dear.”

Dumbledore spread the next set of papers before her. “Do you have any questions for either Professor Snape or myself, Miss Granger?” His voice took on a very patronising tone, which for some reason rankled Hermione, although she’d heard it many times before and it had never bothered her.

“No sir, I researched the requirements last night and I am confident that Professor Snape will inform me of my parameters, should I stray.” Oops, may be that was a little curt and formal. What’s got me so uptight? Perhaps the professor’s ill-ease is rubbing off on me?

Hearing her tone, Severus abruptly stopped pacing and watched. What was that flicker in her eyes? Just for a moment I saw it, yes. I saw a flicker of the fire return to those beautiful eyes. Is it possible Albus unsettles her as much as he does me?

Albus seemed oblivious to the young woman’s growing ire. “It is a big decision for one so young, my dear.”

 Severus’ eyebrow shot up as he heard her continue, there was an edge of ice in her voice.

“Excuse me, Headmaster, but I do know my own mind.” Her eyes narrowed beautifully. Then she was in full passionate Gryffindor exasperation mode, fists clenched chin jutting out, the works.

What a sight and yes, there’s that fire again. Severus watched happily as the headmaster blindly continued with his line of conversation, still apparently ignorant to the approaching storm.

“It’s just that sometimes these things are difficult to grasp for one so young.”

“So… so young?” Hermione stammered in disbelief. “Sir, I am no longer a child, I may be here completing my schooling, but I can assure you, if there was any other way that culminated with me gaining my graduation certificate then I assure you that I would take that avenue instead. I am well above the age of consent by a lucky consequence and, and...” Hermione seethed at him through clenched teeth, but then suddenly seemed to become aware of what she was saying and stopped.

Even though Severus was internally cheering. Oh good girl, Granger, this is beautiful. Give the old bastard hell, by Merlin you’re magnificent. He couldn’t help but be troubled by her professed desire to not be here, even if he had thought the same thing the day before. Appearing to abruptly realise how far he’d allowed his thoughts to run away with him, Snape clamped down on his emotions. Shit! Don’t think things like that, and feeling another opinion twitch in his trousers he panicked, even if his distress never reached his face. No! You stupid fool you mustn’t start losing control. Right, time to take command then take my leave. He was now very alarmed, by what he was thinking and feeling. Turning towards Albus, he glared at him after glancing at Hermione. “Miss Granger is intelligent and she knows what to expect, Albus.”

His raven eyebrow sailed skyward and Hermione was glad she was sitting, as she found her legs turning to jelly at his silken tone and that eyebrow, even if her attention was on his previous sentence. Did he just say what I think he said?

Then Snape smoothed as if in confirmation. “That is correct, it is it not, Miss Granger?”

Trying to regain her composure after hearing what she had longed to hear from him since the moment she heard his opening speech back in first year, her face split onto a beautiful smile. Hermione was unaware, how open and readable this made her as she stuttered. “R-really, err, I g-guess... yes.” Being so flustered, her brain short-circuited and the words of affirmation were out of her mouth before she realised what she’d said. “Oh yes, sir,” she purred, regaining her control but inwardly preening at his words. As soon as she’d said it she felt like slamming her hand over her mouth. What’s wrong with me, why did I allow such a comment to be spoken a loud? Did that really just sound as wanton as I thought it did? She quickly assessed her mind while she fought to regain her composure.

Severus was having a struggle of his own. He had never heard Hermione Granger utter something so out of character. Bloody hell that was downright sexy. What in all nine circles of hell is she trying to do to me? He struggled more than he had for a long time to keep his emotionless facade in place, desperate that Albus not glean too much information from her slip. In fact, Severus hoped the comment had been soft enough to have been missed by the headmaster. Severus’ face still expressed no emotion, as he strode over to the parchment spread across Albus’ desk containing the apprenticeship covenant.

Grabbing a quill, he scrawled his flourishing, spiky signature on the parchment without another word. This meeting is over, terminated, finished. I need to get her out of here, and if I’m going to do this, then I somehow must teach her restraint before Albus can pin something else on me, or worse still, her. She’s like an open bloody book. Turning in a ripple of black, he pointedly offered Hermione the same writing instrument. Come on, come on, woman, before something too obvious happens in front of the old bugger.

Pausing and pointedly not meeting his face, she accepted the quill her new master had just used. Hermione nodded and inhaled a shaky, much needed, breath before scribbling an unsteady signature. The now very embarrassed woman noted after she’d signed, just how much their signatures complimented each other’s, hers could almost be cradled within his if that were possible. However, this thought had her promptly scolding herself yet again. Damn it, Granger, why are you thinking and saying such a things? Just don’t! How can you just lose control like that!? He’ll think you’re an idiot again.

The professor turned to Hermione, knowing he had to put Albus off a possible trail for manipulation, and his face closed off. “If you feel you can manage to get past that look of stunned horror currently on your face, I will be waiting at the termination of last lesson in my classroom, do not be late,” he stated coldly, and nodded curtly to her. Then clutching his copy of the parchment containing their agreement, he turned, causing further heat to flush her face as his voluminous robes accidently caressed her hand.

Hermione’s head was spinning. This was like a rollercoaster ride.

“Don’t dawdle or you’ll risk missing your next class,” Severus prompted. “Come along. Good morning, Albus,” the Potions master stated, as he quickly retreated towards the door in a swirling display of black magnificence.

Hermione found herself spinning around to watch, mesmerised as he stalked off. He had such a presence, the whole ambience of the office changed as he left and realising he had bade her to follow him, she quickly turned back to Dumbledore she said, “Thank you, sir, good morning.”

Dumbledore laughed, his damnable eyes still twinkling merrily. “Remember, my dear, my door is always open. Good Morning, Miss Granger.” Oh, this is going to be such fun, he thought happily and sank back further into his chair as he reached for a lemon drop.

~~~***~~~

Hermione heard the gargoyle rumble shut and saw the tails of Snape’s robes disappearing around the corner at the end of the corridor. She hurried, literally running after him. However, turning the corner she found he was gone. But I was sure he said to follow, she mused silently.

Even as she wandered, deep in thought, the confused young woman half expected to meet him in each subsequent hallway. However, when she eventually found herself outside the library without having laid eyes on him, she couldn’t help feeling profoundly disappointed.

The fact that her feet had subconsciously wandered here actually came as no surprise. She breathed in the smell of books and old leather wafting enticingly out the doors, and things started to settle a little and her brain kicked in. The library was her sanctuary and of course the next step was obvious, well obvious to Hermione Granger. Ensconcing herself in a generally disused corner, surrounded by dusty tomes, she happily searched for books explaining the eccentricities and characteristics of Slytherins.

After some time spent intently reading, Hermione couldn’t shake the feeling she was being watched. She wondered if it was because of Salazar Slytherin’s portrait eyeing her shrewdly from above. Each house had its own section of the library, and each one contained a Founder’s portrait, Hermione was uncertain whether they actually ever spoke, but they all, and this one especially, watched.

She wished she had the courage to speak to the aristocratic looking wizard, but everything she’d heard about the man told her not to even attempt it. So, ignoring the still rippling goose bumps, she got on with her reading.

Her research trip included a volume on pure-blood society, and she found the information within very informative, and even if she only admitted it privately, seductive. It was a little known fact that Professor Snape wasn’t pure-blood, and Hermione had kept that piece of information to herself since discovering it the year before. He didn’t need idiots using that against him. It had taken a lot of digging to discover too, so it was obviously well hidden from the casual observer. This fact, in the light of his position within Slytherin society, now impressed her further.

It surprised her how much of what she was discovering really appealed to her, even if she was excluded from it. It was very similar to the Muggle aristocracy, which she also found fascinating.

It was not the Voldemort, bait-a-Muggle, or kill-your-best-friend-because-they-disagree-with-torturing-and-murdering-innocent-people attitude of course. Hermione shivered realising how close to home that was. No, it was the structure of pure-blood society, it was a fine one before it had been corrupted by this century’s psychopathic madman. It gave her an insight into exactly why Professor Snape was like he was, and why he endured the often painful and destructive dual role she knew he played in their current war.

~~~***~~~

By the time Hermione pulled her head from the books again, she realised she was late for Arithmancy. Hurrying from her hidden corner she cursed herself for not watching the time. The reading had actually been very enjoyable, and she found herself thinking about things she had never even contemplated before.

Really, Slytherin house was almost like a secret society, to which one was either born or couldn’t belong. However, from what Hermione had just discovered, it was not actually that simple at all. It appeared Slytherins were very misunderstood and really, out of all the houses from her reading anyway, they may actually be the most all-encompassing individuals.

Of course, their take-advantage-of-every-opportunity-and-turn-it-to-your-own-advantage-natures also gave them the propensity to do great harm to get their own way. Then again, in some ways saying that was unfair because there were notable examples of the same mentality from every single house. There were many examples of egos gone mad, and many of them were Gryffindors.

It was on throwing herself carelessly around the next corner as she walked—deep in thought—towards the Arithmancy classroom that Hermione was snapped out of her thoughts by colliding with something solid.

Her progress abruptly ceased and her breath escaped in an audible gasp as something black loomed in front of her, and Hermione realised she was being held in a strong grip by her upper arms. Slowly reality filtered in and her gaze drifted up the row of perfect black buttons to meet a pair of obsidian eyes calmly observing her, and was she mistaken, did they appear amused?

The corner of his mouth rose significantly. “Where’s the fire?”

Oh my god, this close, he smells amazing. Sandalwood, herbs and what’s that… fragrant smoke of some kind? Hermione caught the sigh that tried to escape, as she turned beetroot red and stuttered, “O-oh, e-err... you see... um... I’m late. Err, I’ve been in the library um... researching.” His eyes really are almost black, aren’t they? “Oh!” She stopped talking and abruptly lowered her gaze back to his buttons. Don’t look, he’s a legilimens, but she couldn’t help taking another quick peek. God I love his eyes. There was no way Hermione was about to tell Professor Snape what she had been doing, well not yet anyway. His hands are so warm.

 

Raising her eyes once more, unable to help herself, her attention was captivated by his eyebrow slowly cruising up with every stuttered section of her sentence. She vaguely wondered how he actually did it, before remembering what Professor McGonagall had said to her once about him being intrigued with something when it rose. This led her to contemplating if it also meant, I think you’re a babbling lunatic, Miss Granger.

Severus took a deep breath in the hope that Hermione would follow suit, and he enquired calmly, “What are you late for, Miss Granger?”

Hermione was still very flustered. He hadn’t released his grip on her arms, although it had softened measurably, and she found even more disturbing to her senses. “Err, Arithmancy, sir,” she managed.

“Well, my apprentice, let us get you to Arithmancy.” He released her and immediately noticed that she rubbed her right forearm carefully, this puzzled him. Even if he had accidentally hurt her when he grabbed her so she wouldn’t fall backwards, he hadn’t grabbed her where she was rubbing. “Are you all right, Miss Granger?”

“Yes, sir,” she answered without any real conviction. Oh how I wish I could tell you, but you wouldn’t care.

Snape watched her a moment longer; her gaze was illusive. He detected the slightest tremor in her voice and she instantly stopped rubbing her arm. This puzzled him more and he became more concerned. She almost sounds hurt, how could that be? However, seeing she’d closed her expression, he indicated she should walk with him. He watched her covertly as they moved along and noticed she was also holding her back very stiffly as well. She had been doing that all morning, and again he wondered why. Of course, having already denied that she was hurt, she was very unlikely to tell him, so he kept his peace.

Severus had followed her to the library, making certain she hadn’t seen him. It appeared she was drawn there as he used to be. Hidden in his reading room, he had watched her research, seeing her glancing up at old Salazar a couple of times. I wonder if she is hurt? If anyone has hurt her, I’ll kill them, he thought fiercely, glancing at her again.

Hermione was flabbergasted, her professor was escorting her to her class. He hasn’t reprimanded me for running head-long into him, or being late for class, after warning me against it in Dumbledore’s office...

Unable to help himself, Severus commented after they had been walking for some time. “I assume your research was concerning your new position?”

“Yes,” Hermione managed, still slightly breathless. Well learning to get along with you is definitely part of my apprenticeship.

He had wished to see if she would proudly blurt out what she had discovered, regurgitating the text she had been reading as she had done in years past, but was more than pleased when she didn’t. Her show of discretion meant he may be able to tentatively start to trust her.

If Hermione had been confused by his changeability, she was floored by his next words.

 “Very well, it shall be seen to,” and he stopped walking. “See you don’t make a habit of it though.”

The young woman gasped and vaguely nodded her head, while otherwise standing stock-still in surprise.

Snape all but rolled his eyes and huffed. “Well, come on, it’ll be lunch time at this rate.”

She hadn’t realised he had started walking again as she was becoming more and more speechless the further they travelled. “Sorry, sir,” she stated, drawing level with him.

Severus wanted to laugh at the disbelieving gaze she was casting in his direction, but that would have given the game away. So he huffed, stopped outside the Arithmancy classroom and without ceremony yanked the door open. “Vector,” he barked with complete indifference to the startled teacher within. “Excuse Granger her rudeness in being late, she was inflicting herself on me via a request from the headmaster.” He made certain to sneer in distaste as he spun on his heel, a picture of black masculine magnificence, as he then stalked off up the hallway.

These actions left Hermione standing with her mouth open, just inside the door. He had not only covered for her, but had lied for her to another professor, regardless of how it had been phrased. Speechless, and with all sorts of wild thoughts and emotions whirling around her brain, she shot a glance at her kindly Arithmancy professor and tried to make her legs move, as she gingerly stepped inside the room and closed the door.

The astute, dark-haired woman sitting at her desk, finally spoke. “Miss Granger, please take your seat. We are working on our individual projects.”

“Yes, Ma’am,” Hermione said, trying to centre her thoughts on anything other than what had just occurred, for it was all just too strange. Turning, she was aware of the gaze of the other three students in the class. Hermione nodded her greeting and spoke a soft apology. “Zabini, Malfoy, Rawlings, my apologies for disturbing your work.”

The two Slytherins actually acknowledged her with a curt nod, and the Ravenclaw sniffed and ignored her. Hot on the heels of what she had just read, this didn’t actually surprise her. However, these thoughts only permeated her brain for a short while until it, as always, drifted back to reflections of her Potions master. She vainly attempted to think about her work, pulling her chart and writing materials from her bag, and trying to settle her racing thoughts.

~~~***~~~

The day wore on, but Hermione found that she couldn’t seem to shift the thought that something was changing. There was a new aspect to her professor’s actions towards her. His seeming spontaneous acts were totally uncharacteristic, regardless of whether they were interspersed with periods of normality, and she was unable to slot the behaviour into a normal sphere.

This all said, by the time she made it through to last lesson, Hermione’s brain was feeling like useless mush, and she had to admit she still couldn’t bring herself to have any hope in the thoughts that were starting to permeate her crowded and confused brain.

Of course her body... well it had no such problem. No matter how much she tried not to let inappropriate thoughts invade her thinking, her body let her down every step of the way. Each additional thought of her professor was accompanied with a heated flush in her face, a twist of pleasure in her stomach and an undeniable dampness in her knickers.

Hermione was forced to reach deep inside her mind to control these side-effects, and it was the only thing that made her legs start marching towards the dungeons at the termination of last lesson. As she walked with purpose from Study of Ancient Runes, so too did she breathe and force her mind to calm, knowing she would not be able to face the man she was heading so resolutely towards, without first clamping down on her thoughts and desires.

Chapter Text


The deep breaths taken on the way helped, and Hermione finally found her mind much calmer as she neared the dungeons. However, she jumped she found herself outside the Potions classroom just as the door burst open. Hiding her shock, she watched as the very relieved group of what looked like second years eagerly sought escape from the room to higher ground.

“Boy was he in a bad mood. I didn’t think he could get any worse,” Hermione heard one student comment as she passed.

 Her friend nodded. “He’s such a git.”

These comments did nothing to calm Hermione as she contemplated entering. The door remained open and her stomach swarmed with butterflies. Eventually, she managed to get her shaking legs to propel her towards it, and she realised that there was a great difference between partially reconciling yourself to working with Professor Snape and actually walking through the door she now stood before. She raised her hand to knock, and it only took one unexpected comment to unbalance her again.

“Miss Granger, preparing to enter the snake’s lair.”

His drawled comment totally threw Hermione.

He was leaning up against the desk closest to the door with his arms crossed and that devilish eyebrow arched significantly. He saw her visibly jump. “Steady, Miss Granger, please come in.”

Hermione stood defiantly, trying to hide her irritation that she was once more at sea in his presence. Then there was the bewilderment of his civility.

As he observed her taking several uncertain steps into the lab, on a whim, Severus decided to let his legs do the work instead of his wand and he sauntered past her to close the door, ducking his head down closer to her ear to whisper silkily, “I really don’t bite, regardless of popular belief.”

His warm breathe sent quivers through her, and Hermione’s head snapped up as she spun around she met his gaze only to find that he was almost smiling at her. She desperately tried not to react, but her addled brain only managed to register three things about what had just transpired. One, the most sarcastic and feared professor in Hogwarts seemed to be... joking with her. Two, he looked almost devastatingly handsome, regardless of his nose, when his lip curled into the semblance of a smile, and three; he smelt utterly amazing. Oh god, stop thinking these things, Hermione Jean Granger, it will do you no good, she scolded herself urgently. But this is all so completely confusing, he’s acting human again, very human... Jekyll and Hyde, her brain screamed at her once more.

Severus watched her tentatively smile at him, but then saw her cheeks flush. His reaction to this startled him. Severus, you utter bastard you shouldn’t have done that; now she’s more confused. Clearing his throat, he suddenly realised he was still standing at the door and abruptly pushed off, sweeping past her on his way back to his desk.

The ripples of air moving with his robes wafted his exquisite spicy fragrance toward her again and this, coupled with the caress of the billowing fabric on her hand as he passed, made her head spin, unsettling her even more. Oh damn, she thought as she felt the pleasurable twist in her stomach and the warmth spreading between her thighs. There goes another pair.

Severus hastily sat in his chair, internally far more flustered than he cared to admit, and the only thought wafting through his head was how marvellous she smelt as he had bent down towards her ear. Roses and violets, and then how much he had wanted to lick her ear when his mouth was close to it. He was still wearing his external mask of calm though, as he coolly indicated that she should take the chair next to his desk. He watched her tentatively walk towards the desk and sit, ram-rod straight in the chair.

Hermione found it took all her powers of concentration to dismiss her brain’s wanton desires and appear steady again as his gaze, especially now, with its aquiline features in their normal expression.

He gave her a peculiar look and tilted his head to the side. “Miss Granger, do you remember first year Potions?”

Hermione nodded, thinking it a strange question, but still it elicited a quick memory from her of bottled fame and brewed glory and she suddenly smiled. This took him by surprise, especially when she started to speak, reciting the very first words he had spoken to her all that time ago. “There will be no foolish wand wavering or silly incantations in this class. As such, I do not expect many of you to appreciate the exact science, or subtle art that is potion making...” (1)

Snape looked at her stunned as he heard her lowering her voice as she finished, unsure of the expression on his face.

The young woman held her breath waiting for his response, painfully aware that she had been carried away in the moment and was probably about to regret her slip, as she became increasingly uncomfortable with his silence. Feeling she had to do something to break the hushed stillness a very timid, “Sorry, sir,” cascaded from her lips, but still silence. After what seemed to her to be an eternity, her hesitant gaze met his eyes and saw that he appeared literally confounded. She didn’t know what to think, until she caught the corner of his mouth turn up just a fraction of a millimetre for the merest of seconds. Extremely puzzled but terribly relieved she let out the breath she’d held. The smile that had disappeared from her lips came back reinforced, as she sat there caught in his black eyes.

When the shock of her words had left him and he managed to get his brain functioning once more, and Severus thought to himself, dear Merlin, she remembers the first words I ever said to her, and then immediately felt flustered again when this thought was followed by, I wish I could make her smile like that more often.

It was at this point that an awkward silence descended on the two occupants of the room, and the meeting came to an impasse as they both instinctively retreated into the barricades they had erected to keep the world at bay. Each intensely confused by the new and different glimpses they were seeing from each other.

Finally, Snape cleared his throat and spoke as he rose from his chair. “Come,” he said quietly, without looking at her, but hearing her getting up quickly at his command. Pointing his wand over his shoulder, the heavy bolt on the door slid into place, and he led her into his office, behind his desk and into an archway.

Hermione had always suspected the archway to be decorative, not functional, but now observed a door on both the left and the right.

Snape motioned with his hand to the right side. “My private stores,” then he tapped his wand on the door on the left. Stepping aside he allowed her entrance. “A small lab the castle has provided to fulfil my request. This is where you will work, think of it as yours.”

Taking some tentative steps into the room, Hermione noticed that it was identical to the facilities provided next door, only on a smaller scale and with several noticeable inclusions.

“While your idiot, former class mates are attempting to blow themselves, and me, up due to their half-hearted ignorant attempts at brewing. You will work in here.”

Hermione nodded.

“If you have any questions, this piece of charmed parchment will allow us to communicate.”

He pointed to a sepia-coloured piece of parchment on the elegant oak desk that stood at the back of the room.

Taking a shaky breath Hermione nodded once more and cast her gaze around the room. “What happens when I finish my potion for the lesson?”

He smirked. “I will set enough work to keep even a little know-it-all like yourself busy, never fear. You will find yourself engaged with tasks the entire lesson, not sitting there with a moony expression on your face.”

Hermione’s eyes narrowed at him and then realised he was still smirking at her. “Oh, was I?” she breathed vaguely.

He pursed his lips. “Yes you most certainly were,” and he gave her a quizzical look of interest, like he was about to ask another question, but didn’t.

Unable to stand the break in conversation Hermione stupidly said the first thing that popped into her head. “Does anyone else use this lab, sir?”

He actually rolled his eyes. “How many hidden apprentices do you think I have little Miss busy-body?”

“Oh, err yes,” Hermione said blushing bright red. “Err none... s-sir,” her voice replied, suddenly growing tiny.

He chuckled but gave her a stern look almost of exasperation. “Exactly,” and he walked back to the desk in his office and opened the drawer. When he withdrew his hand, a delicate chain dangled through his fingers, and he motioned to the chair for her to sit and placed himself in his. “Are you able to disillusion yourself?”

“Yes.”

“Show me,” he commanded, and it sounded almost kindly.

Frowning Hermione rose and drew her wand, and moving into the open space, tapped herself on the top of the head. Snape stared a moment, eyes narrowed at the place she had disappeared from, and then fluidly rose from his chair pushing the chain into his pocket. It was apparent he could see the light displacement that caused the charm to work.

He circled Hermione, who found herself twisting to follow him.

“There’s no need to follow my progress,” he said almost absently, following her shimmering form. “How long can you maintain it?”

“I’m not sure, may be an hour or two, sir,” she offered tentatively.

He was nodding and looked pleased. “Impressive,” he murmured slowly. “Yes, that will work.” He nodded again, seeming satisfied. “Finite incantatum,” he said suddenly, and Hermione popped back into view. His expression changed immediately. “And always remember it’s that easy,” he smoothed, observing her significantly.

Hermione’s eyes blazed, but softened when she caught an unguarded glimpse of concern—for just a second—in his black orbs before they shuttered. “Yes, sir. I’ll be careful no one sees me.”

“Good girl,” he said moving back to his chair, then turning a stern eye to her again. “You may come down here anytime you wish, but it is not safe to walk these corridors outside lesson times.” Fixing her with his stare until she nodded, he added, “No shows of Gryffindor stupidity; disillusion yourself.”

She bristled, but buckled when she met his still stern gaze. “Yes sir, no Gryffindor silliness,” she affirmed earnestly with a tiny smile. The smile was to convey to him that she thought she knew what he was doing, even if he didn’t want to tell her. “Sir, how do I get in?”

“I was just coming to that. I’m sure you are well aware that it is against school rules for a student to dismantle wards,” he levelled her with a look that almost spoke of pride. “Even though I have no illusions that you have been capable of breaking my wards since you were in second year.”

Hermione had the sense to blush at this suggestion.

The corner of his mouth turned up a fraction. “Therefore I have devised a legal way for you gain access.” He dug in the pocket of his frock coat. “Wear this somewhere on your person.” Severus handed her the chain, it was quite long, and had a flat charm threaded on it. He observed her a moment. “It is a type of key.”

Hermione gazed at it as the chain slithered into her hand.

“It needs to be somewhere concealed, and where it lays against your skin for it to work.”

Hermione was bright red again, as she asked with a little gulp. “You mean under my clothing?”

It was then he noticed a tiny version of the twisted little smile he had seen grace her expression that morning. His eyebrow quirked. “I’ll leave the location up to your imagination,” he drawled smoothly, before pausing a moment, his eyebrow raised. “However, bear in mind that once it is clasped, only I can remove it. I believe I have allowed enough chain for it to fit.”

His voice was now washing over her like velvet, and she held back a moan of appreciation for his efforts. Holding the charm up in front of her eyes Hermione concentrated hard on the emerald encrusted snake that seemed to slither around the chain as she moved it.

Snape watched her as her bright eyes shone with concealed passion, watching the chain twist while she held it. He continued in what might have appeared to be a strange shift. “You are not concerned that it is a snake?”

She flashed him a quizzical look.

“It does perhaps send a certain undesirable message?”

Hermione looked straight at him and replied plainly. “It can send any message it wants, I think it’s beautiful. Thank you.” She went back to gazing at it, before gracing him with a co-conspirators expression. “Besides, no one but you and I will know it’s there.”

Severus watched her shiver, and the corner of his mouth curled once more. I think you like secrets, don’t you, sweet one. I wonder what else you’re keeping hidden in that beautiful head of yours. He didn’t even scold himself this time, he had wanted to see how she reacted to his suggestion of placement, and he had to admit he was happy with the result of his enquiries. He chose to tell himself that he had wanted to save her the embarrassment of explaining to her what he had in mind. After all, practically speaking, placing the chain around her waist had it hidden completely and it would always sit on her skin, and her smile told him she knew exactly where he expected her to put it. Of course, it was not his fault if she gave him that suggestive smile that made his… what are you thinking you stupid man, get this conversation back on track. She is a student you moron, do not let this go any further.

Hermione watched as his expression of openness left his face, and his whole demeanour shuttered.

Then he coolly pushed ahead with his explanation. “Now, the afternoons of seventh year potions you will arrive ten minutes late and let yourself straight into this office. That gives me a chance to get all the dunderheads into the class room.”

Mentally staggering at his swift change of attitude, she nodded and finally put the chain in her pocket. “The rest of the time you should arrive on time.” He took a deep breath. “We will work out additional times as the need arises. Well, I think we’ve covered everything at the moment,” glancing at the clock, his eyebrow quirked. “Now, I believe it is time for the head girl to do her patrol.” Pushing himself out of his chair he moved to the door. “Good evening, Granger.” He bowed his head slightly and opened the door.

Hermione looked at him a moment then tapped herself on the head with her wand. “Good night, sir,” the vacant place where Hermione stood said quietly. There was a movement of air and she was gone.

Severus inhaled deeply as she passed and trailed the scent of violets and roses passed his nose. He watched the shimmer of air progress up the hallway and finally closed the door.

~~~***~~~

Severus found he couldn’t settle after Hermione left. He was now pacing his office behind his desk. He cursed under his breath and looked back towards the door when he realised he had made her miss dinner once again. He should have thought of that, instead of thinking about how amazing she smelt or exactly what secret that twisted little smile held. He should have arranged that better.

Better still he should have offered her at least tea and biscuits, but this idea sent his thought processes hurtling in another direction. He hated that he couldn’t treat her as he wished to. Offering her such courtesy was not an option, and he desperately wanted it to be. His fist found his desk and his eyes closed tightly as he leant heavily onto it. I can’t do this, he thought to himself. I can’t be with her like that every day, pushing her away all the time. I hate seeing her looking so hurt and confused, he glanced towards the door again, the last place he had seen her. Sweet Merlin! She remembered the opening speech from first year, word for word. I bet if she had kept going she would have shown she remembered more. He sighed, musing further. She thought so much of what I said she remembered it, and she said it with such fondness and feeling. He felt his head spin slightly as his heart constricted. I didn’t realise this would affect me so much, he thought, still leaning against his desk and running his fingers up and down his forehead.

Taking several deep breaths Severus managed to calm himself to think again. Finally, he strode to the floo tossing the powder into the flames as he snarled, “Minerva’s office!”

The occupant of the office glanced up from her work and sighed. Reaching deep into her desk drawer she retrieved the bottle of Old Ogden’s and two lead crystal tumblers. She knew the man in black, wearing his best scowl was never going to volunteer the information she already knew, and sitting back in her chair she levitated the drink towards him. He downed it in one gulp and she tapped her wand on the bottle and refilled his glass. “This situation won’t last forever, Severus,” she smoothed without any preamble as he finally sat, then she changed the subject until he had settled a little. “Neither of you were at dinner, have you eaten?” At his lack of answer Minerva tsked. “Tinky.”

The little elf bowed, and inquired expectantly. “How can Tinky serve?”

Looking at Severus, Minerva spoke. “The roast beef was excellent tonight,” and she saw him nod quietly, and she sighed heavily, before turning her attention back to the elf. “Deliver one dinner here with a bottle of the burgundy, follow that with the crème brûlée and coffee, and send the same to the head girl’s room when she has finished her rounds and had her soak,” Minerva ordered.

“Tinky is pleased to serve Head of Gryffindor,” the little elf stated solemnly, and bowing was gone again.

Severus gasped, “You’re sending wine to Miss Granger?”

Minerva smiled quietly at him as she transfigured her lounge into a dining table complete with dressings. “I suspect she will need the comfort as much as you, my friend.” The elder witch shrugged. “Besides she is well and truly of age, and certainly not a silly school girl.” Then she looked straight at him. “She is a young lady who knows how to keep her mouth shut when people indulge her with little treats, Severus.” The woman the students see was nowhere to be found as she continued, “I feel you already know I look at her as a niece, especially now she seems so alone. We have started to share confidences, and I have found her very discrete with the information she is trusted with.” The Head of Gryffindor leant forward and put her hand over his. “I happen to know for instance,” she said shrugging casually, “That she may be very receptive of a certain wizard’s advances.” Her eyebrow went up and her lips pursed, “Even if he was her...” there was a pop and abruptly she changed tack, a smile tugging at her lips, “Oh look, here’s your dinner.”

Looking at the expectant elf, Minerva flourished her hand. “Over on the table, Tinky,” and the Transfiguration mistress got up and walked around her desk. Grabbing her fellow professor at the elbow, she encouraged him to stand.

Severus made a fuss, half-heartedly batting at her hand, but in the end allowing her to mother him.

Leading him to the table, she seated him, and encouraged, “Enjoy, dear boy,” and she gave him another pat on the hand before her would-be smile grew into a devilish grin in response to his irritated expression. Although Minerva could see she was fighting a losing battle she kept trying; his sense of honour would make him wait until Hermione was no longer his student. “Time will change circumstances, my friend,” and she patted his hand again.

Severus nodded but still looked miserable, but he reluctantly picked up the knife and fork. Truth be known he wouldn’t dare contradict Minerva McGonagall.

His confidante continued as she poured him a glass of wine. “How’s Eileen?” she asked, hoping she could draw him out as he ate.

 “I visited mother on the weekend,” he said between mouthfuls; he’d actually forgotten how hungry he was. “She’s the same, slowly slipping downhill and there’s not a thing I can do to help her. I fear I’m fighting a losing battle there as well.”

“Severus Snape, you listen to me,” Minerva scolded. “You are fighting NO losing battles. I know sometimes it all seems overwhelming but it will all resolve, you just wait and see.”

Severus huffed and smirked at her. “Minerva, sometimes I wish you weren’t such a know-it-all old wind bag.”

Minerva smiled broadly. “You just be very thankful that I am young man, it’s what keeps both of us sane.”

“So you’re just going to sit opposite me and make irritating comments the whole time I eat are you? You’ll give me indigestion,” and when he saw her smile he huffed. “At least have a glass of wine to keep me company,” he said, drawing his wand and transfiguring her tumbler into a red wine glass, then filling it before she objected.

~~~***~~~

Hermione had just finished her rounds and was heading back to Gryffindor tower. She was tired, hungry and still terribly confused, and her thoughts had been battering her as she finished her duty for the evening. All the way round her patrol of the castle she had kept her fingers in her pocket, looped through the chain that resided in it. Somehow the chain symbolised a link between them and it made her feel more secure to be touching it.

The Gryffindor witch realised that her Potions master was the one constant in her life. She had always felt safe and protected around him but she had yet to ponder why. It seemed to be just something unspoken, something she innately knew was correct, but that wasn’t a valid reason, was it?

She sighed as she found herself standing at the Fat Lady. She started saying the password when she suddenly thought of all the people who would scramble for her attention once she was inside. She knew it was a devious idea, but she wanted some peace for once. Quickly saying, “Gryffindor’s socks.” While the portrait was swinging open she disillusioned herself and climbed through. Damn them all and their continual requests, she thought as she deftly wove her way through several conversations, two she would remember for later when asked to help with homework, and safely made it to her room. Locking it, she warded and silenced it as well, only then did she lean up against the back of it, and breathe a sigh of relief. The sigh only lasted as long as it took for her shoulder to contact the wood though, and she flinched and stood upright again.

~~~***~~~

The water felt wonderful as Hermione sank into its relaxing bubbly warmth. She was only just starting to unwind when she heard the knocking. Reaching into her wards she discovered that it was her head of house, only someone powerful would be able to make themselves be heard through her silencing charm. Dropping the wards she wrapped a towel around herself.

On unlocking the door she tentatively poked her head around.

“I’m sorry to bother you, my dear, may I come in please?” McGonagall looked concerned. Quickly glancing past her elder, Hermione could see an audience gathering.

Standing behind the door and holding the towel firmly in place Hermione allowed her head of house entry. “Is there something wrong, Ma’am?”

“No dear, nothing to worry about, obviously just a misunderstanding,” she assured her. She understood Hermione’s confused look. “One of your fellow class mates was... err concerned, because they thought you hadn’t returned safely from your patrol tonight.”

This instantly garnered her ire. “What!” she spat, her eyes narrowing. “Which one of the slobbering masses took it into their head that they needed to be concerned for my welfare, when not one of them is concerned enough to even give me the time of day, or care that I’ve missed dinner or that I might be exhausted and confused, or just plain fed up.” Hermione was livid. “All they ever want is my brain for their homework, or to goad and tease me for my ideals, because they think I’m a frigid prude. Tonight for the first time ever, I managed to skirt everyone.” There were tears in her eyes as she spoke. “I’m sorry,” she sobbed. “But I’ve had a very strenuous and confusing day. I just needed sometime without the constant requests, the whining about professors that I don’t want to listen to, or agree with, the insults and innuendo, or the general neediness to be all to everyone, like I have nothing better to do, and no needs of my own.”

McGonagall suddenly looked her up and down, and had trouble hiding her shock as she noticed an angry inky bruise, but she only caught a quick glimpse of it, for as soon as she saw that Hermione had realised what she’d seen the younger witch hid her arm.

The voice never faltered, and she squeezed Hermione other arm. “Take your time, Hermione, get dressed and then floo to my office, your dinner will be waiting for you. I’ll smooth the pot here.” Minerva told her, but her mind was still on the hand-print bruise on her favourite cub’s arm, as the young woman remained silent but nodded.

Chapter Text


McGonagall’s narrowed glare finally settled on the young man she sought once she’d left Hermione’s room. He was the one lurking in the corner looking as guilty as sin. “Mr Weasley, a word, if you please.” The head of Gryffindor couldn’t help noticing the red-headed wizard wouldn’t meet her eyes, and his ears started to turn red as soon as she approached him. The austere witch had learnt over the years that this meant that he was trying to hide something, and when he spoke, even his voice was evasive.

“Yes, Professor?”

“Since you were so good as to be... err… concerned for Miss Granger’s welfare. I am happy to report that she is indeed safely in her room.”

His eyes snapped her hers, and he sniffed in derision before scoffing sarcastically. “Well, why didn’t anyone see her come in then?”

“Mr Weasley, mind your tone,” warned the very tight-lipped Transfiguration professor.

“Miss Granger is not feeling well tonight, and wishes to be left alone.”

“She’s the bloody head girl, and she should be out here,” he flourished his arm pointedly around the common room, “regardless of whether she’s got her rags...”

Harry was suddenly by his friend’s side. “Ron!” He had him by the arm. “Ron, settle down, mate, that wasn’t nice. Hermione’s out here every other night.”

With his comment the black-haired young man seemed to register something suddenly, and McGonagall seized on it. “Yes, Mr Potter, Miss Granger gives selflessly of her time every other night.”

Her knowing look registered somewhere within him, and he blushed deeply as his clear green eyes widened behind their spectacles. He instantly turned to the room at large. “Come on everybody, nothing to see here, you’ll all have to do your own homework tonight.” This announcement was greeted by a general chorus of whines and groans. “Come on guys, it won’t kill you just once, I’ll try and help if I can.” He looked back at Ron, who was still glowering at Professor McGonagall. “Come on, mate, let’s see what we can do.”

The redhead’s irate gaze then turned on Harry. “You can if you want,” he spat petulantly. “I’m not covering for the stuck up, cold-hearted little slag.”

“Now that was totally uncalled for, Ron,” and Harry flew at him, his wand instantly at Ron’s throat. “How dare you, ‘Mione has done nothing but help you for six years. Have some respect.” He declared to him. “I don’t know what’s gotten into you lately, but I don’t think I like it. What you just said is simply untrue.”

“’Mione has helped me,” Ron mimicked, watching Harry’s rage deepen and he smiled nastily as he continued in a mock baby voice. “Oh, so the sad little virgins are going to stick together now then, are you?”

Ron’s accusations bit at Harry cruelly, he just didn’t like what Ron was becoming. “Yeah, if that’s the way you feel, mate,” his tone was sarcastic, “I guess we are.”

“Well, have fun making daisy chains together then won’t you, while the rest of us get laid like proper adults.”

Minerva had listened in horror to Ron’s rhetoric, and she finally spoke. “Enough,” she warned definitively. “Break apart, now, those remarks were uncalled, Weasley.” The two erstwhile friends just kept staring each other down.

A hand carefully landed on Harry’s shoulder, and the owner said softly, “He’s not worth the trouble Harry, put your wand away.”

Harry deflated a little, and turned to look at Neville, his expression sad. However, he lowered his wand and looked passed Ron to his head of house. “I’m sorry, Professor.”

McGonagall stared tight-lipped at all three young men, and justice was delivered swift and sharp. “Fifty points, for disrespecting fellow students, Mr Weasley.”

She had just opened her mouth to speak to the other two, when Ron scoffed and still glaring at her spat, “Fellow student?” He laughed, “There’s nothing student-like about her, she’s a frigid, unfeeling machine.”

The line of McGonagall’s lips was now so thin it had all but disappeared. “Carry on with your disparaging remarks, and the week of detention you have just earned yourself will be two. Do I make myself clear?” Her voice was sharp and clipped. He still stood defiant, “Do. I. Make. My. Self. Clear,” she seethed in menacing tones through her teeth.

His eyes narrowed. “Yes, Professor,” he replied, sullenly. By this time everyone else was watching the nasty stand-off from a distance, and the rest of the seventh years were nowhere to be seen.

McGonagall’s eyes turned to the remainder of her house and then back to the young man who was busy pouting with his arms folded, and Minerva studied him a moment. What makes a benign student suddenly this nasty, she wondered, hormones perhaps? 

“Professor,” she heard Harry call quietly, interrupting her train of thought, and she turned her attention to him.

Giving a quick glance to Ron he said quietly, “Don’t worry, Professor, I’ll make certain Hermione is all right.” His face flushed, perhaps in anger at himself. “I’m just sorry I didn’t see it before, but I have been guilty of neglecting Hermione. I don’t know what Ron’s problem is, but I’ll make certain he stays away from her.”

McGonagall nodded, and turned to Neville. “Ten points to Gryffindor for defusing a potentially nasty situation, Mr Longbottom, well done.”

Neville smiled shyly and looking up he nodded. “It was nothing, ma’am. Hermione’s been good to me. I’d stick up for her or Harry no matter what.”

“I’m glad to hear it Mr Longbottom. Thank you Mr Potter, Miss Granger deserves as much support as she can get, her position here must be very difficult for her.” McGonagall patted their forearms lightly. “I do not think that the headmaster realised that she was a full year older than everyone already before he allowed her to age herself further with her extensive use of that time turner,” McGonagall related quietly.

“Yes, and Hermione being Hermione, I think she lived about three years in one that year,” Harry replied, with a fond smile.

“Yes, indeed,” Minerva smiled. “Good night, Mr Potter, Mr Longbottom.”

“Good night, professor,” they both said, watching her leaving.

“’Mione used a time turner?” Neville squeaked in disbelief.

“Shh,” Harry cautioned.

“Sorry,” Neville whispered. “But no wonder she’d so much more mature than… blimey!” He was obviously calculating in his head. “That would make her…”

“Yeah, twenty in a few days.”

“Wow, twenty and still at school, that’s terrible.”

“And as bright as she is, it must be very boring for her.”

“Mmm, now let’s see if we can help her tonight,” Harry said, wanting to get off the subject. In fact he was surprise that McGonagall had said anything, but he shrugged and went back to helping people with their homework.

~~~***~~~

Climbing back out through the portrait hole, Minerva McGonagall muttered heatedly under her breath as she called Tinky to have Hermione’s dinner delivered to her redirected location.

Severus was still sitting at the table toying with his third glass of wine, deep in thought when Tinky arrived. The little elf bowed low. “Tinky is sorry to be interrupting the head of Slytherin.”

Severus looked at the tray and gesturing with his hand, said, “Be my guest.” Then on a whim he inquired casually. “Is the head girl to arrive here shortly?”

“Honourable head of Gryffindor, says yes, sir.”

He nodded. “Very well, hold desert until Miss Granger has finished her meal, and bring an extra desert for the head of Gryffindor, with coffee.”

Her long ears were very erect and forward, as she replied, “Very good, sir. Tinky is pleased to serve.”

Severus placed a stasis spell on the meal until Hermione arrived, and then sat back to wait. He wondered what had happened; the little Weasley shit with his usual hangers on, had almost gloated when informing his head of house that Miss Granger had not returned from her patrol. It crossed Severus’ mind to be concerned that something may have happened to her, but his instinct told him the boy was only attempting to cause trouble.

Severus had made certain that the little cretin had not seen him sitting at the table. A simple notice-me-not had solved that problem. He’s not very bright, in fact, the boy has the intellectual depth of a small puddle. He chuckle to himself. And that’s an insult to the puddle. His thoughts were interrupted by the floo. Without turning he said silkily, “Looks like it wasn’t good evening after all, Miss Granger.”

Hermione stopped dead, startled. “Oh! Err no, sir.” For some reason she couldn’t actually get her legs to move, so she just stood there.

Finally, he turned to see what the problem was, and his eyebrow shifted up. “Are you planning to eat your dinner from over there?”

Seeing her professor unexpectedly had pushed all other thoughts from her mind, and she’d forgotten what McGonagall had said, “M-my what?”

Severus saw how troubled she appeared he rose. “Are you all right?”

“N-n-no... I mean, yes,” she quickly corrected, and stared at the floor.

Severus walked around to the chair in front of her meal and pulled it out. “Come,” he encouraged kindly, watching her. “Sit and eat, no sense standing on ceremony.”

Hermione glanced up at him shyly, before timidly approaching the chair. Severus watched her walk towards him with a fair amount of trepidation. If only she knew what a perfect picture of demure sweetness she paints in her pretty green cotton dress, with its cream, knitted cardigan, and he wished he could have told her.

She smiled shyly up at him for just a moment, as she allowed him to push the chair in for her. “Thank you, sir,” her words were barely audible.

“My pleasure,” he replied with genuine delight, and proceeded to pour her a glass of the wine. He refilled his and Minerva’s glasses and sitting back down, watched her tentatively push her food around her plate. “Not hungry?”

She sighed. “Err yes, I guess… I am,” and finally forced herself to take a mouthful. “It’s just so strange.”

“What’s strange?” Severus asked quietly.

“Everything,” was her innocent and wide-eyed response. “At the moment, just about everything is strange, I’m having a lot of trouble deciding… err dealing,” she flushed again, “Never mind… just everything… err, sir.” She looked back down studying her plate intently.

~~~***~~~

Minerva huffed irritatedly as she bustled through the door. “I swear some of those seventh years get stranger every day.”

“How so?” Severus’ eyes rose to meet hers. He was absently sliding his fingers up and down the stem of his wine glass.

By way of answer Minerva said, “I have had the pleasure of having both parents and all the Weasley children in my house. But this last boy concerns me.” She shook her head, and then looked at Severus. “Well you saw the look on his face when he came to the door.” She turned to Hermione, “It was almost like he thought he had something on you, like he wanted you to get you into trouble.” It wasn’t until Minerva finished the sentence that she noticed how pale the young woman had become.

There was an audible gasp, and Hermione’s cutlery clattered to her plate forgotten. “Oh no! Not more trouble,” she moaned wincing.

Severus was already watching her closely. He could see something was very wrong. His hand started to reach for hers without thinking. Catching himself in time, he covered the movement by reaching for the wine bottle. Finally, he recovered his composure enough to speak. “Explain,” he commanded quietly, thinking he was not going to like her explanation.

Severus was glad to see Minerva had reached for her hand, and was currently covering it protectively. The Potions master felt a pang of regret that he could not, especially on meeting her eyes which were currently swimming with tears. The only option open to him was to patiently wait for her explanation. Digging in his pocket for the pristine white handkerchief he knew would be there, he sighed and handed it to her. “Take deep breaths and speak slowly,” was his unexpected encouragement.

Hermione gazed at him a moment, her mouth open, making his eyebrow swiftly sail upwards. Severus understood her incredulity and although he wanted to scream at her that he wasn’t inhuman, he huffed. “I can feel sympathy, you know.”

Her voice was very tiny and quivery when it finally sounded. After lowering her head to stare at her plate again she spoke. “I’m sorry, sir, I didn’t mean to imply that you couldn’t.” Turning when she heard her head of house clear her throat, but seeing a very sober looking witch, Hermione turned back to her uneaten meal as she admitted, “I’ve had a little trouble with Ronald since last year. But lately I’ve been defending myself against his physical attacks as well.” They saw her shake a little, and a quiet sob escaped her.

Minerva suddenly gasped. “Hermione, let me see your arm again.”

This made Severus think of Hermione rubbing her arm that morning after he’d stopped her from falling.

The young woman didn’t fight her head of house, she merely held the arm in question out towards her. She knew what her elder was looking for. Neither did she look up when she heard the rustle of the Potions master’s robes, as he rose to go over behind Minerva.

However, it was his intake of breath she heard as Minerva gently pushed the sleeve of her cotton cardigan up. Without warning, Snape was striding towards the fireplace. He threw the floo powder down. “My office,” he growled, he sounded furious and then he was gone.

This was the final straw for Hermione, she thought he had left in disgust and finally unable to hold them back, she collapsed into tears. The attack two days before had unnerved her terribly.

Her head of house took the last step towards her to let her cry against her, putting her arms around her and patting her back. Hermione’s tears were a mixture of fear, embarrassment and gut-wrenching relief that people she trusted finally knew. The young woman only vaguely heard the floo activate again, and then barely perceived the rustle of robes. Hermione felt her arm being carefully lifted from around McGonagall, as she clung to her mentor, crying.

Gentle and very meticulous fingers began spreading cream over the hand print bruise that wrapped around her slight arm, where Ron had held it against the wall. Hermione was still heaving sobs as she lifted her head to see what the professor was doing. God I wish I could hug him, she thought watching him work quietly, his hair, like wings either side of his face, hiding his features.

McGonagall moved out of the way to let Severus work. He muttered an impervious to keep the cream from rubbing off and pulled the arm of her cardigan back down. Crouching down in front of her, he thought of her stiff walk. “Is that the only one?”

Hermione was still hiccupping badly, but she shook her bowed head silently. She heard him sigh and something was pushed into her hand. “Here, drink this. It will calm you,” he continued quietly. “Where else?”

“My shoulder,” she whispered hoarsely, drinking the potion without fuss.

“May I treat it?” he asked quietly.

Minerva looked on, pleased he had taken the lead in caring for Hermione.

Hermione nodded slightly, but blushed deeply as flinching, she moved her hair out of the way and slipped the shoulder of her cardigan down. The low scoop neck of her dress allowed him to see the raised purple welts without further undressing, which he was thankful for.

This bruise was huge, and had several quite deep scratches through it, where the abrasive stone wall had cut her as she was shoved up against it. “Minerva, do you have any healing paste, these cuts are deep.”

While Minerva went into her quarters to search for healing paste, Severus smeared the bruise paste where ever the skin was not broken. His next question was quietly phrased, “Why did you not seek treatment for this?”

“Because it looks exactly like what it is, and I didn’t fancy explaining how I had been shoved up against a wall so violently that it left marks like this, through three layers of clothing.”

When Minerva returned with the asked for item, Severus finished his care by applying it. Her sharply inhaled breaths made him flinch. “Sorry,” he muttered stiffly, unused to the word.

When he’d had gone back to his office to gather what he needed, Severus had taken some seconds to detach himself from the raging emotions he felt. There would be time later to clean up the smashed specimen jars when he went back. When his temper got the better of him, it always meant that innocent specimen jars lost their lives.

He cast impervious again when he had finished, and carefully placed her cardigan back on her shoulders, before gently rearranging her soft chestnut tresses. Severus lost himself for just a moment, allowing his fingers to slide through the silky curls, but he soon removed his hands before anyone noticed his reluctance to do so, and stepping away he stood in front of her, watching.

Eventually, Hermione’s head came up. It had taken all her strength not to lean into the touch of his fingers on her shoulder, or moan as those same fingers slipped carefully through the length of her hair. Wondering what his expression might be, she was very shocked when her gaze met a cold, controlled countenance. The young woman instantly knew that the face the Potions master currently wore would be the same expression present when he attended Death Eater meetings. There was not even a glimmer of emotion evident, and he exuded a coolness that made her shiver, even if his voice was gentle. His hard expression soon became too confusing, his eyes appeared so cold, when his words had such warmth and she went back to studying the handkerchief in her hand.

Severus noticed her confusion, but calmly continued with his questions after a moment. “Is this the first time he has physically attacked you?”

“Yes, sir,” her voice sounded tiny even to her. “All the other times it has only been verbal.”

“All!” Severus bellowed before he could control himself, and instantly knew he had made it worse. “I’m sorry,” he said pinching the bridge of his nose, vainly wishing for a cigarette to calm his nerves. “I’m not upset with you.”

“I know,” whispered Hermione.

Minerva seeing that they were both distressed at the situation took over. “Why did you not tell me, or at least retaliate?”

Wrapping her arms around herself as if she was cold, Hermione shook her head sadly. “I thought the best policy was to ignore him.” She looked back to the man in front of her. He desperately wanted to smile reassuringly, but he felt he needed to keep a little distance at the moment, no matter how hard it was remaining outside his emotions. Of course, it was also the only way he could stop himself from launching into the Gryffindor common room and tearing the little prick that was Ronald Weasley limb from limb. So he walked back to his chair at the table without further comment.

As calmly as he could, Severus continued to question his apprentice. “What led to this event, Miss Granger?”

Hermione turned and studied him for a moment before she spoke. She didn’t want another burst of his anger, even if it wasn’t aimed at her. “He has been making improper advances... very crudely worded, improper advances for some time,” she looked down a moment. “Up until two days ago I had been, as I said, ignoring them.”

“Can you tell me what happened two days ago?”

The young woman looked at him again and shivered. She felt McGonagall place her hands softly on her shoulders, over the back of the chair. “Take your time Hermione, we can help you, don’t worry,” she smoothed, patting the shoulders.

Hermione found she had difficulty speaking because her throat was dry. Looking at the untouched wine, she shakily extended her hand towards the glass.

With lightning reflexes, Severus extended his wand and the wine vanished and there was water in its place.

She gasped and turned back to him. “Thank you, sir,” she managed politely. Taking a drink, Hermione began with a stuttered intake of breath. “It was early Wednesday morning, I generally rise early to try and avoid him. Unfortunately, he was just leaving the seventh year girl’s dorm as I shut my door.” She heard them both gasp. “I don’t know how he’s overcome the spell to keep him out, either,” Hermione said quietly, in answer.

“Miss Brown,” huffed McGonagall. “That one’s going to have to be very careful she doesn’t end up being paid for her services,” she stated coolly.

Severus cast the older woman an irritated look and quietly said, “Continue please, Miss Granger.”

Hermione took another breath. “I hoped he would just give me another unwelcome account of his sexual prowess with Lavender and Pavarti.”

“Both!” McGonagall squeaked. “At the same time?!”

Hermione wanted to smile at the scandalized look she caught a glimpse of in the mirror above the mantle, but she couldn’t find the energy.

“For Merlin’s sake, Minerva, get over it and let Miss Granger continue. We all know it happens,” Severus raged, and Minerva glared at him, but shut her mouth and started listening again.

Hermione wanted to hug the dear man for taking such an interest in her, even if she still thought his actions were mostly because of his sense of duty, and obvious dislike of Ron. “Well, instead of passing me he stopped. I had my wand up my sleeve, but unfortunately he knew I would, and he grabbed my arm before his expression registered his menace. I found my arm violently pinned to the stone wall above my head, my wand clattering down the steps and his body pushed against me, stopping me from escaping.” Hermione blushed as she met the Potions master’s eyes. “I struggled against him until I felt him...” she looked away, “you know, becoming aroused.”

Severus’ external calm didn’t crack this time, he merely nodded. “What then?”

“Well, sir,” Hermione started to feel more confident to speak. She looked back at him and held his gaze. “Once I was standing still, it dawned on me that there were actually two things digging into me.”

Severus’ eyebrow started to rise. “You smart little lioness, you jinxed him with his own wand, didn’t you?” The surge of pride he felt for this young woman was almost unbearable. He wanted to tell her how wonderful she was, but then clamped down on his emotions when he realised he just had, and he allowed her to continue.

“Yes,” she nodded, in a shocked and shaky voice, after having registered what he had just called her. “While he was busy telling me exactly what he wanted to do with,” her lip curled distastefully, “the object he was grinding against me. I managed to get my other hand to his wand. It wasn’t a very powerful spell, not being my wand hand, but I managed to send a Stinging Hex to his offending member.”

She looked down to hide the tiny smile at her success.

“It’s all right to be pleased with yourself, Miss Granger.” Severus told her.

Hermione looked back to the man sitting opposite her.

“He deserved that and much more,” he added.

But suddenly, the smile was gone, “I know, sir, but he scared me… b-badly. I quickly accioed my wand and locked myself back in my room until I heard him stop swearing and cursing, but when other people came to see what the problem was.” She drew a shaky breath. “I heard him telling everyone who would listen, that I had attacked him unprovoked,” her voice finished sounding very tiny.

Suddenly McGonagall said, “I’ve given Mr. Weasley one week’s detention. Had I known about this that would have changed,” she glanced down at Hermione and squeezed her shoulders lightly. “Do you wish to make this official?”

Hermione looked from one professor to the other, and thought for a long time. Finally, she said, “He has become a bully, and he frightened me with his forceful presence in my personal space, and with his threats.” She started to look worried again. “But I’m not sure what to do,” and her lip went firmly between her teeth. “I should think I won’t underestimate him again,” her brow furrowed, “and wouldn’t making it official, just make it worse by prolonging it?”

Looking at her torturing her lip with her teeth from indecision made Severus’ blood boil. “I think he should be taken as far away from you as possible, the boy’s obviously a menace.” He saw his uncharacteristic statement had made her more confused. “But ultimately, you’re the one who must live with the consequences.” You and those who care for you, sweet one, he added privately. I say let Filch hang him by his balls from the highest rafter.

Her concerned countenance furrowed further. “I want justice, really I do, but I don’t think somebody should be made accountable for one mistake stupid error in judgement. That has the ability to change the way a person’s life plays out.” Hermione had put her head down as she said the last part of this sentence, and missed the expression that momentarily crossed Severus’ face.

Minerva didn’t however, and was pleased that Hermione had expressed that particular opinion. She knew the fact that Hermione wouldn’t have judged him like Lily had for a misdemeanour of much less severity, would have a positive impact on him.

Severus’ eyebrow was high and his lips were pursed, suspecting what Minerva was thinking, and he finally spoke. “Minerva may I have the... err honour of administering Weasley’s detentions?”

Minerva looked to her colleague and he was wearing an almost evil shark-like smirk, and she actually cackled, her own eyebrow rising. “Of course, Severus,” she said, politely bowing her head to him, but adding quickly, “As long as I get to inform him of the change of arrangements.”

Severus turned back to Hermione, who found her head swivelling between the two, revelling in their expressions of the anticipated punishments.

“Don’t worry, Miss Granger, he will not bother you again for a long time. Now eat your dinner,” Snape commanded, raising his wand to warm it for her.

The tension began to drain away, and the conversation started to relax once more. Mind you, Hermione was still very flustered, but started eating timidly without meeting either professor’s eyes again.

Her two teachers talked quietly, while a much relieved Hermione worked her way through most of the plate of food.

Finally Severus said, “Call your elf, Minerva,” and as she did dessert, and coffee arrived.

The head of Gryffindor’s eyes rose sharply. “Have you been undermining my elf again, Severus Snape?”

“Madame, I have no idea what you could possibly mean,” he smoothed innocently, but allowed his eyebrow to sail skyward, and his lips to twitch.

Minerva nodded. “Oh, sure,” she stated tongue-in-cheek, and Hermione whose head had finally lifted at the jovial repartee, couldn’t help it, she snickered.

Severus turned to her and said, “Well, a little manipulation of the house elves is certainly worth it to hear that small utterance of pleasure,” he stated, and then commanded, “Now eat your desert, it will do you good.”

Even though she was steadily becoming more and more confused by his statements tonight, and she turned bright red before her head ducked down again, the intent of his words had the desired effect, and she glanced up long enough to smile that cheeky twisted little smile at him.

“Yes, sir,” she returned, like answering a commander, and even Minerva laughed at the look on his face. They finished their meal in happy silence, as Severus relived that little smile in his mind, and again wondered what its source within her psyche was.

Hermione excused herself soon after, saying she had some work to finish, and she was really very tired. Pushing her chair in, she’d just turned when she found another phial being quietly pushed into her hand.

“In case you can’t sleep,” he offered gently, his eyes sweeping over her face softly.

“T-thank you, sir,” she stuttered, glancing down at the purple liquid. “D-dreamless sleep?”

“A good night’s sleep will do you no end of good.”

Hermione slipped the phial into her pocket. “Yes sir... t-thank you.” She looked down a moment and moved closer to the fireplace, before she gave him an uncertain little smile. “Good night, sir,” then turning, “Ma’am, and thank you both for your support. I appreciate it very much.” Putting her hand over the phial in her pocket to protect it, she said, “Head girl’s room,” and was gone.

As soon as she spun out of sight Severus turned, his face a mask of rage, he finally allowed his control to evaporate. “Minerva, I want to rip that little prick limb from limb.” His fists were clenched and his knuckles were white as he roared. “How dare he!”

“I know Severus, I’m just glad we found out about it,” she gripped his arm as if trying to hold him still. “We can’t just let him get away with it. Hermione’s nature is just too sweet.”

Minerva thought for a moment. “She is going to need extra support to get past this. Potter and Longbottom rose to her defence vehemently tonight in the common room. They were both emphatic they would support her no matter what.”

Minerva took a breath. “She’s done a good job of hiding the abuse, I don’t think anyone knew what was going on.” She heard Severus groan irritatedly. “I know, not two of your favourite people, but they are both genuine and can watch where we would find it difficult,” she encouraged.

He finally nodded. “Granted, you have point. I know she is capable of taking care of herself, but what if... something worse might happen - no best talk to them.” He fixed Minerva with a serious stare. “She is never to find herself at risk from that ginger idiot again, Minerva.” He wanted to add that he wanted someone with her every minute she is out in the school, but he knew that was not possible, and he sighed quietly. The mangy tabby is already giving me the, ‘I knew you cared for her’ look. “Wipe your whiskers, Minerva, you’ve spilt the cream, dear,” he said smirking sarcastically at her.

“Severus, I think it’s wonderful,” she gushed.

“Oh shut up, and desist with your over-active imagination. I am simply concerned with the welfare of one of the students,” he stated imperiously.

“The day you show that level of support to an ordinary student, I’ll be knitting gloves and scarves for the occupants of Hades,” she returned, chuckling.

Severus drew himself up to his full height, and glared down his substantial hawk-like nose at the Gryffindor witch. Huffing loudly, he stated formally, “I thank you for an interesting evening. I have matters to attend to elsewhere, good evening, Madame.” Bowing his head regally, he swept towards the fireplace. The last thing he heard was joyful laughter as he swept out of sight.

“Bloody irritating woman,” he muttered as his stepped out onto his own heath. “Can’t a man do anything for someone, without having it rubbed in his face,” although he was smiling broadly.

~~~***~~~

Ten minutes later he was stripped down to his boxers and a pair of black sweat pants, and grinning every time the sound of his punch resounded through the small gym off his quarters, and Weasley’s voice groaned in pain. His misspent youth had taught him several things. Among others, there was the importance of physical fitness, and also that smacking the shit out of what was annoying you, was an incredible tension reliever.

Snape had also found that the advantage of being a wizard made this so much more fun. He punched it and the charmed punching bag groaned again in response, and then to his fierce kick as well. The next flurry of punches and kicks finally saw his endorphins release, and the rush made him stand silently for a moment as he wiped the sweat from his brow, and took several deep breaths.

It suddenly took his fancy that Hermione might enjoy this activity as well, but how could he manage that? “Fuck, I wish she wasn’t a student. I hate the fact that I can’t treat her as I wish to,” and his volley of punches and kicks started again. “I wish I was free and not owned by two madmen,” he reflected further, and this time his assault on the bag was merciless.

When he finished, his chest was heaving and his heart was thumping in his ears. Slick with sweat he finally slid to the floor. It was then that his self-loathing came to taunt him and the cruellest thoughts struck him. He knew that any thoughts he had of Hermione were futile anyway, because surely such a fine young woman would never willingly look his way. They were very much like Beauty and the Beast and no matter how much he wanted to, he just couldn’t believe in a fairy tale ending.

Although Severus Snape was now a powerful wizard, and a man of great consequence, he was from the wrong side of wizard society. He knew his acceptance in some sections of pureblood society was only a thin veil, and tolerated by most of the snobs because they used him to their advantage. He was very good at what he did. However, the one fact he knew for certain was that as soon as he was no longer of use to either of the parties that used his gifts, he expected to be dead by one hand or another.

Sitting there for quite some time musing over the facts as he believed them to be true, he couldn’t bring himself to see past this war. He could kid himself that Hermione was the same as the rest, even though he knew deep down with complete certainty that fate had destined them for one another, but he just never expected it to come to anything. He wasn’t certain how much more time he could buy for himself, the price of the torture and hate was starting to become too high.

Really, Hermione had no reason to care for him and he didn’t expect to live long enough to try and convince her otherwise, but he would protect her until his last breath; that he knew for certain. Heaving a groan, he pushed the pain a little further down and pressed up off the floor to head for the shower.

Chapter Text


The next morning, before she left her room, Hermione went through the same routine she had used each morning since the attack. This morning the results concerned her as she checked outside her door, as there were two obviously human forms waiting when she cast the spell. Eventually she cautiously opened her door, wand drawn, but she still jumped when two voices said in unison, “Good morning.”

Hermione squealed, holding her hand to her heart. “Harry, Neville, you scared the crap out of me. Why are you loitering at my door unannounced?”

The two men were casually leaning on either side of the door frame. “We’re here to escort you to breakfast, dear,” Harry enthused, giving a significant look towards the seventh year girls’ dorm.

Hermione followed his gaze, and her eyes narrowed before she asked suspiciously. “Why?”

“Well,” added Neville tactfully. “We’ve been thinking that it’s about time we showed our head girl the support she so plainly deserves.”

Hermione was just opening her mouth to continue her questioning when the dormitory door in question opened, and she could not help the gasp that escaped her. Both Neville and Harry instantly stood protectively in front of her, closely watching the three persons cautiously issuing from within, once they had identified Harry and Neville on the stairs below. Hermione thought they looked rather ridiculous as they lifted their noses in the air and attempted to cast disdainful glares at them.

Looking through the crack between her two obviously perturbed bodyguards, she noticed they both had their wands drawn discretely, and that they were eyeing Ron with a rather malicious air.

Ron visibly cowered and tugged the two girls to go down the stairs faster. His face was a mess and his hair had green splotches in it. It appeared that his companions had tried—and had been fairly unsuccessful—to mask the injuries. Hermione suddenly wanted to laugh, she had a fair idea what was going on and also what had happened to her assailant.

Once the trio were down the stairs and out of earshot she inquired, “You two wouldn’t have been talking to Professor McGonagall by any chance, would you?” She observed as the young men looked at each other, and wearing complete angelic expressions, both shook their heads. “Well, do either of you know what happened to idiot boy, then?”

“Err, I think he slipped,” said Harry uncertainly.

“Umm, repeatedly,” added Neville.

“Really,” she replied sceptically. She had her arms folded and was tapping her foot by this time, “Where?”

“Down the stairs,” Harry said quickly, and Hermione would have been more inclined to believe him if Neville had not added simultaneously, “In the bathroom.”

“Oh,” she said sagely, “I see.” She threaded a hand through the arms on either side of her. “Shall we go to breakfast boys?” Hermione pulled them both tightly against her sides, and whispered, “Thank you,” as they started down the steps.

When they entered the Great Hall, Hermione watched as McGonagall surveyed the Gryffindor table.  Her eyes landed on Ron then slid either side of him to the two girls fussing over him and she curled her lip distastefully. Further down the head table another lip curled as well, but the Gryffindor witch was certain that it was in a semblance of pleasure.

Severus took in the two young men protectively sitting either side of Hermione and then the bloodied and blotchy appearance of her aggressor. He knew retribution had been dished out after Hermione’s two self-appointed minders had spoken to Minerva last night.

It pleased him very much that Hermione would have protection, although he felt a pang of something akin to jealousy that he could not provide it openly for her. He looked forward to getting her alone this morning so he could make certain that she was indeed all right.

Severus had decided last night, after he’d stared at the dark canopy of his bed for what seemed like an age, that it was futile to keep dismissing and denying his feelings. While he was forbidden to show them publicly, he could not help feeling them and in that light he should do the best he could while he still could, to ensure Hermione was cared for and safe. Privately, he wondered if maybe he should start showing her just a little interest… only in the name of friendship, of course.

~~~***~~~

Happily leaving her two bodyguards outside the library, Hermione assured them that she would be fine and went in. As soon as they had rounded the corner she left and headed for the dungeons, not wanting them to see exactly where she was going. As she hurried down the dungeon corridors, she hoped that the time she had taken to lose the boys had not caused her to be too late.

Her hand absently went within her robes to feel the chain and delicate charm lying innocently around her waist through her blouse. As she arrived outside the Potion master’s office door, she could feel his wards prickling her arm and she reached hesitantly forward. Surprisingly, when she touched the door knob, she felt them recede and the knob turned, allowing her entrance.

Her softly muttered, “Wow,” was met with a deep chuckle.

Spinning around, Hermione was greeted by the raised eyebrow of Severus Snape, casually leaning with his arms crossed and one foot resting across the other against the door frame between his office and classroom. He glanced at the clock. “Late on your first day, tsk tsk,” he drawled, almost teasingly.

“I’m sorry, sir,” she hurried to say, hoping he was not cross with her. “I appear to have acquired two very enthusiastic bodyguards since yesterday.”

“Indeed,” he answered, raising his eyebrow further.

“Well, I had a little trouble losing them,” she looked at the floor.

Severus pushed off the door, and trying to sound casual said, “So, are you feeling… secure with their well meaning Gryffindor muscle behind you?”

“I suppose so,” she bit her lip, “but it’s a bit too much fuss I think.”

He stopped opposite her and looked at her seriously. “No, little lioness, I do not believe they are making too much… fuss, as you put it.” He moved a step closer and his voice rumbled softly. “Have your bruises faded now?”

Confused at his gentle tone, she stuttered, “N-not completely,” and glanced up at him from the floor, flushing heatedly.

“But they are getting better?”

“Yes, sir, they are getting better.” Hermione took a shaky breath.

Severus nodded in response and, distancing himself a little, changed the subject. “May I have your attention in your lab then?”

 Hermione glanced up at him again.

“I have left a list of potions the hospital requires. I wish you to spend the morning starting on them.”

Hermione nodded, and without further comment, walked into the lab and shed her outer robes, rolled up her shirt sleeves and tied on a work apron.

Severus watched her quietly nod as she turned. She was still very unsettled he thought, watching her almost withdrawn stillness. His efforts with the Weasley inspired punching bag last night had quelled most of his aggression. However, he still felt the urge to hex the little prick on sight.

Moving quietly to the door where she was working, he continued to observe her, noting that she was currently prioritising her work. The list of seven potions had various brewing times and stirring routines. Severus could see that she was working out the maximum efficiency with which to work. She had not noticed him watching her as he leant on the doorframe. She was very engrossed in her task; such single-minded concentration was impressive to watch.

Truth be known, Hermione was concentrating so hard in order to rid her mind of the desire that was curling up through her. She knew being alone in this man’s presence was going to be difficult, however she had never reckoned on it being this flustering. Especially if he was going to start giving her endearing names which did not seem to fit with his normal personality at all. That was the second time he had called her ‘little lioness’, and even though she loved the implied sentiment behind it, it was still extremely confusing. 

Writing the list was distracting her wanton brain from the thoughts that were currently invading it. The strokes of her quill were accompanied with deep breaths that forced her mind to another level of calm. Hermione desperately wished she knew more about calming her mind, how to engage the tranquillity more quickly would be very helpful.

Standing at the door watching her, Severus could not help but see her deliberate breathing. Is she trying to use breathing to control herself? Surely not, the odds of that are too slim, and he instantly dismissed the thought again as absurd.

Hermione finished compiling her plan of attack and, with her mind in some semblance of calm, started setting up to brew. While she was busy gathering equipment Severus sauntered into the room and examined what she had compiled. “Sweet Merlin,” he exclaimed softly. She had turned the parchment side on, and from memory had written the ingredients and the recipes across the page. She had lined up ingredients that were common to the potions and worked out how she could brew the maximum amount of potions at the same time. He looked up as a cauldron was discarded with a huff in her process of lining three up on her work bench.

He felt her tense as he walked behind her. His brow furrowed and he picked up the rejected cauldron while she was busy. Close inspection revealed a hair line fracture which may have caused it to explode when heated. He nodded thoughtfully and a hum escaped his lips. This caught Hermione’s attention and when he turned, she was watching him with her brow furrowed apprehensively, and her face showing a most pleasant blush. She appeared worried that she may have made a mistake. “Excellent spotting there, my apprentice,” he drawled with an approving nod, and vanished the damaged container.

Hermione gave him a flustered semblance of a smile and coloured a little more, but appeared to relax and swiftly went back to work. When she had everything prepared she glanced timidly back at him, knowing somehow that his eyes were still on her.

“I approve of your work ethic,” he commented when she looked up.

Hermione breathed through her mouth to draw enough oxygen in as she flushed at the comment, but before she could stop it she had uttered a breathy reply. “Well I had an excellent teacher, sir.” Turning bright red she shyly lowered her eyes back to her parchment. Then, changing the subject without looking back up, she asked in a decidedly shaky voice, “Which store am I to procure the ingredients from, sir?”

Severus cleared his throat, hoping his voice sounded more even than hers did. She had taken him by surprise with her unexpected compliment. “Right,” he said, as if testing it, “follow me.”

The morning continued without further incident. Severus had a class the second half of the double period session and reluctantly left Hermione to her own devices. Hermione for her part was sad to see him go. They seemed to be getting on quite well in a stilted kind of way. That was when she was not blushing and getting all hot and bothered by his presence.

Hermione spent the next hour finishing the potions. By the end of the class she had cleaned up, and all the potions were decanted. They sitting on the side table labelled and in their racks, and with a neat row of stoppers in front of the phials of liquid. When Severus walked back in the little lab, Hermione was watching a visible temperature display above the cooling liquids.

She looked around as he entered.

“Don’t make yourself late for your next class,” he stated softly.

“Oh no, I suppose I better go,” she exclaimed, actually sounding rather disappointed. “But these aren’t the correct temperature to stopper yet.”

“Don’t concern yourself with that, I’ll complete them and deliver them to the hospital.”

“Thank you, sir,” she said, timidly, and taking a shaky deep breath nodded to him. As much as she wanted to stay with him, she could not stand much more tension. Her palms had been sweaty and her heart thumping all morning, not to mention the twitching pulse between her legs. She knew that would have to wait until later, and thinking that while standing in the same room as the cause of it made her flush again. His increased civility towards her was confusing the hell out her, and making her a nervous wreck. Hermione really did not know what to think anymore.

Severus also took a deep breath and continued silkily, as he drew his wand. “You can brew the remaining four potions next time. Now I believe your… err hired Gryffindor muscle may be searching for you in the library.” Pointing his wand at the office door he muttered, “Admitterentur ad bibliotheca,” (1) then he gestured for Hermione to walk through.

Wondering what he was muttering, but thinking she was being dismissed to walk back to the library, she collected her things and opened the door. “Good morning, sir,” she said politely, as she walked through.

“Good morning, Miss Granger,” he replied.

Hermione looked out the door, expecting to see the corridor and instead found herself in a small reading room. She gasped, and hastily spun back round.

In answer to her unspoken inquiry his eyebrow rose. “This is my reading room in the back of the library, is this suitable for your needs?”

She saw his lips quirk as she stood there, mouth gaping and turning several shades of red, each brighter than the last as she actually wondered what needs he was referring to.

“I must say you resemble a fish, close your mouth before something flies in,” he teased, tilting his head. “When you exit you will find yourself at the back of the restricted section. I’m sure you can find your way to the front from there.” Severus smirked once more, hearing a vague noise issue from her lips as she tried to regain her composure. “Remember, Miss Granger, you don’t have a great deal of time to spare.”  Before she had actually managed to form a word the portal closed and she was alone.

“Wow,” she finally stuttered softly, and smiled at the power this man could wield so easily. My God, she thought, that makes him even hotter. Her heart was beating so hard she thought her chest would explode; and her body, well it had a mind of its own, tensing involuntarily in excitement, and that was not even mentioning that her crotch was literally throbbing for attention. “Oh shit,” she groaned longingly, pressing her legs together to better feel the warm wetness.

Gazing unsteadily around the peaceful little room, she realised that the fire and lanterns had sprung into life when she entered, even though sun streamed in through the stained glass window. She knew these would be personal preferences, and to Hermione this spoke of a man who liked warmth and comfort. Exactly at odds with the persona he puts forward, she considered. This was confounding her completely.

The window was unlike any other stained glass window she had seen around the castle; it did not have a picture. However, the more you watched it, the more obvious an elegant silver and green snake slithering—almost seductively—around the cold glass became. It caressed the glass like liquid as it moved, and it struck Hermione as very beautiful.

However, it was when her eyes settled on the comfortable chair by the fire that she almost buckled, feeling the pulsing ache between her legs increase. She momentarily thought about throwing caution out the door, but could not bring herself to do it. In fact, she blushed heatedly at the very idea. How could she take advantage of this initial piece of trust on his part? As she forced some reason to start filtering back into her head she realised he probably only meant that she would be late if she had to walk to the library.

Glancing around now, it suddenly struck her addled brain that he was correct, and furthermore she would be stupid to even contemplate such an intimate act in unknown circumstances, and she scolded herself for even considering such a thing. Firmly stoppering her rampaging emotions, she told herself she was not a wanton teenager anymore—even if she was still at school—and without further thought she shakily headed for the door.

With some effort, and resolutely ignoring her thumping heart, sweaty palms and aching pussy, Hermione took several deep breaths to calm her enough to stop her hands from shaking. As she closed the door, Hermione felt his wards surge forward, and she also recognised a concealment charm. Standing against the door a moment after closing it she took some more much needed deep gasps of air.

Finally, stepping back from the reading room door she found that she could still see it, and wondered if other people could as well, but it was at that moment she heard a slightly harassed voice call, “It’s all right, Nev, I’ve found her,” and Harry was beside her.

“Are you okay, you look very flushed?” Her only reply was a flustered smile. “Has something happened?” He looked around the space for trouble makers when she still did not answer.

Harry continued questioning her as Neville hurried up from further down. “What are you staring at that book case for?” he asked.

Well, thought Hermione, that answers that question, they can’t see the door. She felt her stomach twist in pleasure at the thought of being given knowledge of another secret from this intensely private man. Yes Harry, I guess I probably do look flushed, but not for the reason you think. Hermione looked at her two friends she was glad to have them back. They were both as good as brothers to her, Harry probably more so, but Neville was just as sweet a guy. She was still frantically attempting to get her hormones under control as she was considering this and trying to calm her thumping heart.

The happy witch sighed, and shook her head as she linked her arms through theirs and decided to leave further thoughts of this room, and her mysterious Potions master until such a moment as she could indulge her thoughts and desires properly. “Well, come on, we’ll be late.”

~~~***~~~

After she had left him, Severus sat at his desk wondering if she had understood his offer to her. He had been watching her becoming tenser and more flustered all morning, and by the time she was leaving he could literally smell the delicious scent of her arousal. As unbelievable as it seemed, she actually appeared be to getting hotter and hotter the more he hung around her. He had stayed on purpose, to test his theory. Did she indeed feel something for him? Could he actually hope that one day... but he abruptly reprimanded himself. No, don’t be so bloody stupid, you idiot, she’s probably hot for bloody Potter, and besides you won’t be in any position to garner her attention once she’s free of this place. Just let her go. It rankled cruelly, thinking of losing another woman to a Potter. He lit a cigarette and closed his eyes. Fuck I hate my life, but I have to try, I can’t abandon her even if I must keep my distance... though I can’t stand it much longer.

~~~***~~~

That afternoon in Transfiguration, Hermione watched with a little more than normal interest, as Minerva McGonagall had trouble stifling a grin when she informed Ronald Weasley that Professor Snape would be supervising his detentions, and Hermione had to admit that she was also reduced to the same state as her head of house at the thought.

~~~***~~~

That night as Harry, Neville and Hermione sat helping the younger students with their homework, she was aware of and actively ignoring the looks that both Lavender and Parvati were casting in their direction. She was startled, however, by a quiet voice in her ear while she assisted Colin with his Potions homework. Hermione turned to find Ginny Weasley regarding her with a look of great anxiety on her face.

“Could I have a word with you when you have a moment, please?” the redhead asked.

Ginny’s plea had both Harry and Neville looking up as well.

“Will you be right for a minute, Colin?” Hermione inquired of the boy whose camera was still never far from his side, and she saw him nod. Once she had his answer, Hermione turned her attention to her one-time friend, and noticed the pretty redhead was wringing her hands and moving agitatedly from foot to foot as she stood waiting.

Hermione rose to move somewhere more private, and found herself instantly set upon. Both Harry and Neville shot out of their chairs and launched themselves towards the women. However, once they reached them, they looked at one another with shock as they heard Hermione croon, “It’s okay, Gin, what’s wrong?”

“I’m so sorry Herms, I didn’t realise what a bastard he had been to you,” she sobbed.

Ginny was hugging Hermione tightly, the young men relaxed a little when Hermione looked up and said, “Its fine, guys.”  She rubbed the sobbing woman’s back. “Don’t cry, Gin, I never stopped being your friend.”

“I’m sorry I’ve been ignoring you lately, I realise now the stories he came home with in the summer holidays were all lies.”

Ginny hiccupped and Harry produced a glass of water for her. “Here, Gin, drink this,” he said quietly, disentangling her from Hermione and carefully laying her head on his shoulder. He rocked her gently but looked to Hermione when she said, “I’ll be right back.”

Hermione charged out the portrait hole before they could stop her, and Harry indicated with his eyes for Neville to follow her. As Neville made it out the same exit he saw the door to McGonagall’s office closing. He was certain that this was where Hermione was, if she had not gone in that door, he would still have seen her disappearing up the hallway. So he went back to Harry and conveyed the news.

~~~***~~~

Minerva heard the knock. “Enter.”

“Good evening, Professor,” Hermione returned, and watched as Minerva nodded. “Err… would you be able ascertain whether it is convenient for me to procure a Calming Draught from Professor Snape, please?”

“Certainly, my dear,” she looked at Hermione’s flustered state. “Who is in need of it?”

“Ginny Weasley, ma’am.” In answer to McGonagall’s ‘please explain’ look, Hermione continued. “Ginny has just realised... err, what a wicked web of lies she has been caught in.”

“Oh,” said McGonagall, with understanding, and quickly scribbled a note which she tapped with her wand, making it sail to the Floo and disappear in the surge of green flames. It was only a moment before a reply arrived in the same manner. McGonagall read it and gave it to Hermione.

“Thank you, ma’am,” she said, hurrying to the fireplace. “Professor Snape’s office,” she stated, and spun out of sight. When she arrived she heard the door knob turning and the Potions master say curtly, “Do not even think about sabotaging the flobberworms, Weasley, I will know instantly, and you will be very sorry.”

Hermione heard a very discontented reply and Severus closed the door. “Good evening, my apprentice,” he said quietly, but then inclining his head, and listening intently, he suddenly put his finger to his lips and looked irritated. Turning and pointing his wand at the door there was a sharp yelp on the other side and Severus turned back looking most satisfied. “Little cretin,” he muttered, under his breath, before asking in a whisper, “Is Miss Weasley unwell?”

Hermione moved a little closer and instantly had trouble breathing, but replied, albeit breathily, “Good evening to you too, sir. No, she has just realised that she has a...” pointing to the other room, “umm… little cretin for a brother.”

Her professor chuckled, which shocked the young woman. She had wondered after she said it if she would be reprimanded. “Well, perhaps you should take two phials; that is quite a big realisation.”

Their fingers brushed together as he handed her the potions, and she felt him jump just as much as she did.

He cast an uneasy glance back to the classroom door, and clearing his throat said, “As much as I’d rather not, I had better get back to said little cretin, before he thinks of something else to get up to.”

Hermione was having trouble looking away from him, she was quite taken with his eyes as he bowed his head so elegantly and said good night to her, they looked remarkably open and soft.

“Good night, sir,” she replied quietly, wearing a placid but still flushed smile.

Arriving back from her errand, she found the room vacant. Hermione stood for a moment wondering what was going on, when the door opened and she heard her head of house. “Bring her in and sit down with her. That’s right.” McGonagall finished, arranging Harry and Ginny and turning to Hermione. “Did you get what we need, dear?”

Hermione held up the two phials.

“Two?”

Hermione chuckled remembering, and moved closer to her mentor before saying quietly, “He gave me two, saying it was a very big realisation.”

“Oh, I see,” she said knowingly, and took both the phials. “How is he getting on with the seat of the problem?”

“I don’t think he’s very happy, ma’am.” Hermione couldn’t help the next comment, “but he definitely is the best person for the job though.”

“Hermione!” McGonagall exclaimed in mock horror, squeezing her arm and winking at her before turning back to Ginny.

~~~***~~~

Of course it was two days after Ginny’s confession to Hermione that when the mail arrived at breakfast time, all hell broke loose. It seemed that Ginny had owled Fred and George, telling them what had happened, and when the post arrived, a letter came for Hermione. Recognising their bright pink, charmed owl and seeing their logo on the front of the ghastly pink coloured envelope, Hermione steeled herself for what might be inside.  Even though she thought she was prepared, she squealed softly when she opened it and a single sphere of intense light shot out and hovered above the hall.

There was a flamboyant fanfare of trumpeted glory, which had every professor and most seventh years present on their feet, wands drawn wondering what was about to happen. Hermione rose with the rest, but was beetroot red and flustered as she pulled her wand from her robes.

Ron and his nymphs had remained seated, and when they spotted Hermione’s discomfort, they started laughing. Ron had seen the owl and the envelope and knew where it had come from. Of course, he was certain that Fred and George would be on his side, you know, blood and water and all that.

Harry and Neville were either side of Hermione and Ginny moved to stand behind her; she was actually the only one who knew what was about to happen and was making certain Hermione witnessed it. Suddenly four foot high writing scrawled above the house tables: ‘Weasleys’ Wizarding Wheezes Presents’, and there was a pop as Fred and George’s images appeared from the writing, and jovially announced, “Us!”

The hovering twins looked to the head table, their expressions serious and they bowed. “We humbly apologise for any skid marks, Professors,” and they grinned. “Please be assured no real harm is intended to anyone but the recipient of our displeasure. We are dealing with a problem Weasleys’ Wizarding Wheezes style.” They both bowed and flourished their arms. “Please sit, Professors, enjoy the show.” They were now both wearing evil grins. The teachers followed Dumbledore’s lead and tentatively sat almost in unison. “Thank you,” they responded politely, and bowed once more.

Turning to focus their attention on the Gryffindor table the images bowed again. “To the two sweetest women in our lives,” and suddenly roses were cascading down on Ginny and Hermione, there were sighs and gasps from females at various tables, even the Slytherins.

Then looking back to the head table, the images continued, “We thank their protectors,” the visages of the two men scanned the head table. Severus saw in almost disbelief that their eyebrows rose, in a very Slytherin gesture when they rested on him. He allowed his face to relax enough to return the compliment, and their eyes moved to McGonagall. The Head of Gryffindor gasped when her napkin transfigured into a rose and presented itself to her. She nodded ever so slightly to them, and they turned to Harry and Neville simply saying, “Keep up the good work, guys.”

Then the images of the two pranksters then swooped once around the entire hall saying as they went, “Now let this be a warning to all wizard-kind. This is what happens to people who mess with our sisters.”

The images of the two men suddenly evaporated, and a fireworks dragon glided seamlessly into existence. Spitting and sizzling, it smoothly ran up the Slytherin table, specifically menacing every death eater child, with an interesting exception. Then moving, surprisingly to the Hufflepuff table, where it menaced several people there as well. Severus found himself watching its progress entranced, especially as it agreed with every one of his predictions of junior death eaters in the making. He committed the list to memory and sat back wondering how the twins knew he was protecting Hermione and furthermore how they knew each potential new Death Eater.

It then rose into the air and circled to the Gryffindor table, where it spoke. “’Ittle Wonikins has been a naughty boy,” and the hovering image surged towards him with menace. “Hasn’t he?” It bellowed demandingly, which had Ron nodding his head vigorously. “Well, little brother, it’s time to pay the piper,” and with that the dragon exploded, leaving a startled Ron coughing, his face covered in soot, hair standing on end, and his robes in tatters. “Start running, little bro,” the same voice encouraged. Then from nowhere a custard pie launched towards him, and the hall erupted into hysterics. Ron was on his feet and running as the pies followed him out the doors.

The same voice then addressed Dumbledore. “Thank you for indulging us, Headmaster, please refer any damages to us and you will be fully reimbursed.” There was a pop and all that could be heard was laughter and Ron’s running footsteps, trying to avoid the pies pelting him.

Filius Flitwick sat looking euphoric as he turned to McGonagall with a tear in his eye. “What an amazing piece of charm work, Minerva.”

He seemed beside himself with its beauty and McGonagall laughed happily at his wonder, while nodding in agreement.

Severus found himself racing to the teacher’s exit and creating a portal straight to his office where he had to put up a silencing charm before he also erupted into peels of glorious laughter. It was the best stress reliever he had experienced in a long time, even better than his charmed punching bag.

It was well into the first lesson before the other professors would let Filius end the barrage of pies engulfing Ron from every angle, or in fact discourage the hordes of cheering students following his progress around the school as first lesson was all but forgotten.

~~~***~~~

Of course, once calm had been restored, the aftermath of the breakfast incident saw the main protagonists hauled into Dumbledore’s office for explanations with their Head of House. McGonagall explained that she had not brought the incident to the Headmaster’s attention before because Miss Granger had expressed the view that it should be forgotten and not dragged out. The head of Gryffindor went on to explain that Professor Snape was supervising the detentions at her request because, as Deputy Headmistress, she was far too busy at the beginning of the year to administer a whole week of detention.

Dumbledore nodded thoughtfully, and turned to Hermione. “Is this all true, my dear?”

“Yes, sir,” she said quietly, her head bowed.

“You realise, Miss Granger, that attempted sexual assault is a punishable offence under Ministry law.”

“Yes, sir, but I also think Ronald—even though he scared me—is unaware of the fact that he did so; he’s in need of guidance. I no longer wish to have anything to do with him, and I’m not in a position to offer him anything.”

“I applaud you for your discretion. Most people would not hesitate to prosecute.”

“I know, sir,” she replied, finally looking up at the headmaster, her gaze steely. She did not appreciate being asked to explain yet again. In fact, she was very quickly losing patience with this situation entirely. “He gets one chance,” she rose from the chair. “I do not see that anyone else is at risk, it is only me he has a... problem with, and I shall be more careful. It is a problem of his own making, I have never encouraged him. His advances are unwelcome and unacceptable.” She took a shuddering breath. “Hopefully he works this out very soon and moves on. Now, if you will excuse me I am getting behind with the hospital’s brewing schedule.”

“Certainly, Miss Granger.”

“Thank you, sir. Is it all right if I Floo down to Professor Snape’s office from here?”

“By all means,” Dumbledore flourished his hand.

“Thank you. Good morning, sir, ma’am,” she stated, nodding to both of them.

Once the young woman had left, Dumbledore cast a speculative look at Minerva. “I seriously doubt it is that simple.”

Minerva sighed. “She is a young woman who knows her mind. She believes it is that simple.  Miss Weasley, and Messer’s Potter and Longbottom are taking very good care of her, supporting her if you will.” McGonagall stared at the fireplace a moment, which was blazing brightly again. “I hope she realises the implications of her actions. She told me the night I discovered the deed that she thought that no one should be judged on one mistake. That is why she told you, he gets one chance.”

Dumbledore nodded. “Very well, once Molly and Arthur arrive we better hear the other side.” As if in answer the Floo flared. “Ah, good morning, Molly, Arthur,” the headmaster said, his voice strained, obviously not happy to be in this situation. He flicked his wand at the door. “Come in, Mr Weasley.”

Ron walked cautiously into the office, instantly on the back foot when he realised his parents were also present. “I didn’t do anything, mum, she flirted with me, it was all her fault,” he asserted, without preamble.

Dumbledore gave him a hard look. “Are you certain, Mr Weasley? We could always ask for Pensieve accounts.”

Ron stood horrified. “No,” his ears were turning bright red; he instantly knew he had backed himself into a corner. “No, don’t do that.”

“Very well,” Minerva said, “would you like to start again, before this becomes more serious?”

Molly gave him a hard look as he gulped. “All right, all right, she didn’t do anything, but I was only trying to bring the frigid cow down a peg or two,” he looked at the expressions of disgust on his elders faces, and he finished quietly, “It was only a bit of fun, Lav dared me.”

“Fun,” his father spluttered, “I take it by Lav you mean, Lavender Brown?” Molly still remained silent as Arthur continued. “Do you realise the consequences of your actions?”

Ron shrugged, “I s’pose,” he said sullenly.

Molly finally couldn’t stop herself. “You ‘s’pose’,” her mouth dropped open in disbelief. “Think for a minute, young man. How would you react if someone did something like this to your sister?”

Ron’s eyes narrowed, “I’d kill the bastard.”

“That’s enough with the language, but yes that’s exactly what you’d want to do. So why would you then do something like this to Hermione?”

“But Lav said,” he started.

“I don’t care what Miss Brown said, what you did was wrong and now you must live with the consequences.” Molly was almost apoplectic.

“But Hermione’s turned into a stuck up snob, she thinks she knows everything,” Ron stated defiantly.

“You stupid boy, it’s because Hermione has knowledge; she’s always been ahead of her year. Now she’s grown up, she is just over being at school. What you have done to her merely for the fact that she is more mature than those around her is unforgivable. Grow up, Ron, you’ve just broken her further. The last thing she needed, on top of everything else she faces, is one of her friends doing this to her, she can’t help that she is older than the rest of you.” Molly then rose, looking at Dumbledore she continued, “Throw the worst at him, Albus, he needs to be taught some respect for others. I wish you all a good day.” Moments later she was gone.

Arthur also rose. “What are Hermione’s wishes?”

“Ronald is fortunate; Miss Granger does not wish to press charges.” Dumbledore watched Ron’s expression change, as he realised this had been an option, and the headmaster reinforced his realisation. “Violence against women is never acceptable.”

“What punishment will Ron receive for this deed?” Arthur inquired as nodded in agreement.

Dumbledore stroked his beard, appearing thoughtful. “I agree with Professor McGonagall’s original plan for his detention,” and he nodded to Minerva, “but in addition to this he will report to Mr Filch for as many nights as it takes to scrub the school clean of custard pies,” Albus cut a sidelong glance to Ron, “By hand, no magic! Starting tonight.” Dumbledore’s gaze became steely as he saw Ron about to interject. “I will inform Professor Snape of this change, and am extending your detention by a further three weeks, which will be served with Mr Filch after the school is cleaned from this morning’s mayhem, and once Professor Snape has administered the originally set one week.”

“Good,” Arthur agreed, then looking at Ron. “Think carefully about this, son, you are fortunate Hermione is being generous with you. Learn from it.” He turned towards the Floo. “I must get back to work, Albus, Minerva.”

Dumbledore looked back to Ron after the latter’s father had left. “You will be watched day and night. Under no circumstances are you to approach Miss Granger in any way. Doing so will mean instant expulsion. Be very aware that you are only hanging by a very slender thread, young man, good morning,” he finished brusquely.

The dismissive gazes of the two senior Gryffindors left the young man in no doubt of the state of things and that he should leave, which he did so as quickly as he could.

Chapter Text


Standing tall, reserved and rigidly upright, Severus Snape’s features were set in stony disinterest as he perused the Great Hall with complete contempt. He was not happy. Tonight was an important night, but he was upset at himself for denying Hermione the opportunity of being beside him to witness the spectacle.

His expressive lip curled upward as he examined the various aspects of the preparations for Halloween. I hate this time of year! He resented being assigned supervision of the fiasco before him when he had other more important things to do. Dumbledore does this to me on purpose, I’m certain.

He watched discretely for a little longer before his mind started to wander—as it always did when he had nothing to focus on—to the inevitable. Where is Hermione anyway, I hope she’d not too upset with me for dismissing her help today. He snorted to himself. The smart girl’s probably curled up with a book somewhere. His eyes perused the hall once more. Bloody hell, I wish I was with her. I’d love to sit with her and read. He was quickly becoming lost in his thoughts. Stroking her hair, maybe her head in my lap, yes that would be nice.

A sudden noise brought him back to the present. “Sorry Perfessa,” Hagrid said, looking a little sheepish, as one of his giant pumpkins landed on the floor off his barrow.

Severus allowed his head to bow slightly. Damn it man, concentrate, he admonished himself. Of course his internal comments never registered on his face, but he carefully rearranged his voluminous robes to hide his interest in them regardless.

It was a painful fact to him that he was not on such terms with his apprentice, and that she was indeed still a student here even though she shouldn’t have been at her age, but of course Dumbledore had had a hand in that as well. Meddling old wind bag, how could he have offered such a gifted student the opportunity to take more classes than she needed to, and not expect her to jump at the chance, but then not inform her that every hour she spent using the blasted contraption would age her that appropriate amount?

He glanced around the hall again and huffed softly. Severus was feeling particularly guilty tonight for denying her something that he knew she would love to see, but taking her would have felt like a date, and the line between them was blurry enough without adding more confusion to it.

Sighing again, he remained at his post almost happily scowling at anyone who even dared to show good humour, the Potions master sincerely wished it was a point deductable offence to be happy at this pointless holiday. There’s that little Weasley shit, I’d love to slam his head into a wall, look at him slobbering all over that tart. Idiot! Ah but he’s solved one problem for me, he thought as he felt himself going soft again.

Severus had just drawn breath to admonish them when he finally he heard the distinct Scottish brogue of his replacement, as she approached him. Bugger it all, let her deal with them, and he snipped at his friend, “About bloody time, Minerva.”

“Don’t you get your robes in a flap, just because you don’t like Halloween,” and she graced him with a smile.

Severus sniffed disdainfully down his large, hooked nose, and gave her a withering stare. “Some of us still have work to do, regardless of the intervening holiday idiocy, Minerva.”

Minerva’s eyes softened a little. “Of course, the silver moon flower is open tonight. I’m sorry to have detained you, Severus.” His posture relaxed minutely, and he inclined his head slightly in acknowledgement of her statement, as she was about to turn away though she asked, “Severus you are taking Hermione, aren’t you?”

“Keep your bloody voice down,” he hissed in disbelief, before adding, “I most certainly am not,” and without quantifying, turned on his heel and left.

Minerva was left shaking her head, but suddenly focused on the same scene Severus had been contemplating. “Ronald Weasley, Mistletoe is for Christmas not Halloween and in any case is to be affixed, not charmed to follow Miss Brown for your convenience.”

The ditzy young woman in question giggled, tossing her copious straw blond curls coquettishly, as her admirer gave McGonagall a suitably sullen gaze and ended the charm.

Minerva watched the pair giggling and playing, it appeared they were still an item, regardless of his parent’s wishes. However, Miss Patil seemed to have seen the light and left their little threesome. She was keeping tabs on the boy’s interactions with Hermione, and he seemed to have learned his lesson. However, the head of Gryffindor wished for Hermione’s sake that it had never happened at all.

The last thing that poor young woman needs is more stress. Minerva’s eyes focused on Lavender Brown again, and they almost bugged out of her head. Sweet Merlin, she shouldn’t have her blouse that tight. “Miss Brown, kindly put your robes back on, thank you.

I wonder where Hermione is? If this flower is as important as Severus seems to think, I wonder why he’s not taking her with him tonight?  She sighed heavily, suspecting she knew. Merlin I wish I could kick him sometimes, stupid pigheaded male. Hermione needs him, and I wish he’d realise he needs her. Minerva was abruptly drawn out of her reflection by more mischief. “Mr. Weasley, I will not tell you again.”

“Yes, Professor,” Weasley answered, glowering.

Minerva watched the giggling pair start towards the doors. “Come on Lav…” the head of Gryffindor heard, but the rest of his sentence was whispered in the girl’s ear, and made her shriek with laughter.

“Ron,” she squealed, still laughing.

I do not wish to know, Minerva thought.

As they were going through the doors, a very harassed looking Harry Potter shot through in the other direction, glancing shoulders with Ron.

“Hey, watch where you’re going, mate,” the last word was spat sarcastically.

Harry ignored the taunt and commented, “You didn’t turn up to practice.”

“So?” the redhead shrugged.

“We’re supposed to be a team, mate,” Harry returned, with the same inflection as Ron’s initial remark, then sighed knowing it was no good saying anymore, Lavender had him wrapped round her little finger. He glanced at the smug looking blonde.

But before their standoff escalated the three of them turned when they heard, “On your way Weasley, Brown. Mr Potter a word, please,” Minerva was graced with two surly faces and a look from Harry that she could only describe as relieved. The head of Gryffindor waited for the other two to move out of earshot, but the look on his face prompted her to ask. “Is there a problem, Harry?”

“Probably not, Ma’am,” he sighed, “It’s just that I can’t find Hermione, I left her in the library while I went to Quidditch practice and when I came back to look for her she wasn’t there. She’s probably gone to her room, I’ll go and look. Ma’am,” and he was off again.

Minerva shook her head. I wish I had half of his energy... Should I be concerned? She probably has gone to her room or she’s working in Severus’ lab.

~~~***~~~

Walking towards his dungeons, Snape’s mind was still turning over Minerva’s comment. He really wanted to take Hermione with him. He sighed, but how can I? She’s been my apprentice now for six weeks. We’re getting along very well but we’ve still got a long way to go before any understandings can be reached about anything apart from Potions. I don’t want to give her the wrong impression, but I was possibly a little hard on her earlier when she asked about the moon flower.

By this time he had made it into his office. Slamming the door behind him, he leaned up against it. The thought of taking her to collect potions ingredients was almost irresistible. It’s something I’d really enjoy, but it would seem like a date... Damn it all! She’d be wonderful company as always, but there’s still that problem. “Of course there’s a fucking problem,” he muttered to himself.

Quietly banging the back of his head on the sturdy strength of the thick door, he found the rhythmic thumping beneficial while he thought about his problem. She’s still a bloody student... “I can’t stand this for much longer,” he sighed dejectedly. “She’s an adult in age and nature, it’s just not fair.”

Huffing, he pressed off the door. Striking a down beat with his wand, piano music started to play from somewhere unseen. The troubled wizard drew in a deep cleansing breath as he walked to a cupboard hidden by one of his many heavily laden book cases. He tapped it with his wand, then pricking his thumb with a gentle slicing hex, he pressed the blood droplet to the lock and it clicked open. He put the pad of his stinging thumb to his lips to halt the flow of blood and retrieved his small solid silver sickle carefully from the cupboard, then shutting it, tapped it with his wand to lock it once more. 

Walking to his desk, he sat down. The only warning of someone’s approach he received was a distant melodious chiming, and Severus raised an eyebrow in response, just the office door creaked. “Hello, Albus,” he drawled when the headmaster entered. “What can I do for you?”

Snape opened the padded box before him as he spoke to the headmaster. He noticed that Albus’ normally jovial expression didn’t hide the fact that he was strained and looking tired, as he glanced up at him.

“Good day, Severus... ah, Chopin again,” the old man sighed and sat himself down. “You seem to have a preference for that particular Muggle composer lately,” and Albus instantly started humming along with the Nocturne,(1) appearing to not care that he was out of time and not noticing the tightly inhaled breath with each of his slip ups from the Potions master.

“Indeed,” Snape stated through clenched teeth without glancing up. Sighing, the Potions professor repeated his question. “What makes you darken my dungeons, Albus?” The headmaster was very fond of inane staff Halloween functions, and no amount of grimacing or Firewhisky could prepare him for one of those tonight.

Dumbledore just gazed at Severus for a time, and when he spoke it was as if he’d only just thought of the reason. “Ah yes, the problem with our three young Gryffindors,” he smoothed casually.

Snape sighed once more. “I have no interest in the hormonal outbursts of your precious Golden trio, Albus,” he was determined to keep playing his part perfectly.

“Ah... so you know something,” Albus replied sagely.

Severus irritatedly concentrated on his work of sharpening the blade.

Albus continued conspiratorially, “So what do think is at the heart of it?”

“How should I know,” and he set the old man with a stony glare. “I would say at a wild guess, that sexual assault goes a long way to explaining it though, wouldn’t you?”

Albus sighed. “Well, I thought you might know more, seeing you do have one third of the trio as your apprentice, Severus.”

“My apprentice and I do not swap castle gossip, Albus, the girl does her job and goes away,” he replied curtly, glaring at the headmaster. Severus then forced himself to add, “And that suits me perfectly.”

“Severus, I come to you not because I think you know the castle gossip, but because I value your observations.”

Snape set him with a suspicious eye but nodded. “Well, my observations inform me that the seat of your problem revolves around the before mentioned apprentice, and the idiot redhead who attacked her,” he responded, but felt himself flinch as he added, “The result of some stupid hormonal lover’s tiff no doubt.” Saying this stung him, his blood boiled every time he thought about it, and he unconsciously sniffed irritatedly.

“Yes Severus,” Albus said inquiringly.

Severus remained silent and put all his full attention into his task, purposefully leaning further forward so his curtain of raven hair completely obscured Dumbledore’s view of his face, as he silently fumed at not being left in peace.

Finally, Albus cleared his throat and continued, “You are taking your apprentice for assistance tonight, aren’t you?”

“I need no assistance,” Snape replied, deliberating enunciating each word.

Undeterred Albus continued, “But Severus that’s her job, to assist you,” he cast the dower man a quick glance. “Besides, you might like her company. I’m certain night-time potion collecting would be a very pleasant job with such amenable company,” the headmaster stated, appraising his Potions master’s reaction to this. “I’m certain she would be an ideal companion for the task,” he finished, almost slyly.

Snape’s head shot up. Albus saw the momentary flash of panic on his face before his usual cool façade closed his features, and he smiled. “Why the bloody hell would I want the company of that yappy, know-it-all Gryffindor? I find the collection of potion ingredients one of the few stress relieving activities I can still enjoy without our current idiocy infringing, and you want me to invite a mere child, who does not know the meaning of the word silence.”

The headmaster clicked his tongue, and sighed, “Not a child Severus. Miss Granger is a young woman of age in both our worlds,” Albus continued gently. “She is intelligent and obviously has a great aptitude for Potions. I would have thought you might find her to be suitably pleasant company.”

“Albus! She’s a student, what exactly are you suggesting?” he flushed, looking awkward.

“Severus I’m merely pointing out that her presence might make your evening,” he paused, “a lot less stressful.”

Severus instantly bristled and bolted out of his chair. “I have actually given my apprentice the night off. She had some study to catch up on,” he said, vaguely waving his hand about.

“Oh Severus,” the Headmaster’s voice showed his disappointment. “The silver moon flower only does this once every ten years, and you give the one other person in the castle who would find this as fascinating as you do, the night off.” He tried—but failed—to get Severus to meet his gaze. “Why, my boy?”

None of your bloody business you meddlesome old fool. “Because she is still a student and it would be highly inappropriate,” he stated heatedly. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m extremely busy, old man. If that’s all, I’m certain you can see yourself out.” He rose collecting the sickle and swept over to the wall, and tapping his wand in a pattern on the bricks, he disappeared through and was gone.

~~~***~~~

As Severus entered his rooms and strode into his personal lab after an irritating exchange with his equally nosey portrait guardian. He carefully placed the padded box in the middle work bench, and it jumped violently when his fists then crashed down on the same surface, while he glared at the opposite wall. Bracing his arms on the table he looked down and closed his eyes. “Oh Albus, if you only knew how much I want to take her with me,” he muttered, shaking his head plaintively to the empty room. 

An hour later saw him prepared to leave. It was about an hour before sunset as he made his way down the front steps into the frigid air. Severus had quickly realised he was actually being very unfair to Hermione—hence his guilt—it was a wonderful learning opportunity; surely he was being stupid.  No, his brain told him. He gathered himself up and sighed, plodding toward to Forbidden Forest and feeling no joy at all.  It has to be this way, I can let no one want me, and no matter what I feel... I. Need. No. One. The least I can do for this world is leave no one to mourn me, and that meddlesome old fool must never know what I feel for her, he finished in his head obstinately.

~~~***~~~

Hermione was just starting to think it was time to return to the castle. She was extremely upset and in order to be alone had managed to slip her minder for once. The sun had all but disappeared in the west, and the warming charms she’d been using as she sat by the lake trying to read were starting to tire her. It really was getting very cold.  I probably shouldn’t have come down here at all, or let myself get this miserable. She sighed, I just can’t understand the professor’s sudden coldness, or why he curtly informed me that my services would not be required today. He’d said he had something important to do, but I feel like he was trying to get rid of me, and it hurt. I thought we were starting to get on. I was even starting to hope we were becoming friends.

Gathering her cloak and scarf closer around her she slowly rose, feeling a little stiff from sitting on the damp log for so long, and she started reluctantly towards the castle. It was just turning into twilight as she skirted the edge of the forest, looking up periodically to name the stars as each one entered the new night sky. It was here Hermione’s thoughts became even more painful.

Where she was emerging from the forest was where she had seen an extraordinary thing just before the summer holidays last year. She still saw it vividly in her memory. A sudden movement near the edge of the Forbidden Forest which had grabbed her attention while she was sitting late at night in the wide stone window frame of her dormitory in Gryffindor tower. His distinctive black cloaked figure had emerged, appearing to be carrying something about the size of a small child, and then she’d seen something much larger running up behind him.

Hermione had watched in horror, thinking the dark figure was about to attack him, but still bearing his load, he’d turned and shifted, what she now realised was a baby thestral into one arm. Putting out his hand he placated what was obviously a very concerned mother. Hermione had been enthralled by his actions. Although, her mind refused to admit that now after the Department of Mysteries, she could see thestrals.

She preferred to concentrate on how gentle her professor had been with them. There was not even a hint of the sardonic ill-tempered Potions master in his manner. She’d watched, mesmerised, as he encouraged the mother to follow towards Hagrid’s hut. Even after he had sent a Patronus message and Hagrid had run out to take the baby into his care, Severus had remained to assist him. If Hermione hadn’t seen it with her own eyes at the time she would never have believed it. Eventually, as tiredness had over taken her, she’d headed for the shower, still completely enthralled by the spectacle she’d witnessed, and passing by the spot now was bringing it all back vividly.

Then a sudden sharp voice of distress swiftly roused her from her reveres. Without giving it a second thought she launched herself in the direction she had heard the yelled curse issue from. After running flat out for some time she stumbled, panting to a halt as she reached one of the many clearings dotted through the forest. To her horror she was greeted by the sight of her unconscious Potions professor about to be seriously mauled by a Hippogriff. She didn’t recognise it as one of Hagrid’s herd, but she had to do something. Hermione knew the consequence of enraging such an animal, but its large beak was poised to take a serious chunk out of the unconscious man’s side.

The stinging hex she cast sent the creature staggering backwards as it hit him with unerring accuracy in the middle of his feathery chest. It had the desired effect of distraction, but of course now its beady bird-eye was trained on her instead. “Great, now what do I do?” but as she muttered away to herself, she was surprised when an answer came to her head. Draw him away.

She sent another hex at the beast. “Come on, stupid, follow me,” she yelled at it. The creature watched her, its head cocked to the side, then without taking its eye off her, it walked straight over the unconscious professor. As its back feet disturbed him, he was rolled onto his back where Hermione could plainly see a trickle of blood running down his temple.

She quickly cast a Notice-Me-Not charm on him, uncertain if the spell would work on anything other than a human eye, and headed for the trees, hoping that if she remained hidden and quiet the beast would lose interest and leave.

She only turned back for a moment to gauge the creature’s progress toward her, and the low tree branch came at her without warning as she turned back around. Smack, right across the forehead. Her vision instantly blurred and she saw stars. As best as she could, she slid into an overhanging tree root. She was barely able to make out her professor in the clearing now, as darkness had well and truly engulfed the forest, and her vision was refusing to clear.

Curling herself into a ball, Hermione was terrified. Her head was thumping, tears were snaking their way down her face, and she desperately wished the unconscious man would regain his senses and come to save her, but there she huddled, her mind knocked for a six and sluggish. She couldn’t fathom her situation, and knew it was futile hoping that Professor Snape would save her, no matter how much she wished it. What if he dies while I’m hiding? No, I can’t think that.

Hermione concentrated really hard. For some reason, her hearing seemed far more sensitive than she thought it should be. However, her addled brain didn’t really register this, or her mind reaching out to her professor as she listened for further signs of the Hippogriff.

Eventually hearing nothing more, she tentatively uncurled herself and groggily crawled from her hiding place. The leaves around her rustled ominously—as the forest did at night—sending shivers up her spine. Steeling her courage, and cradling her throbbing head in her hands, she hurried to the side of the still unconscious man. She shivered and felt like vomiting, but she had to get him to help.

Coming to a halt on her knees beside him, without thinking, she picked up his head and placed it in her lap, and she was shocked when energy seemed to pulse between them. “Oh please be alive, Severus... please,” she murmured desperately, even as she jumped in shock. The strange thing was that even before she’d felt for a pulse she’d known he was still alive. Leaning over him she felt for his pulse regardless, and sighed with a profound sense of relief when she felt the dull thump in his neck.

Starting to shiver more violently, the young woman found herself gazing down at his blood stained face, unsure what she was going to do. She couldn’t leave him here to fetch help, he would fall prey to some other animal. My head’s so sluggish, but if I don’t hurry we’ll both freeze to death. She vaguely wondered how far it was back to the castle, and became more frightened when a new stream of consciousness, so foreign she couldn’t recognise it as anything she was familiar with, suddenly seemed to arrive in her head.

Gently placing her professor’s head back on the ground, she stood with some difficulty. Surprisingly, she didn’t think to heal her own injury as her thought processes were becoming even more lethargic. Taking a deep breath she cast a spell she had never used before.

Moblicorpus,” she stated resolutely, and was pleased when his still unconscious body responded to the intricate wand movements that she’d memorised from a book and rose into the air.

Walking slowly in the dark, only having her lit wand tip for light, she started back towards the castle, but by the time she was nearing the edge of the forest, she had a serious problem. The work of maintaining the spell coupled with the fact she was starting to lose consciousness from the hit on the head, meant that Hermione was sagging under the load of everything.

The strong young witch knew she was expending magical and physical energy far too fast. Her professor’s body was dragging badly, and she was stumbling with almost unseeing eyes trying to keep going.

In her stupor Hermione vaguely felt something like a switch come on as she staggered forward, and a steady stream of magic came from somewhere, but she was far too exhausted to register it properly.

~~~***~~~

Now, Albus Dumbledore was in touch with many things that happened in the castle and grounds of Hogwarts and it was at this moment that his senses began to tingle, telling him something was seriously amiss. He instantly sent his phoenix Patronus to Hagrid, “Something’s wrong, Hagrid. Search the grounds.”

Hagrid didn’t need to be told twice, he donned his mole skin coat, and calling Fang, was outside searching as he saw Dumbledore approaching on foot from the castle with Professors McGonagall and Flitwick in tow.

They all seemed to merge at the same point and turned in unison at a noise reaching them from the edge of the forest. It sounded like someone being dragged through the under growth and they rushed forward in force, wands drawn and ready.

Hermione only vaguely saw them approach. Her head was swimming and her ears were roaring. The resolute apprentice was determined to get her master to safety, and when her foggy brain realised she was being held, she yelled, “No, he needs help, let me go,” and she fought. “He was attacked by a Hippogriff, he’s wounded. Let me go.”

It was Professor Dumbledore talking at her. Where did he come from, her brain vaguely wondered? She was only just cognisant that a burst of elemental magic left her in defence of her professor. Dumbledore was shocked as it hit him, but she was too weak now to do anyone any real harm.

“Hermione, release the spell to me. Hermione now, before you kill yourself,” Albus pleaded.

“Professor,” she slurred. “I’m taking him to hospital.”

They could all see she was beyond reason.

“I need to keep going, I can’t let him die,” and she started sobbing, “but I’m so very tired, I can’t hold him much longer.”

Albus had her by the arms he could see she was also injured, but there was something strange happening. He could also feel magic not hers, but magic he’d felt before. He glanced down at the unconscious man. Dumbledore didn’t say anything, he just looked at McGonagall who was supporting her from behind.

“Hermione,” said her head of house gently. “It’s all right, you’re both safe, we have you,” she coaxed.

There were tears and blood trickling down Hermione’s drawn face. “Really? Oh I’m glad, because I don’t feel so good,” she murmured hazily, and promptly passed out.

Flitwick raised his wand and took over the lapsing spell on Severus before the Potions master had hit the ground, and Minerva supported Hermione until Hagrid—with more nimbleness—than anyone thought possible, swept in and picked Hermione up.

Dumbledore turned to Hermione, casting a spell to illuminate her magical pathway pulse points. “Oh dear, she has drained herself very badly,” he said, as he placed his long gnarled fingers on the corresponding points on her face and neck and concentrated.

His eyes narrowed momentarily, confirming what he suspected and the points pulsed under his fingers and illuminated a little more. “Hagrid take her to the hospital, and run. Minerva please inform Poppy that Miss Granger is suffering severe magical depletion. Also tell her Severus is unconscious and injured and we will be there shortly.”

Hagrid boomed, “Stay Fang,” and shot off with the young woman, McGonagall hurrying after him towards the hospital. After he’d watched them leave, Dumbledore approached Filius. “I’ll just collect these.” Dumbledore he told his wand, “Argentum invenit,”(2) finding the cutting implement, and soon Filius was on his way the hospital ward with a now groaning Severus, as he resolutely fought the long journey back from unconsciousness. The Charms professor was glad for his fellow teacher’s sake that he met no one.

Chapter Text


Dumbledore hurried back to his office to safeguard Severus’ prized silver sickle and place a stasis spell on the already collected bag of silver moon flowers. Then using the floo he arrived at the hospital, very curious for answers.

As he stepped out of the fireplace, Minerva and Poppy were vainly trying to calm Severus down.

“No, Severus, you can’t go anywhere, man! Your eyes are still spinning counter-clockwise, lay back, now,” Poppy warned.

“Get off me,” the Potions master roared, obviously disorientated and befuddled. He looked at Hermione again. “Is she all right? Answer me, woman!”

“Severus!  Settle, or I’ll sedate you. I need to get back to Miss Granger,” Poppy replied in exasperation.

Severus had to admit that his head was spinning and he felt incredibly bewildered, but he wanted to know what had happened to Hermione. As Poppy and Minerva finally got him to see reason and rest back against his pillows again, he lay there trying to focus his thoughts.

He remembered collecting the flowers, then walking away disgusted with himself once he’d seen the beauty before him, and realised that he had denied Hermione the chance to see it. Then nothing but vague flashes of hearing an unexpected, deafening screech, and the flurry of huge wings, before a searing pain hit his shoulder as he was carried aloft. He had been so deep in thought he hadn’t heard the creature’s approach until it was right on top of him.

The hippogriff had apparently quickly realised its mistake in the twilight. This wasn’t a small thestral as it had thought, and the burden was far too heavy for it to carry. The whole attack had all been so quick; he hadn’t even managed to draw his wand. Had the ruddy bird managed to gain more height before it dropped him, he would have been fine. He could have flown away, but injured and disorientated he’d plummeted back the few feet to the ground like a stone, without any time to react. Severus looked at Hermione again, lying there so pale and still. What has happened, why is Hermione unconscious?

The Headmaster reached the bed just as his professor had consented to lay back down. Placing a hand on Severus’ uninjured shoulder to try and calm him, Albus turned to Filius, who’d been standing there watching proceedings, uncertain of what to make of it all.

“Thank you for your help, Filius, would you be good enough to inform one of Miss Granger’s friends as to where she is, please?”

Albus watched Flitwick as he nodded at his obvious dismissal and the headmaster turned back to Severus. “Severus, lay down, Miss Granger has banged her head and depleted her magic, but I fear there are mitigating circumstances,” he told him quietly.  

Severus stared in disbelief as Poppy cast more diagnostic spells over her and he saw Hagrid wringing his hands and mopping tears with his hideous spotted handkerchief. Then more worryingly his eye caught Minerva also watching with a fixed pale-faced expression.

The gravity of Hermione’s situation hit Severus and he wanted to know more. “How?”

Dumbledore was unsure whether to answer him.

Severus saw his reluctance, and he looked at the older man again then at Minerva. “How?” he repeated more forcefully.

Minerva spoke for the first time since he’d regained his senses. Her Scottish brogue very pronounced, as it was when she was worried. “Severus, did Miss Granger go into the forest with you after all tonight?”

Severus tried to scowl but flinched when it hurt his head. “NO!” He put his hand to his temple. “This is the first time I have laid eyes on her all day.” I’ve got to get my head functioning again. I don’t want to slip up here, he thought, and he looked to Albus for his opinion.

The headmaster was quick to try and calm his professor’s agitation. “It’s all right, Severus, we are only trying to piece together what actually happened. Nobody’s accusing you of anything, quite the contrary.” He patted Severus’ arm. “I would have been pleased if you had taken my advice from earlier. Now lay back and rest, you also require treatment.”

However, Severus was feeling like he was being fobbed off, and he found some of his fire returning. Sitting back up on one elbow, he turned to his old mentor undeterred, and tried to say menacingly, “Again, I ask... How?” But it came out almost half-hearted this time. His head was too groggy, and he knew he was losing the fight to his concussion. There was no option, he had to lie back against the pillows, and he did so with a hiss of breath at the pain in his shoulder.

Dumbledore sighed. “If she wasn’t with you, then she must have found you. She’s sustained a concussion, and used Moblicorpus to carry you to the edge of the forest; that is where we found you both. As you’re well aware, that’s a very demanding spell when you’re hale and hearty. I’m not surprised she managed to cast it, however, her single-minded determination to get you to safety has impressed me greatly.” Albus stopped speaking, he’d been watching Hermione as he said it, and finally glanced at Severus. The expression of stony disbelief on the raven-haired man’s face was very sad, but alas, predictable. “Severus?” As usual Albus Dumbledore had no consideration for any finer sensibilities and he pried further.

Severus’ slightly unfocused eyes watched Albus wearily as the headmaster asked his next question.

Albus grimaced slight, already aware that it was not going to be well received with his next question. “Have you ever felt any affinity with Miss Granger?”

Snape may have been groggy, but he knew his answer to that. “Certainly not.” His eyes veiled, and his emotions retreated as he muttered, “It’s not possible that she would try to save me, you must be mistaken, Headmaster,” and he sadly turned his head away, hoping that would be an end to it. He found simultaneous love and pride for Hermione, coupled with anger and disillusionment bubbling up inside him. He was not able to bear such wasted sacrifice on his behalf. It was his job to protect everyone else, they were not allowed to protect him; his self-loathing wouldn’t allow it.

However, in his addled brain his mother’s voice was ringing in his head. One day Sevie, you’ll meet one who’s an outcast like you, she’ll protect you and bring you great happiness. You’ll know her by her touch, embrace her, my son. His miserable mother didn’t often make predictions, she always looked so serene when she did though, and it was beautiful. “She’s a lost soul as well,” he muttered, unaware he’d said it out loud.

Albus was still listening apparently. “What was that Severus?”

“Oh nothing,” Snape said, his eyes hidden by his hair.

Albus took a reignited breath. “Severus, I know you think nobody would spare a kind act for you, but that is simply not the case. It is obvious to me that all those present would gladly risk themselves for you.” His encompassing hand gesture spanned the entire company present and lingered on the sleeping young woman. Dumbledore’s eyes observed the stoic expression of denial and defeat on what he could see of the younger man’s face, and finally Severus’ eyes turned back to Albus, but he remained silent. Albus sighed, and patted his shoulder once more. “I will let you rest now before Poppy starts on you.”

Hagrid choose this moment to blow his nose loudly and Dumbledore looked at him, an edge of irritation in his voice. “Hadn’t you best be tracking down that rogue Hippogriff, Rubeus?”

Appearing to focus again, Hagrid replied, “Err yes ‘ead master, sir,” and he lumbered away.

As if on cue, Poppy finally turned from Hermione. “All we can do now is wait. I’ve done all I can for the moment.” She looked to McGonagall. “Minerva, can you organise her night things so she’s more comfortable?”

“Certainly Poppy,” but Minerva sounded rather shaky as she turned, and took the excuse to have something to do.

Dumbledore soon followed to organise the last of his chores for the evening, knowing he was going to have to assume the role of the potion brewer very soon. 

Severus had been deep in thought for the intervening moments, he now became agitated again as the matron approached him with a tray of potions and bandages. “Hurry up woman, cast your spells and install your bandages, I have work to do,” he snipped irritatedly, at her.

Poppy tsked. “You’re not going anywhere, mister.”

“Don’t be idiotic, you know damn well I’ve recovered from worse than this in the past without your irritating ministrations. Just hurry up, the potion will take a good two hours to brew.”

“You can’t be serious. I’m not letting you go anywhere, let alone anywhere near your potions lab. I’m certain Albus will already have it in hand.”

“Poppy, there’s a new variation of Bloom’s magical boosting potion and Albus has never brewed it. Miss Granger has a much better chance of recovery with the administration of this particular potion.”

“I did receive an article about it some time back, you’re right,” Poppy nodded thoughtfully. “It is better than the old one.”

“Well, seeing I am the only one who knows the correct process,” he glanced over at the pale, prostrate figure and his heart lurched painfully. He sighed heavily, as the matron divested him of his cloak, coat and shirt with a wave of her wand. “And furthermore, it appears that I am responsible for her being in this state to begin with. I will brew the potion for her, do you understand?” he said, flinching as she cleaned the claw gouges and torn flesh of his shoulder.

“Severus, be serious. You could do yourself serious damage leaving here at the moment.”

“No, you listen to me,” he hissed as menacingly as he could manage. “Miss Granger needs that potion, and I am going to brew it.”

Poppy conceded reluctantly, knowing he was correct, and he would do as he pleased anyway. “Very well, Severus, but,” and the Mediwitch paused to meet his gaze, “only on the condition that you come back afterwards, and remain here until I allow you to leave.”

Severus tried to stare her down, but the elderly witch stood her ground, unafraid of him.

“Agreed,” he seethed, instantly feeling trapped.  However, gazing over at the deathly pale Hermione, he thought, at least if I’m here I might be able to discretely keep an eye on her, that’s not inappropriate, is it?

At this point Minerva returned with Hermione’s night dress, dressing gown and slippers.

“Thank you Minerva, I’ll fix her up when I’ve finished with grumpy here,” Poppy said, without looking up from her work.

“I will thank you to remember that my ears are still working perfectly. I can hear you,” he said, trying to scowl at them.

Both women laughed, knowing full well that his bark was far worse than his bite.

“Okay, all finished,” Poppy murmured cautiously, finally applying a plaster above his eye and bruise paste around the lump.

Sitting up straighter, Severus swung his long legs over the side of the bed but his head lurched cruelly. He was nothing if not determined and he cautiously stood.

Minerva McGonagall gasped. “Severus Snape, what in hell do you think you’re about? Get back in that bed this instant.”

He levelled her with a ferocious scowl even if it did hurt his head. “I’m saving your precious cub, that’s what the hell I’m doing, woman. Now get out of my way!”

Minerva watched him flinch as he shrugged into his shirt, and sway dangerously as he put his frock coat on, without buttoning either garment, and the Transfiguration professor looked to the Matron.

The Mediwitch nodded. “Miss Granger needs a potion I can’t keep in stock, her survival cannot be guaranteed without it.”

“Can’t Albus brew it?” Minerva questioned.

Severus had started to walk a crooked line towards the door, shirt and coat flapping, while his cloak dragged aimlessly in his hand. “I need to brew it,” he replied roughly.

“Oh for Merlins sake,” Minerva exclaimed, hurrying to catch him before he sprawled out unceremoniously on the floor. “Poppy, Floo Albus and get him to meet us in the lab,” she called, as she took Severus’ arm to steady him. “You are a stubborn man, Severus Snape. You have just spent at least two hours unconscious and now you’re leaving to brew a potion.”

“You seem to have a fabulous gift for the bloody obvious Minerva, now unhand me and move,” he drawled weakly, trying to raise his eyebrow and look down his nose at her. Unfortunately when he did that he saw two of her, he shook his head to disabuse himself of that image, but it lurched once more and he stumbled sideways, this time dragging Minerva with him.

Once stable again, Minerva released him, and her hands rose to start making him more publically presentable.

Seeing what she was about to do, he attempted to swipe her hands away. “Get off from me you meddlesome Scottish harridan,” he warned, then glared ferociously.

She ignored him and started to button his shirt. “Steady on man,” she scolded, “you really aren’t up to this.”

“Nevertheless it will be done,” he stated, as resolutely as he could manage, swaying dangerously while he kept trying to swipe away her hands. Once she had all his buttons fastened she took his arm again, thankful that his brain was so addled that he hadn’t thought to hex her. Severus found himself unable to force her to release him, and suddenly seemed to resign himself to the fact that he might actually need help. He sighed, before continuing, “Even if it is to be with the assistance of interfering bloody Gryffindors, so led on.”

At this the stately elder witch smiled sweetly at him and started leading him from the infirmary.

~~~***~~~

Severus was leaning hard against the dungeon walls and Minerva by the time they arrived at his office. He’d refused point blank for her to conjure a chair for him to ride in.

Dumbledore had let himself in and was in Severus’ private lab setting up the iron cauldron he knew the Potion master would need. He took one look at them as Severus and Minerva arrived, and conjured two arm chairs. “Sit, both of you,” he ordered, and neither of them questioned the command. “Am I correct in assuming you wish to brew the new variant?” he asked, watching Snape’s head nod fractionally. “Is this potion brewed by diffused heat as well?” Severus nodded once more, then rested his head in his hands as Dumbledore continued. “Where am I to find the iron chondrite?”

“The cupboard behind the books in my office, but it’s a combination wand recognition and blood-lock.” His voice sounded rough and weak. Dumbledore picked up a clock glass and cleansed it, then in a no nonsense way, he strode towards Severus.

Watching Albus approach Snape sighed, and reached for his wand. He had sliced his finger open before the headmaster got there. Dumbledore watched the drops darken the clock glass and Severus handed him his wand.

Minerva who had been watching this in horror tsked loudly, and grabbing Severus’ hand, closed and healed the small incision, before saying, “Well if you don’t need me I’m off to finish my grading.” Both men wished her a good night and she left.

By the time the potion was just about finished Severus was swaying dangerously once more. He insisted on standing next to Albus telling him what to do while leaning very heavily on his work station. Albus chopped and crushed all the ingredients and added them to the cauldron set on a low stand with the measured amount of distilled base boiling away.

Severus hovered as best he could, and insisted on setting the heat source under the chondrite. He also set a spell above it so he could observe the temperature rising. “You mustn’t let this exceed 1535°C or it will melt and be useless.” Then Severus forced his still confused brain to remember the amount of clockwise and anticlockwise stirs. “Don’t cast the charm until you have added the chondrite, and then no longer than five minutes must elapse,” he instructed weakly.

Eventually, he could stand no longer and stumbled back to his chair when he found his legs threatening to refuse to hold him up anymore.

The brew hissed and spat energetically when Albus finally levitated the heated lump of chondrite and carefully lowered it into the mixture.

As the headmaster raised his wand to incant the charm he suddenly stopped. “I think the charm in this potion would work better if you did it Severus,” the old man stated plainly.

Oh shit he’s worked out our affinity, no, no, no, NO! But Severus was too out of it to argue, “Mmm, possibly,” he replied noncommittally.

Albus smiled to himself, knowing he found out what he wanted to know, and the failing Potion master struggled to his feet and drew his wand. The only half awake Snape set to work infusing the brew with his magic via the charm, before collapsing unceremoniously with a grunt back into his chair and passing out.

Albus strained and decanted the mixture, he stowed the phials of completed potion safely in his robes and charmed the armchair containing Severus to go ahead of him to speed the trip up.

~~~***~~~

Poppy was waiting for them pacing. “The potion, Albus, please, she’s not well,” she warned darkly.

Severus was too far gone to take this piece of information on board, and Albus quickly handed over the phials. He watched as the Mediwitch pointed the tip of her wand to the open phial and placed it over Hermione’s stomach, the vivid amber liquid disappeared from the vial.

She picked up a second one and repeated the action. “I’ve given her a loading dose that’s all I can do, it’s up to her strength now. Tonight will tell, Albus, that’s the best I can give you,” Poppy offered, to his unspoken question.

Albus nodded, and turning, levitated Severus back to his bed. “Thank you, Poppy, I’ll wish you a good night,” he said, vanishing the arm chair and heading, via the floo, back to his office.

Poppy looked at the grumbling lump of a Potions professor lying on the narrow bed. Nothing ever changes, she thought, he still grumbles in his sleep. “Poor Severus, how many more times will I have to revive you after you have over done it helping someone else?” The prone professor rambled some more, and the mediwitch shook her head. “You’re a very good man, Severus Snape.” She leant forward and kissed his forehead.

This made him mumble something that sounded suspiciously like, “Ge off me womn,” but he didn’t have the energy to do any more.

It wasn’t the first time the matron had done something like that when he couldn’t repel her.

Poppy Pomfrey smiled as she turned. “Lotti,” she called, and his house elf appeared. “Please fetch master of Potions’ night attire and dressing gown.”

The little elf focused her large orb eyes on her master, her long ears wilted at the sight of him, but she bowed deeply. “Lotti is pleased to serve,” and was gone.

A moment later she returned with the items requested.

Poppy nodded. “You may change your master.”

The elf bowed, and clicking her fingers the deed was complete. She examined the torn and bloodied clothing she now held, and shaking her head she pulled her expressive ears together in apparent consternation, bowed and was gone again.

~~~***~~~

Severus didn’t feel he had actually been asleep, even though his brain reasoned that he must have been. He was roused from his stupor at the sound of the matron tsking, he suddenly registered he was not occupying his own comfortable bed and his eyes came open, and he blinked. Remembering where he was he looked to where the sound had emanated from, and heard his voice mumble sleepily, “What’s wrong, Poppy?”

“Oh you’re awake. I was coming to check on you next.”

“Well aren’t you lucky, I’ve saved you the trouble. I’m quite coherent thank you, but you didn’t answer my question. What’s wrong?” Severus insisted, now coming awake more fully.

“Miss Granger is not responding as quickly as I thought she would,” Poppy replied absently, obviously thinking.

He was suddenly wide awake. Struggling through his headache to sit up, he found his wand. “Accio potion,” he commanded and the phial in her hand obediently flew to him. It was cold. “You did make it body temperature before when you gave it, didn’t you?”

Poppy looked at him horrified. “It never occurred to me too...”

“The charm doesn’t activate properly until it reaches 37.2°C,” he looked at her. “Oh the silly old fool didn’t tell you, did he?”

Poppy bristled a little in Albus’ defence. “This is a very new variation, Albus probably didn’t know.”

Severus felt a pang of guilt. If he hadn’t been so out of it this would never have happened. Then he was out of bed, dressing gown on and standing over Hermione. To be sure, he cast a spell that showed him the rising temperature in the phial as he used his wand to heat it. As soon as the liquid reached 37.2°C it shimmered gold, he whipped the covers back and placing it as Poppy had with the earlier phials and he infused it straight into her stomach.

Watching her pale form, he said, “Vere pretium, and her magical pathways illuminated. “She still looks incredibly weak, even though her heart is beating strongly.” Worriedly, Severus watched the rhythmic pulsing of the pale pathways, and then looking over at Poppy, a question hesitantly fell from his lips. “Did she really manage to get me to the edge of the forest?”

The matron looked up hearing him speak. “That’s where they found you both.”

Severus didn’t say anything else; he only nodded and gazed back down at the pale young woman. As if of it’s own volition, he felt his hand unconsciously moving forward to caress her cheek, but catching himself, he brought the offending appendage up and pinched the bridge of his nose, cursing under his breath. After a moment he turned abruptly and headed for the medical store.

“Where do you think you’re going,” Poppy scolded.

“Headache bloody potion,” he said abruptly.

“You get back into bed I’ll get it,” she ordered.

“No, you go to your own bed. I make the bloody stuff, I’ll get my own,” he replied irritatedly.

As Poppy retreated back to her quarters leaving him to his temper, he heard her mutter, “Well at least you’re starting to sound like yourself again,” and her door shut with a snap.

Severus downed two headache potions as he let fly about know-it-all medical staff. Then returning to his bed, he gave another look to Hermione. Stopping at her bedside he became lost gazing down at her sleeping form. Through the haze of his clearing headache he could feel something changing, but his brain was not sharp enough yet to work out what it was. Having decided he had slept enough, he growled, “Lotti.”

The little elf appeared. “How can Lotti serve?”

“The book from my bedside table, and a glass of Old Ogden’s,” he thought a second, “a very large bloody glass.” He would have loved a cigarette as well, but that would have attracted the Hufflepuff do-gooder back out, and he’d had enough of her at the moment.

The elf bowed and in a moment was back with the required items. Severus looked towards Poppy’s rooms and his tirade started again with renewed vigour. “Silly old spinsters think they know everything,” he muttered under his breath, and grimacing slightly climbed back into bed. He positioned a ball of light so he could read and opened his book.

The rest of the night passed without incident, until just before dawn. Severus, deeply engrossed in his book heard a pained moan waft into his hearing. His head snapped around to see Hermione trying to shift in her sleep. She tried to turn herself but seemed unable to muster the energy. He was instantly on his feet once more, and inquiring softly, “Miss Granger, are you comfortable?”

“Mmm,” she replied, and after a moment her pretty, amber-flecked eyes started to open.

He watched her blinking sleepily several times.

Her eyes became lost in his soulful black gaze, as she tried desperately to bring his face into focus. Once she had achieved this to a degree, a tiny smile graced her features. “Oh,” she gushed, in a wafting kind of ‘out of your head’ voice. “I’m so pleased you’re okay,” and her smile grew.

Severus was completely unprepared for this statement and his cheeks flushed crimson.

Their eyes were still caught together as she airily rambled. “You have very beautiful eyes.”

This flustered him further. She’s delusional, he thought, clearing his throat loudly. “You’re still very drained, Miss Granger, go back to sleep,” he replied stiltedly, thinking his voice sounded too high.

Hermione giggled like a drunk. “Oh,” she breathed, sounding intensely disappointed, but she attempted to focus her mind when she realised he was now glaring at her. “Oh, I’m soorrry, I’m veerrryy tired,” she giggled and her voice was getting breathier as she spoke, “I feel reeeally funny,” and she made another silly noise.

Their eyes were still locked together but her expression changed, and without warning a tear trickled down her pale cheek, as she inquired sadly, “I wish I knew why you hated me so much?” A tiny sob escaped her, “Because I think you’re perfect.”

She finally managed to turn herself and her eyes closed again, leaving a very red faced Severus, who at first actually found himself completely at a loss as he stood there gapping at the pale young woman.

He staggered back to his bed and flopped down in utter disbelief, his common sense tried to tell him she would never have said those things had she been in her right mind... Would she? He knew he had to ignore it... didn’t he? Sweet Merlin, what if she meant it? He stood up almost automatically and like a puppet took the few steps back to her bed. Looking down he still saw unshed tears clinging to her lashes. She’s so perfect, and she thinks I’m perfect.

His first reaction to her comments was an uncontrollable urge to stroke her cheek and kiss her tears away. His hands started forward before he could stop them, and this terrified him, so his second reaction was to flee. He turned and started for the door, but stopped and looked down at himself. He was not walking the corridors in his night wear. His confused brain seemed to have forgotten that he was a wizard.

He sat back on his bed and thought. Finally looking slowly down at his night attire, he decided the only recourse really available to him was to shower and dress, so he at least didn’t feel totally exposed if she woke again.

He strode to the bathroom calling for Lotti. When he once more graced the ward he was clean, completely dressed and the sun was just peeking over the horizon. Lotti provided him with his coffee, and he went back to his book feeling much more dignified. He had spent almost an hour standing under the steaming water, in complete amazement at what had just transpired.

He knew very well they had an affinity, and now that their magic had touched once more, he would have to be extremely careful how he proceeded from here. Above all it was imperative to hide this blossoming reaction from his two mad masters.

The first time it had made itself known was at the end of her fifth year, after the battle in the Department of Mysteries. It had been such a shock when he realised what was happening. Working quickly he’d managed to redirect the pulse that reared up that time, but the side effects of doing so had been tremendous, almost overwhelming. He’d gone home that summer, deeply affected and unable to reconcile himself to accept a sixteen year old girl as the one his mother had spoken off. He hadn’t actually known at the time that she was already older than that.

Then there was what Hermione herself had just said, could he dare to hope? He thought about the circumstances. Being in a state of magical depletion was almost like being drunk. Drunks tend to tell the truth, many a spy had come unstuck whilst drinking, which is why he never drank while attending to business.

So under those circumstances the dear woman was to be believed. It was just too much for him to take in though, he had been certain she would never willingly want to be anywhere near him. That she had only accepted his offer of the apprenticeship because she was bored. Suddenly it started to fall into place a little. Can she feel it too, is this why she’s so flustered around me?

He looked over at her, now sleeping peacefully curled up on her side. Her copious curls were riotous, almost as bad as they used to be years ago. Her bow-like lips were slightly parted, and her hands were tucked up under her cheek. She was a very sweet picture of perfection. He catalogued her appearance in his mind for later recall. But his inner voice, was still unable to think it was anything but futile. I’ll be dead, I’ll protect her with my dying breath, but I’ll be dead. Arhhhh, you’re such a fool Severus Snape.

He quickly wiped away the single tear that had trickled over his long lashes in protest to his thoughts, and he heard the matron coming, so he grabbed his book.

Poppy gave him a hard look as she started her rounds, and he smirked at her.

“I see you’re back to normal then.”

“Yes I’m completely recovered,” he stated, thankful his voice was even. “And I’m planning to leave now you’ve seen me.”

“You promised to stay as long as I said,” she huffed, “so you will go when I’m pleased and not before, Severus Snape.”

“I’ll go when I bloody well like,” he muttered darkly, lifting his coffee to his lips to hide his smirk, but he didn’t move.

Putting his book back on the bedside table he approached Hermione as Poppy cast the vere pretium spell once more. “Oh good,” she sighed, “that looks a little more hopeful.” She knew Severus was watching over her shoulder and she smiled as she heard his sigh of relief as well.

“Very well, Poppy, I’m going now,” he stated.

“Sit Severus,” she commanded, as she gently started to rouse Hermione. “Miss Granger, time for your potion,” the young woman stirred, and Severus moved further back so he wasn’t the first thing she saw. “Miss Granger, wake up, dear.”

Severus heard her sigh and then Poppy say, “That’s a girl.”

Then he heard a tiny sleep roughed voice ask, “Where am I?”

By this time Severus had retreated to the windows on the other side. He was pretending to look out at the glorious autumn morning, coffee mug gripped tightly in both hands, but turning slightly he could watch what was happening with Hermione out of the corner of his eye. He saw the mediwitch heat the potion as he had shown her and when it glimmered gold he heard Hermione’s sharp intact of breath in obvious wonder, before Poppy handed it to her.

“Drink up, dear, I’ll help you with your breakfast in a moment,” the matron told her.

Once Hermione had taken her potion Poppy turned to find Severus’ bed empty. “Severus Snape,” she called sharply. “I told you to sit.”

“I am not your pet puppy, Poppy,” he stated, enunciating each P pointedly, as he smirked at her sarcastically.

“You are no one’s fluffy pet puppy, lad,” she told him laughing, while watching him walk slowly towards her scowling. “You’re more like someone’s pet Norwegian Ridgeback,” she said, glaring back. “Now stop snipping, Severus, sit,” she replied, pointing to the bed and saying each S as pointedly as he had spoken the P’s.

Severus stiffened and scowled more, especially when he heard Hermione’s weak chuff of amusement at the exchange. Huffing loudly he deliberately seated himself on the wrong side of the bed with his back to Poppy and Hermione.

“Exasperating man,” Poppy scolded, as she walked around the bed. “Now let me see your eyes.”

He begrudgingly allowed her.

“You appear to be fine.”

“Naturally,” he returned, getting up. He picked up his book and stowing it in his pocket, before he stalked around the bed.

He was just about to leave when a streak of blue flew in the doors, and Dumbledore’s voice said, “Poppy, I need you with your bag at Hagrid’s hut immediately.”

The mediwitch sighed deeply. “Looks like it’s going to be a busy day,” then glancing at Hermione. “Severus, could I trouble you to stay with Miss Granger, and assist her with her breakfast before you leave?”

“I’m hardly the appropriate person.” His voice was overly formal, and he looked intensely uncomfortable. In fact, only minimally more uncomfortable than Hermione herself looked at this development.

Poppy had been and gathered her bag. “No Severus, she needs to eat now she’s awake and she will require assistance, and very soon, it will help the potion to work better.”

The Potion master grunted knowing she was correct. “Very well, but I can’t promise my bedside manner will be amicable.”

“Good,” said Poppy, without a backward glance, and she was gone.

Severus sighed and approached awkwardly, scowling deeply.

“It’s all right, sir, I’m sure I can manage,” Hermione replied weakly, very disappointed that they seemed to have gone backward to formality once more.

He watched as her shaky hand determinedly reached for her spoon, only for it to clatter back down against the tray.

“Oh,” she sighed, and tried once more with the same result.

Finally she looked plaintively up at him as tears of frustration started down her face. “What happened to me, sir, why am I so weak?”

Trying to find a less harsh voice, which when he spoke, still sounded too unsympathetic to his ears. “Come on, pull yourself together, Miss Granger,” he ordered sternly, and when that didn’t work he sighed, and sat down next to her. Picking up the spoon and taking a small spoonful of porridge he carefully guided it to her mouth, after charming the napkin into place to save her nightie, and he tried to explain, without mentioning anything about affinities or destiny. “Do you remember what you did in the forest last night?”

She blushed bright red, but gingerly took the mouthful of sloppy liquid and nodded. “Well the spell you used is very draining; it’s a very advanced piece of magic. This, coupled with the concussion you appear to have given yourself, has over-loaded your magic.” She was watching him intently, as he spooned more into her mouth, before continuing. “In fact, you are lucky you didn’t kill yourself.”

Severus looked down at the rapidly emptying bowl and spoke his next sentence to it. He hadn’t meant to upset her, just put her on her guard. “I do hope your sacrifice proves worthwhile. I can’t say I agree with your logic in choosing to save me,” he said, without looking up. The awkwardness of the situation registered with him cruelly, but he blundered on. “Of course being a Gryffindor I’m sure you stumbled forward before thinking of consequences or other people’s wishes.” When he finally looked up with the last spoonful, Hermione’s face wore an expression of pure horror.

Stuttering, she started to speak. “O-of course I would choose to save you, sir, how could you think I wouldn’t?”

Severus sighed, “Miss Granger, all I’m saying is your efforts may have been for nought. My life is almost certainly already forfeit and was not worth your efforts I’m afraid, you should have left me.”

Hermione’s eyes were once again spilling tears, she lifted her still shaking hands to grasp the hand that still contained the spoon.

 Severus felt it immediately.

“No, my logic was perfectly sound. You are definitely worth my efforts, sir,” she assured him vehemently.

However, the realisation of what had just happened and her heartfelt words shocked him beyond his reason. He reared back like he’d been stung, but the deed was done. She had justified her selfless deed. “NO!” His saw that his exclamation had scared her, but he was wrestling with the bond she had just ignited. “Oh no... Not now!”

Hermione didn’t know what she’d done to upset him so, and she just watched fury line every feature of his face. It was like a train wreck coming towards her.

His feelings of utter rage, at his worst nightmare coming true, were too much. He lashed out, desperately trying to deny what had just occurred. Somewhere in his currently besieged brain, he thought if he upset her and told her how he saw things, it might undo what had just happened.

“No,” he moaned dejectedly. “Why me?” Severus could see the tears now trickling down her face. It was tearing his heart to pieces to have her still think he hated her, but he couldn’t allow her to love him. It just wasn’t possible, there was to be no mourners.

So instead of pulling her to him and giving in to what he so desperately wanted, he scowled and continued with his tirade. “It’s pity, isn’t it? Let’s make ourselves feel better by saving the greasy git, the great bat of the dungeons.” Even though he’d snatched his hand back he was still feeling the tingle of the magic, it felt so good, so perfect. It was causing him such pain, because he was just starting to realise the damage he was doing.

But words he knew were totally untrue and laced with cruel unjustifiable venom, just kept spilling from his mouth as his poisonous rhetoric continued. “I know what you all think of me, you think I’m a joke. Do not pity me, Miss Granger, because when this miserable war is over, I’ll be gone. Do you understand? Dead! Nothing you do will save me, nothing.”  He gave her no respite from his hostility. “No, your logic was flawed you should have left me to die in that wretched forest with at least some dignity,” he roared. “That, at least I would have thanked you for,” and turning on his heel he retreated towards the door.

Hermione sat there shell-shocked at this change for the worse, and his statement that she would do such things.

There was an astounded cry from the doorway. “Severus, how could you!?”

“Shut it, Minerva, I’ve merely informed her of the truth,” and he was gone.

Chapter Text


By the time Snape had reached the dungeon hallways, he was truly cognisant of the unspeakable act he had just perpetrated against the one person he cared for and wanted to protect above all others. How had everything just gone from hopeful dream to shattered nightmare in less than an hour? “My fucking temper,” he moaned to the empty hallway.

The only problem now was exactly how would he live with what he had just inflicted? Once safely within his office he locked and warded the door, and that was when it finally became too much. No matter how hard he smacked his fist into the door, try as he might he couldn’t stop the tears that cascaded unchecked down past his long black lashes.

Something inside him snapped and the pain spilt forth, bringing him crashing to his knees. His world shattered into a million tiny fragments of despair and helplessness. He knew the emotionalism was the result of the bond waking, and there was nothing he could do about it. Spontaneous bursts of his magic ripped out of his control as anger, frustration and grief consumed him and it left his office resembling a war zone. Books threw themselves off shelves, shredding their pages, and bottle after bottle of specimens exploded, sending shards of glass tinkling to the stone floor.

Eventually, when the final dismembered book page wafted silently to the ground beside him, the only sign of life within the office was the low guttural cries of the raven-haired wizard curled in a ball on the floor covered in preserving liquid, dust and broken glass.

He had finally been overcome by the weight of everything that had been piled on top of him. This last act of betrayal to the one he felt the most for was the cruellest and most hated of his recent history. Now his fear was that Dumbledore would be able to use this, his final and most precious secret against him, and this had been the final straw.

After what seemed like an eternity he climbed to his feet and dragged himself to his quarters, picking up his bottle of whisky with a painful and broken hand, on the way to his favourite chair. The Potions master decided that the only course of action left now was to drown his sorrows and wait for the inevitable; there was no way to escape it.

When Albus had finally overridden the wards and gained access to the office, he had already been told by his deputy what had taken place. Coupled with the warning issued to him by the man’s portrait guardian, the headmaster knew exactly where to find his Potions professor. Nevertheless, the painful sight that met his eye made even Albus Dumbledore gasp in shock.

Severus sat clutching his bottle of whisky, only vaguely thankful that the preserving fluid from the specimen jars resembled tears as they mixed with the blood running down his face. His vain attempt to keep the beast within caged when he’d first arrived saw his hand bruised, black, swollen and bloodied from the blows to the door. There were stray shards of glass in his hair, which was also matted together with liquid and dust, and an expression of abject misery present on his sallow face.

“Oh whoopee, here comes the cavalry to save the day,” Severus ground out sarcastically as Albus approached him. “Well you’re too fucking late, I’m finished.” Snape looked up from his chair and smirked. “Don’t look at me like that, you old fool, I had to do it. Better that she learn now what a bastard I am and be done with it.” He took another swig. “I couldn’t bear to leave anyone to grieve. Especially, someone that special.” His voice became rough and broken and he finally closed his eyes. “She’s so innocent,” a single tear escaped his control and he determinedly rubbed at it with the heel of his hand, this action had the effect of smearing the drying gore further. “I do not want her mixed up in all this. Let her graduate and go, she’ll find solace with another.”

Albus ever the voice of reason drew breath. “Severus, she is already mixed up in it.”

“She deserves someone beautiful and clean, not tainted and ugly,” he asserted then fell silent, not caring anymore what he’d just admitted.

His mentor sighed, thinking for a long time before he spoke. “Severus,” he began gently, “Telling her what she deserves is not going to help if it’s not what she actually wants, man.” He sat himself in the chair opposite. “What Miss Granger did yesterday showed a tremendous amount of courage. She put all thoughts of her own safety out of her mind. Her motives were selfless.” Albus drew a deep breath and examined Severus carefully. “She is an extraordinary young woman. You need to befriend her, not push her away, dear boy. Having a person such as her in your corner will mean the difference between you surviving this madness and not.”

“How can you say that Albus? She almost killed herself saving me.” He steeled his emotions, before adding, “And that wasn’t even in battle.” Severus sighed, and set Albus with his best glare. “You have to have a motive, what exactly are you asking of me now?”

Albus actually chuckled at being rumbled. “I was wondering when you’d ask me,” and he inhaled slowly. “You need a true assistant, not just an apprentice, someone to take the pressure off you a little, who you could, in turn, train to reach her full potential. She has an aura of great power around her, I’m certain you’ve already sensed that it is very similar to your own, haven’t you?” Albus stopped and looked at him, already knowing the answer.

The headmaster saw Severus nod reluctantly. “Furthermore,” and Albus watched him closely for his reaction, “It wouldn’t surprise me then if you also shared a natural affinity that would allow your individual powers to merge and magnify.” Albus’ grey but cultured eyebrow rose, wondering what his Potions master’s thoughts would be. However, when silence greeted him, he pushed further. “Think of what a powerful and unexpected weapon that would be.”

Snape almost growled. There it is, that’s what he’s after, now he’s going to get us both killed. “You think so,” he allowed sarcastically. He had the feeling he was about to be taken in once more by the master manipulator, and he feigned ignorance. “But Potter...”

The great Dumbledore was off. “Oh yes, Harry. We both know that Harry has to be the one to finally rid us of Tom. We are also aware that he is weak and undisciplined, and his best friend and support even more so. However,” and the headmaster paused.

Snape’s head was screaming at him. No, no, no don’t let him do this, but he knew any objections he had were futile. There was one thing for certain at the moment, the old man held all the cards. Snape heard the inevitable words crash over him.

“In Miss Granger you have the perfect disciplined partner, one who also possesses a keen mind like your own, but has something you do not... a direct line to Harry. Though more importantly, if you have an affinity she will be able to follow your trains of thought and act on them by instinct.”

By this time, Severus had let the bottle go limp and was sitting in enthralled horror at the scene unfolding before him. He knew he was powerless to stop it. “I... b-but,” was all he managed to stutter out initially at the powerful manipulative powers of Albus bloody Dumbledore. Shit, he’s forced me into a corner again, the old buzzard knows I care, and he’s rooting around to find out if it’s more than that. Now I’ve got to act, regardless of what I believe is right, and of whether she’s still my student. That’s all overridden by the fact that I couldn’t bear it if something happened to her because of this.

Severus thought while the headmaster continued to pontificate. Finally he decided, I’ll act stupid, he loves explaining how smart he is. Looking up at the old wizard, Severus set his features to neutral. “Really, Albus, do you think she would do it?” and he deliberately flinched. “I can imagine being hexed into next week when she lays eyes on me again, and I wouldn’t blame her. I was right about one thing, I am a complete bastard,” he assured the headmaster.

Albus didn’t agree or disagree, he merely said, “That is something you need to rectify Severus, make amends to her. She is a valuable asset to the war effort.”

Severus flinched again, but this time for a different reason. And that’s all we all are to you isn’t it? He thought.

Albus continued regardless, “She might appreciate something from your library to read during her recovery. You must let her know that you’re sorry, Severus, and let her put two and two together. You’re a Slytherin for Merlins sake, you don’t need me to tell you this,” he said, raising an eyebrow at him.

Snape glanced up from his reflections. I have to be in this situation, maybe I can shift things a little, manipulate the manipulator. “Albus, I will not be drawn into such an agreement while Miss Granger is still a student.” He said this as a flat out statement of fact.

Severus knew after what had just passed between them not an hour ago that he was obliged to be in contact with her regardless of everything. However, he didn’t want Albus to know that, and at least if there were some way for her to be finished with school perhaps he could be with her. The old man held the key to that door as well. The Potions master examined his mentor. Does he really know exactly how superficial my control of this situation is? Didn’t he just carefully step through the debris in my office? Surely that was a testament to my failing control? Then his conscience put in, No Snape, you’re stronger than this, rise above it, if not for yourself for Hermione.

The other voice in his head fought him. But haven’t I just completely destroyed any chance of anything? She touched me so tenderly, reached out to me hoping… All this is because she merely laid her delicate hands around mine and magic spontaneously sprung forth. It was such a trusting gesture, and I, fool that I am, I couldn’t stand the pain of it all. The rapture of her magic curling around mine, his eyes closed, so intimate, so pure, so comforting. There it is again, the pain of wanting and yet not being able to have.

From somewhere he pulled more strength and scolded himself. For Merlin’s sake, stop the maudlin whining, you moron, it doesn’t matter what you did or what you want. You have to fix this and protect Hermione as best you can. Potter too, remember you gave your word that night, you promised that cold and lifeless body that you would. Have some integrity man.

Albus ignored the obvious emotion. “Severus, think about it. Please!”

Severus looked at him with almost unseeing eyes he was so deep in thought.

The headmaster continued regardless. “Think about the opportunity you are being offered. Now come, you need Poppy to clean you up once again.”

“No!... Stop ordering me around, old man. I’m not going back up there to face their looks of pity and hate at what I’ve done.” He saw Albus shake his head, and from out of the blue Severus went off on a tangent. “I resign, just let me walk back into the forest, you can tell them the Hippogriff finished me. I can’t... obliviate Hermione, make her forget, she’d be better off...”

But before Severus could open his mouth to go on, the floo activated, and there stood Minerva McGonagall complete with wand drawn and a fearsome scowl gracing her austere features. Her first hex stung him cruelly. “You self-centred, cold-hearted bastard,” she seethed savagely at him, really not registering the state he was in. “Last night you told me you were saving my precious cub, why then this morning did you feel the need to utterly devastate her.” Her next hex hit its mark equally well and raised another painful burn. He jumped out of his chair the almost empty bottle smashing on the hearth, as swaying dangerously, his hand reached for his wand to retaliate.

Without warning Dumbledore’s wordless Expelliarmus landed both their wands into his hand. “Enough,” he roared, deftly plucking the pieces of wood from the air. The two professors both turned to gape at him and Severus stumbled sideways. “Fighting amongst ourselves is achieving nothing.”

The kindly old grandfather had been instantly replaced by the most powerful wizard of the century, “Sit! Minerva, Severus,” he barked, but was not surprised when they both remained standing, scrutinizing him. Looking at Minerva he growled. “You couldn’t wait until I managed to calm Severus down enough for reason, could you?”

Minerva, not in the least quelled by his ferocious glare met it with narrowed eyes. “I have just spent the best part of the last hour doing the same for Hermione.” She vaguely pointed towards the hospital, as she continued, ignoring Albus.

Then she turned and started in on Severus. “That fine young woman, through no fault of her own, currently has few enough friends, and you know better than most that she almost died last night, so what do you do?” Minerva leaned forward pointing her finger into his chest and accusing. “You rub her concern for you in her face and reduce her to the still miserable mess I have just left with Poppy and Hagrid.”

Minerva glared at Albus as he drew breath intending to intervene. “Now I know you take great delight in reducing people, especially students, to that state,” and suddenly she looked sad, appearing to finally see exactly how upset he actually was. “But I had actually started to believe you thought she was different from the rest.”

“No matter what you think or I feel, she’s still a bloody student, Minerva, do not talk to me like I’d resigned myself to tampering inappropriately with a student.” Severus took a step into her personal space as he continued, his large nose almost touching her smaller pointed one. “Because no matter how I feel, I will not. I’ve just resigned and I’ll be leaving,” he proclaimed, drawing himself up to his full height as best he could under the circumstances.

Minerva took a deep breath. “Oh no you don’t,” she stated, shocked. “You’re not getting away that easy. I know how you feel, and why you’re being so stubborn.” Her nostrils were flaring as she spoke. “Hermione is well and truly of age, and there is at least one precedent. Look at old Dippet, his wife of two hundred years was a seventh year when he was a professor.” Then Minerva changed tack. “But more important than even that, she’s offering you friendship, Severus.” The Transfiguration professor shook her head sadly. “And despite her shock at what has just happened, I do believe that she still believes you’re not what you pretend to be, just as she always has. She has without fail stood up for you against all comers one hundred percent of the time for the last six years she has been resident here, and from what I saw of your interaction, you assassinated her all because she said you were worthy of being saved. She was even defending you against yourself.”

Minerva shook her head and looked to the fireplace, before finishing very quietly. “And from what she has just indicated to me she still does think you are.” She finally appeared to calm down enough to take in the state of him, and her anger left her as concern blossomed. “Oh Severus, you silly boy, what have you done to yourself?”

Severus initially bristled at her tone, but quickly became side-tracked and intrigued instead by the thought that Hermione didn’t hate him. His mouth dropped open. “S-she doesn’t h-hate me?” he stuttered vaguely.

“She doesn’t hate you, Severus, she thinks you’re a complete ‘arsing prick’, her words,” she told him, watching him collapse into his chair again, stunned. Minerva went over to him and, placing her hand on his bloodied cheek she felt him stiffen, but she smiled. “But no, Severus, she doesn’t hate you, quite the opposite I feel.”

Minerva leant forward and carefully placed a kiss on the top of his raven head. “You need to fix this, my boy,” she continued gently. “Hermione is alone and very fragile, don’t be a stupid man and let her remain so. She obviously cares a great deal for you, and you will do well to remember that.”

Severus was succumbing, but suddenly fought back again. “But what happens when the end of this miserable war comes? I have little chance of surviving; one side or the other will end up killing me. Where will your little lioness be then, ay?” His eyebrow quirked as he now calmly observed both of them. “By doing what I did this morning, I have at least saved her from that burden.”

“You cannot know you will be killed, there is a chance you will survive, in fact, I am doing my best to guarantee it,” Dumbledore offered, finally entering the conversation again.

“But you can’t deny that the probability that it is very high?”

“No Severus, I don’t see it that way. If you do as I suggested earlier, I would say the chances that everybody survives increases exponentially.”

Severus leant forward and placed his head in his hands. “But Albus...” he started, and he watched Albus rise, and place a hand on his shoulder.

“It is possible.” Severus looked up at him, and the old man smiled. “What I have in mind would see her completing her NEWT exams early, soon in fact, so she can take up the position as your assistant while she completes her apprenticeship.” Both Minerva and Severus looked at him, shocked. “Well, what’s the problem, all her professors have expressed an opinion in her ability to do so,” the headmaster looked from one professor to the other, “Including you two.” They were both forced to nod in agreement.

Minerva had finally sat. She was quietly taking all this in, and now turned to Albus seriously. “Do you really think this is possible, Albus?”

Dumbledore nodded. “I believe it is our best chance of victory, I am even more convinced since last night.” He turned to Severus. “Even though you were unconscious you were feeding her energy, I know what your magic feels like. I felt it recede when I boosted her, as though there was some understanding already existing between the two of you. If you hadn’t, I am certain she would have been dead where we found you, so her magic must have latched onto yours unconsciously,” he sighed. “It’s very impressive.”

“Indeed,” Snape replied trying to sound unimpressed, but knowing the implications of harnessing magic that meshed with another’s, both on a tactical level and a very personal level, Severus found himself conceding, letting Albus think he’d won. “Well it appears I have been mistaken then, Albus,” he stated, trying to sound contrite, not wanting Albus to push any further and make too many connections.

Dumbledore, taking this as Severus admitting defeat, nodded as he handed the two professors their respective wands. “I will organise for Miss Granger to be put in a private room where I will speak with her before you arrive.”

The headmaster looked hopefully at his Potions professor, who huffed before appearing to surrender entirely.

“Very well, Albus,” he replied, reluctantly sighing in a put upon way.

“I’m glad you have decided to do this, my boy. I am certain this is the correct course of action.”

“You may feel so, however I’m still finding myself a little hesitant about it all,” Severus was moved to add. Looking down at the state of himself he continued, “I’ll come up after I’ve cleaned up,” and noticed Albus’ eyes narrow. “I promise,” Severus huffed testily. “Go,” he said, waving them away.

Leaving for his private lab as the floo erupted twice, an interesting thought hit him. “Right let’s see exactly how smart my little lioness really is. I’ll be interested to see if she can make the leaps of logic I think she can.”

As he walked, Severus somehow felt a small weight had been shifted, not necessarily lifted but somehow moved to a more comfortable position. Then he pondered Hermione a moment, he dearly wanted to believe he could become better acquainted with her. But am I actually capable of allowing that, and anyway how does one achieve that outcome? He had only ever really had one other friend, and that was a very long time ago and had ended very badly. What are the steps involved?

 “Lotti,” he called, putting his idea into actions. When his elf appeared, he gave her the instructions he wished carried out. “I require small bundles of several different flowers,” he told her as he quickly pulled two phials of potion from his stores. First downing the calming brew before addressing the elf again. “One each containing Snow drop,” then thinking a moment, “err...White Heliobore and…” He grimaced at the bitter taste of the sober up potion before concluding, “Oak leaf geranium, and then something you will have to acquire magically, purple Hyacinths.”

The elf merely blinked her large eyes, and bowing went to fulfil his request. Thinking further of friendship, Severus supposed the very first step would be to get over the student teacher confusion, seeing it appeared that she would no longer be his student, but his head started to ache once more trying to think too much. Better leave a little time in between the sober up and the headache potion, he thought, and left for his bedroom.

When he came back the flowers and leaves requested were laying in a line along his desk, each discretely tied with a green ribbon. Severus fixed his headache, went to his book case and retrieved a small book. Shrinking the Heliobore and the purple hyacinth, then applying a cushioning charm, he stored both in the pockets of his frock coat and turned to leave.

~~~***~~~

It was with a fair amount of trepidation that Severus entered the hospital wing once more. He was now feeling a very potent mixture of contriteness and confusion about his earlier outburst and was very unsure of how to proceed. Apologising was something he wasn’t very practiced at, and as the Head of Slytherin he was generally not an amicable or trusting man.

Having decided to give himself more time to think, he had taken the long way back to where he now stood. Passing back through his office, a purposeful swirl of his wand around his head and some muttered spells saw most of the mess within his office either disappear or immediately right itself.

However, as he approached the final hallway, he was very aware he still had no sense of how to achieve his goal, and this vexed him greatly. Snape always knew what to do, what the best course of action was and how to achieve it. It still seemed to him like a futile gesture to befriend the young woman, as he just couldn’t believe that he might survive the war. No matter how much he found he wanted to.

Squaring his shoulders and pushing his churning emotions into the box in his head, he swung the door open and stepped inside. Two glowering stares instantly impeded his progress and he heard heavy footsteps moving towards him. Instinct told him to palm his wand as he turned to meet his aggressor. Abruptly from a doorway across the room, a voice commanded, “Hagrid, I think Madam Pomfrey has released you, surely you have work to do.”

Turning to look at the owner of the voice the half-giant backed down. “Yes, Professa Dumbledore, sir,” he replied in an irritated voice. Severus held the other man’s beetle eyes as he approached, and forced himself not to react to the low growling noise that sprang forth as he walked toward him to leave. He momentarily paused in front of the scowling wizard but after sliding a look to the expression on Dumbledore’s face he decided that going, as he had been instructed to do, was a very wise move.

The tension present was still palpable, and Snape shifted his gaze to Poppy Pomfrey, but unlike the ground keeper’s boiling emotions, the expression gracing her countenance made him feel nauseous. She was watching him with a sad air that spoke of understanding and motherly concern. His gaze only gave her cursory recognition as he thought, Silly woman, she does go overboard with the caring bit sometimes, and he headed towards Dumbledore without acknowledging her.

It suddenly seemed surreal to him that all of this had taken place before breakfast, and that now it must have been almost mid-morning. As if to confirm this his stomach growled angrily at being abused with so much liquor before food, but he ignored it and kept moving forward. Approaching the doorway Albus filled, he caught a glimpse of the pale young woman half lying quietly in the bed within. Severus had to admit that after his last exchange with Hermione, he felt extremely uncomfortable approaching her in such similar circumstances again. It had gone badly the first time and her unchanged position made it seem all the more difficult now, but he gathered his dignity around him like a cloak and faced the old man standing in the doorway.

Albus reached forward and placed his hand gently on the younger man’s arm. He felt him tense but didn’t remove it. “Severus,” he started, but meeting the other man’s softening gaze he decided to hold his tongue and stepped aside.

Hermione, for her part, was still struggling to maintain control of her faculties. It went without saying that she had been shocked beyond belief at the uncharacteristic emotional outburst from her normally stoic professor, and was now more than a little unsure of meeting his gaze once more. This was coupled with emotions she had never experienced before, and apart from being terribly tired, she was incredibly confused about the whole morning.

Dumbledore had swept into the hospital in his usual fashion and started issuing orders. Before she knew where she was she was occupying a room normally reserved for quarantining contagious patients. This coupled with the fact that she was fighting the onset of sleep once more all had her feeling very vulnerable.

The headmaster hadn’t helped when he had started sprouting forth about some grand plan that her foggy brain had refused to decipher, but when he informed her that Professor Snape would be arriving momentarily to speak with her as well, she had given up any pretence of appearing to understand and just gazed at him blankly, vaguely hearing, blah, blah, blah.

Now the man in question was cautiously observing her from the doorway, and for some very flustering reason she could feel his regard on her. Hermione was surprised that he no longer appeared to be angry towards her, and that confusion and frustration had replaced the earlier emotion. This seemed to be backed up by the tiny exasperated sigh she heard as he entered the room, more than that her brain was refusing to process, still being too confounded by the magic depletion. Madam Pomfrey had already informed her that she was not to use her magic and that she would be spending at least two days in the hospital wing resting.

The man just inside the doorway cleared his throat, and Hermione thought he sounded nervous. She finally chanced a glance up at him, and as she suspected from the glow in her cheeks he was watching her, and yes his fists were clenching and unclenching at his sides, but why?

Her anger towards him started to gain momentum once more; how dare he throw her concern for him in her face. She knew she had been out of line grasping his hand, plainly aware of how anti-touch the man was and there was also the fact that he was her teacher. His verbal attack however, had left her stunned and confused. How could he truly believe that he didn’t deserve rescuing, that questioned his worth as a fellow human? Granted he didn’t know how she felt about him, but she was still terribly shocked at his attitude.

Finally, as she sat there quietly ruminating about all this, trying to stifle her yawns as exhaustion once more attempted to claim her, the raven-haired wizard finally opened his mouth to speak. Hermione valiantly hoped he was not going to try and confuse her or berate her. She just didn’t have the stamina for it at the moment. She was very relieved when he spoke softly.

“Good morning, again, Miss Granger.”

“Sir,” she managed tight-lipped, without looking up.

Her professor drew in a breath that could only be described as apprehensive, and having her suspicions confirmed startled the young woman. Her head finally came up to meet his intense scowl.

When his eyes were finally able to see how plainly exhausted she appeared, he gasped. This was not a good idea under these circumstances, she wasn’t in a state to listen to anything much at the moment, but he had to say something. “Miss Granger,” he repeated, as the thought careered through his head. I caused this, this my fault.

“Yes, sir?” she responded quietly.

“I… err, find that I desire to thank you, and offer my apologies for earlier.” He paused then rushed on, “I wish us to speak further. However, I can plainly see you are too tired at the moment to listen for long.”

Now even in her state of decreased mental awareness this statement shocked Hermione with its sentiments, but all she could manage to say was, “Yes, sir,” and her eyes were already starting to droop as he continued speaking.

“Miss Granger, I am leaving a book for your perusal once you are feeling better. This offering is... shall we say a type of puzzle I trust you will enjoy solving.” He watched the young woman struggle with the last of her fight against sleep and he quickly withdrew the Heliobore from his coat pocket and enlarged the little bouquet. “Here is the first of the specimens that accompanies the book, when you are ready summon Lotti, she will bring subsequent parts of the puzzle, the book will aid you in its solution.”

Here Hermione nodded and vaguely accepted the offerings, but was still totally confused as to the meaning of it all, as at the moment she was too tired to care.

“Once Lotti informs you that you have the last … err piece, she will request you instruct her as to your answer when next summoned.” He saw Hermione nod vaguely once more. “Do you think you will remember these instructions?”

“Yes, sir, I’ll remember,” she slurred absently, her voice starting to take on the airy inflection from last night. She was still completely confused by the return of his gentle tone and considerate explanation after such poisonous venom, but Hermione found her anger subsiding. Her inquisitive mind longed to pick up the book and read it, but her body craved the peace of sleep and she was too drowsy to think of it any longer.

“Very well, Miss Granger,” he said, moving forward and conjuring a vase for the flowers. “You need to sleep,” he recommended hurriedly. “Good day.” He nodded briskly and turned to leave, stopping on hearing her very sleepy voice mutter his title.

“Sir?”

“Yes, Miss Granger?” he inquired without turning.

“I still think you’re worth rescuing,” and her whisper was almost low enough to be interpreted as a private thought.

He turned slowly to watch her, stunned. It hit him hard that she was actually offering him a veiled second chance. Even in her current state of extreme exhaustion her mind had fathomed these words, which if he chose to ignore could be passed off as the ramblings of her sleep deprived mind. Oh, how very Slytherin of you, he thought.

Severus stood silent for a long moment, gazing at the sleepy young woman now curled up on her side with her eyes closed. He recognised in total disbelief that there was no denying that this went so much deeper than her act of rescuing him. Somewhere in the process she had managed to become acquainted with his battered inner-essence and she had latched onto it. She deserved acknowledgement merely for this achievement, neither of his so-called masters had ever managed to achieve that, something he was very grateful for, but her, well somehow he didn’t mind her recognising it.

Severus Snape heard a word stumble off his usually acerbic tongue that he was seldom able to say. “Thank you,” he whispered in return. “I hope I can live up to your expectations of me,” and even though his words were quietly uttered they reached her ears like a chime and on sneaking another look at her, he saw the corner of her mouth twitch upward into a smile as she finally allowed sleep to claim her.

The profound sense of instant absolution that Severus felt was like treacle spreading warmly through his veins. It was a sensation he had never been privileged to feel before, and suddenly he completely understood why Dumbledore thought he had a better chance of survival with this particular young lady in his corner. She had reached within him, where no other had managed to see and she’d made him happy. It seemed like such a trivial thought to have, but he had so little happiness it was like the world had just been made his.

In the blink of an eye he choose life, putting behind him his feelings of desperation and despair, he clung to the life buoy he had just been thrown. This woman suddenly threw off the shackles of being a mere student in his eyes, as the maturity and foresight she had just displayed touched him deeply. He would embrace this opportunity and see where it led, see if they could manage to turn this wretched war finally to their advantage, and possibly, just possibly, they could come out of it with something to show for it all.

It finally occurred to him that he had wandered forward as his mind pondered the possibilities and was now in danger of being too close. He covered this by gently arranging the covers over her and turning to leave.

Poppy stood in the doorway. “I’m pleased to see she is finally allowed sleep to take her again.” Then looking at his startled expression she encouraged, “Come into my office, we’ll have some tea,” and the kind old matron smiled gently.

Severus quietly followed her next door, and sat as she instructed him. “Severus?” she began as she conjured the tea things. “You do you know exactly what sort of opportunity you almost squandered this morning?”

Initially, he bristled, but quickly deflated under her steady gaze. “Yes,” he said, suddenly feeling like a small boy being admonished by his mother.

“Good,” she replied brusquely. “See that you remember as well,” she concluded, handing him a cup of tea.

As they sat quietly sipping their tea the door burst open yet again and the matron was on her feet. Scurrying out her office door, she stopped as three sets of feet rushed towards her. “Mister Potter, Mister Longbottom, Miss Weasley, please remember this is a hospital,” she scolded.

They were panting and looking around urgently, as Harry cried, “Where’s Hermione, is she all right?”

Ginny followed suit. “Yes, where is she?”

“Calm yourselves, Miss Granger will be fine,” the matron assured them.

Severus now felt the urge to intervene, and coming around the door to stand in its frame he stated, “Miss Granger has had a magical mishap, and is currently sleeping.” Observing their state of near panic he decided to be generous, “Come,” he said, “She has been given a private room to minimise the disruptions to her recovery.” The Potions master led them to the doorway. “Do not wake her,” he warned in his most menacing whisper, standing so as to obscure entrance into the room, he then masterfully manipulated their exit back into the ward.

“I’m sorry, but we didn’t know anything about what had happened,” Harry explained sadly.

“I heard Professor Dumbledore ask Professor Flitwick to inform you myself,” Snape stated, sounding like he didn’t believe him.

It was Ginny, looking most upset and wringing her hands, who answered. “Professor Flitwick saw Ron last night, instead of us, and told him what had happened to her. Ron knew we were desperate to find Hermione; you see she’d been missing most of the afternoon. Ron told us he’d seen her go into her room. She’d been upset about something yesterday and she wouldn’t tell us what, so we believed him and assumed she had one of her headaches and didn’t want to be disturbed.” The redhead looked irate, her long hair shining brightly as her head moved animatedly while she spoke.

“We saw Professor Flitwick just now, and he asked us if Hermione was still in the hospital. I hated that I didn’t even know about it,” Harry added.

Snape had to admit he actually felt a little sorry for the boy, he did indeed look lost.

“But we’ve come now,” Longbottom put in carefully.

 “When may we visit Hermione, Ma’am?” Harry enquired of Madam Pomfrey.

“Maybe this evening?” When they all nodded enthusiastically, she added, “Mind only for a little while, she’s still very weak.”

~~~***~~~

Leaving the hospital and walking back to his dungeons, Severus found an unusual spring in his step. He looked passively around his office on arrival, and mused at his feelings on his last arrival.

Life was strange. He found this a constant source of interest to him. Just when he thought nothing more could be inflicted on him and that he was trying to function beyond his capacity constantly... He sighed.  Now he almost felt like a dying man being given a reprieve. Someone had glimpsed that well hidden spark he buried deep. That spark he cradled inside like an ancient fire protected for its worth. This flickering and struggling flame was the essence of what he had once been before life, the Dark Lord and then Albus Dumbledore had started to whip him into submission.

He had neglected and ignored it, but still it was there, and this most amazing young woman had latched onto it. This was something to look forward to; he had to keep this hidden from both his masters so it couldn’t be used against him, and a new worry arose in Severus Snape. Would he be putting Hermione at risk by allowing himself to feel for her?

Chapter Text


It was starting to become dark outside when Hermione finally woke without the matron rousing her. Her strength seemed to be returning and she stretched luxuriously, sliding further down the bed as she went. Having just woken from the most delicious dream, she gazed around the room, and gasped when she realised she’d been moved. She didn’t remember being moved.

As her gaze ranged back to her immediate vicinity, her eyes rested on the thin green covered book with gold writing, and something vaguely solidified in her mind. Picking it up Hermione read its title. The Secret and Profound Language of Flowers, by E.L. Picklesworth, and suddenly it all rushed back into focus.

How much had actually been a dream? Her eyes rested on the little vase of Hellebore, and she gasped. Opening the cover of the book Hermione assured herself that her thoughts were correct. Yes, right there on the inside on the mottled paper of the loose end leaf was, ‘Ex libris, S.T. Snape’. However, her sudden curiosity was interrupted as people abruptly came to a screaming halt in the doorway.

“Oh thank, god, you’re finally awake,” Harry all but yelled before launching himself at her.

He was closely followed by Ginny. “Merlin, I’m so happy you’re all right.”

Hermione had scooted back up the bed to a sitting position when she’d seen them, and now found herself being hugged hungrily. Neville stood back awkwardly and watched, not saying anything, but nodded in greeting when Hermione’s eyes met his.

Finally, she managed to extradite herself from the grasp of her friends and in her weakened state that was enough to have her collapsing back onto the pillows again.

Her attentive companions saw this and started all over again. “Sorry, ‘Mione,” Harry said, panicked.

Then observing her state Ginny added, “Oh, we haven’t hurt you have we?”

Hermione was just opening her mouth when the next question hit her.

“What happened, no one will tell us?”

Hermione looked down at the book she had dropped in shock at their approach, and started to pick it back up. Damn, she thought, my hands are shaking again. Picking up the little book she gently placed it back on the table next to her bed to buy herself some time to think.

Looking up at the clear green eyes watching her from behind their spectacles, then to the pretty redhead and her other friend, the shy herbologist, she sighed. “I’ve been here since yesterday… I think?” Hermione tried not to make her tone accusative. “Why are you only just coming now?”

“We’re sorry Herms, we only found out you were in here this morning.” Ginny shrugged and continued, “Well you know it’s not unusual for you not to turn up for breakfast or be in the common room at night lately, and we knew you were upset yesterday,” her friend added, cross with herself all over again for believing her lying brother, and hoping that he was still vomiting slugs.

Just then the matron bustled in. “Ah, I see you have finally found Miss Granger awake,” she observed. She heated Hermione’s potion and handed it to her. “Drink quickly,” she stated in a business-like fashion, and then added, “You know these three have been sitting outside ever since lessons finished, waiting for you to wake up.”

Once Hermione had taken her potion the matron disappeared again, and her three friends all settled on the end of the bed, but soon Harry saw the flowers.

“Where’d they come from?”

“Oh,” Hermione said glancing at them in what she hoped was a casual way. She was just trying to think of what to say when Neville piped up.

Helleborus niger, Christmas rose,” and he shrugged when everyone looked at him.

Hermione gave him a tiny smile and said, “I’m not really sure, they were there when I woke up... maybe Professor McGonagall.” Hermione’s knew her little fib would be covered by her head of house should anyone ask, but she didn’t expect any of them to take it seriously enough to do that.

“So what exactly happened to you?” Ginny wanted to know.

Here Hermione decided she could get away with an exaggeration… well, may be. “I’m not entirely sure, I used a spell that drained my magic too much after I sustained a concussion. She shrugged. “Well, that’s what I’ve been told.” She touched her hand to the plaster on her head. Well it was true, I don’t actually know why the spell affected me so badly.

Harry’s look of horror said everything. “What spell was it?”

Now that would be giving too much away, she thought. “It was an advanced one I’ve been experimenting with. I taught it too myself in case I needed it, the war and everything you know.”

Of course, Ginny being Ginny, she pushed. “So, what spell?

Giving in, she sighed. “Moblicorpus,” she admitted very quietly.

“How did you drain yourself with that, what were you doing, carrying Hagrid through the Forbidden Forest?” Harry asked.

Hermione giggled nervously. “Not exactly,” she replied vaguely. “Look, I can’t really remember,” she finally put in, stifling a yawn.

Her friends looked at one another and shrugged and Harry changed the subject to the last Quidditch game.

Hermione rolled her eyes, but at least it got the subject off things she did not want to talk about. However, it wasn’t long after this that Madam Pomfrey came through again, and much to Hermione’s relief, ordered, “Okay everybody, out... now! You’ve seen her, and now she needs her rest,” and she started bustling Hermione’s visitors towards the doors.

They shrugged and waved, still talking about Quidditch. “We’ll come back tomorrow,” Harry called over his shoulder, as the matron shooed them.

~~~***~~~

“You’re late.” Snape snapped glaring at the redhead. Can this boy not stay out of trouble? the Potions master seethed to himself. “Stand up straight when I speak to you, Weasley,” he snarled at him.

 “I’m sorry, I was… held up... sir,” he stated evasively.

 Severus instantly knew he was lying, and his lip curled as his voice snapped, “Held up?” Without a second thought Severus slipped into the boy’s mind and saw him thrusting up into Lavender Brown’s mouth as she performed sloppy fellatio on his less than adequate member. He sneered, before continuing with his scolding, most displeased with what he had seen. “Punctuality is very important regardless of the nature of the activity detaining you, boy. You are making up for not paying attention in class today, have you learnt nothing? Ten points.” He waved a hand vaguely to the pile of cauldrons on the side bench. “Spotlessly clean, understood?”

Ron glared at his teacher, almost spitting, “Yes,” and seeing his teacher’s eyebrow rising at his tone he added a strained, “sir.”

“Wish to try for twenty points off, Weasley?”

Turning bright red under the professor’s gaze the redhead stood there, mouth open before the filthy pile of cauldrons to be cleaned, and quickly shook his head.

“Then wipe that look off your face, and remember the reason you’re here, you little fool.” The word prick was on the tip of his tongue but he remained civil. When the boy remained stationary, staring at him, Snape bellowed. “Well, I’m not offering gold engraved invitations. Get started!” and he was gratified to see the sullen young man jump to work.

~~~***~~~

In her hospital bed, Hermione quietly picked up the book from the bedside table once her carer had finally left her alone again after dinner. Opening to the introduction, she started to read about how each flower or herb had an innate meaning, and how messages both positive and negative could be conveyed using flowers as a form of language. After a time she sat back against her pillows to fathom what she’d just read. Thinking a moment before looking back at the page she was reading. Suddenly what her professor had said that morning clicked, flowers, hidden messages... Puzzle.

She turned to the Hellebore, then back to the book. To her delight she found after the introduction the book was actually an extensive list of flowers, herbs and tree names, complete with the meanings of each type.

What did Neville call this? Hermione looked at the innocuous looking white flowers. Oh yes, that’s right. Eagerly she looked up Hellebore, her heart skipped a beat in excitement when she read in the little book, ‘tranquilise my anxiety’. Looking back at the flowers she thought further. Tranquilise, what does that mean? Her brow furrowed… Dull down perhaps. What does a tranquiliser do, calm. Calm my anxiety, is he trying to tell me something?

Then Hermione remembered he’d said there was more, and that he had told her to call his elf. Could she do this, she had never summoned a house elf to do her bidding before. Now, what name did he say?… Oh, that’s right, “Lotti!” she called tentatively. There was a small pop and an inquisitive looking house elf landed on the end of the bed. Hermione jumped in shock, before wondering what to say.

As if the elf sensed her inexperience she spoke. “Master of Potions told Lotti that little lioness would call her, how can Lotti serve?”

Hermione blinked several times hearing the name the elf had designated her, before she asked, “Lotti could you bring me the next part of the puzzle, please?”

“Lotti is happy to serve.” There was another pop and she was gone.

Hermione went back to perusing the book, wondering who would think to call her little lioness, of course, that had to be the elf’s name for her. Although, the creature had told her that the Potions professor had said it. Hermione suddenly scolded herself at the hope that flared in her chest. Don’t try reading more into this than there is, she counselled herself.

~~~***~~~

Meanwhile, in the dungeons, Ron jumped at the pop the elf made as she arrived. He dropped the cauldron he was currently washing, bathing himself in hot soapy water, and this made him swear.

Snape glared at him irritatedly. “Language, Weasley! A little jumpy aren’t we?” However, internally his thoughts were far more descriptive of the situation.

Ron just glared, and Snape thought about deducting more points. Then seeing the boy’s intense interest at the new arrival the dark wizard cast a wandless silencing charm, and his whole demeanour changed to almost amicable as he turned to the elf. “Yes, Lotti?”

“If you please, master, little lioness is ready for the next specimen,” she squeaked politely.

“Oh, very well,” he said quietly, and dug carefully into his pocket, carefully enlarging the flowers before handing them to her.

Ron watched this process out of the corner of his eye suspiciously. Who’s the greasy git giving flowers to? And he was cross that he couldn’t actually see what the flowers were, as the elf only came to the top of Snape’s desk.

Severus sent Lotti on her way and glared at Ron again. “Well, get on with it, Weasley,” he instructed removing his silencing spell.

~~~***~~~

This time Hermione didn’t jump so badly, and the fragrance that instantly invaded the room was beautiful. She took the offered flower and the elf was gone again. Hyacinth, she thought and brought it to her nose, inhaling deeply. It was such a heady fragrance, and it crossed her mind to wonder where he had come by a spring flower in winter. Then she thought, that’s not the point here, Granger, eyes on the prize woman.

Hermione quickly flicked through the book looking for ‘H’. But that makes no sense, she thought, games and sport, rashness, dedicated to Apollo. Who was Apollo... and she set her brain to thinking. Greek protector and healer to the Gods. She shook her head. Still making little sense, and she scanned down the page further. “Oh,” she said out loud. Different colours mean different things.”

She looked back to the flower. No, not blue, this is purple. Hermione turned her eyes back to the book, purple Hyacinth and her mouth dropped open. Next to that colour the words written were, ‘I’m sorry’. She brought her hand to her mouth. This was a message of apology. ‘Calm my anxiety, I’m sorry’.

Hermione couldn’t wait to see what the next flower meant. She knew how to play now. “Lotti,” she called, more confidently this time, and when the elf arrived, Hermione smiled at her. “The next one please,” and she watched as Lotti bowed.

~~~***~~~

Ron still jumped, but at least this time he managed to hang on to the cauldron he was washing. “Already,” he heard Snape say to the elf, and the redhead watched suspiciously as she nodded.

“Very well,” Severus replied quietly, and then looking towards Ron he stated curtly, “I will return momentarily, I will know if you’ve touch anything, apart from the cauldrons.”

He started walking into his office, glancing back towards Ron once, and noticing him craning his freckled neck to try and see what was happening. “Weasley, cauldrons,” he barked, before turning back to his elf. “Come,” he said quietly, and the elf dashed after him.

It didn’t seem very long to Ron and the Potions professor came back minus the elf. Ron thought he actually looked pleased, until he scowled in his direction.

~~~***~~~

“Snow drops,” Hermione said as Lotti handed her the flowers. Her fingers were then deftly moving pages, even though they were shaking, and for more than one reason. “Here it is, Snow drop... hope.”

The elf had stayed this time and when Hermione looked back up, she was watching her with her huge protuberant eyes. Her expressive ears were bent down at the top, and the Gryffindor witch wondered, was that inquisitiveness? Looking at the elf’s apparent amusement, she couldn’t help asking, “Does master of Potions carry on these sorts of conversations with anyone else, Lotti?”

Much to her surprise the little elf answered, “No, little lioness.”

Hermione’s mouth dropped open again. “Oh,” she gasped. “Hope,” she cried excitedly as she found the meaning. “Calm my anxiety, I’m sorry. Hope... hope what?” she recited shakily, now very flustered. Looking back to the elf she saw her watching her patiently, and she smiled at her. “It sounds to me like this puzzle depends on the next word, doesn’t it?” The elf nodded making her huge ears flap.

Hermione’s smile broadened. “Then, if you please, Lotti,” and she watched the elf bow and leave again.

~~~***~~~

This time Severus swivelled his chair around so that his eager observer could not see the look of satisfaction on his face before he set the silencing charm and quietly inquired of his elf, “She’s worked out the game, hasn’t she?” He watched his elf nod. “She really is astoundingly quick.” He surveyed the elf’s innocent looking eyes. “Don’t tell her I said that, will you? Here you go, tell her this is the last one for the moment,” and the elf was gone. When he had turned back around his features were schooled and he went back to his marking.

~~~***~~~

Hermione was now sitting excitedly, waiting for the next offering. However, when it arrived she looked at it puzzled. “What’s that?” Then looking at the leaves as she absently rubbed them, and a comforting fragrance reached her nose. Where had she smelt that before? Bringing her fingers to her nose, fragrant plant leaves, perfumed soap, that’s it... Geranium.”

She quickly flipped through to the Geraniums, and looked with horror down the page, there were many different types. But wait, she thought, they’re divided up by leaf shape or leaf fragrance. Hermione suspected that this one was a leaf shape one, because it only smelt like geranium, and nothing specific. Okay, so what shape is the leaf; ivy, round, needle or oak? Oak definitely oak. “Friendship,” Hermione gasped, as she found it on the list. “He hopes for friendship, he’s sorry and he wants to be my friend.” Hermione looked expectantly at Lotti.

“Master said that was the last one for now. What do I tell master?”

Yes, oh yes, tell him, yes, Hermione thought, then looking down at the book. “Hang on a minute, Lotti, can you get me a flower to send him in return?” The little elf nodded. “Right,” she stated resolutely, and started scanning for a flower that said ‘yes’ instead. She went through A and B, but when she got to C her finger stopped on carnation. A solid coloured carnation means yes. “But what colour?” She read down the meanings of each colour. No, not red, don’t want to declare love, well not yet, and definitely not yellow. White, that’s it, a white carnation. “Lotti, please collect me a white carnation, and bring it here.”

Lotti nodded and was gone. A moment later she was back.

“Perfect,” Hermione asserted. “Can you add a Gryffindor ribbon, just like these Slytherin ones?” The elf nodded, Hermione smiled as it all appeared. “Thank you, Lotti, you have been a great help, could you deliver it to the professor, please?”

A smile broke onto her wrinkled face. “Lotti is very pleased to serve, little lioness.”

The elf was about to bow and leave when Hermione lent forward and gently caught her arm. “Who calls me little lioness, is that an elf name?” She watched as Lotti shook her head and examined her like she was stupid and Hermione wondered why.

“Master of Potions does, of course.”

Hermione gasped but then chuckled. “Are you certain he doesn’t add ‘know-it-all’ after the ‘little lioness’ bit?” The Gryffindor witch most certainly wasn’t prepared for the answer.

“Only sometimes.”

“Oh,” and her mouth hung open. After she had recovered she smiled. “Okay, Lotti, thank you again for your help, better deliver that before he gets impatient.”

“Very good,” and she was gone.

Hermione lay back on her pillows only just realising how exhausted she was again, but she must have had a starry look in her eye, because Madam Pomfrey commented on it as she came in with her potion.

“Who are you thinking about then?”

Hermione instantly blushed bright red. “Oh… no one,” she said, trying to sound casual, but knowing she sounded and even appeared very guilty. The pit of her stomach flipped and twisted in excruciating delight as she thought of her secret. She tried desperately to think of something mundane under the mediwitch’s narrowed gaze, however, but she was really just too happy and warm inside to bother, and she wished with all her heart she was in her own rooms right now and not having her beautiful moment spoilt by this crabby old spinster’s disapproval.

~~~***~~~

“Finished… sir.”

Snape’s head shot up, and he saw Ron standing waiting, obviously expecting more to do, but Severus just went back to his work. When he looked up again and saw the boy still standing there, he glared at him and said irritatedly, “Well, get out then, Weasley.”

“Oh,” said Ron not quite believing his luck, he was about to leave without another word when he saw the elf arrive, this time carrying a flower tied with what looked suspiciously like a Gryffindor ribbon, and Snape looked irritated that he was still there.

“Out, Weasley!” he roared. “Are you deaf, as well as stupid?” and Severus started to draw his wand.

Seeing this, the boy scurried out the door before he had a chance to hex him.

Severus had heard Lotti arrive but couldn’t bring himself to look at her until he was alone. Fucking stupid idiot, like I’d bother to hex him, he thought, and he used his wand to lock the door. Once he knew he was secure, he looked around and gasped, he had been expecting a verbal answer. “She really did learn the game, didn’t she?” he stated to his elf

The little elf smiled happily and nodded, “Lotti likes little lioness, sir.”

He didn’t answer but chuckled, “Very well, Lotti, last one,” and he handed her the rosemary and she bowed.

~~~***~~~

Hermione was just settling down after the puzzle game, and was surprised to see Lotti back. “Oh,” she gasped at the small pop.

Lotti held out her long arm.

“Rosemary,” the young woman said quietly, and she picked up the book again. It didn’t take her long to confirm what she already suspected, “Fidelity,” she smiled serenely. “Oh Lotti,” she gasped quietly.  Yes, he needs another answer. This was starting to feel a little surreal, but she loved it. Hermione quickly separated the rosemary into two bunches and retied hers with the ribbon. It took her sometime to search the book for a flower whose meaning indicated trust, but eventually she found one.

“Lotti, could you acquire a freesia flower for me, please,” she watched the elf pick up one of the Hellebore flowers and transfigure it. “Thank you, now conjure a Slytherin ribbon the same as this one,” she said, pointing to the one on her bunch. “Then a Gryffindor red one half that length, please.” Lotti nodded and did it. Hermione placed the red ribbon in the centre and took the three loose strains of ribbon and plaited them together tucking the ends into the braid, and twisting it around the stems. “Please take this to master of Potions with the message, one unto the other,” Hermione asked.

Lotti smiled, and bowing, was gone.

Severus was now in his office marking a different lot of papers when Lotti came back. The professor was guilty of having a warm fuzzy feeling rapidly spreading through him again, even if he was trying very hard not to acknowledge it. When he saw what the little elf was offering him as answer, a lump rose in his throat. Hermione was offering her fidelity, and trust in return. His eyes ran over the flowers and settled on the two colours of ribbon, and he had to swallow suddenly to rein in his emotion.

Lotti didn’t just want to blurt out the message, so she remained silent and watched, her ears very erect.

Severus knew that look. “Is there something else, Lotti?”

“Sir, little lioness gave a message.”

His eyebrow swept up. “Yes,” he managed, but didn’t trust his voice any further.

“She say, one unto the other,” and having delivered her message, the elf bowed and left, leaving Severus examining the rosemary he had been handed. He looked at it carefully, yes she had only given him back half. Yes, he thought, that is enough. I think this pledge will seal it. We shall see, as soon as she is well enough.

Eventually he picked up his quill and looked back down at his marking, but Severus found a tentative smile erupting on his face. He looked back up, reclined in his chair and lay the quill back down. Lacing his fingers together over his stomach he pondered what to do next. What would the next step be? If you wished to gain someone’s friendship and trust you would visit them, would you not? His next thought was wondering how long she would be in a position where he could visit her without drawing attention.

Then a thought tickled the edges of his brain. He had been asked to do it before, perhaps this time he could offer. Yes that’s a delightful idea, his mind told him. Quickly completing his marking he headed for his quarters. It was all coverable, and besides there were very few people around now as it was after curfew.

Chapter Text


Collecting a book, Severus headed towards the hospital wing. Poppy was still in her office, and she looked irritatingly pleased to see him. Piece of cake, said his Slytherin brain. “Ah Poppy, you’re still up. I’ve decided to repay you for stitching me back together by sitting up for you tonight.”

“That is not necessary, Severus, I’m fine.”

“Nonsense, you look exhausted,” he assured her. “Allow me to make some tea for you.”

“Severus, I’m fine,” she protested in reply.

He ignored her, and did not even wish to know why her cheeks were colouring a little. “Here you go, camomile tea with a dash of honey to relax you.” He placed the brewed beverage before her, careful not to sound the least bit enthusiastic. Sitting opposite her, he waited while he sipped his own. It didn’t take long and she relaxed and started to yawn. “It appears you’re more tired than you thought, Poppy,” he drawled mesmerizingly.

“Possibly I am,” she said appearing quite puzzled. “Well, if you’re offering to stay up and give Miss Granger her potions then maybe I will get some sleep.”

His eyebrow slid slyly aloft. “Is there anything else that needs seeing to?”

“No, only Miss Granger’s midnight potion, which completes her twenty four hour course. If she’s careful to rest,” Poppy slurred her words as she looked more puzzled and yawned again, “then it won’t take her long to regain her strength.”

“Indeed, that is good to hear. I can manage Miss Granger’s potion, good night, Poppy.”

“Good night, Severus, and thank you.”

He watched her drag herself to her quarters and smiled. “You’re welcome, Poppy.” Smirking, he patted the partially empty phial in his coat pocket. He felt a momentary pang of guilt, but then grabbed her cup and used a strong scouring charm to clean it well before leaving and shutting her office door.

As he headed out into the main ward, he looked towards Hermione’s room, but then turned around and placed alarms on the Floo and doors to alert him of anyone’s approach. Especially that miscreant Potter, and his confounded invisibility cloak, he thought contemptuously, but then sighed. He did feel slightly guilty for drugging Poppy, and to ease his conscience over it, he thought, well she did deserve a good night’s sleep. I really haven’t done her a disservice, and he walked towards the room containing the sleeping young woman as he muttered, “Tempus.” The time flashed brightly in front of him. “Eleven fifteen,” he sighed settling into the large wing backed chair beside her bed as he extracted his book from his coat pocket.

The young woman murmured in her sleep and turned over to face him, and this instantly took his attention. He wondered what had caused her to do that. Maybe just a coincidence, he considered, but now her face was towards him, all thoughts of reading fell from his mind. The sereneness that sleep provided made her face glow tonight. It also pleased him to see she was a much better colour. Her soft bow-like mouth, partially open, drew his immediate attention, and his eyes fixated on it as he found himself unconsciously wetting his lips.

This scared him; he appeared to have little control over it, or of the growing awareness of her magic reaching out to his. It was disconcerting. She seemed as consciously aware of his presence as he was of hers and she was somehow craving his attention.

There had been several dreams of late where that sensation had fuelled realistic fantasies... but whose? He’d thought them only his; he needed distance again, to think. Severus was abruptly out of the chair and back into the ward, a lump rising in his throat. Damn this persona I’m forced to endure. He wanted to run, but he had sewn all the edges together so neatly, and he had trapped himself. Fuck, I’m such a smart arse, and looking down at his hands he realised they were shaking. Could this actually be reality, even without the affinity, does she in point of fact already care for me? Remember what she said last night.

He needed to calm himself, taking a deep cleansing breath, Severus realised he needed his music. Striding into Poppy’s office, he raised his wand and piano music (1) instantly flowed around him. His audible sigh also helped, and setting an alarm for eleven fifty five he closed his eyes, willing his mind to close around the emotions and cocoon them safely. It would only bring horror if he couldn’t do this, so it needed to be practiced.

The music caressed him gently as he sat in Poppy’s office chair and drifted to his ethereal plane of safety, his one remaining private inner-sanctum. If he could trust her enough, he could take her where his persona could peel off to reveal the person he desperately wanted her to see things might just work. Tonight would be an experiment to ascertain whether this might be possible once she was not a student.

He sighed again. Can I really contemplate this? Even though I seem to be getting encouragement from all sides, it’s all so foreign. I’ve never had the opportunity of making another friend since Lily, have I forgotten how? Did I ever know? My friendship with her was less than a roaring success. He sighed once more. I guess only time will tell.

~~~***~~~

Approximately ten minutes ago Hermione’s dream had changed. She suddenly felt lost and cold. Something changed, but she didn’t know what.  She had felt so warm and secure, but then a sudden coldness. Shivering, she drifted out of sleep, and something profoundly beautiful shifted into her hearing. It felt surreal to start with, was she at home? She hadn’t heard that since she had needed solace over summer. She must be still dreaming.

The young woman blinked hard several times and her gaze drifted around the room. No, definitely still at Hogwarts. She sat up. The urge to reach the source of the music was overwhelming. Gingerly slipping her legs over the side of the bed, her thought processes were practical. Okay, legs are shaky, but holding me up, yes. Smiling at this small achievement, she continued her internal monologue. Right, first things first, bathroom, she shrugged shakily into her dressing gown and slippers, looking determinedly at the door in the opposite wall of the little room.

Relieved, and her teeth clean as well—an irritatingly ingrained habit—she listened. Yes I can still hear it. Hermione hurried towards the comfort, terrified that it would escape her before she managed to find it. Rushing to the door she realised her head was swimming now she was up-right, so moving fast was not a good plan. She grasped the door frame to right herself, standing there panting softly as she felt a thin sheen of perspiration making itself known on her top lip. After resting a moment she slowly made her way towards what she craved, clinging to the wall for support.

Severus had vaguely heard her stir through his self-imposed mist, and one part of his brain left his comfort to find her as he realised her presence was getting slowly closer. Why can I sense that so clearly? He wondered. It came as no surprise when he heard a breathy voice, but what it gushed airily did surprise him greatly.

“I simply love, L’Alouette.”

Severus refused to react until he was sure his voice was in control. “Indeed, Miss Granger,” and his eyes slowly opened to meet hers.

The gentleness of his words shocked her somewhat, and then more after watching her a moment when he continued speaking.

“You don’t seem surprised to find me here.”

“Should I be?” Hermione’s head was letting her down again and she held on tighter to the doorframe. “Haven’t you just made it beautifully and elaborately clear you wish... a closer acquaintance?”

“Elaborately?” he chuckled. “You think our little game… elaborate?”

Hermione watched as he quirked his head, and that elegant eyebrow rose smoothly.

She quivered to her core. “Y-yes, s-sir,” she stuttered. “It was elaborate, fun and... oh so very sweet,” she breathed as she locked onto his gaze.

As if trying to gain some control he felt he’d lost, he scolded her. “You should not be out of bed,” but his voice was still calm and gentle, even with a firm edge to it, and he could see that the way he wielded it as a tool made her quiver. He stood. “Come,” he encouraged and the music ceased.

Hermione immediately felt bereft, cold. She wanted the music back, but there was something far more urgent as she realised that even if she had wanted to ‘come’ as he’d instructed; the only thing holding her up was her shaky grip on the door frame. It was as though the music had sustained her efforts to get where she was. She looked up as Severus paused before her, and there was panic in her eyes. “I’m not sure that’s possible,” she whispered fearfully.

Hearing the note of panic in her voice, and seeing it plainly in her eyes he calmly inspected her. There was perspiration dappling her brow and upper lip, and she had a white-knuckled grip on the door frame. He knew the moment her legs buckled and he was there, sweeping her into his grasp like she weighed nothing. He may have only been whip-thin himself, but he was strong and fit.

Hermione felt the swift movement then the security of being cradled against his chest. Unable to help herself she rested her head on it and cursed weakly, “Damn!”

She heard a low rumble come from his chest and his murmured breath caressed her hair like a sweet smelling breeze as he spoke. “What’s wrong?”

“I didn’t mean for that to happen, I don’t like being vulnerable,” and she glanced up at him, blushing furiously.

“Indeed,” she heard, he sounded unconvinced.

Hermione felt the need to explain further as she examined her hands. “I’m sorry to put you to this trouble,” Her voice had grown so tiny.

Severus stopped. He looked down at the trembling bundle in his arms, and many things passed through his mind. “Surprisingly, it is no trouble, Miss Granger,” he finally stated flatly, but found that he genuinely felt it to be true.

It was said more kindly then she’d ever heard him speak and she graced him with a tiny smile.

“Now, back to bed, you obviously need more rest,” he declared a moment later. “We will speak further another time.” He walked her to her room and lightly placed her back on her bed. “First things first,” he stated as right on cue the alarm he’d set went off. “I’ll get you your potion.” With work-like detachment he disappeared out the door, leaving a flustered and confused woman to arrange herself back into her bed.

When he returned he had schooled his features once more, and she watched him warming the potion, as disappointment surged through her. No, I am not letting him close off again, she thought. “Sir?”

“What is it, Miss Granger?” his voice contained no hint of irritation.

This encouraged her to ask her question. “Could I hear the music again, please?” She was certain she saw the corner of his mouth rise a fraction but he said nothing, and a moment later the music wafted over her once more.

This time the burst of gold from the potion occurred a millisecond after her sigh of contentment as she sank back into the comfort of it, and when he handed her the potion she smiled. “Thank you, sir.”

He nodded to her. “You’re welcome, Miss Granger,” and then he smirked at her. “Now sleep or it goes again.”

“That’s black mail,” she gasped, handing him back the empty phial.

His eyebrow swept upward. “Indeed, and you can’t do a thing about it...”

“So sleep, I know,” she finished his sentence for him and smiled. “Will you sit with me?”

He watched her a moment and huffed liked she was being painfully irritating, but he sat anyway and retrieved his book from his coat pocket.

Silence settled, apart from the music, and Hermione slid down her bed a little and cuddled one of her pillows while she watched him intently as he read.

Finally, he sighed and placed the book on his lap. “Do you not have the energy to shoot your hand in the air?” His smirk at her told her it was humour. “Not enough energy to wiggle your fingers incessantly, Mmm?”

“My fingers do not wiggle incessantly,” she stated, aghast.

“Oh please, from one who has been the object of your excessive finger wiggling for the past six and a bit years, believe me when I tell you, your fingers truly are relentless.”

“I’m certain I completely stopped finger wiggling in my fourth year,” she huffed, blushing crimson, as biting her lip, she admitted, “It was about the same time Harry informed me that when I sat up straight and animatedly wiggled my fingers in the air… other things jiggled as well, and all the boys in the class were... err looking.”

“Indeed,” Severus smoothed, arching his eyebrow gracefully.

Hermione was astounded anew that he could infuse such meaning into one word. She worried her lip further with her teeth, before continuing softly, “I decided it was just too distracting.”

She was so awfully serious, and he couldn’t help his next comment. “How terribly magnanimous of you,” he smirked, but she could see he was having trouble stifling a smile. “Now go to sleep.”

The air remained charged with silence, until, “Sir?”

“What did I tell you, I knew it was coming, Miss Granger has a question,” Severus accused animatedly.

“But I didn’t wiggle my fingers at all,” she countered playfully.

He sighed. “No, granted, my apprentice, there was no finger wiggling evident at all. What is your question?”

“Where is Madam Pomfrey?”

He pursed up his lips and lent forward conspiratorially. “I drugged her and sent her to bed.”

Hermione spluttered, “You what!?”

He tsked and rolled his eyes. “Go to sleep, Miss Granger.”

However, determined for at least part of an answer, Hermione changed tack. “No, maybe I mean, why are you here?”

She heard him sigh once more. “I work here, you may remember I have tried diligently to install a knowledge of Potions into dim brained students...” but there was no real malice behind his words, and Hermione cut him off.

“I know six and a bit years,” she chuckled, then sighed. “You’re not going to tell me, are you?”

He pinched the bridge of his nose. “Right, that’s it,” he threatened sharply, but looked at her like he was about to genuinely smile. “The music goes.”

“No, not the music,” she enthused dramatically, extending her arm and accidently wiggling her fingers without thinking. “I’ll go to sleep, I promise.”

He latched onto the finger wiggling. “Aha, I rest my case, finger wiggling.”

Hermione’s hand shot under the pillow. “Damn,” she huffed, turning to grin at him. “Good night, sir,” she enthused as the grin settled into a contented smile.

“Good night, Miss Granger, sleep well,” he replied almost cheerfully. Hermione watched him for another moment. “Will you be comfortable enough, sir?”

“Good night, Miss Granger,” he said more emphatically, then looking at her genuine concern he added, “I’ll be fine, do not concern yourself.”

Snape watched Hermione from under his lashes as she tried to unsuccessfully settle down, and after pretending to read for six pages he finally asked, “Do you wish a sleeping potion, Miss Granger?”

“No, but a cup of tea would be nice. I normally have one before bed. I must admit I didn’t realise how much of an ingrained habit it had become.”

“Very well, tea it is.” Drawing his wand he pointed to the bedside table and a fine china mug arrived. Hermione watched as it filled with aromatic tea. He obviously had a pot somewhere else in the castle.

She saw Severus raise an eyebrow, and she understood his question, which puzzled her, but she answered. “Oh, just a little milk, please.” It smelt amazing. Hermione picked it and blew on it before taking a sip, she was about to say thank you, but what came out could only be described as a moan. “Oh! This is amazing. How am I ever going to drink normal tea again?”

“Settle down, Miss Granger; it’s only tea.”

“It most certainly is not only tea, what’s in it?”

He chuckled happily. “Would you have a brewer give away all of his secrets?”

“No, just as long as you tell me,” she countered, smiling cheekily.

“No,” he said. “It’s my concoction, and will remain so,” then looking at her, he added, “Now drink your tea and go to sleep.”

“Yes, sir,” and this time she rolled her eyes at him.

He pretended not to notice and went back to his book.

Hermione hid her smile behind the mug. How had her evening taken this turn? Over the past months she had been given tiny glimpses of the Potions master’s human side, but she was still more than astounded that he would choose to share it so fully with her on this occasion. Maybe he still feels guilty over this morning?

She sighed contentedly. Nevertheless she felt very privileged to have finally seen it in full view. However, she couldn’t help wondering sadly if this was a one off experience. I really hope not. She finished her tea as she considered this, and finally found herself yawning. She took one last look at the man in black, apparently deeply engrossed in his book, and her eyes started to close. He was beautiful. Elegant and sweet too, and she desperately wanted to get out of bed and climb up onto the chair to be in his arms once more. She had felt totally at peace while he carried her before, even if it had flustered her and had only been because she couldn’t walk.

She plainly knew not many would agree with her opinion of him, but she didn’t care and smiling she closed her eyes, letting the music, which had changed several times and was now another of her favourites, a Chopin nocturne (2), lull her to sleep as she lay there feeling profoundly secure from this most amazing man’s presence.

Severus looked up when he finally sensed her drift off, and he smiled at how comfortable their banter had been. Sighing softly, he extending the chair into a more comfortable place so his long legs were also resting and he settled down to think. He knew he shouldn’t stay, but he couldn’t make himself move.

He glanced down at the book he was reading. What was the best way to inform her of what was actually happening between them? He was aware that she knew something of it, but she couldn’t possibly understand it all yet. Best to only explain the bare facts to start with. Then there was the problem of other people, especially Dumbledore and his confounded ability to confuse people into letting slip with things without their knowledge.

Gazing at the sleeping young woman, he considered a moment. He was certain she would be a match for the old buzzard. In fact, he would see to it personally that she was. This bond was too personal to share. It was no one’s business but his and Hermione’s, and especially not the business of unscrupulous wizards who would use it as leverage for what they wanted. Then he considered that in some ways the Dark Lord was actually more honest than Dumbledore. Both of them could be very brutal, but at least with the Dark Lord you knew to expect it; he never lulled you into a false sense of security before striking.

It was at this point that his mind started to wander. He had never thought of his blend of tea as anything special, even though he preferred it to all other blends he’d tried. Obviously he needed to rethink that. I must finally be getting tired, he mused sleepily. Stretching up to lock his hands behind his head he dozed off with a vague feeling on contentment thrumming through him.

~~~***~~~

As was his custom, Severus rose early and made the chair an ordinary seat one more. He was about to vanish all but the Hellebore, being ever vigilant. We mustn’t have any questions, must we? his brain decided, but then he turned to look at the still sleeping Hermione. It occurred to him that she may wish to keep the flowers. Sighing he whispered, “Lotti.”

The elf arrived with a faint pop, but remained silent.

“Take all but these, to little lioness’ room and arrange them beside her bed.”

The elf nodded and bowed, not speaking, and was gone as quickly as she’d come, taking the flowers with her.

When she had departed Severus looked back to Hermione and saw she was still peaceful, but then his eyes strayed to the book resting on the bedside table. Feeling in his pocket he withdrew the one he’d been reading the previous night and placed it down with the little green volume. He was about to depart for the matron’s office but paused, and extracting a quill and parchment from his pocket, he scrawled a quick note and placed it inside the cover of the book. Then thinking of the need for confidentiality, he pointed his wand to add a privacy charm as well. When satisfied, he quietly turned on his heel and left Hermione to sleep.

It felt extremely surreal to him that he had just spent the night next to Hermione Granger’s bed and he had enjoyed her company intensely before sleep took her. He settled himself in Poppy’s office to await her before he went down for breakfast, thinking that he would give it some time now, and see what his new apprentice’s reaction was.

~~~***~~~

Hermione was surprised to discover she had slept very peacefully, and stretching she found herself much stronger today. Surveying the room silently she wondered yet again whether it had all been a dream, it certainly still felt surreal. Surely Professor Snape hadn’t come to her last night and offered friendship. Hermione pushed herself up the pillows and her eyes rested on the Hellebore; where had the other flowers gone? That spoke of imagining it all, surely. Her slightly disappointed eyes moved to the bedside table, and she gasped. Two books now. Her hand was just reaching to pick them up when Madam Pomfrey entered the room. Hermione abandoned the idea of picking up the book, and her eyes turned to the door as the matron came in, in her usual bustling style.

“Ah you’re finally with us again,” she commented, and in answer to Hermione’s puzzled look, she added, “It’s a little after ten o’clock, my dear, I thought you’d be awake before now.”

“Oh,” Hermione breathed.

“You’re looking much better, maybe the change in caregiver agreed with you, ay?” The elderly witch’s eyebrow rose suggestively, even as her mouth pinched just noticeably.

Hermione was not quite sure how to respond to this statement. “Err yes, perhaps. I am feeling much better today, thank you,” and she decided to leave any further comments well alone.

“Good, I’ll organise your breakfast,” the matron informed her and she was gone again.

Tentatively swinging her feet over the side of the bed, Hermione found her grip on the floor much stronger today, and quietly padded off to the bathroom. Upon her return she was just climbing into bed when her breakfast arrived, via the matron, who also informed her that she may wish to shower and dress after she had eaten. “There’s a change of clothes on the dresser,” she pointed to the neat pile folded on top of the little mirrored table, and then left her to eat.

Hermione lay back against her pillows. Suddenly her head was spinning wildly, and not from any weakness. She wanted to hug herself. So it was true, she took a sip of her tea, and almost spat it back out, it tasted bland and didn’t elicit the same reaction from her as last night’s special blend had, but her soft moan of frustration was lost to the room.

Still, she sat there totally contented. Smiling to herself, she mused on the fact that even if she could bring herself to tell anyone about last night’s development, they would have her committed for her trouble. It just didn’t seem possible that the most feared man at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry was professing his desire to be her friend... but he was, and it was her delicious secret.

Smiling she started on her breakfast, but eating was taking too long, and her gaze kept straying to the new book. Finally, she figured she had eaten enough to placate the matron and curiosity got the better of her. After all, leaving a book lying around and not expecting Hermione Granger to pick it up and voraciously devour it was more than was humanly possible, surely. With her lip firm her hand reached for it as she pushed the almost eaten breakfast away and looked to the book in her hand.

Lifting the little red volume into her line of sight she read the title. “Blood Bonds and Reciprocal Affinities, by Filius F Fickleheart.” However, her brow furrowed in puzzlement, why would her professor leave this book for her to read? Hermione’s mind raced, she opened the cover of the book and a small piece of parchment landed in her lap. Resting the book there as well, she opened the note.

Instantly recognising the penmanship of his cramped spidery script, she read. The message was written in the same style she had used the previous evening. She saw her message returned to her,

To my Apprentice,
One unto the other... so profound. Read and discover.
All will become clear with time.

S.S.

Hermione gasped. She didn’t completely understand yet, but it had to be to her the book was meant for. It was definitely addressed to her, and the initial at the end, coupled with the return of the words she had used to him last night signified it was from him. Hermione closed the book, and fixed her eyes to the title once more. She decided she needed time for this to filter in. The message in itself was plain to her. Be patient, also clear. Perhaps if she read the book, she would understand. The other thing that made her feel secure was the thrum of magic that surrounded the words and books. She was certain he had concealed them from prying eyes, also the message and his name in the front giving away the owner, and Hermione sighed as she felt the same magic stir under her fingers again when she ghosted them across the writing.

She rose from the bed and collected the book and parchment. Quickly placing the message back in the book she looked to the bedside table and thought, yes, they will be safe there while I have a shower, and she pondered as she headed for the bathroom that she actually did feel like doing something today. Her strength did seem to be returning.

Hermione concerned herself this morning on having a quick shower to freshen up, she would have liked to linger and relax herself a little, but decided that apart from the fact her legs might collapse under her if she stayed too long, she didn’t like the idea of leaving her note or borrowed books too long unattended. Even if her professor had added security measures as she suspected, most of the other professors would be able to see through them, and when she opened the door on exiting the bathroom she was eternally grateful that he had done so. She was also grateful that she’d had the foresight to take her clothes with her into the bathroom.

Chapter Text


“Professor Dumbledore,” Hermione gasped on returning to her room.

“Good morning, Miss Granger, you appear much brighter today.”

“Yes, thank you, sir, I do feel much better.”

“Good,” Dumbledore replied, as his astute eyes wafted around the room, returning to her in all their crystal blue fullness as he continued to speak. “Miss Granger, it has been brought to my attention...”

Hermione’s thoughts instantly assumed the worst. Oh no he’s found out about last night, but how? She was so busy obsessing, she almost missed the next bit.

“That you need to move on. So, I am arranging for you to sit your NEWT exams during the course of the next few weeks. By Christmas you will no longer be a student,” he stated enthusiastically.

His words suddenly bridged the fog in her brain and she started thinking the worst. “I beg your pardon, you’ve what?”

“Miss Granger don’t be so alarmed, every single one of your professors has indicated to me that you are working well beyond NEWT level. A couple have even intimated that they no longer wish you in their classes.” Here he had the unmitigated cheek to chuckle.

Hermione swallowed the lump that was now stuck in her throat on thinking her teachers didn’t want her, and grasping the entirely wrong end of the stick, the young woman wondered which ones. What she had done to deserve being thrown out of their class. Well, if that’s truly the way they feel, then I am better gone then, aren’t I? She hid her pain and acquiesced calmly through tight lips, “Yes, sir, if that’s what you wish.”

“Good, I’m very pleased. This will allow you to move on to greater achievements. I feel you have come to point where your school work is actually holding you back from becoming more useful to those around you.” His eyes twinkled quietly at her, but seeing her disharmony, he confirmed, “Please be assured that this is the correct step for you.”

Hermione nodded vaguely at him, still far too concerned with the fact that she assumed after she’d completed her exams that she would be sent away. Oh Dumbledore’s speaking again, she thought.

“I’ll inform you of the dates and times as soon as the ministry informs me, good day, Miss Granger.” He rose from the chair. “Oh and Miss Granger, keep this between us until you’re finished, won’t you?” With that the elderly wizard wandered out the door like he’d merely stopped by to enquire about her health, and not totally rip away the portion of her calm that last night’s interactions with Severus had just given her back.

Hermione had sat crossed-legged on the bed, and now she leaned back against the pillows. My goodness, what’s he asking me to do? What’s he saying about my teachers? Which ones have said they don’t want me in their class anymore, surely not Lupin or McGonagall? The obvious choice for one was Professor Snape, but we’ve already passed that bridge, haven’t we? So it wouldn’t be him, would it? Hasn’t he just intimated that he wants to be friends with me? Maybe I’ve misinterpreted what he meant?

Confusion suddenly filled her mind again. Why can’t I see what seems to be so simple to everyone else? Hermione sat there, now feeling a lead weight settling in her stomach and it wouldn’t shift. Her eyes prickled with tears as this latest rejection fuelled new, more hurtful misery.

Hermione found herself unconsciously reaching for the little red book. It was the only thing she had at hand that had been close to him recently, and her sudden yearning for his opinion scared her intensely. Clutching the book close she slid down the pillows curling into a ball. There was one thought invading her mind over riding all others. Severus! I want Severus, right now.

She missed the fact that he had suddenly migrated from Professor to Severus in her mind. The only thing real at this moment, was the knowledge that somehow he would know what to tell her. From somewhere inside her head she could hear his voice firm, strong and completely dispassionate. “Don’t be such a silly girl, Miss Granger, pull yourself together.”

It didn’t stop the wanting, but it did help. Sitting back up, she wiped away the tears and opened the book, and it centred her back to where she needed to be, concentrating on a task he had given her.

She hadn’t realised how long she had been reading until Madam Pomfrey entered with her lunch tray. Hermione stretched and put the book down, and glancing up, she thanked the matron.

The rest of her afternoon was spent head buried in her book, but when she finally finished it she sat back, still contemplating its implications. There were so many questions she wished answers to, and she wondered when she would get them.

Harry, Ginny and Neville arrived to spend time with her after classes. They immediately knew something was wrong, and tried to get out of her what was bothering her. Ginny especially, was always very insistent if she knew something was up with someone, but Hermione kept fobbing her off and eventually she gave up.

Harry and Neville told her about the classes she had missed, but their next casual piece of information made her blood run cold.

“Oh and Dumbledore took Potions this afternoon,” Neville added happily.

Hermione tried not to let them see how much this piece of information had affected her as she asked, “W-why, where was Professor Snape?”

“Who cares,” said Harry, “he wasn’t teaching us.”

“No, he didn’t teach us either,” added Ginny with enthusiasm. They could understand why Hermione’s mood suddenly took an even bigger nose dive.

~~~***~~~

It always seemed to happen if she was upset about something. It was at twilight she felt the worst, that brief time between light and dark. Whenever something was bothering her that’s when it snuck up and pummelled her senseless. However, something made it worse this time; she was filled with a strange coldness on top of her usual emotion of despair. Hermione gasped. It’s just like the sensation that roused me from my dream last night.

Curling back up in the little ball she had retreated into that morning, she clutched the little book like a talisman. So many issues clouding her judgement and pressing in on her. How has this all become so complicated?

She finally sighed and decided that an impartial examination of the facts might help her make sense of it all, and she pushed herself back up, wishing she had parchment and a quill as she started thinking about it all as rationally as she could.

One, I’m sitting my NEWT exams before Christmas. Two, regardless of what the headmaster said about working beyond this, I don’t have long to study and prepare for these exams. Three, once I’ve completed said exams they’re tossing me out. Four, the only friends I actually have I as good as ordered out this afternoon just because they were concerned about me, and wanted to know what was wrong. What kind of friend does that make me? Then there was the whole Severus issue, as if life isn’t complicated enough. Five, something has to give there, and where is he suddenly? I hope he’s all right.

Without thinking, she was recalling the whole history of her attraction. Really since I set eyes on him, I’ve been ensnared. It had started out innocent enough, he fuelled my curiosity, challenged me, and very few people functioned on a level that allows that. I’ve always craved interaction with him no matter how he treated me. Then it was about fourth year that the dreams started, and it turned into a school girl crush. She smiled quietly remembering. The mere utterance of my homework assignments in his silky baritone was enough to have me trembling, weak at the knees and running to my room afterwards to change my knickers.

She gave a little giggle, and felt that same moisture starting to tease her deliciously now even as she thought about it. She shifted and pressed her thighs together before going back to her thoughts. Now, well the feelings he brings forth in me, let’s just say they scare me with their intensity.

Then a sobering thought occurred to her and she sighed. And seven, I doubt, despite last night, that he feels the same for me, why would he? Sighing deeply, she became depressed once more. Hermione wanted to let herself believe it could be different, she wanted to read more into last night than she knew she should. It made her miserable to think she’d never even contemplated liking anyone else, for as long as she could remember it had always been him. So where is he? she thought worriedly.

Oh, and she inhaled sharply. That’s right, and eight... When my exams are over they’re sending me away. That’s when the first tear reached her pillow. I’ll never see him again. I’m a stupid, self-pitying and miserable creature who can’t relate to people her own age. Nobody wants me and now I’m just about to be thrown out of school.

By this time she had given up any pretence that she wasn’t sobbing heartily. After a little time she realised she was starting to get the book wet, she was certain that Severus, no... Professor Snape would be horrified if I give him his book back with tear stains on it.

Then another issue hit her, there was everything she had read in the book about magic affinity and blood bonds. She now understood many things about them, and it was all very interesting, but why had he asked her to read it?

There were so many questions just begging to be asked. Could she approach him, or would he turn on her and berate her about it? He occasionally still did that when he didn’t wish to discuss an issue with her. Hermione was certain that one evening of civilised banter with the man did not mean he would not turn on her the next time he her saw if he choose to, no matter how much she wished it otherwise.

Hermione became aware that her dinner would be arriving very soon, so she took several deep breaths trying to calm herself. She slipped off the bed and went to the bathroom to freshen herself up, but the tears stayed bubbling just below the surface. The Gryffindor witch loathed self-pity, but sometimes that was all she felt she had left at this juncture of the evening. Life seemed to be throwing her one curved ball after another at the moment.

As if trying to dislodge the feeling Hermione shook herself. If there was one thing her summing up in cold logic had caused her to realise she thought as she ate her dinner, was that she had a very important task ahead of her and only two months to prepare for it.

~~~***~~~

It was as Hermione was standing at the window contemplating all this again that she heard the ring of approaching footsteps on the stone floor. She recognised the step, her stomach instantly twisted and her heart soared. The foot falls were undoubtedly Severus’ but they were heavy and struck the floor with a force that worried Hermione intensely.

She turned in great trepidation, just in time to meet his intensely irritated gaze staring back from the doorway. This on top of everything else was the last thing she needed. As she watched him cautiously observing her, she fought the tears that wanted to engulf her once more. Why could she somehow sense something was dreadfully wrong?

It was without any preamble he stated flatly. “Sit down, Miss Granger, I have a change in circumstance to inform you of.”

This statement worried Hermione even more, and it must have shown in her face. 

Severus had deliberately waited until he knew the matron would be down at dinner, and he now turned and placed a silencing spell and a notice-me-not on the room, “Dumbledore will be taking my classes for a while,” he asserted flatly.

That was it, the triggerand her tears started. “I’m sorry, s-sir, please ignore me.” The last thing she wanted to do was cry in front of him when he was already in such a bad mood, but no matter what she did Hermione didn’t seem to be able to stem their flow. She turned toward the window and hugged herself. “It’s just been a really bad week,” she started, vainly attempting to compose herself.

Severus was watching her silently, finally she heard him moving towards her and sighing he reached inside his robes and handed her a handkerchief.

“Thank you,” she sobbed, wishing plaintively he would just enclose her in his arms.

Watching her a moment longer his hand went into his pocket again. “Here, I thought you might need this as well.” He had produced a phial of calming brew, but Hermione just cried harder.

Severus watched her, puzzled, as she valiantly tried to regain control of herself without taking the brew.

After a moment, she shook her head. “No, I’ll be fine,” she saw his dubious look as she wiped her eyes again. “Really,” she assured him in a shaky voice.

Raising a disbelieving eyebrow, Severus sighed. “Very well, but you need something,” he stated as he put the phial back in his pocket. “Lotti,” he called, and the house elf appeared and bowed. “Coffee and biscuits... the most decadent chocolate I think, for two.”

Severus turned back to his still sniffing witch. Damn, I wish I could let myself hold her. Then he dismissed that thought. Don’t be so bloody stupid, finally after much internal fighting he found his voice, “Oh come, come, my apprentice, I’m trying to cheer you up. I thought chocolate was supposed to cure everything.”

“I’m told so,” came the still slightly pathetic reply as Hermione wiped her tears again and tried to smile, but her lower lip still trembled violently. Sniffling she asserted, “It really has been a very awful week.”

He sighed and nodded. “Indeed it has.”

Without commenting further Severus transfigured the bed into a very comfortable looking lounge and the bedside table into a coffee table. He indicated Hermione should get comfortable. “You’re right, it has been a terrible week all round,” he repeated, glancing at her again. “And the whole of next month is already shaping up worse,” he concluded soberly.

The little elf returned and placed the tray down on the table, giving the occupants of the lounge a pleased little expression before popping back out.

“Chocolate’s got to help,” he continued handing her a mug of coffee.

“I sincerely hope so, sir,” she replied with a tiny smile.

“See it’s working already,” he commented hopefully.

“Well, maybe,” Hermione huffed, “but you still look pretty miserable.”

He studied her a moment. “I think you’re forgetting who you’re talking too,” and even though he chuckled softly and she didn’t recognise the tone as annoyed, his words made Hermione instantly think she had over stepped the mark.

She quickly opened her mouth to apologise profusely, but he cut her off.

“I,” he said, with a grand gesture towards himself, “am, Severus Snape, I’m always miserable. I’m the most miserable bastard that ever drew breath, just ask the egocentric population of this stone edifice,” he swept his arm majestically around him and bowed his head to her with a flourish.

Hermione couldn’t help the tinkling laugh that escaped her, “Well that’s just not right, sir, there are actually a few of us who don’t think you’re that miserable,” she offered boldly. “There must be sometimes when you don’t feel miserable.”

He actually chuckled. “I thank you,” he answered, his eyes studying her swollen eyes and red nose, and he was sorry when she averted her face in response to hide them. Even when she looks awful she looks sweet. Finally, he decided to take the next step. “Well, just lately there are a few moments when I could honestly say I wasn’t completely miserable.” He gave her an unreadable look and didn’t elaborate, but the corner of his mouth actually rose into the semblance of a smile. “And Miss Granger, when we’re alone, drop the sir will you, call me professor if you have to. Even though temporarily you’re still a student, you are no longer in my class.” 

Hermione was gobsmacked. “Y-Yes Si... Professor, certainly,” she stuttered in amazement, her mouth hanging limply.

Severus chuckled. “Are you trying to catch flies or mosquitoes? Because I’ll warn you it’s the wrong season.”

“Huh, err... what?”

“Now look at that, I’ve just discovered a way to make my little friend shut up,” he crowed.

Hermione straightened up, looking irritated, and her lips went tight. “Oh ha, ha,” she replied sarcastically. Then smiled realising he’d actually managed to cheer her up, “So what do you need to tell me?”

He grimaced. “You had to remind me,” and drawing in a long breath, his lips tightened. “I’m still bloody pissed about it.”

Hermione looked at him and laughed, “Funny thing that. I’ve already got that impression loud and clear, what’s happened?”

“Well I was feeling rather stress free when I got back to my office this morning. Then I made the mistake of reading the memo Albus had sent me, which curtly informed me that my presence was required on assignment elsewhere.” His voice was mocking then his face showed his irritation. “Not even in bloody person, but by a memo,” he seethed.

The Gryffindor in her couldn’t help it, she wanted to comfort him. Reaching across the lounge she placed her hand over his where it sat between them. He startled badly and she quickly jerked it away, “I’m sorry, sir, Professor, oh damn. My inner-Gryffindor got the better of me, it won’t happen again,” she blurted looking flustered. Had she cared to examine his features she would have found he looked worse, but she kept her head bowed.

After some moment he drew a deep breath. “Miss Granger, last night you offered me your trust in the hidden language of the flowers.” This statement brought her head back up, and she found his eyes were soft and open. “Allow me now to reciprocate that sentiment.”

His next move shocked Hermione even more than the first. He conjured a freesia flower from in between his fingers and offered it in his outstretched hand. “An offering of trust, for now we must be parted.” Severus was hoping it wouldn’t upset her again, and he drew a long sighing breath before saying, “I know what the headmaster is asking of you,” he continued, while she tried to take in all of what he had just done and said, “And know this. It is the correct course of action for you.”

Hermione sat staring at his outstretched hand for some long moments before gazing back up to his face, and nodding as she glanced back down and silently plucked the flower from his fingers. She smiled, whispering, “Thank you.”

Then Severus started imparting details. “I do not know how long I will be away, but I am hoping by the time I return you will no longer be a student.” Hermione loved the fragrance of freesias, and she brought to her nose to smell, but his statement found her eyes were moving from the flower hesitantly back to his face.

To her surprise, he was gracing her with the first genuine smile she had ever seen on his lips as he said, “Possibly then... we could explore some more… friendship options, do you think?”

Hermione’s mouth opened and closed and she blushed bright red. Is he saying what I think he’s saying, her stunned brain asked her. It took some time before she finally found the words that were escaping her. “I’d like that very much.”

“I’m very pleased to hear it,” he stated softly, and Hermione thought he sounded relived, dare she think happy. Although, his next words were serious. “I am sorry I will not be here when you complete your Potions NEWT but you will have no issue with it. I have prepared you some instructions in an attempt to ease your mind anyway.”

With that he reached into another pocket and handed her an envelope. Extending a shaky hand to take it, she nodded her head saying, “Thank you, sir, that’s very kind.” Hermione’s heart was thumping so loudly by this time as she wondered why he hadn’t commented on being able to hear it.

“You’re very welcome, Miss Granger,” he returned rising. “Now, I must go,” before I give in to the urge I’m feeling and do something really stupid. He watched her eyes filling with tears once more and gave a little more. “I can’t promise anything, but I will attempt to keep in touch when I can,” then added hastily. “Only if you would like, of course.”

“Oh, I would like that very much,” Hermione said, nodding vigorously, the next part of her sentence was out of her mouth before she could stop it. “Sir, you mean a great deal to me,” and she immediately turned bright red and gazed back to the floor. When she was greeted by silence she started babbling. “I know that’s wrong, isn’t it?” then after a moment her now very hesitant voice said, “I know I’m not allowed to feel like that, am I?”

Severus watched her a moment, stunned and wondering what to do. He wanted to hold her so badly. His panicking brain was losing control fast and his heart was pounding in his chest. Hermione had just admitted she cared for him and he gloried in it. Here was the final piece of proof.

Hearing him inhale through his mouth she almost panicked. Good Lord, she thought. I know it, I’ve said the wrong thing. Why the hell can’t I engage my brain before my mouth? I’ve just ruined everything.

While his equally flustered mind was trying to fathom what to do, it thought, I’ve got to give her at least some reassurance, but still he was silent. Finally, forcing his muscles to co-ordinate he extended his arm.

Hermione was taken by surprise when she became aware of gentle pressure under her chin. He had leant right forward, responding to the picture of abstract misery in front of him and was slowly lifted her chin with just the merest pressure of one finger so she was looking at him.

Every second of the glorious contact he was fighting with himself to keep it at the barest minimum, making certain she had enough time to pull away if she felt uncomfortable. His mouth formed words and to his great surprise he managed to say them. “No, my sad, little lioness, that is not wrong, please know that it touches me a great deal to hear you say that. Also know that you are allowed to feel that way, and that you can trust me.”

He got a shaky little smile for his trouble, she was actually too dumbfounded to do more than just sit there and blush at that moment.

Just as she was getting used to the finger it was gone again and he straightened, but was still watching her with a soft gaze. A gaze she would not have thought him capable of as she looked up to reply. “Thank you, I hope what I’ve said makes a difference to you,” she paused obviously searching for the right words as she gazed into his eyes, her face so open and soft to him. “Please know... that your trust is precious to me.”

 “I’m glad, little lioness.” Severus found himself unable to immediately drag his gaze away from hers, eventually he cleared his throat, and studying her a moment longer said, “When brewing for the infirmary, let Dumbledore deal with the Hufflepuff meddler, and you just brew the potions she requires. You are all but finished the seventh year Potions course, so while I’m gone you only have to sit those exams.” He watched Hermione nodding at him, and he drew another deep breath, his eyes studying her before he spoke. “Miss Granger, please stay out of trouble while I’m away. No feats of Gryffindor heroics.”

“Cross my heart, no heroics,” her wide amber-flecked eyes gazed at him. “Please come back safely, Si, S... Professor.” Her voice was shaky and her tears had started again.

He just gazed at her, as if trying to commit her features to memory. “I’ll do my best, my little one,” he said, and before she could answer, the furniture had reverted to its former state and she was listening to his boots disappearing from the hospital ward as she sat there clutching his missive and the exquisitely fragranced flower.

~~~***~~~

As soon as he had enough distance between them he ducked into the nearest alcove, and leant up against the cold stone. No one except his aunt and Minerva had ever cared enough for him to wish him sentiments for good fortune, and he choked up.

Severus wanted to run back to her and crush her to his chest, declaring in no uncertain terms to her how much he wanted her. He hated leaving her like this, with so many things left unsaid and unresolved, but his hands were still tied.

The thought of not knowing how long he was going to be absent, or if indeed he was going to return started to eat away at him, he wanted Hermione provided for. Especially, in the event that this mission might prove to be his swan song. Eventually he steeled his resolve and went looking for Minerva. He caught her just as she was leaving her office.

“I need to speak with you,” he stated.

Seeing the look in his eyes, the Transfiguration professor backed straight back in.

“I’ve been called out on assignment again.”

Minerva gave him a sympathetic look, and an unspoken plea for information.

“I do not know how long,” he replied, pinching the bridge of his nose. Glancing up at her, he said, “I have told Miss Granger I don’t know when I’ll be back, it might be Christmas.”

Minerva merely nodded. She had been through this many times with him before.

He didn’t know where it came from, but suddenly all the unresolved emotion got the better of him, and his calm demeanour was gone. “Keep her close, Minerva. Find a way of keeping her within these walls until I return, it is not safe out there for her.” Severus started pacing and he turned to her, almost pleading. “I’ll have more chance of returning in one piece if I have a reason to do so.”

The Head of Gryffindor could see how unsettled he was, and jumped to several conclusions as she continued to listen silently to him.

When he’d finished Severus studied the floor, and finally Minerva spoke. “Severus, go and complete your assignment, rest assured Hermione will be taken care of.” She reached up and placed her hand on his shoulder, “Be safe, dear friend. We shall both watch for your speedy return.”

“I appreciate you, you know,” he said feeling he owed her something in return. Minerva simply nodded, “Could you also check on Mother?” He took a breath, “Between you and Aunt Loletta...” he didn’t finish the sentence.

Minerva, a tear in her eye, said, “Of course, dear boy,” and she rubbed his arm.

~~~***~~~

As her professor left, Hermione found her gaze instantly settling on the thick envelope. It literally hummed in her hands with concealing magic. Hermione was absolutely certain that it contained much more than merely a letter. She thought about opening it, however she decided to leave it until later and she was guaranteed she was alone and would be undisturbed.

Then she wondered if she was being silly, perhaps it wouldn’t be anything special or secretive. All it would be was instructions for her exams, so why was she feeling she needed to be alone? Of course, the answer hit her quickly, because that’s exactly what she feared it would be, and she didn’t want to be disappointed if she found that out and someone disturbed her.

Hermione found herself much recovered knowing that her professor felt something, even if that something was still mostly undefined. It also helped her to know he thought Dumbledore’s plan was the correct course for her, and that he planned to see her again, no matter where she was.

Looking at the letter again, she placed it on her bedside table with the two books, and walked back to the window. Sneaking looks at the unopened letter once in a while became a delicious passtime. Her stomach would flip and her fingers twitch to rip the seal and devour its contents. The tension building inside was delightful. Hermione loved this game. She often found herself indulging in it when she had something special to do and didn’t want it to pass too quickly. The torturous pleasure was seeing just how long she would last. When she was a little girl the game had been fun, now when her stomach twisted as she forestalled doing something like opening a letter, the inevitable twist had a definite new pleasure to it. A pleasure that had she been in private she would have used as part of a different game.

She found her thoughts shifting again. Where is he going? Does he have family to go to? Dumbledore has probably requested he do something. She gasped, and her heart constricted in her chest, surely not Death Eater business. She took some uneven and strangled breaths. The room suddenly didn’t appear to have enough air in it, and concern for him gripped her heart. Oh surely not.

Hermione desperately hoped he would be safe where ever he was going, and something undefined told her he definitely wasn’t happy. The feeling she had was complicated not just angry or sad or lonely, but somehow all three.

It had never really occurred to her to wonder about such things before. In fact, she hadn’t really considered him as someone’s son, or possibly an uncle. Hermione found this fact sad. Because of the formidable facade he wore as daily armour it was difficult to think of him as anything less than impervious.

He was The Potions Master, and even though she thought he was the most intriguing man she had ever encountered he was also definitely the most formidable, testy, prickly and yes sometimes cruel. It was easy not to think about him as the fallible, human man she was starting to learn about. That he was possibly just like her, fragile, unsure of himself, and undoubtedly very definitely human.

Hermione still standing at the window, was watching the autumn leaves swirling around the turrets with an escaped broom stick as the sky finished darkening to night. Her arms were tightly laced around her torso and there were tears once more running unchecked down her cheeks. She truly hoped this was only a side-effect of her exhaustion, and that it would soon end.

Breathing deeply she forced her nerves to calm. As she went through this little ritual her supper arrived via the matron, and she quickly cleaned her face.

“You should get back to bed, Miss Granger, you look exhausted, dear,” Poppy told her.

“I’m fine, just have a lot on my plate,” and she graced the mediwitch with a wan smile and climbed back on the bed.

“That’s all well and good, but see you don’t overdo it.”

“No Ma’am, I won’t overdo anything,” she promised, with her fingers crossed behind her back. Another idiosyncrasy she had carried through to adulthood. It was these little rituals she relied on to bring her world back into perspective when she felt threatened.

~~~***~~~

“Finally!” Hermione uttered in relief, the matron had just passed through for the last time and bid her a good night. She was currently rereading the book on bonds that her professor had provided her with. If she had looked at her unopened epistle once she had looked at it a hundred times and each time her stomach had twisted the same.

Disregarding her fervent wish to be in the privacy of her own room, she plucked the letter off the bedside table. Her fingers tore at the seal, and she watched enthralled as the snakes within the seal slithered once around it and evaporated in tiny showers of green sparks as the seal was broken. When it tore, it ensnared her senses with the fragrance that was her Potions master. Could that have actually come from the seal breaking? Hermione wondered, shuddering as she breathed the aroma deeply and a mewling little moan escaped her lips.

She looked around guiltily as if someone would catch her and know her heart’s folly, and smiled as she pulled the letter from the envelope. Several shrunken tomes fell from the package landing in her lap, as well as at least five sheaths of parchment. The accompanying letter was precise and detailed in his elegant spidery script, and she started to read.

Miss Granger,

Find enclosed five useful references for your upcoming examinations.

  1. Advanced Healing Potions
  2. Later Medicinal Brews and Cures
  3. Complex Metamorphic Potions and Infusions
  4. Revised Edition, Potions of The Mind and Senses
  5. 7th Year Advanced Potions Text, (as you are in the Hospital wing.)

Revise thoroughly the instructions and recommendations set out after this letter. Be aware that four of these texts are extracurricular and are offered in respect to the ability of the student to research and reference. (Not standard fodder for dunderheads, so enjoy.)

If by chance your already irritatingly smug knowledge proves insufficient and fails you dismally, please try to utilize your vaulted intellect and fathom the burgeoning crisis. I regret that I will be unavailable to your calls for assistance regularly during my absence. However, I shall try from time to time to contact you to discuss any issues that take your fancy.

Sincerely
S. Snape

P.S. Should you require to soothe your frayed nerves (or incessant fingers) while preparing for your exams, the spell for blessed relief is, “Loquere, mea musica” (1) coupled with thoughts of which music you wish to hear and a single down beat of your wand. (Once you are able to use said wand.) The enclosed references will enlarge when you ask them without it.

Hermione read through the letter three times before it actually settled into her brain. She was genuinely touched that he had mentioned her wiggling fingers. Sure the letter dripped sarcasm, but there was more than one veiled compliment as well. The Gryffindor witch read through it again, and something startling hit her, his sarcasm was merely wit.

It was his wicked sense of humour, and she felt a spike of pleasure shoot through her, fairly safe in the knowledge that there were very few people who would understand that. Then she sat back and reflected on his treatment of her over six years in a totally different light.

Feeling even more settled, Hermione turned her attention to wondering how he meant her to enlarge the books he had sent, so she tried, “Engorgio,” and the tomes instantly became normal size. How clever she thought. I wonder if they go back as well, Reducio,” and they shrank once more. “Wow!” Hermione exclaimed and was so impressed she did it again before happily settling down to start reading the other sheets of parchment he’d included with the letter and the books.

Chapter Text


The days after the Potions professor left Hogwarts dragged terribly for Hermione. She was released from hospital and told to take it easy when all she really wanted was occupation to keep thoughts of him at bay. The Gryffindor witch was surprised how quickly she had become used to her daily interactions with the taciturn wizard. Their times in her little lab had quickly become as necessary to her as breathing. Even if it was only recently that they had been able to speak to each other in more than stilted sentences, she missed him terribly.

Hermione desperately needed to be busy to stop the gnawing ache that was threatening to consume her, as her absent Potions master was not her only problem. Dumbledore did a number of things when instated as temporary Potions professor that definitely did not make her life easier. First he ‘assisted’ her to settle on a research project for her apprenticeship, but when it was all settled the young woman wasn’t sure if it had been her idea to research a potion to mask or block a charmed curse mark, or whether it had been his.

Then, he had her teaching first and second year Potions. Now, under normal circumstances, Hermione would have relished this opportunity very much. However, she quickly discovered why Professor Snape had wished to keep her apprenticeship quiet while she was still a student. The young woman was shocked when her head of house confirmed that he had been trying to save her unnecessary pain.

As soon as Dumbledore announced his plan at the staff meeting, Hermione’s head of house went in to bat for her with the old wizard. What Minerva got in reply shocked her slightly. After Dumbledore had treated Hermione like a child when she first signed her apprenticeship papers, now he was adamant that—as an adult—she could handle the responsibility. If the head of Gryffindor hadn’t known better, she would have sworn he was just being petty.

“That is not what I’m saying, Albus,” Minerva had replied intensely irritated with him. “It is the fact that you have not yet separated her from the student body that will be the problem. Her peers will make her life even more difficult for her.”

“Come now, Minerva, I can’t see how Miss Granger teaching juniors while Severus is away will affect anything; it may even show some of the purebloods what a Muggleborn is capable of.”

The discussion had quickly gone downhill from there and McGonagall had shaken her head, totally unable to believe that this was his reasoning. Looking around the room, however, she was interested to see that both Professors Lupin and Vector had spoken against the plan as well. Flitwick and Sprout had silently disagreed, Hagrid had growled his disapproval, and even the cryptic Professor Babbling had tutted boldly at the proposed plan.

Of course, it had fallen to Minerva to explain it all to Hermione later. “I believe this is wrong, but even with several of us against him, Albus was still adamant.” She was very annoyed with the outcome, and couldn’t help thinking Severus may have been able to make Albus see reason.

“So other Professors supported me?” Hermione had asked.

Minerva nodded and scoffed. “Oh yes, all of your professors think very highly of you. I don’t know what’s wrong with Albus at the moment.” McGonagall looked at the quietly resigned young woman, and her expression changed. “Well, I’ll be damned if I’ll have you teaching in your uniform. You know as an assistant you are entitled, even as a student, to work out of uniform.”

So Hermione started wearing her own clothes when teaching. It didn’t make a great deal of difference however, because she didn’t really have anything suitable to wear. She couldn’t bring herself to transfigure them into something like she would wish to wear as a teacher, because of her precarious position. She attempted to carry on, and in fact the students she was teaching appreciated her efforts. However, as predicted, cries of favouritism and special treatment came from her peers, especially from those in Gryffindor.

Even though this amused Hermione no end to start with, those making the claims were the least likely to want the extra workload or responsibility that had been thrust upon her. Regardless, they started a character assassination campaign by public rumours and innuendo, which soon saw a bitch campaign being waged against Hermione. A quiet word or a deliberately too loud conversation over the toilet door and people started to turn against Hermione.

It is always a sad fact of life how many people will believe utter rubbish about another person without bothering to verify the facts. Hermione found her three friends putting up with just as much flack as she did for supporting her. Soon Neville was taken in by it all; whilst he refused to badger Hermione, she noticed him distancing himself.

Neville, as sweet natured as he was, was confused, not knowing what to believe. While he didn’t for a minute think Hermione capable of doing any of the things he was hearing, his capacity for it all wasn’t as well developed as Ginny’s or Harry’s.

Hermione found it scary how quickly life could spiral out of her control again, but the worst part was Dumbledore still seemed oblivious.

On top of everything, the whole week passed at a torturous pace with no word from the one she craved contact with most. Hermione’s brain was screaming at her. He only said he’d try to keep in touch. He gave no guarantee. He’s no more than an acquaintance… maybe? That was where the Gryffindor witch was stuck; what was he to her? She still didn’t really know. Possibly when he’d said he would try, he was only trying to make her feel better at the time. Being miserable in everything else as well, her confidence to believe he could actually care for her waned as well. It’s me remember, Granger, it’s probably all one sided.

~~~***~~~

The put-upon witch was into her second week of teaching when she discovered something important. Her professor had actually set her up some escapes from the torment for her. Did he know what was likely to happen? Her little lab, the reading room, and even his office were all places that no one except a teacher could access her, and then only if they knew where she was. Hermione wasn’t sure if he was aware of what he had done. Then she actually laughed at her stupidity; this was Severus Snape she was thinking about, the man didn’t ever do anything he hadn’t thought through entirely, and she felt a surge of need for him that made the ache in her middle much worse.

Hermione was quick to inform her head of house of what she had realised. The austere Gryffindor witch then arranged it for her favourite student to be able to Floo back and forth between her room and the dungeons, and even to the reading room. “There’s got to be more we can do,” Minerva said, her lips narrowing in irritation. However, she knew that even she couldn’t stop the Hogwarts rumour mill once it was in full flight.

“If you make a fuss they’ll just take it badly, and it will get worse,” Hermione said, massaging her temples. “I’ll just stay out of their way as much as possible. You’ve had me relieved from my patrol duties because I have all this extra work to do, it will settle down, it’s got to.” It was even worse than that because she still had three classes with them, and was forced to wear her uniform to those classes.

~~~***~~~

It was the Friday evening of that second week, and she was trying desperately to relax while working quietly in her lab. Over the strains of Rachmaninoff (1) she suddenly thought she heard a voice in the office, calling her. The music abruptly ceased, and picking up her wand she moved forward and cautiously looked around. Nothing; she couldn’t see anyone. “Must be hearing things now as well,” she mumbled and turned to head back to her work. She jumped when a voice, sounding quite put out, spoke again.

“Well, if you do not wish to speak to me.”

“Sir?” Hermione moved toward the sound of the voice, her wand still pointed unerringly in front of her. She gasped and almost lost control completely when she saw a head in the fireplace. Gaping and uncertain of what to do, Hermione took a second to think. She forced her expression to become neutral even if her heart was singing. “I hate to ask you, sir, but would you mind identifying yourself?”

Hermione saw an unreadable expression cross his face, and wondered if she was going to be blasted. Then a smirk tugged at the corner of his mouth, and he seemed to be looking around the room.

It occurred to Hermione that he appeared to be looking for someone else. She’d already made her mind up, with his knowing little smirk, that it was him, but she knew if she told him not to worry about identifying himself, she definitely would get blasted, so she quantified. “I am alone, sir.” She watched as some of the tension drain from his fiery countenance.

He drew a deep breath and complied with her request for his identity. “When I last spoke to you, I conjured a white freesia flower for you.” He watched her smile, and was shocked at the effect it had on him, but he forced his mouth to continue calmly. “I’m pleased to see you being cautious. Keep doing it, but now let me assure you there are only four people who can interact with this fireplace in any way.”

“Oh, sir,” she gushed falling before him on her knees in front of the heath. Her knees were apart and her backside sitting on the rug, and she was wearing an unabashed grin. Her wand was forgotten as it clattered to the floor at the sight of her his dear head in front of her.

“Good evening, Miss Granger. Ward the doors and put up a Muffliato,” he ordered, and watched her look around.

Hermione couldn’t help but giggle as she realised that after all her precautions, she’d thrown her wand away in her haste to greet him. Looking for it, she placed the requested spells.

“Good girl,” he smoothed, and to her it sounded like the sweetest music. “I was hoping I would catch you down here tonight,” and he sounded almost happy.

“It’s so good to see you, sir,” she beamed excitedly.

“Now what did we agree about the sir?” His eyebrow rose.

“Oh, err... yes, Professor.” She still sat there beaming at him, but it wasn’t long before the rapid fire questions started hitting him. “Are you all right? Are you coming home soon?” This was followed by, “Where are you?” Then sounding slightly incredulous, “You knew I’d be here?”

“Miss Granger, enough with the questions you’re giving me a headache, woman,” but there was a smile threatening to burst onto his face through his scowl.

“Oh, okay. I’ll be quiet. Silence… sorry… sometimes I do get carried away.”

“Indeed, now to answer the questions that managed to escape your control. Thank you, it’s good to see you too. I’m fine... err well except for the headache,” he teased. “I’m hoping to be back by the end of the month, but I can’t guarantee that so don’t tell Minerva. I can’t tell you where I am, and I was hoping you would take advantage of the solitary spaces I have provided for you.” He saw Hermione smile happily. “Now before we are disturbed at my end, I need to tell you why I’ve risked contacting you this way.”

Severus watched Hermione fight with herself to quell her obvious excitement and settle. Seeing her face calming and her attention becoming rapt, he began. “First of all, I have something for you. It will allow us the exchange letters privately when I am able to.” Severus watched for signs of unease on her face, but he saw none. “I found the pair of them in a little antiquarian store I visited today, call Lotti.” He watched in delight as she did and the little elf appeared.

Hermione carefully took an exquisite little wooden box with intricate patterns of inlaid flowers from the elf. There was a look of utter beguilement in her expression as she almost whispered, “It’s so beautiful.”

Severus looked to Lotti. “Thank you, Lotti, you may go,” he said quietly.

Hermione’s stomach twisted in utter pleasure as she gazed at the highly polished little box.

“Open it,” he said, his voice even distorted as it was by the fire, flowed over her like velvet.

Hermione extended a shaking hand to the little lid. As soon as it had opened partially, she squeaked in delighted surprise as music encased her senses.

“I have the pair to it,” he said before noticing she wasn’t listening.

Finally, her eyes rose to meet his. “This is utterly beautiful,” and her voice cracked as she said it. The box itself fitted in the palm of her hand. It was full of deep crimson rose petals and had a perfectly dressed ballerina who was not twirling in one spot like in Muggle boxes, but had a little stage on which to do a complete dance, and the music wasn’t twangy, it was crystal clear and exquisite. Fighting to control her emotions, Hermione swallowed hard. “What’s the song?” She only just managed to ask, and had to clear her throat.

Hermione heard the Potions master do the same before he said softly, “Romance d’Amore.” (2) Severus revelled in the blissful expression on her face, as her animated and sparkling hazel-flecked eyes watched the dancer. He regretfully cleared his throat again knowing they only had limited time. “The rose petals serve two purposes, they are a great diversion in case of casual observers, and will obscure the contents of the box. The petals are charmed to stay put, however, if you place anything else in the box and shut the lid. It will transfer to the other box, the one I have.”

Hermione was watching him with a delightful expression on her face. “Like a vanishing cabinet, only smaller?”

“Yes, precisely, I’ll send you a note as soon as I’m able.” Severus took a deep breath. “Now for the other reason, I’m contacting you. Go to the bottom drawer on the left of my desk. Seeing you are wearing the charm, Alohomora should open it.”

He watched Hermione carefully place the box on the chair beside her and rise. She went to the drawer, he was correct it opened with the spell she used. “Now take out the red note book, grab some parchment and a quill and come back to the fire.”

She did as he asked and settled on her stomach, propped up on her elbows in front of him waiting for further instructions.

“The book contains my notes on preparing the Wolfsbane Potion. I don’t think I’ll be back in time, I need you to make it.”

Hermione gasped and looked horrified. “You can do it, don’t doubt yourself. Read through the instructions quickly and tell me if you understand what to do.” Hermione experienced a twist of pleasure at his faith in her ability and started reading. As she read Severus watched her; she looked stressed and exhausted, but infinitely happier now, and he smiled seeing her casting little glances are the box sitting next to her.

However, the black circles under her eyes and the haunted visage were almost as bad as she’d had at the beginning of term. This couldn’t mean anything good. She was wearing the bloody awful uniform which meant that Dumbledore still hadn’t organised her exams yet. He hoped he would get enough time to ask her what was going on before he had to go. While she continued to read his eyes became fixed on her leg. She had her knees bent up and her skirt had fallen up her thighs. Her legs were apart and one leg was swinging back and forth across the other absently while she read.

He found himself becoming mesmerized by the movement. It was then with a twitch of his mouth and only a little twinge of guilt at the thought that he realised that if he was sitting at his desk and she was lying thus on his rug, that he would be being treated to a very pleasant sight. Severus scolded himself, and vainly tried to focus back to the task. However, the movement of that shapely leg in its pointed black court shoe with the spiky little heel mesmerized him.

Hermione continued to read, occasionally glancing up under her eye lashes. She saw his eyes watching the movement of her leg, and as she kept reading, her mind went into overdrive. She’d just thought of the most delicious idea. The act could be apologised for as accidental if he objected, but she had the vague notion that he wouldn’t. He was obviously enjoying her leg movement, and what she had in mind would just make the illusion far more enjoyable for him.

As she turned the page she adjusted her position. It appeared like she was innocently making herself more comfortable, but her movement had the effect of making her legs spread wider and her skirt hitch higher in the process. The heavy garment’s hem line now ‘accidently’ came to a halt two thirds the way up her thighs, showing him just a hint of her black lace top stocking and suspenders.

Of course, he didn’t know that if he was sitting at his desk he would be treated to the sight of her barely concealed delights through her tight little black see-through knickers. The thought of what she was doing sent a delicious surge of pleasure through her, but she made herself ignore that, and readying herself to apologise, she read the second page of notes.

There were no objections voiced at her implied intent, and as she covertly glanced at him she saw his eyebrow raised appreciatively at her efforts and the semblance of a smirk of understanding of the possibilities she was offering on his face. Looking back at the notes she smiled. She had finally allowed herself to show him a glimpse of her wanton side, and she was very pleased with the result.

Fucking bloody hell, was the only thought going through Severus’ mind as he watched her legs open and her skirt hitch further up. Is she doing that on purpose? Shit… who cares why she’s doing it. I wonder what kind of knickers she’s wearing? The stockings are black, he examined the top of her leg closer, are they those lace top things? Oh fuck! I love those type of stockings with suspenders … Don’t be bloody stupid man; remember she may not be your student but she’s still a student. Bloody old fool, why hasn’t he sorted those exams yet?

Severus glanced at her lovely face concentrating on the notes. There’s that twisted little smile again. I think I know what that means now, and he suddenly found himself thinking things that made other parts of his brain fire into life. He tried unsuccessfully to adjust his position as hunching forward into the Floo suddenly became painful, but there was little he could do. He scolded himself. He’d brought on his current uncomfortable situation by using his imagination when he should have been concentrating on his job instead.

While Severus was fighting with himself to maintain an impartial view of things, Hermione was forcing herself to dismiss the next image as it entered her mind. There was no way she had the confidence to sit up and discretely show him more of what was obviously fascinating him. She was so shocked with herself. What he was asking her to do was very serious, and here she was fantasising instead of concentrating.

Still, pleased with her efforts in being provocative, she firmly recapped her desire and turned her mind back to reading the notes in his perfect spiky script. There was only one thing she could think of to ask when she had finished, and that was about the handling of the aconite. “It says juice of aconite. Do I just crush it or do I make an infusion?”

Severus, looking much calmer than he felt, as he nodded in response to her question. “An infusion. Use a bubblehead charm until the steam turns pristine white. Up to that point the vapour is poisonous. Then scarify the air thoroughly before you finish the protection charm.”

Hermione wrote all the additional instructions on her parchment and looked back to him for further instructions.

“Talk me through how you are going to brew it, so I can be certain nothing will go wrong.”

Hermione adjusted herself back into a more business-like stance and went through the process as she now understood it, step by step.

Severus corrected any steps he felt lacking, and unseen by Hermione he had cast a cushioning charm on his knees and managed to get his mind back on the job.

While at the same time, Hermione had gathered a new understanding of his trust in her and two pages of notes.

“Now put everything back in the drawer, it will lock as soon as you shut it. You will need to brew it Wednesday. Get Minerva to help you take him the goblet every night for five days from Thursday. Remember you must perform the charm on it. You will know it has worked when the goblet steams. All the ingredients are to be taken from my private stores. The charm you’re wearing will allow you to open them as well. You will find everything you needincluding the argentum free cauldron, stirring rod, and charmed goblet in its protective wooden case on the back shelf second from the top. You must always clean the cauldron, stirring rod and goblet after use, without magic, in nothing but free running distilled water. Do you know how to do that?”

“Yes,” was all she said, as she nodded but Hermione suddenly bit her lip, her mind leaping ahead to more problems.

“What’s wrong?” he inquired, his voice gentle.

She flushed, “What if Dumbledore... err interferes?”

“Has he been interfering?” and he groaned to himself. Oh, stupid question, of course he has, he’s Albus bloody Dumbledore. He instantly looked irritated. “What’s he done to you?”

She lowered her head. “It’s nothing that you can do anything about,” she said in a voice that didn’t even convince her she wasn’t lying.

“You want to try that one again. Gryffindors are woeful liars, sweet,” but before she could answer, he exclaimed, “Damn, I must go. Be here tomorrow night I’ll try and get away again so we can talk, if not I shall send you a note.” Hermione heard a knock on the door from his end and before she could say anything he was gone.

~~~***~~~

Knees complaining loudly, Severus forced himself up off the floor back into his chair by the fire. Pulling his robes protectively around him to hide any fluff from the rug and any lingering effects from her ‘innocent’ teasing, he smirked quietly, remembering. He placed the book he had been reading the night before on his lap and after the second knock waved his wand at the door and gruffly called, “Enter”.

He had thought long and hard before trying to contact Hermione tonight. He knew Albus wasn’t up to brewing a Wolfsbane potion that actually had to work. He may have brewed the potion when Hermione had drained her magic, but Severus had had to support him, and his mind wondered yet again why the old man seemed to be losing his potency. Severus did wonder also, in view of her fairly recent incapacitation, whether brewing it may be to draining for Hermione as well, but there was little choice. If he was not there, she was the only other one capable of doing it.

He had missed her terribly these last two weeks, and when he’d found the billet doux boxes, his mind had instantly hit on the possibilities, and he knew he’d found a way to send notes between them. He sighed; he’d enjoyed his conversation tonight with the young woman so much. It wasn’t often he had the opportunity to converse with someone who could keep up with his mental gymnastics, or someone who by the simple adjustment of her stance could turn him on so easily. More than that, now he had managed to speak to her once, he wanted to make it happen again. He hoped with all his heart he would be able to keep his promise, he wasn’t certain he knew where tomorrow would find him.

~~~***~~~

Back at Hogwarts, a very surprised young woman stuttered, “Did he just call me, sweet?” She blinked several times, and then grinned broadly hugging the book and notes to herself as she sighed. She had just spent almost two hours conversing with her most favourite person, and because of their distance she had only had to contend with the effects of his luscious voice and had not been too adversely affected by his all-consuming presence, or the intoxicating scent of him, both of which usually stopped her mouth functioning coherently.

She had even managed to tease him mercilessly because he wasn’t actually present, just by the mere moving of a leg and a hem line. He was going to try and talk to her again tomorrow night. It all sounded perfect. Hermione thought about how relaxed she had felt talking to him lying as she had been on the rug in front of him.

It was getting very late and she was very tired and completely aroused. She wanted him to teach her everything he knew, and this desire now took centre stage in her mind. Having never had sex she couldn’t even consider what it was like, and her fantasies were as far as it went at the moment.

Lost in her thoughts, she was not aware that her hand had strayed of its own volition under her skirt and firmly into forbidden territory. Before she knew what she was doing she’d pushed away the flimsy scrap of fabric that covered her heated sex and she had started stroking herself at the thoughts playing through her head. She was so consumed by what was going on in her head that her imagination leapt into full fantasy mode with the thought of him watching from the fireplace as she opened her legs and allowed him to see what she wanted to show him. God he makes me hot, he’s simply perfect, she sighed.

Groaning, her eyes closed and her head lulled back, she tried to picture what his cock might look like. She’d made a fairly in depth study of his crotch over the years when she knew he wasn’t watching her. She closed her eyes and allowed pleasure to consume her, and it wasn’t long before she groaned quietly as she came, and then giggled uncontrollably in the afterglow of her pleasure.

However, it wasn’t long before she realised what she’d just allowed herself to do and reality came crashing down on her. She was sitting in the office of the most feared professor in Hogwarts recent history making a puddle of cum on his rug while thinking about how hot he was. Oh my god, she gasped, what have I done? She instantly sobered, and quickly adjusting herself like she had just done something disgusting and wished to hide it, she stood.

A frightened sob escaped her when she realised she had momentarily lost control of herself, something that she been so meticulously shielding from those she didn’t trust. Picking up her wand she cleaned up her mess; suddenly appalled at her lack of control.

It was then that another thought hit her, and she realised how long it had been since she’d felt wanted or needed, and he had put such trust in her, and she had she had betrayed that trust by doing this in his office. Her vision blurred as she replaced the red folder and her notes into the drawer in his desk and her lip quivering she fumbled for her little music box, and then for Floo powder before stuttering, “H-Head girl’s room.” 

Stumbling out of the Floo she collapsed onto her bed. I want him so badly, but how stupid am I, Dumbledore could have walked in. The thought that most people would have done what she had just done and laughed together about it upset her terribly. Why am I so different to everybody else? She lay there for the rest of the night, painfully unable to settle and totally miserable, and wondering when something was actually going to go right for a change.

Chapter Text


After her one communication with Severus, time dragged terribly for Hermione, and everything seemed to be out of her control once more. The Gryffindor witch had waited, but her professor hadn’t appeared the next night. Now, two weeks had passed with excruciating slowness, and there were no notes either. Hermione was now putting up with barbs and innuendos all day, every day, thanks to most of the student body’s reaction to Dumbledore’s changes, and constantly wearing her stoic mask of indifference was very draining.

Minerva McGonagall was furious with Albus Dumbledore for his apparent lack of care for her prize cub. As head girl, now she had recovered from her magical depletion, Hermione was expected to fulfil all her obligations once more, but it was too much on top of everything else that was happening. Minerva had even suggested the unthinkable, to try and give the poor young witch some peace.

“But, Ma’am, if I give up being head girl, I’ll have to go back to the dormitory.”

“Oh, of course, I see your point,” McGonagall conceded. “But you can’t keep going like this.” Minerva felt helpless as she watched the young woman with the hollow eyes massage her temples. The head of Gryffindor didn’t like feeling helpless. She wanted Severus to come back; he always seemed to be able to make the old man see reason.

The poor girl’s studying for exams she still doesn’t know of the dates of, Albus has withdrawn her from the classes that clash with his imposed teaching schedule, and now she’s also dealing with disgruntled teachers. Filius and Aurora can be bloody useless, misunderstanding cretins sometimes. At least I’ve set them straight as far as that goes.

~~~***~~~

It was finally Friday evening and Hermione had ensconced herself in her little lab, a bundle of nerves and irritation. Since Severus’ last appearance she hadn’t slept at all well, everything was swimming constantly in her head, and she desperately wanted to talk to him.

Then that presented another problem all together; what should she tell him and what should she withhold? There was no point concerning him with things he could do nothing about. She dearly wished she hadn’t mentioned anything about Dumbledore to him now.

Her one success had been the Wolfsbane potion. While she hadn’t thought it perfect and she would have given almost anything to not have had to brew it the first time on her own, it had worked.

Hermione sighed; keeping busy only went so far to solving her problems, but it kept her schedule up to date. All the first and second year potions homework was marked, and she was up to date with the brewing for the Hospital was completed. Stretching, she ventured out into the main office and settled in front of the fire with her own study spread out in front of her on the rug. However, as the time marched slowly on, the knot in her stomach tightened once more; it appeared like the previous evenings, there was going to be no Potions master tonight.

Hermione kept reassuring herself that he had said he would try. He obviously had more important things to do than call her, but each night she couldn’t make herself leave, finally she would curl up in the chair miserable until sleep finally over took her, and now she was utterly exhausted. It seemed the world was mocking her again, tempting her with happiness and then saying no.

Almost subconsciously, Hermione picked up her music box. She carried it everywhere with her, just in case, and this time as she picked it up something rattled. Her heart thumped in her chest, and she gingerly opened the lid.

The exquisite music instantly ensnared her senses and her tentative fingertips buried themselves in the rose petals. She felt her pulse spike when first they contacted something small and metallic, then the blessed feel of parchment beneath.

Resisting the urge to dump it all on the rug, she slowly withdrew the metal object. It was a finely wrought silver hair clip. An interwoven pattern of vines covered in little amethyst jewelled flowers. She grinned, and her fingers flew back into the box for the note.

Opening it with shaky fingers, she took in his beautiful spiky script. Bringing the parchment to her nose she inhaled deeply. Parchment, ink and smoke; Hermione loved the smell of the cigarettes he smoked. She bit her lip; it was a decadent luxury that her sensitive nose revelled in every time it got the opportunity.

Miss Granger,                                                                                                
My profound apologies for not keeping my promise. I was unavoidably called away just as our Floo call ended and I have only just returned. I have had much time to think in the intervening two weeks, and I have been pondering what I assume is your problem with Dumbledore’s meddling. Apart from making me furious, I have realised there is little I can do about it in my present situation. The only advice I can offer is to do as I do, treat them all with disdain. (Yes even Dumbledore himself.) You are most likely nodding your curly maned, know-it-all head right now in agreement. I am sorry that I have nothing more to offer you.

Part of the reason I was happy to find these boxes was because it will allow us to get to know one another a little while we are still at a distance, and hence, not governed by teacher student rules. Unless said headmaster has actually managed to remove his finger from which ever bodily office he has it stuck in, and you are no longer a student as you read this.

Unfortunately, having the thought of getting to know you, does not afford me the understanding of how to proceed. As you can see, I have few friends.

The little hair clip is Bulgarian, I hope you like it. For some reason it made me think of you, and I couldn’t resist purchasing it. I hope it’s strong enough to hold back your truculent tresses.

Regards
S. Snape.

Hermione sighed in pleasure, and literally pounced on fresh parchment, as she took up her quill.

 

Professor Snape,                                                                                              

Do not apologise for not calling me, I realise you have far greater burdens on your time and energy. Think nothing of it. You are of course correct. There is nothing to be gained from me informing you of events here.

I love the hair clip, thank you. Here is the first answer in our pursuit of friendship. Lilac is my favourite colour. What’s yours? Then allow me to add to this question some more equally mundane things people find out about one another as they become acquainted. When is your birthday? Did you have a pet as a child? How about books? What is the best book you’ve ever read? What is your favourite food?

Okay, I’ll stop. I can hear you from here. But Professor, that’s exactly what I wish, that I could hear you. Please come back safe.

Regards
Hermione.

As Hermione closed the lid of the little box, her heart sang. Severus had written to her, only her... no one else. She wasn’t even scolding herself for calling him Severus. She wanted to be able to be free with him. Does he truly only want friendship? If this is the case, I’ll be very disappointed. But why would he be sending me letters and presents if that’s all he wanted? No, I’ve got to think positively. He’s sent me two presents now. He talked about other options before he left. She picked up the beautiful hair clip and gently ran the sensitive pads of her fingers over the delicate silver curls and spirals. He bought this just for me, it’s very beautiful. She hugged the little music box to her, before tentatively opening the lid to make certain her missive had gone.

When she found it had, her face broke out into a grin and her stomach twisted in delight. Is he now currently holding the paper I’ve just sent him? Hermione gathered her books and belongs together and flooed back to her room. Tonight at least she could sleep in her own bed, not worried that she’d miss him.

Twenty minutes later saw her reclining in her bath with a sigh. Hermione picked up her wand and the second movement of a Schubert Piano Trio flowed over her. (1) This movement was one of her all-time favourites, and she was treating herself tonight. Severus had sent her a note.

~~~***~~~

Across a continent, unbeknown to Severus, he was listening to the same music as he put down the parchment he had just read. Reaching for his smokes, he lit one and reclined in his chair. The last two weeks he had been watched and followed by both Death Eaters and Aurors. They were all playing this merry, and sometimes deadly, little game of cat and mouse.

Picking up the note once more, he allowed himself a smile as he re-read it. She really is a clever girl, that’s exactly how we should start. I need to be honest with her. I hope she doesn’t ask any awkward questions too soon though. He rolled his shoulders and neck. Shit, I hate this idleness, and he sighed as he exhaled a plume of smoke. As he was contemplating this one of his wards chimed, and a snarl formed on his thin lips. Oh well, so much for the inactivity. Respite over.

Stubbing his cigarette, he quickly transfigured the box into a cigarette case and encrypted the parchment to look like potions notes as he pocketed them. Both the spells were enhancements of his own invention and held their form even in the face of a Finite Incantatem. Holding himself ready for anything, his wand, as always, slid easily into his palm, and the reserved academic prepared himself for the unknown.

His thoughts settled as he waited, but in a different strain. I think I’ll visit the Clementinum (2) tomorrow seeing I have to go to Prague. I haven’t seen their Potions section for a long time. It will also give me a chance to lay the next stepping stone for stupid people. A knock sounded at the door as a hex sailed through the window. Ah, Death Eaters, Merlin they’re stupid, like I’d fall for that ploy.

~~~***~~~

As Severus dealt with his next set of unexpected visitors, Hermione was allowing herself the luxury of a massage. The brightest witch of her age had created a spell that made water pulse in ripples up and down her tired limbs and shoulders. Allowing one of her many fantasy’s to play through her head; Hermione modified the ripples so they were more specific, and aimed at more sensitive areas.

The frustrated Gryffindor witch moaned softly, at the tickling sensations rippling over her breasts and the sensitive flesh at the apex of her thighs. She imagined his deep velvet voice... her Severus’ deep sinful tones crooning imagined soft words in her ear. His dark expressive eyes watching the plump plumage of an ostrich feather sending torrents of goose bumps over her delicate flesh.

As the ache in her centre grew more torturous. Hermione finally allowed just one finger to appease it, and her strong silencing charms swallowed her deep guttural exclamations of bliss as her tension momentarily melted away and she cascaded into release for the first time since that night in Severus’ office.

Eventually, pleased with her adventures, and really the whole evening, Hermione dragged herself from the tub, and using a drying spell she slipped on a loose pair of pyjama bottoms and a tee shirt and then snuggled under her covers.

Severus is right, treat them all with disdain, she thought as tiredness started to overcome her. If only I wasn’t still a student. She sighed tiredly. I wonder what’s wrong with Professor Dumbledore? He certainly doesn’t seem himself, but these were her last thoughts as she drifted off to a slumber she hadn’t enjoyed in weeks.

~~~***~~~

It took another three days before an answer arrived. It was just before breakfast.

Miss Granger,                                                                                                            

I bet your fingers were positively wiggling with all those questions. Well, Miss Inquisitive, my favourite colour is green, and not because it’s a Slytherin colour. The shade of green I like best is the colour of that dress you were wearing the night we had dinner with Minerva.

No, I didn’t have a pet when I was a child.

The food I would miss most if I couldn’t have it is chocolate cake, Devil’s food cake in particular. I like it best with rich soft icing and whipped cream. However I would never be caught eating it in public.

My birthday is January 9th, and don’t get any ideas. I’ve lived without presents this long, and intend to keep doing so.

I’ve left the best until last, the best book I’ve ever read, and definitely my favourite is Peter Pan. The book I most use is a Potions Text, but I don’t have a favourite wizarding book.

How about you? That set of questions will also apply to a know-it-all Gryffindor as well. Now, I already know your favourite colour is Lilac, and you have a half Kneazle. So I’m adding two questions to make up for that.

Do you have a favourite piece of music, and if so what is it? How did you end up friends with the boy-who-lived-to-be-a-pain-in-my-arse and the idiot redhead?

Regards
S S.

Hermione glanced at the time. “Damn,” she needed to be at breakfast. Hermione hated communal meals; she loathed eating in front of everybody. It led her to understand why Severus didn’t often turn up. He was lucky the nature of his work required him to be absent to watch a potion on occasion, and nobody could dispute the fact.

After breakfast she had a free period, and would go to the reading room. Sitting down next to Ginny at the Gryffindor table, Hermione squeezed her friend’s arm in greeting. The redhead was still being as supportive as ever. Harry however, seemed to be straying back to Ron, and she couldn’t really blame him, although it hurt that he was pulling away.

However, there were mitigating circumstances. She knew a secret about Harry, something he didn’t think she knew. Her best friend was watching, and also dreaming about someone. If Hermione didn’t know better she would say he’d fallen in love. She felt sorry for him; it was a known fact that love didn’t always chose convenient partners for people, Hermione only had to look at her own life to know that. 

The problem was that she wasn’t at all certain that the person Harry had been dreaming of would return his affection. So she tried to forgive Harry his desertion, on the grounds that he was attempting to assert his masculinity, but it had been a bitter blow to her.

~~~***~~~

Breakfast done, Hermione arrived at one of her sanctuaries and flopped into the arm chair. Every time she sat here, she wondered anew what Severus had meant that first morning he’d allowed her though to the library this way. Sighing she took out the parchment and the little box.

Re-reading her latest note from Severus, Hermione got up and settled at the little writing desk as her wand performed the now familiar down beat, and Rachmaninoff drifted into the room (3).

Dear Professor,                                                                                              

I was so excited to receive your note. Unfortunately, I found it just before breakfast, and now I hope you have time to answer me.

Yes, you know about Crooks, but apparently I also had a dog called Bo Bo. They got her just before I started at Hogwarts, but I never really had a chance to get to know her.

We are so having Devil’s Food cake to celebrate, when you return, whipped cream and all, maybe we’ll even add some of one of my favourites, strawberries. I’m afraid I cannot promise not to make a fuss on your birthday. It has always been my habit to give my friends a present on their birthday. If we are friends, expect a fuss mister, (although I can promise it will be a quiet one.) My birthday is the 19th of September (and I would be pleased for you to make as much fuss as you like.)

I love Peter Pan as well. I’ve also always loved the Chronicles of Narnia. They made me feel comfortable even before I knew I was a witch. My favourite novel at the moment though, is Jane Eyre. I can’t say I have a favourite wizarding book either. What is the Potions text you most use?

I guess if I had to choose a favourite piece of music, it would be what I’m currently listening to, Rachmaninoff’s second piano concerto, how about you?

I met Harry and Ron on the Hogwart’s express out first year. They didn’t like me very much, but then the night that Professor Quirrell let the troll in, Ron had insulted me in Charms class and I was in the girl’s toilets crying. Their consciences got the better of them, and they came looking for me. When I lied so they wouldn’t get into trouble, they decided I wasn’t so bad. I can hear you tsking right now. A friendship predicated on a lie, it’s not so surprising that it didn’t work when we grew up then, is it? Well, when some of us grew up, anyway!!

I wish I could keep writing but I have to go. Please be safe, my friend, and hurry back for cake.

Regards
Hermione

Something troubled Severus about this letter, but asking Hermione why she was speaking about her family in past tense was not something he wanted to do while absent. So he remained silent on the subject, wondering if this was also one of her burdens.

Two nights after Hermione had sent her reply, she checked her music box and found a new letter. This time she recognised the wrapping on the chocolates that accompanied the parchment; he must be in Paris. She had bought these many times when on holiday there.

Miss Granger,                                                                                                            

It would be my pleasure to share Devil’s food cake with you when I return. Until then we can share these chocolates in absentia. You must understand I have never had anyone make a fuss over me. I am uncertain it will come easily to allow it now, however for the sake of friendship I will see what I can do. It goes without saying there will be a fuss on your birthday though. It will give me great joy to be allowed to carry-on over you.

I always wondered who had initiated the exchange with the troll. I shudder to think what would have happened to you if the impertinent little twerps hadn’t come to your rescue, even if they should have just called a teacher. What with that bloody Cerberus trying to rip my leg off and the audacity of the turbaned fool, it was a very trying Halloween. It comes as no surprise that your value elevated in their eyes after you helped them out. Typical Gryffindor behaviour, no offence intended.

Since I didn’t hear of a rabid werewolf terrifying the halls of Hogwarts, I’m assuming your Wolfsbane was a success. It pained me to have to ask you to do that, I’m sorry, but I could hardly have waltzed back into Hogwarts just to brew a potion.

My most used Potions text surprisingly, is a copy of Advanced Potion Making. I used to have the copy I’d used at school. Unfortunately it has been lost, so this is my second well used copy.

Allow me to initiate the next round of questions. I wish to know about your experience with the Wolfsbane potion. Was Albus bothersome? I hope brewing it did not drain you too much (not that I’m expecting you to admit if it did), but were you happy with the results?

Do you like star gazing? One of my favourite places to go allows a spectacular view of the night sky, which I often enjoy.

I agree the Rachmaninoff is a truly stunning piece. It is a good choice for favourite. However, I believe I like the third better. As for my favourite, I would also go for a concerto, but Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto. It always manages to pull me out of the worst in myself. Do you like going to concerts?

I find myself looking forwards to returning to Hogwarts this time. There is a friend of mine living there you see, and I’m missing her animated and comforting presence terribly.

Yours Sincerely,
Severus Snape.

Hermione took a moment to catch her breath. He was opening up to her, allowing her resolutely behind that stoic façade, and her heart soared. She also had a fair idea where his old Potions text was. If Harry ever spoke to her again, she would ask him to find it.

Dear Professor,                                                                                              

I made Professor Lupin go to the Room of Requirements the first night, but yes, the potion worked. I was exhilarated afterwards. It was a very heady feeling. I do hope next time you will be here though. It wasn’t exactly steel grey, so I must have done something wrong. But it worked, so I guess that’s all that matters. As for Albus Dumbledore, he is definitely not my favourite person at the moment. I feel like I’m in limbo, I truly hate being a school student still. I’m an adult, circumstances be buggered.

Although, I am my own worst enemy, because I want to finish what I’ve started. When my apprenticeship finishes I dream of going to university, absorbing all the knowledge I can. But I feel like that is so far away at the moment, even though in reality it’s less than a year.

I hope this bloody war will finish soon. I worry for you, Severus. Please don’t scold me for using your name. I want us to be better friends. I want you back here. I miss you more than I can tell you.

Once this war is over, I want us to be able to go star gazing and to concerts. I love star gazing. I’ve never had anyone who was interested in going with me though. It troubles me that most people can’t settle long enough to allow silence to infiltrate their senses. The silence of the universe is wonderful, but most people never hear it, and there are secrets I want to whisper to you into that dark silence.

Please come home soon my dear friend.

Fondest regards,
Hermione.

Distance and misery had made her bold, and Hermione quickly folded the parchment and placed it into the box, holding her breath, she shut the lid. Then it suddenly hit her, what if she’d been too forward?

~~~***~~~

Severus sat dumbfounded, the parchment laying discarded on the desk. Oh sweet mother of Merlin, his brain screamed at him. I want this witch in my arms so badly. He felt the need to apologise for being absent, for putting her through all these trials. After all, reading between the lines of the letter, he could tell she was miserable. She didn’t deserve to be. He had to do something to help her. Conjuring a small purple hyacinth he placed it into the box leaving the lid open while he wrote the accompanying note.

The Potions master had just finished writing when his wards chimed. Without thinking he smoothly went through the well practiced motions. Shutting the box and transfiguring it before realising what he just done. “Shit... damn. I can’t believe I just did that.” He was furious, but could hear footsteps approaching. It was too late to do anything now. Transfiguring the parchment he pocketed it, I’ll send it as soon as I can, he thought, and waited to see who was coming.

~~~***~~~

First thing the next morning, Hermione opened the music box to find the fragrance of the rose petals was enhanced. Her fingers brushed against something cold and stiff as they explored the confines of the box. It was a purple Hyacinth. Extracting it from the petals she took in its exquisite fragrance.

He was sorry, but sorry about what? Sorry he was going to be away longer? Had her note overstepped the mark, was he telling her he was sorry they couldn’t be friends? Now, the incredibly anxious woman felt her stomach rocket to her feet with a thud.

Hermione searched the petals for a note, only there was no note.  The frantic young woman tipped the box onto her quilt. She searched the floor around the bed, in case it had fallen out. How could there be no note? What was he trying to tell her?

Her breathing hitched, and she started to pant, but she forced herself to breathe deeply. I will not panic. Maybe he just forgot to put the note in. That’s it. I bet it turns up later, her panicked brain assured her. By eleven o’clock that morning, Hermione was beside herself. She tried to settle back to her study, it was impossible. She rose, and clutching the box to her started pacing the length of Severus’ office.

By the end of the evening when nothing had arrived, her insecurities rose up and beat her soundly. Eventually she curled up in the chair by the fire and sobbed. Since the little box had arrived, she’d felt safe sleeping in her bed. Fairly secure that Severus wouldn’t try and Floo call her; he’d send her a message in the box. Now she started pining by the fire each night once more, waiting.

Chapter Text


By the time the first week of December arrived and there was still no word, Hermione was sick with worry.  It was now that Dumbledore, in apparent indifference to her predicament, choose to inform her that her exams would take place over the last week of term.

She had spent the time following Severus’ first missive trying to stick to his very prudent advice, and treat everyone who tried to get a rise from her with disdain. Dumbledore, however, hadn’t even blinked when she’d replied to his announcement with, “Really, I’ll look forward to that.” Her sarcastic undertones seemed to be completely lost on him.

It actually amused Hermione that most people did not get her sarcasm, even if it really did not help her situation. Tonight, however, she was just fed up, and in an attempt to cheer herself up she had changed into her favourite flouncy lilac coloured dress. It was her best dress and had a matching set of lacy lilac under things. After all, it was Friday night, and she’d finished everything assigned for her to do, which in itself was a monumental task.

Her patrols were trudged, everyone else’s homework was marked, the hospital brewing was done and she desperately needed to relax, bugger further studying. Well, just for tonight, anyway.

She took in her appearance in her mirror, even giving a half-hearted twirl to see the soft material flare out around her. Hermione was very proud she had found the underwear that matched this dress perfectly. She hadn’t thought she would be able to buy lilac underwear, but there it was in the tiny intimate apparel store in Diagon alley. She’d also transfigured a pair of white court shoes to match the dress. Hermione did her hair, catching up the sides and placing her precious clip from Severus in to secure it, and then she floo’d to his office.

There was only two weeks now until her exams, but studying was giving her a headache. She sighed. There was only one thing that could make her feel better at the moment, and absolutely nothing else would work. She sat in the chair by the fire and tried to concentrate on the book she had brought with her, as she yet again prepared herself to wait.

By the time the clock had struck eleven though, Hermione had long ago given up all pretence of reading her book and was now sitting on the rug, leaning on the chair by the fire. Her head was resting on her arm, and she was once more a study in abject misery.

Hermione’s thoughts were ganging up on her more viciously than usual for some reason, and suddenly she was imagining Severus, laying in a gutter somewhere, with her not being able to rouse him. For some reason Ron and his two concubines were there, and laughing. Hermione heard herself yelling at them before she hexed them. Then just as suddenly they stopped and were gone. Off in the distance she heard her name filtering into her head.

“Hermione.”

It sounded wonderful. “Yes,” she murmured.

“Come on, sleepy head, wake up,” the voice teased.

Her eyes flickered and opened slowly. As she started to focus, the voice turned into Severus’ silky tones. Hermione was sleepy and all she wanted was his voice to keep washing over her. “Yeeesss?” she sighed longingly.

“Little lioness, this is a very one sided conversation.”

That did it. Her eyes were finally open.

To tell the truth, Severus had thought about not waking her; she had looked so beautiful when he arrived, as she was, propped on his armchair in her gorgeous soft dress. It hugged all her curves and with her curls cascading down over her arm and shoulder, she was an absolute picture. He’d noticed the hair clip right away, and smiled quietly. Although his heart had twisted cruelly when he thought that she may have been sitting here every night waiting for him. He could plainly see dried tear tracks on her paler than usual cheeks, and this made him furious all over again. Damn, bloody Dumbledore, the heathenish cretins of students, the Dark Lord and the Bulgarian Aurors, he’d seethed to himself when he’d arrived.

He had been taken in by the Bulgarian authorities to help them with their inquiries, which of course meant his belongings had been taken away from him. He’d only been released that morning, but with his assignment then complete, he’d come straight back. Unfortunately the damage was already done, and poor Hermione had been left high and dry with a partial message and no further word for two weeks. The only thing he had wanted to do was to get back to her so he could explain in person, but as soon as he’d reached English soil, his mark had burned.

Much to his relief, he found the Dark Lord was pleased with him, because turning up at Hogwarts still twitching from the Cruciatus was never a good thing. Then, of course, there was Dumbledore to deal with, before he could search out his apprentice.

As she sat up, Hermione gasped. “Severus?”

He had longed to hear his name on her tongue, just as he’d used hers to wake her, and being sleepy she probably hadn’t even realised she’d said it, but it had sounded lovely.

Blinking rapidly, she yawned, stretching, before she saw his head in the floo. “Oh, I’m so sorry,” she gasped as she realised what she’d just said, and the position that she was currently in in his office.

Hoping his voice was still in his control after watching her luxurious cat-like stretch, Severus spoke. “Perhaps you had better take yourself to bed, if you are that tired.”

“Oh,” she sighed, and sounded intensely disappointed. “I’m sorry, I’ve been waiting…” her head dropped, “I didn’t mean to fall asleep.”

“No need to apologise, it is very late.” He looked at her, after a moment he seemed to make a decision. His head tilted to the side, and he leant forward conspiratorially before whispering, “May I tell you a secret?”

Hermione’s eyes were instantly open wide. She nodded vigorously, “Oh yes, please,” her voice gushed breathily.

“Now she’s awake,” Severus chuckled, and without further warning his head disappeared from the fire. There was a pause, which had her wondering what had happened. She was just starting to work herself up to panic, when a voice behind her made her jump. “I’m back.”

Hermione’s head spun round in shock, and there he stood in all his glory, casually leaning on a door frame. He was minus his teaching robes, but otherwise perfectly attired, and her first reaction was to leap up and throw her arms around him. She couldn’t wipe the grin off her face. “I’m so pleased you’re back safely,” she enthused, jumping to her feet.

Severus momentarily wondered if he was in over his head when she started running towards him. As much as he wanted her in his arms, he knew it couldn’t be at the moment. He was both pleased and disappointed when she caught herself and abruptly stopped, appearing to not know which way to jump. He took the opportunity to take her in from head to toe; his eyes taking a detailed inventory of her.

Standing where she had stopped, legs astride and that luscious dress swaying sinuously around her, he almost had to hold the door frame to stop himself closing the distance between them. He wanted her in his arms. He wanted to claim her right then, but until he knew what was happening, he was most definitely not going to do something that stupid. The old man had been very scant on his offered details during their debrief, and of course Severus would never ask out right what was happening.

He was drawn from his thoughts as she spoke. “I’m not still dreaming, am I?” she asked, gazing at him, her eyes wide. The obviously confused woman abruptly pinched her own arm. “Ouch, no definitely not still dreaming.”

They both laughed, and Severus smiled tentatively. “No, not dreaming,” he assured her. Taking a deep breath and reaching into his pocket, he withdrew a folded piece of parchment. Tapping it with his wand, he held it out. “I believe I owe you one letter. I am sorry this didn’t arrive with the hyacinth, but I had a little trouble.” Severus watched her face flutter between several emotions, and he wasn’t at all certain she wasn’t going to cry.

Finally, she lifted her eyes from the letter and took a step towards him. “You did?” her eyes searched him. “Are you all right?”

“Perfectly,” he assured her. “Now, would my little friend care for some supper while she tells me everything that has been happening?” His eyebrow sailed up. “Well, unless she really is too tired.”

“No!” Hermione cut in, beaming at him. “No, I’m not too tired, and that would be lovely.” She finally made her legs move, and took a tentative step towards him.

Severus was nervous as she approached. When she didn’t take the letter, he quietly pressed it into her still shaking hand. “Read it later,” he instructed gently, and extended his arm in a welcoming gesture. His mind was still processing the strength of his reactions to this young woman, and he caught himself wondering just how this was possible. How could she possibly care for me?

Nodding her understanding, Hermione allowed Severus to usher her up some steps. How many she didn’t know, she was positively in a dreamlike trance, and for that matter, she didn’t care as they continued through another open door and into a large sitting room with curtain framed French doors.

The huge doors drew any visitor’s eyes straight out to a massive potions, herb, and flower garden. It was a lovely room, comfortable and full of colours. It almost sparkled in the reflected light of what looked like hundreds of candles dancing in a green tinged crystal chandelier, which cast equally enchanting intricate patterns on the vaulted stone ceiling.

Hermione took in the stained wood floor and the many rugs, and the bottle green chesterfield lounge suite that matched the deep green velvet curtains. It distinguished it as the head of Slytherin’s quarters, just as the Slytherin coat of arms above the mantelpiece really branded it so.

The Gryffindor witch found it distinctly masculine, which was only to be expected, but also utterly lovely. Then her eyes came to rest on an entire two walls of books, and she turned her astounded gaze back to at him.

He chuckled, knowing exactly what she was thinking. “All in good time, my little apprentice.” Indicating towards the lounge, he gestured for her to sit. Her heart was still pounding in her chest and she was very flushed, but as she walked she noticed something else, something that her initial scan of the lodgings had failed to see initially. Lord knows why, it’s big enough, her still stunned brain thought, and she stopped abruptly in her scrutiny, and sighed, instantly wanting to reach for it.

The object in question possessed antique turned legs, which arched elegantly away from its body, as well as a pleasant deep oak wood case. Hermione gasped, her eyes wide with interest. “You have a piano?” Her amber-flecked eyes turned to him. “I love the piano,” she asserted, gazing at him, her voice now succumbing to breathy excitement. “Do you play?”

“Yes, on occasion,” he confirmed, slightly cautious of her enthusiasm. “Do you?” He moved towards where she had stopped.

“I attempt to. I used to love it. It is one of the only things I regretted about coming to school here.” She looked at him, “There is very little music.” She thought a moment, “Did you learn from a Muggle, sir?”

Severus gazed at her eyes and saw a flicker of her passion curl through their depths. “Yes, Miss Inquisitive, I learnt from an old Muggle woman who lived up the road.”

She smiled uncertainly in return.

The Potion master knew he was on shaky ground inviting Hermione into his quarters. Suddenly this was getting way too personal, and he could see the next question forming on her lips now. Time to change the subject, Snape, “Please, sit,” Severus encouraged, effectively cutting her off. “Lotti,” he called, and the little elf appeared.

A huge smile broke across the elf’s face. “You is being back safe, master. How is Lotti being able to serve you?”

Severus looked at Hermione then said, “Coco and biscuits?” and he watched as she smiled, and nodded. He turned to Lotti, she bowed and was gone. Looking back to Hermione he seated himself in his chair, resting the ankle of one leg over the knee of the other. Normally he would have had music playing, but being aware that he had to tread very carefully with Hermione until he found out what was happening, he decided to forgo that pleasure this time. It might be a little too comfortable, even romantic, his mind dared to think.

Hermione would have loved to slip her shoes off and settle herself with her feet tucked up under her, but decided that would be too much of a liberty. So she perched tentatively on the lounge. She was far too nervous to even contemplate anything else anyway.

Lotti returned and Severus levitated mug of coco complete with marshmallows and a spoon to scoop them out to Hermione. Offering her a biscuit the same way, he took a deep breath and grimaced in anticipation of what he had to say. “So, tell me the worst.”

“Oh… err, well,” Hermione was suddenly more apprehensive than before, if that was actually possible. “Um…” when she lowered her head, he knew it had to be bad. “I know you wanted my silence, and really s-sir, err, Professor, it wasn’t me,” and she fixed him with a plaintive stare, with her bottom lip firmly grasped in her teeth so it wouldn’t tremble. “I would never betray your trust,” she told him.

“I know you wouldn’t, little lioness.” He sighed, “What has the old fool done?”

Hermione gnawed at her lip again. “The headmaster has had me teaching,” she told him.

“Teaching what?” His roar, and instant mood change for the worst, troubled her more, and she wondered if the acidic teacher wasn’t far away.

“First and Second year potions” she finished softly.

“Oh no, the bloody old...”

Hermione tried not to think of this as an insult to her ability, but she must have looked distressed, because he was quickly reassuring her.

“Don‘t get me wrong, you are more than capable of doing it. The reason I hadn’t let you yet,” he sighed. “Well it was purely for your own protection.”

Hermione’s head dropped back down. “Yes, I’ve found that out,” she confirmed quietly.

Severus instantly bristled, especially when he heard her breath catch. “Why, what has happened?”

“Sir, I mean, Professor… umm, no disrespect intended, but if they had a popularity contest tomorrow amongst the senior students, and you and I were the only contenders, you would win by a landslide.”

He huffed. “And this centres around Weasley and his anatomically correct bang dolls, I suppose?”

Hermione spluttered. “Bang dolls?” She suddenly grinned and cackled. “I love it!” she announced, and finally smiled as she said sincerely, “Thank you.”

 “What for?” Severus asked, genuinely puzzled.

“You seem to have the gift for cheering me up.”

“My pleasure, little lioness,” he said, almost preening in happiness, but his expression quickly became serious again. “Now answer the question.”

She nodded. “Yes, and it is amazing what people are willing to believe.”

“Sheep, Miss Granger.” Severus gave her a devilish grin. “But sheep are so easy to manipulate.” He leaned towards her, his voice suddenly dropping in volume and pitch. “And that, Miss Granger is a pleasure I can indulge in. I like the reactions of sheep, don’t you worry, the tables will turn,” he watched her eyes almost glaze over in reaction to his voice. “Perhaps down the track, there will even be a little smattering of… getting even,” he smoothed, his drawl lowering even more. Watching the results with a roguish glint in his eye, Severus chuckled. Both for the fun he was going to have with her tormentors, and later the games he could play with her. “We’ll just have to wait our opportunity. Have no fear it will arise, if we’re patient.”

“Do you really think so, s-sir, I mean, professor,” she said, pleased that her mouth seemed to function without her brain’s input, as said brain had been short-circuited by an overload of delicious Potions master’s liquid, chocolate voice.

Severus nodded and gave her a quirky little half smile.

She flushed red, and gave him an edgy smile in return. “Oh I sincerely hope so.”

“I’m back now, and things will change.” His confidence was reassuring. “I take it you have completed your exams?”

“No, not as such,” she answered, and clarified when his eyebrows furrowed, and he suddenly appeared intensely irritated as his expression closed off. “They are set for the last week of term, and to tell the truth,” she admitted huffing, “I can’t wait.”

You’re not the only one, my sweet girl, he thought. “Why has it taken so long?”

“I’m not sure, but one thing I have learnt while working with Dumbledore these past weeks, is that everything is at his disposal.”

Severus chuckled. “You have learnt a lot, haven’t you?”

She nodded and smiled.

“So what else has he meddled with in my absence?”

She huffed in obvious irritation. “My research project,” his eyebrow raised, and he silently indicated she should continue. “To tell the truth, up until he started subtly… err ‘guiding’ my thinking, I hadn’t given it a great deal of thought. My immediate response would have been something that benefits people wounded in the war.”

He watched her speak and then nodded. “Yes, that sounds like a very Gryffindorish sort of project, and it has merit. There are many projects that might be of benefit within that scope.”

“However, I wanted to discuss that with you before being err... shall we say ran down by a freight train.”

Both eyebrows went up and he laughed. “Ah, I see you have discovered that running people down with heavy machinery is something of a specialty for Albus,” he replied.

Hermione couldn’t help thinking there was a fair amount of malice contained in his statement, even if he was still making light of it. She deliberately spoke softly, “I would like to hear your suggestions, if I may.”

Changing tack seamlessly, Severus chuckled deeply. “I don’t know what he has talked you into, but know this, my lioness. I make it a habit never to tell a know-it-all what to do.”

Hermione’s mouth dropped open and forgetting herself totally she stated incredulously, “You must be joking, you have spent the last six years telling me exactly what to do, in painstaking, minute detail.”

He laughed louder this time. “It was my job when you were in my class, now, at this very moment in time, although still a student you are not in my class per say,” he assured her, reaching for another biscuit. “So I choose not to make suggestions. It is now your choice, even though I will discuss that choice with you. I will refrain from telling you what you should do.” Then he smirked significantly. “But it is refreshing to finally hear you describe yourself as the know-it-all I’ve always known you to be,” and his eyebrow went up playfully, as Hermione spluttered mid sip.

Recovering, and discretely wiping her lip she laughed. “Oh I walked straight into that one, didn’t I?”

“I’m afraid you did, little lioness,” he cackled.

Hermione watched him dunk his biscuit looking very smug, and thought again how much she liked his pet name for her.

However, her face became serious. “It’s not that I don’t believe that the project he wants me to concentrate on isn’t a worthwhile one.” Severus was still watching her with interest. “It’s just that I would have liked more time to consider, and weigh up the pros and cons.”

“Very wise,” his said thoughtfully. “So, you better tell me what it is.”

She took a deep breath and started speaking. “Dumbledore wants me to research a potion that will block, or even cure, a charmed curse mark.” Severus gasped, and his right hand instantly went to his left forearm. Hermione saw this movement, and her intake of breath was just as audible, but what she said next was almost a whisper. “He wants me to work on blocking the dark mark, doesn’t he?” Her eyes were huge. “Can that be done, sir... oh damn, Professor?”

Severus spluttered, and finally said, “To tell the truth, I don’t know. May I think about it for a time before we discuss it further?”

Hermione nodded, stifling a yawn, “Of course, s... Professor. At least now I understand why he has pushed me in this direction.”

Severus sighed, tiredly. “Yes, alas, I also can see his intent, but the dark mark would be the ultimate charmed curse to undo. It is extremely complicated magic. But a potion that achieved relief for victims of other types of curse marks would be just as valiant a project.”

Hermione opened her mouth to express the opinion that he was just as important, but her body betrayed her, and she yawned. Severus wished to end the discussion before it went somewhere inappropriate, and leapt on the opportunity presented. “Looks to me like it is time all little Gryffindor Lioness’ were in their beds,” he said. Cutting her off before she said anything more, “Come, Miss Granger, or you’ll never make it down to start the new batch of Wolfsbane in the morning.”

“I thought…” she stuttered, “Once you were back.”

He shook his head. “You will improve with practice, and it will be good to have two people who can brew it.” He looked at her seriously. “Also, I may not always be here,” and he deliberately left it open ended, as he rose from his chair. “Now it’s time for bed,” he bowed his head to her. “Good night, Miss Granger,” he stated very formally.

Plainly disappointed, she got up. “Oh… good night, sir. I mean, Professor.” Then reluctantly walking towards the door that led back down stairs and into his office, she turned, “Thank you for supper.”

He nodded. “You’re very welcome.” He was already sitting at his desk. She watched him a moment before exiting. It never ceased to amaze her how he could just freeze her out.

Distractedly she walked down the steps again. There appeared to be far more than she remembered, although she soon got to his office, and walked to the Floo, picking her book off the chair on the way. Hermione looked back at the open door once more, and watched it shimmer out of existence, before she grabbed the Floo powder and tossing it into the fire, she muttered, “Head girl’s room.”

When he closed the door into his office, Severus gave up all pretence that he was actually going to work and slumped into his chair. He vaguely heard the clock chime two and was surprised, had they really talked for three hours? The weeks had been long. It seemed the tedium of time was still taunting him. He scrubbed his face with his hands, looking at the pile of marking Dumbledore had instantly dumped in his lap on his return, and he got up.

How could Albus be making life even more complicated for me? He’s finally organised the bloody exams, but by putting Hermione above the rest of the students while still a student, he’s also managed to make life harder for her as well. It’s elementary; the man simply doesn’t care, as long as he gets his own way.

He drank the first whiskey in one swallow and poured another. He had been pinning his hopes on the fact that Hermione would be finished her exams when he returned. He wanted her student status gone, that way he could pursue a relationship with her. He had already been having trouble keeping his hands to himself, even before he’d left. The night he left, and she was still in hospital, the urge to hold her had almost been overwhelming.

“Then tonight,” he huffed. “Shit, I hate having to freeze her out.”

Now alone again, and without distraction, the mission loomed back up at him. Severus had showered and changed before he had woken Hermione tonight. The deed he had been ordered to accomplish was still playing on his mind. He had executed it with precision. It hadn’t been difficult to lay the false trail that Dumbledore had requested.

The fact that it would mean the death of more than one person didn’t seem important to Albus. But it sure as hell upsets me, possibly more than usual, because one of the victims caught in this trap is a prominent wand maker, he pondered. The one thing that did please him was that it was finished, and completed earlier than he had anticipated.

Looking at the still open door, he closed, locked and warded it. He followed this by slamming the now empty glass down on the side table and heading for his bedroom. By the time he reached the bathroom he was naked, the urge to shower again too overwhelming. He still felt dirty after what he’d been forced to do, even though he knew he wasn’t. 

He finally wandering back into the bedroom, and dousing the lights with a murmured, “Nox.” Severus roughly pulled back the bed clothes, and settled on the cool sheet. Leaning up against his pillows, he grabbed his wand, and waving it into the air, Mozart (1) started playing, then his warming charm activated.

Sighing loudly and breathing deeply, Severus relaxed a little more. The two fire whiskeys and the hot shower were now helping, and he closed his eyes, head resting back against the headboard as he let the music wash over him. No matter what many pure bloods said, there were countless merits in Muggle music. He sat there mulling this over, his head still back, knees up and forearms resting on them. There was a simple pleasure in feeling the cool sheets under his naked body.

Of course, he shouldn’t have thought that, because the next place his eyes strayed was the empty space beside him. It didn’t take much imagination to see Hermione stretched out naked beside him. He had the urge to grab a pillow and hug it, just for the comfort it represented. He chastised himself for this weakness. “Fuck, I’m acting like a Hufflepuff,” he murmured in irritation.

The waxing silver moon abruptly invaded his reflections, coming out from behind a cloud. It’s cool blueness cast an ethereal glow over his pale skin. Examining himself in this light, he could almost ignore the scars that littered his torso, and remember what it was like before he had made the biggest mistake of his life.

Thinking back to a seventeen year old Severus made him remember what that young man would have been doing in this situation, blessedly alone in the dark. He laughed then looked down between his legs. “Ah, I see you remember too,” he said chuckling at his cock, now jutting out proudly and begging for attention. “You sir, have always been very demanding,” he stated to it, and ran one hand of long digits along it, caressing its length with feather-light touches.

A jolt of pleasure curled through him, and he let his index finger trace the lines on the tip, watching with interest as it spread the beading moisture around the bulbous head. “Oh, to hell with it all,” he sighed, and slid down the pillows, allowing his legs to fall open. He murmured spell which charmed his hands with gel, and he took his impressive member in hand, stroking it with one curled hand, while rubbing firm circles with the palm of his other hand behind it on his balls. The music floated around, and over him, carrying him away with it.

Fuck that feels good, he thought. There was only one thing that would feel better, but that was still out of his reach. He moaned in frustration and delight at the same time. When he felt his heavy shaft starting to twitch, he brought both hands to his task. Rolling onto his side, he happily thrust himself into his curled hands, groaning longingly and imagining burying himself over and over into Hermione’s sweetness.

He wanted to see her naked, feel her around his shaft. He still fantasied about that night they had talked via the floo, and she had spread her legs while lying on the rug. It had taken all his resolve not to work out some way of getting to see what the view was like from his desk. He groaned with pleasure again and thrust harder.

~~~***~~~

Hermione had gone back to her room feeling distraught, even after such a pleasant interlude. However, it wasn’t long though and she realised two things. The first one was something Professor McGonagall had said to her some time back, about Severus keeping the world at arm’s length. She didn’t know what trials he had been through in the past few weeks, and he was even less likely to tell her, but Hermione was certain that they were becoming friends and that was wonderful.

She understood why he felt the need to keep the world at bay, and it was only natural if he thought he was letting his guard down that he would feel the need to re-establish those barriers each time. Thinking about the problem from that angle helped her to retrieve some of her pleasant feelings from the evening, and she relaxed a bit.

The second of the two things, made her laugh. She’d forgotten the letter he’d given her. She finally got to read why he was sorry. Pulling it from her pocket, she tentatively opened the missive, and started reading.

Dear Hermione,                                                                                             

I am sorry I am still absent from you.

You will get better at brewing Wolfsbane with experience. The important thing is that it worked, well done. Hopefully I will be back at Hogwarts before you need to brew it again, and we can brew it together.

Where Dumbledore is concerned, keep treating him with disdain, we’ll solve that problem when I get home as well. I hope by now you are no longer a student, this will make both our lives easier.

Little lioness, there is nothing wrong with wanting to finish what you start. You’re not a quitter, and that’s a good thing. This war has displaced many of us. I too will be very pleased when it’s over. It pains me to be absent, as I also miss you.

Your secrets to the dark universe intrigue me. Oh, that we were both free to act as friends should.

Sleep well, little friend, I will be back as soon as I am able.

Sincerely
Severus

Hermione sighed as she finished reading. It was a very carefully worded letter. He was being fairly non-committal, but still positive. The relief she felt coursing through her had translated into overwhelming fatigue, and her eyes grew heavy. She got up and removed her clothing, flopping back down on her bed and reclining with only the light of the moon for company as she thought about this. At this late hour, she figured no one would interrupt her, and she relaxed propped up on the numerous pillows she possessed, feeling very comfortable for once.

Hermione reached behind herself and gathered one of her pillows and hugged it; her apprehensiveness had finally left her. Her lovely Potions master had returned, and all her thoughts dissolved into one point as she shut her eyes, and imagined it was his mouth on her ear, whispering delicious thoughts to her brain.

Sleep came calling softly, for the first time in weeks. She snuggled under her covers, allowing it take her, too exhausted to do anything else.

Chapter Text


After breakfast the next morning Severus stormed into Minerva’s office, having missed her in the Great Hall. His thoroughly incensed brain wanted to know how the hell things could have gotten this bad. It seemed unbelievable; he’d only been gone six weeks. How could she have let this happen? He was livid.

The head of Gryffindor was shocked by the level of his temper. His fists were clenched and he wore a fierce scowl. “I have just watched Miss Granger become the victim of a tripping hexes, have salt put in her Pumpkin juice, and have a sign magically affixed to her robes. I have discretely removed the sign,” and he thrust a crumpled piece of parchment at her that she hadn’t noticed in his fist.

Minerva silently straightened it and gasped. This had been planned; the writing was deliberately generic and the word, slut was scrawled across it. Snape’s eyes flashed. “I’ve taken note of each deed and the miscreants responsible,” he seethed heatedly, “and they will all be dealt with today. Meanwhile, I was very proud of my assistant; she held her head up and ignored them, exactly as I counselled her to do. ”

His lips tightened again, “But I’m bloody furious with Albus. Him and his damned idiocy. He’s made her a target,” he started pacing. “A bloody target! She is one of the wizarding world’s brightest hopes, and this is how he uses her. I bet the Dark Lord is laughing hysterically at the mess he’s made for her.”

“I’ve tried to help her,” Minerva stated in her own defence. “Sanctioning the Weasley boy has no effect because the rumour monster is now rampant. There are only a few senior students not participating in the sport, and Potter seems to have strayed from her side again.”

Severus huffed, “Well that was to be expected, he’s bloody James Potter’s son.” He watched Minerva’s lips press together.

“Maybe you should talk to Hermione about that,” Minerva stated. “She seems to think there is something significant bothering the boy, but she won’t tell me what, something about exploring his masculinity. Hermione tells me she forgives him,” and she shook her head.

“Minerva, she’s too forgiving. They are all treating her like dirt. She needs to be taken out of circulation for a while, that would allow it to die down. Of course, I realise she would never agree to that.” He sighed, “This really won’t cease completely until the current sixth and seventh years have graduated.”

“As much as I hate to agree with you, you’re right.” Minerva shook her head, and putting her hand on his arm, she added, “I’m glad you’re back, Severus. She’s been lost without you, support her. Let her know you care.” Minerva watched him a moment, her brow furrowed, as she obviously wrestled with a decision. Finally she sighed, “If I am correct, I will have news about an alternative support base very soon as well. I’m still waiting for the confirmation of my suspicions. If it is true it may not solve her problems but it will put her on a better footing to deal with some of them I hope.”

Severus levelled her with a demanding stare. “What?” he asked, his brow still wrinkled in frustration.

“No,” she said, returning his stern look. “If my information proves true I will tell both of you at the appropriate time. I do not wish to give anyone false hope.” Waving her hand towards the door, she smirked. “Now, I believe your apprentice will be waiting for you, good bye.” Then looking at him seriously, she smiled. “It really is good to see you back safely.”

His mouth almost twisted into a smile. “Irritating tabby cat,” he muttered, brow still furrowed.

“Good bye, Severus,” she laughed, waving her hand at him. The head of Gryffindor knew he would have the problem to heel very soon.

Walking towards his dungeons, Snape’s mind was still turning over Minerva’s comments. I wonder what she’s waiting for?  Of course, there is another way. I could handle this problem by explaining what Hermione doesn’t know about our destiny yet, there by hastening the reaction which had already started. The sticking point with that plan is that she’s still a student, and any claiming would definitely be improper. Plus the fact that not all the pieces of the Prophesy have fallen into place yet, apart from the bit about ‘finding a lost soul and embracing her’. Which again, I can’t do because she’s a bloody student.

He sighed, even if his expression was still set in stone. There is another part that spoke of a great power, I have no idea what that means. He shook his head as a mutinous voice deep within him whispered another opinion. You can tell her, she’s of age. It’s not a crime, and you need to tell her, it would take some of the pressure off. He scoffed to himself. That’s certainly straight from the fry pan into the fire, and he increased his stride towards his office. It is true, he thought, she’s an adult, but that’s not the point, she’s still a student. However, the temptation to give in and everybody be hanged was almost too irresistible. Maybe I can push the boundaries a little, especially privately… friendship only of course.

By this time he had made it into his office, but his head was in a right muddle. Slamming the door behind him, he leaned up against it. The thought of what could still happen to him troubled him. What if I have to leave again or worse, disappear into the ether without a trace and she’d never know what happened. If the worst does happen, I doubt the perpetrator of the deed would be kind enough to return my body. I can’t let that happen.

He sighed, and ran his fingers through his hair. But the fact remains, it’s driving me crazy having such intense feelings for her and being unable to act on them. Anything I do to relieve the problem is dangerous, but something has to give somewhere. All the myriad of other issues I have under control, all neatly compartmentalised, yet this passion for this particular young woman refuses to obey. It also threatens to tumble the rest of my control into nothing. He quietly banged the back of his head on the sturdy strength of the thick door, finding the rhythmic thumping therapeutic. He dug in his pocket for a cigarette. Oh bugger, that’s right I ran out. Being so caught up in his own musings, he jumped when a gentle voice reached his ears.

“Rough morning, Professor?”

Severus tried to appear calm, as he huffed and pushed off the door, but his mind was still very foggy. “You could say that.”

The young woman promptly walked out of her lab, and conjured him a mug of tea. “Here, this may help.”

Sweet Merlin she’s beautiful, standing there so earnestly offering comfort. If only she wasn’t wearing that bloody uniform the picture would be perfect. Severus took a step towards her, but hesitated, and watched her move the further required distance towards him, and he awkwardly accepted the mug from her.

It wasn’t that he actually wanted a mug of tea, but the intent behind her offering was something he craved more than anything; comfort and caring. “You’re going to spoil me, Miss Granger,” he commented, trying to make it sound casual.

“You deserve it, s-sir… I mean, Professor,” she returned shyly, and blushed before scurrying back into her lab. She heard him make a little choking noise and she put her head back around the door. “Are you all right, sir?”

“Bloody hell, woman, how much brandy is actually in this innocent looking mug of tea?”

Hermione wasn’t certain where her boldness came from, but she breathily exclaimed, “Opps,” and giggled delightfully. Making a mock horrified expression, she said, “I probably should have told you I added a tiny splash of something more fortifying.”

There it was again, that wicked, twisted little smile, and Severus was caught by it.

“You looked like you needed something a little more than mere innocent tea. I hope you like it,” she finished, smiling.

He chuckled. “I think the only thing that’s a splash in this brew is the tea,” he commented dryly, but bowed his head cordially. “Nevertheless, thank you, your intuition was correct. Now come, we have much to do. You will brew, and I will watch.” I wish I knew what will happen from one day to the next, she might be brewing alone again next month, his mind suddenly told him, and he felt the need to warn her of this. “Chances are next time you will be brewing alone again.” But the moment the words were out of his mouth, he regretted them.

Hermione cut him a hurt look, but started preparing. He watched her silently for some time, and a great sadness settled on him. Severus knew he was doing the right thing not acknowledging his true relationship with her at the moment, but it didn’t stop it from hurting, especially seeing it was adding more to her burden. She hasn’t mentioned the letter I gave her. Although, I suppose we shouldn’t really talk about that at the moment.

The fact that he thought Dumbledore might send him away again rankled. He knew there was also another spy, but he’d never caught whoever it was. Each time, being alone in the field gets harder, each scenario more convoluted. It would be good to have trusted back up. But under these circumstances, I just can’t show Hermione too much tenderness. She might find herself left without me, and I would hate to leave her to pine, not knowing what had happened. So his face still expressed no emotion, as he watched her start to prepare the infusion.

Suddenly she spoke. “You think you will be leaving again soon, don’t you, Professor?”

No point in denying it. “Yes, Miss Granger, I think I will,” he said flatly, after hesitating a beat.

This time the barb that pierced her chest felt red hot, but she tried not to react. “How l-long, sir?” she asked, and her fingers fumbled with the silver preparation knife.

He noticed. “Concentrate, Miss Granger, this potion is lethal.”

He saw that famous Gryffindor courage steel itself, knowing how important her task was and she went silent. Hermione quietly slipped into the mode she had used while a member of his class. I wish he would let me help him, but I’m still a student. Should I bring up the letter from last night? Best not to Granger, things aren’t as free now we’re face to face, and Hermione abruptly found herself hating Albus Dumbledore.

Severus sat observing her with similar sentiments running around his head, while he watched her taking shaky breaths and resolutely fighting to keep her brain functioning. All the problems with the immature little shits being jealous of her for doing something different, like they could do it, the infantile little morons. Everything Dumbledore has thrust upon her, her exams, and all the other duties she’s been forced to keep going with, and now I dump this on her as well. I’m supposed to be helping her, not hindering. Hermione has no equal. I’ve even heard her politely correcting some of the professors. He smiled to himself at this thought. Some of them deserve it. They’re just as juvenile. Damn stupid! Severus had no time for idiots even if they were supposed to be his peers.

Having Hermione as my apprentice has some advantages I can enjoy, like the little scene with the mug of tea or some of our freer conversation from last night and the letters. Oh how I loved those letters. It’s nice we’re starting to speak like acquaintances, even friends now I can drop the scary professor routine. I’ve always hated having to use that on her, but where does it go from here?

Then his train of thought changed slightly. Draco is the other one I hate using that persona on, but I know the boy understands, after all he’s family. He sees both sides, which is why when he was younger he was so smug with the rest of the student. He has also had to mature quickly. Come to think of it he looked dreadful at breakfast. Best look into that later today as well.

His dark eyes scanned Hermione’s countenance as she concentrated on her task. Hermione’s already far more mature than her years, even if she is still subject to the occasional fit of Gryffindor stupidity. Once she’s without the constant reminders of all the idiocy and the lesser minds pulling her down, she will have no impediments. He huffed, but if that means her leaving here, I have to manage to secure her friendship beforehand.

He again focused on her working quietly. By every deity that might assist me, I want to come back to her after whatever mess Albus concocts for me next time. Through his work on both sides of this war, he could see it was all starting to come to a head. Perhaps only six more months and it will be over.

Why was fate such a cruel bitch? But watching the luscious creature before him, he wondered, is fate handing me another punishment, or offering me a reason to make sure I survive? Will she actually want me, she appeared to? Watching her now, Severus allowed his affection for her to bubble to the surface while, he thought. Can I trust what I’m seeing? I want to, oh how desperately I want to.

Closing his eyes he let himself drift to his safe plane, just for a moment; that place in his head that had sustained him through these long years, where just lately he was allowing himself to care for this woman and want her. She is maturing into such a striking woman, even if her brow is now constantly furrowed with stress and tension, and her face pale and wan.

As he was pondering this, Hermione unexpectedly glanced up. She was struck by the open, soft expression gracing his usually austere features and smiled in response. Something seemed to force his eyes open and in his state of thought, Severus returned the gesture without thinking. Their eyes locked for some seconds, before Hermione became flustered and her gaze shot back to her work.

For Severus that moment cemented his decision. I’ve got to make certain she cares for me. I know I’ve only got myself to blame for the fact that I’m unsure. I have to help her overcome the problems that currently assail her, help her find her passion for life again. The absence of which makes my heart ache painfully. The trick to make this work is going to be proceeding slowly, gaining enough of her trust while she’s a student to be able to retain her as a friend and confidant if we’re both fortunate enough to survive this wretched war. Then we’ll be free and able to act as we wish.

Having made his decision, Severus then set his extensive intellect to wondering if Hermione and Draco could become allies in some way. If Hermione can find my softer side, I wonder if she could help Draco as well, he pondered. The young man really needs an ally before life spirals further out of control on him.

Severus knew both he and Lucius didn’t want the boy subjected to the same pressure they endured before they became Death Eaters. For one thing the boy was too timid. He’d be eaten up by the Death Eater machine, then once his innocence is used and his appeal extinguished he will be disposed off. Both men had seen it happen all too often with the children of Death Eaters who were forced to follow their parents mistakes. Makes me glad I have no children that can be used against me.

Severus knew he would be safe leaving Hermione and Draco as companions. That was another thing both Lucius and he had realised about the boy. He definitely wasn’t interested in girls; he would be the perfect companion for her.

When Hermione had the base prepared, she glanced back up at Severus, only to find him still deep in thought. Not wanting to disturb him, but aware of their time constraints, she quietly said, “Professor?”

His conscious mind seemed to drift back in slowly and Hermione watched fascinated, as usually unseen expressions flitted across his face.

He finally nodded, realising she was up to the next stage and she smiled quietly at him once more. This time he was more conscious of what he was doing, and only the corner of his mouth rose in response. “As you know, this next stage takes twenty minutes” he told her. His voice felt somehow rusty to him, and he cleared his throat. “Then scarify the air to remove the vapour before you finish the charm.”

Hermione nodded. “Yes s-sir, I mean Professor,” she replied. Happy that she gotten it correct last time and irritated that she kept calling him ‘sir’ not ‘professor’. Old habits die hard, she thought, as she warded the door so no one would wander in while the air was not breathable, and they both performed the bubble-head charm to prevent breathing in the fumes, then Hermione set the heat under the cauldron and kept working.

Snape pondered as he watched her. She really is having trouble with the change from sir to Professor. I must find the right moment to do something about that too.

The Gryffindor witch worked on quietly, completing the base without any further assistance, and Severus was quietly very impressed. “Well done, Miss Granger,” he said calmly. “We’ll finish the potion tonight. Be careful cleaning up that aconite,” he warned as he got up to go to his office.

“Yes, sir,” she responded, but then muttered, “Bloody hell,” and corrected herself yet again. Sorry... Professor,” and she finished vanishing the scraps, while placing left over ingredients on a tray to return to his storeroom.

Finally finished, she walked out into his office with her bag over her shoulder. “What time would you like me to come tonight?”

Knowing things were a little strained now they were back together, Severus tried his best to sound gentle. “As soon as classes finish.”

 

“Y-Yes, Professor,” and she smiled tightly.

He went to rise and open the portal into the reading room, as had become their habit.

“Don’t trouble yourself, I can use the Floo.”

“Nonsense, Miss Granger,” he said getting up. “I’m here, and while I’m here,” his eyebrows rose and he smirked at her slyly, “I’m the boss, so you will use the portal.”

“Oh,” she said sagely, her smile became a little less stressed. “Thank you, Professor, I appreciate that.”

“You’re welcome, Little Lioness. I will teach you the spell if I have to leave you again, then you can let yourself in and out.” He nodded and Hermione walked into the reading room, happy that he had given her some reassurance that everything was still all right.

Settling at his desk, Severus was glad he didn’t have any classes this morning. He wanted to make certain Hermione had enough to keep her occupied in case he had to leave again without warning. So he started to work on creating her a schedule. She had moved purely into completing her apprenticeship now, and after her exams, he could accelerate her apprenticeship too. This state of affairs pleased him greatly. She could continue her research as a proper assistant.

~~***~~~

Once he had organised Hermione’s schedule, he leaned back in his chair, crossing his long legs at the ankles and steepling his fingers in front of him. He again turned his thoughts to the Draco problem.

There are two commonalities between them. She is head girl and he’s head boy, there has to be something there I can use as fuel for a friendship to form. That plus the fact they’re both outcasts within their own house. The only difference is that Draco had hidden this fact. I’ll speak to them separately before tomorrow evening, and explain my request.

His reflections were interrupted by a tap on the door he recognised well. Rising from his desk Severus opened the heavy wooden door. One look at the countenance of the aristocratic wizard standing in the hallway froze him mid greeting. “Lucius, what the hell’s the matter?”

The blond man closed his steel grey eyes momentarily, and bowed his head. “He’s had her killed,” he said quietly.

Severus instantly knew who he meant. “Oh, Lucius, come in,” Severus encouraged. Once his friend was across the threshold, Severus closed the door and guided him to an arm chair. Sitting in the one opposite, he asked, “How, what happened?”

“McNair was bored. The Dark Lord gave her to him... to play with,” Lucius conveyed, the malice in his words was clear. Taking an unsteady breath, he continued, “I was from home, and the mad bitch didn’t even questioned him, apparently she watched.” Turning eyes full of hate towards his friend, “Severus, she fuckin watched that monster rape and murder her own sister.” Then without warning, he crumbled. “I can’t do this anymore, this bloody pretence. It’s all too painful.” Lucius gazed at the distraught face of his only true friend. He knew that because Severus would never allow emotion to register on his face if he didn’t still trust him.

“I want out,” the blond continued, “I just can’t do any of it anymore. We both know Draco will be next.” Trying to regain his composure, while Severus summoned Firewhisky and glasses, Lucius continued, “And worse than The Dark Lord’s madness, is his opponent’s malaise. I am firmly convinced that Dumbledore is just as unhinged. We are all going to hell in a hand basket, and there’s not a thing any of us can do but run.”

 A light went on in the darkness and Severus studied his friend a moment, “You’re the other spy,” he stated flatly.

There was no joy in Lucius’ expression either, when he nodded slightly in confirmation.

“The old bastard’s been playing us against each other,” Severus seethed, “feeling smug that he’s still the superior one.” He sighed and ran his hand through his hair. “They are both using us as pawns in their game. This is much worse than I thought, Lu.”

Then seeing his friend unable to process anything further, he leaned forward and placed a hand on Lucius’ knee as he added, “I am truly sorry about Narcissa. I know you two weren’t happy,” he grimaced, and then scowled, “but this... this is just plain sick,” he admitted with feeling. “So much of what goes on around us is sick and twisted. I know how you feel, but I truly think that running is not the answer. Remember what happened to Kararoff?”

Lucius nodded and looked up, so Severus continued. “I’m sure we could form an alliance. You and I know how Death Eaters operatee need to use that knowledge against them.” Severus was now up and pacing his office. He’d just had something of an epiphany. “It all fits,” he muttered more to himself than Lucius, “This is the destiny revealed.” Looking up, he saw Lucius’ confused expression at his mumblings. Severus smirked, “I’m stunned I’ve never seen this before.”

However, he then abruptly stopped, a horrified expression on his face, as what he’d thought that morning trickled into his mind. “Where’s Draco?” and he watched Lucius shrug. “Have you spoken to him yet?”

Lucius shook his head, too upset to see the obvious. “He hasn’t been told, but he….” And he stopped dead, as realisation hit him too.

“The boy will have felt it,” Severus finished for him, racing to his desk. “Fuck Lucius, what were you thinking?” Scribbling a note quickly, he called Lotti. The little elf bowed. “Deliver this to Professor Vector immediately and then return.” She bowed and was gone. Leaving a very ashen faced Luciustrying to fathom why he hadn’t thought of his son’s affinity, as his friend realised what he’d just said in his panic and walked back over to grip Lucius’ shoulder firmly in support. “I’m sorry Lu, I didn’t think.”

~~~***~~~

The Arithmancy lesson was almost over when Severus’ elf appeared beside Vector’s desk, and waited to be acknowledged before handing the professor the parchment.

Septima nodded in thanks and watched Lotti leave before she read the message, then looked to the appropriate students. “Mister Malfoy, your father is here and wishes to see you. He is in your head of house’s office. You may as well collect your belongs to take, the lesson’s almost over.” Turning to Hermione, she continued, “Miss Granger, you are also required.”

~~~***~~~

In his office, Severus sent another discrete message via the elf. “Lucius, my friend, it is time we fought back.” Severus turned and walked into the little lab. He picked up a phial of the calming brew Hermione had made the day before. Coming back and sitting opposite the distraught man, Lucius looked to Severus’ fathomless eyes as the Potions master said, “You need to pull yourself together. We will have more than Draco’s company in a moment,” and he handed him the potion. Lucius shot him a questioning look but downed it. “I have also asked Minerva and Hermione Granger to join us.” Severus saw the other man’s eyes open wide. “I have a plan, my friend,” Severus said to his unasked question.

“What?”

“Now I know you’re the other spy, I assume that you will wish to fight on the most powerful team, yes?” The idea that had just cemented in Severus’ mind was inspired. He watched Lucius nod vaguely, and Severus called Lotti again. “Prepare refreshments, and a light lunch for five in my quarters.”

“What is this Severus, alliances with Gryffindors?”

“Oh yes, my friend. This is most fortuitous.” He could see that Lucius was very puzzled, but he continued regardless. “This is where we play both madmen at their own game, and we come out victorious.” Severus opened the door way to his quarters. “Lucius, these two witches aren’t just Gryffindors, they are the two most extraordinary women I know and we need them. We need them desperately.”

“Gryffindors?” he repeated, totally perplexed.

“Yes Lucius, magnificent Gryffindor lionesses. There are more we need, but only time will deliver them to our team.”

“Severus, I haven’t seen you this animated, since… well fuck me, since school,” he drawled, almost forgetting his pain.

Severus chuckled loudly. “Since I have no plans to ever fuck you, my friend.”

Lucius pursed his lips. “No,” he said smirking, “Not our style is it?”

Severus laughed, but didn’t comment and Lucius’ further questions were interrupted as the Floo activated.

Minerva McGonagall gasped as she looked up on walking out of the fireplace. “Lucius Malfoy,” she stated nodding, as Severus stepped forward.

“Professor,” Lucius replied bowing his head to her.

“Thank you for coming, Minerva,” Severus stated calmly.

“I had to let my class out early to come,” her mouth twitched, “not that they minded. Your message sounded urgent, what is it?” She was looking between both men.

“Minerva I’ll explain everything in a moment. I am awaiting two more arrivals, would you be kind enough to proceed to my quarters, I will be there in a moment,” Severus said flourishing his arm towards the doorway.

~~~***~~~

Hermione and Draco were at the complete opposite end on the school. Hermione was confused as to why her professor had sent for her to accompany Malfoy, on what was obviously a private visit. Then she glanced around at the young man as he walked a few paces behind her. His complexion was naturally pale and delicate, however, since they had left the Arithmancy class room, it had turned a ghastly greyish green and there were beads of sweat evident on his lip and brow.

Her countenance changed to concern, “Malfoy are you quite well?” His hand shook as he raised it to run through his hair, but he remained silent. She pushed further. “Draco, is something wrong?” When he didn’t answer, finally she stopped, and grabbed his arm to impede him.

When he eventually turned to her, she was beyond shocked to see he had tears shining in his eyes, but he still reefed his arm from her grasp. “Father is here...” he managed before he choked and turned away.

“Yes that’s what Professor Snape’s note said,” she reminded him, kindly.

Draco sniffed but shook his head, knowing she didn’t understand. “I don’t know why I would tell you anyway, a bloody Gryffindor… and a mudblood,” he sniped.

Hermione got the impression that he was trying to sound snide, but failing dismally, as it came out sounding frustrated and more than a little scared.

In light of this, Hermione Granger made a decision, and working on gut instincts she knew now there was something dreadfully wrong. Regardless of how he’d treated her, he was human and he was obviously in pain. “Sticks and stones, Malfoy,” she said rolling her eyes. “If you’d care to listen to some of the insults going round about me at the moment, then ‘mudblood’ doesn’t even rate.”

Draco instantly became more panicky as she continued.

“I’ve been watching you. You aren’t like the Junior Death Eater League. You’re like me, an alien amongst your own.”

“Your point, Granger,” he returned shakily.

Hermione could tell he was almost on the point of complete panic. “You might like to try tolerating me, Malfoy, as it may just turn out to be a good thing.”

“Don’t be so melodramatic, Granger.”

“Okay then, come on,” she said brusquely and started walking again. Seeing he didn’t, she turned, starting to walk backwards, goading him as she went. “It will be lunch time in a minute, Malfoy. Do you really want to be seen walking the corridors with me?”

Finally, he reluctantly moved, but the closer they got to Severus’ office, the shakier the young man became, until eventually he had stopped completely once more. Hermione knew he was incredibly worried and upset about something, she just didn’t know what.

Conceding again, she turned to him and bravely offered her hand, saying, “Come on, you need to find out what’s happening before you collapse in a very aristocratic heap on the floor.”

He snarled at her, and she started to retract the offer. “Okay, have it your way,” she snipped and instantly found her hand snatched and being held tightly. She looked at him and smiled, “Come on, Draco, we’ll look after you.” Hermione was starting to understand why her professor had requested her to accompany him.

He now had a death grip on her wrist with both hands and Hermione heard a hoarse voice whisper, “Promise, Granger?”

“Draco, if you’ll trust me, I’ll do everything in my power to help you. Now we need to walk or Professor Snape will think we’re lost.”

Draco nodded vigorously and took a tentative step. Soon they found themselves at their destination and Hermione knocked, but abruptly found that it was the last movement she was capable of.

“Enter,” Severus called.

However, both Severus and Lucius looked at each other, when they heard an exasperated Hermione trying to open the door. “Draco, I can’t get the door open if you hold on to me like that.”

Severus was instantly at the door, knowing his plan had worked. 

“We have to go in,” she continued, “at least give me one hand to open the door.”

The Potion master smiled broadly at the look of thunder in the amber-flecked eyes that greeted him when he opened the door.

Poor Draco was now in a complete state of panic, he had one of Hermione’s arms captured between him and her body, while he held the other one down with his arms wrapped tightly around Hermione’s waist and his head resting on her shoulder like a frightened little boy. Hermione’s book bag had fallen down in the struggle to open the door and this was further inhibiting her movements.

Severus had trouble keeping the smile off his face, despite the situation, as he forcefully encouraged Draco to walk and managed to get them into the room and Hermione glared at his amusement from under a stormy brow.

Chapter Text


Glancing between Hermione and Lucius, Severus would have given in to the urge to laugh if the situation hadn’t been so serious. The look on Hermione’s face was priceless but the expression gracing Lucius’ was even better.

The cool blond wizard didn’t know how to react to this situation, and was currently wearing a bemused albeit sheepish expression. Severus was pleased his manners didn’t fail him though as he decided on politeness. “Good day, Miss Granger, thank you for escorting my son to me,” he said, desperately trying to stifle a smirk, regardless of the sombre reason his son had been summoned.

Hermione had never heard anything civil come out of Lucius Malfoy’s mouth, and she was just wondering how to respond, when Severus’ deep baritone suddenly caressed her ear.

“Allow him the same grace you initially gave me, my lioness.”

Hermione shot Severus a quick glance, as she felt a tugging on her arm. He had covered leaning forward to whisper by trying to disengage Draco enough to relieve Hermione of her book bag. His gaze was steady and serious, and his eyebrow rose. He was standing in front of her, angled so Lucius couldn’t see as he spoke to her.

Hermione’s brain finally engaged, and it made perfect sense to her that there was more than one Death Eater who might only pretend. Her eyes met the Potions master’s again and understanding blossomed. Looking around Severus, she nodded politely. “You’re welcome, Mr Malfoy. He seems to be a little out of sorts.”

Lucius raised an eyebrow in a very Snape-like movement. “So it appears.”

Severus leant forward once more. “Good girl, I’ll explain later.” Their eyes locked and he gave her a minute smile, which tried to turn Hermione’s legs to jelly.

Severus cleared his throat. “Lucius, I think it’s going to take both of us to free Miss Granger.”

Draco had his eyes tightly closed, and was muttering in garbled tones under his breath into Hermione’s hair. Possibly in an attempt to still deny the truth he already knew.

It did in fact take both men to extradite Hermione from the young man’s clutches, but finally Lucius had him. He led him away, and putting an arm around his shoulder, Lucius made calming noises as he placed his son in the chair by the fire.

Severus caught Hermione as she recoiled from the shock of freedom, and he gently held her by the arms. “Are you all right?” His soft inquiry made her gasp. ”He didn’t accidently hurt you did he?”

She was indeed feeling a little sore, but gazing as she was into Severus’ fathomless black eyes, everything else seemed unimportant. “Something is very wrong, isn’t it?” Hermione asked, her voice was a hoarse whisper.

Severus nodded, and leaning forward he murmured in return, “Follow me.”

She gave him a quizzical look, but obeyed. Severus turned back to Lucius as they were heading towards the steps and said, “You two come up when you’re ready, take as long as you need.” Lucius glanced up at his friend. He and Draco had swapped positions, and Draco was currently sobbing with his head in his father’s lap. The distraught wizard nodded.

Severus ushered Hermione through the door that led to his quarters, with his hand on her back guiding her. However, he gently stopped her progress on the first landing. “Thank you for what you just did. I knew I could count on your nature to help Draco, my lioness,” and his eyes swept her face looking for any understanding of the situation.

All the air seemed to leave her vicinity as he watched her, but she managed to say, “You’re most welcome, sir. What’s happened?”

“It’s Draco’s mother,” he sighed, not really wanting to explain in detail lest he upset her too much. “Sometimes Death Eaters turn on their own.” His mouth was a grim line.

“Y-you mean she’s dead?” Her complete shock was evident in every feature of her face. Hermione suddenly felt cold, and she shivered. “What did she do?”

Severus was still watching her. “Probably nothing,” he sighed. “She was merely convenient; in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

“Oh,” replied Hermione, sadly. Still too shocked to say more, there was already a tear creeping down her face.

“Don’t cry, little one,” Severus offered, helplessly.

Confused by what she was being told, and having an almost overwhelming urge to take that last step forward into Severus’ embrace. Hermione turned to look out the window. “I’m sorry, sir,” she quickly wiped the tear with her hand. “I feel for him. He tries to make out his so tough, but really he’s very soft and sensitive. This has the potential to ruin him.”

“You are very correct, but that’s not the worst of it.”

She turned back around, her eyes still brimming with tears.

“He’s empathic; he had a strong link with his mother,” Severus finished quietly.

Her tears were falling properly now. “Then he knew when it happened,” Hermione struggled to say, and closed her eyes, but the tears still leaked out. “That’s why he was so upset, he was still trying to control himself so the bullies in his house wouldn’t work it out.” A sob escaped her, and she only managed to continue in a hoarse whisper, “How long?”

“Three days,” Severus replied in a throaty undertone.

“Oh, how truly awful,” she cried. ”No wonder he clung so tightly to me when he finally had the proof.” To stop her traitorous body from doing what it was being drawn to do, she turned back around to the window and wrapped her arms tightly around herself.

Hermione gasped, when she became aware of gentle hands turning her back around. Her eyes were carefully wiped. “Don’t cry,” Severus repeated softly, and he brushed a cloth carefully over her cheeks, trying frantically to centre his thoughts on anything but holding her.

Finally, she looked up, and her quivery voice managed, “I just don’t seem to be able to help it.” She took a shaky breath, “I do apologise, P-Professor.”

“My dear little lioness, you wouldn’t be you if these types of things didn’t upset you.” Severus watched her tenderly. Without being able to stop himself, he lifted his hand and ran the knuckles softly over her still wet cheek, and it was obvious that her shiver was one of utter pleasure.

Too late, realising what he had just done, he removed it and his voice changed. “Besides,” he said, now sounding as if he was teasing her. “The sole reason I carry a handkerchief in the first place is to wipe away your tears.” Hermione had looked away confused when he removed his hand, but she glanced up at him now and saw the smirk.

 She sniffed, and gave him the ghost of a smile. “I’m very pleased you’re prepared for the eventuality, should I ever feel the need to cry again,” she replied shakily, sniffing. Desperately trying to cover her confusion with her words, she stepped back.

“Indeed,” he purred softly, still watching her. He tilted his head, “Come,” he encouraged, wanting to take her by the hand and lead her, but he refrained from doing so and merely encouraged her up the rest of the steps with his hand on her elbow. The door of his quarters was open and as they walked in he gestured towards the lounge. “Please make yourself comfortable, Miss Granger, I need to speak to Professor McGonagall.”

Minerva had been concentrating on something out beyond the French doors, and she spun around on hearing them. “What the devil is going on here, Severus?” She sounded most indignant.

“My apologies for leaving you up here without an explanation, Minerva, of course my first duty, as always,” and he took a breath, “was to the students under my care.”

Hearing this Hermione’s heart broke a little and her head bowed. Of course, he’s only being kind to you because he has to. It seemed to completely escape her notice that they had admitted they were friends, and that Severus Snape would never offer tenderness to a student. She sighed, feeling a lead weight settle in her stomach. Then she wished with all her heart that she had the courage to run from the room and never return. How could I have been so stupid to think it was anything else? Then she heard her head of house say, “Of course, Severus, no need to apologise, but what has happened?”

The Potions master nodded. “Thank you, Minerva,” then he continued to speak. “It’s Narcissa, the Dark Lord allowed McNair have her while Lucius was away.”

Minerva gasped, “Oh Severus, that’s…” She couldn’t seem to find the words and just shivered. “Walden McNair is a monster,” she stated, in a disgusted tone.

Severus nodded, and replied sadly, “Yes, I know.”

“Of course you do, dear boy,” she placated, patting his arm.

Minerva looked towards Hermione and Severus chuckled. “My intuitive little friend is assisting me with a project.” Hearing this, Hermione became more confused, then more still, as he called to her. “Come, join us, you both need to hear this.” He held his arm up to encourage Hermione over when she seemed a little hesitant.

Finally arriving, she stopped next to him, and almost jumped when she felt his hand find hers and give it a squeeze. He removed it again almost immediately, but the young woman stayed very still next to him, hoping maybe he would do it again.

Severus made his explanation to them, but didn’t touch Hermione again. It did seem to centre her thoughts though, and while they were talking, Hermione remembered the rest of the conversation they’d had before he’d left, and she settled.

The Potions professor informed both of them of the complete circumstances of Lucius’ sudden arrival, and then his shock at finding that the blond wizard was indeed the other spy he had told Minerva about previously. Then how he had approached Lucius to join their team, and he had accepted.

“What team would that be, Severus?” Minerva finally asked suspiciously.

“Why the winning one of course, Minerva,” he returned, smirking. “We need to start playing the old bastard at his own game. Lucius and I can watch each other’s backs out in the field, instead of working separately now we know we are working towards the same ends. We can also play Death Eaters at their own game, because we know how they function.”

Snape watched as full comprehension dawned on Minerva’s face. ”Oh blessed Merlin, the old man is becoming delusional, isn’t he? He could have used your friendship instead of separating you,” she closed her eyes momentarily, as if this information needed to be thought over.

“Precisely,” Severus stated, glad she could finally see what he’d been trying to tell her.

Severus deliberately turned to Hermione. “Lucius is not the monster you think him; he is what he is forced to be by his will to survive his situation.” Severus took a deep breath. “I’m not excusing his behaviour before he realised what a mistake he’d made. He did...” his lips pressed tightly together. “We both did some terrible things before we saw the truth.”

Hermione bravely reached out and squeezed Severus’ hand. “I think I’m starting to realise that now. Seeing him with his son… he is very gentle and indulgent with him. No man who has his reputation could act as I have just witnessed without his public persona being a false one.” Her eyes met his. “In fact I know of someone else who also falls into that category as well.”

“Do you indeed? I’m glad to hear it.” He bowed his head, trying desperately not to smile at her. Minerva stood watching their discrete exchanges with a smirk of great satisfaction on her face.

It was the arrival of two people at the door that broke the scene. Lucius was supporting Draco who looked about ready to collapse. Severus was instantly alarmed, and without thinking, his hand clasped Hermione’s and he raced with her trailing behind him over to the pair at the door.

Releasing her hand again, he grabbed one of Draco’s arms allowing Lucius to recover, after bundling him up the stairs.

“Thank you, my friend,” Lucius said, looking at his son, very concerned.

“You’re welcome Lucius.” Severus turned to Hermione, who was still recovering from the shock of his act of possession. He smiled at the look of astonishment on her face, before continuing, “Little lioness, go into the lab,” he indicated towards the door with his head, “the cupboard on the far wall, middle panel top shelf. Please collect a phial of dreamless sleep and then on the middle shelf Bloom’s cleansing potion.” Hermione looked at him momentarily dazed, but soon recovered and nodding she was gone.

By this time Minerva was directing the men towards the lounge. “Lay him down here,” she said, and conjuring a damp cloth, she sponged his perspiring brow to clean his flushed face. Once she had done this she set the cloth aside. The Transfiguration professor straightened, turning to Lucius and stated gravely. “Please accept my deepest condolences for your loss, Lucius.” Her words of course started the tears down Draco’s cheeks again. The distraught young man turned, and hugged a cushion for comfort, whimpering softly.

When Hermione returned, she quietly stood between the two men, gravely watching the distressed young man in front of them. All his pretensions gone; he was just like anyone else now, frightened and panic-stricken that he’d lost his mother. It made her heart bleed just a little for him, regardless of who he was and what he had always represented to her.

Then she looked at the father. Lucius startled when Hermione timidly placed her hand on his arm. “I’m terribly sorry, Mr Malfoy. This is a terrible thing that has happened.” Then looking to Draco, “I don’t remember losing my mother,” she stated gravely. “However, I still felt a sense of great loss over it when I was old enough to understand. I also understand having a relationship with a mother figure for eighteen years before losing her,” Hermione finished sadly. She tried to give him a tiny smile, and calmly removed her hand, as she finished speaking.

“Thank you, Miss Granger,” a shocked Lucius said, glancing at Severus, and then back to her. “I thought you were Muggle-born?” Lucius said.

Hermione shrugged and said, “I don’t know, sir. I recently found out I was adopted. Apparently my birth mother died having me, and from what I have learnt it is entirely possible she was a witch or perhaps a squib. The Granger’s adopted me from a hospital in Scotland, and that is about all I know.”

Severus gently took the phials from Hermione. It was instantly apparent to him, from what she had just said that she was speaking about an acute pain she was still very much experiencing. This explained why she said she felt for Draco, but now was not the time to investigate that. Although, he couldn’t help asking, “But surely the Enrollment Register?” and he gave Minerva a puzzled look.

“Initially, it showed Muggle-born,” Minerva stated. “Then last year, after Hermione’s parents finally told her the truth, I checked the register again. Now, even it doesn’t seem to know. It keeps changing between two statuses,” she finished.

Seeing the quizzical expression he was levelling at her, Hermione conjured a glass of water and handed it to Severus. “Best concentrate on Draco, sir.”

Severus looked vaguely between her and Draco and cleared his throat, “Err Yes, thank you.”

Hermione moved back to where her head of house now stood, watching.

The older woman gave her a comforting rub on the arm. “All right?” Minerva watched Hermione nod, but she knew she was anything but all right.

Severus handed the phials of potion and water to Lucius. “Blue one first and then the purple,” and walked away to give the father and son their privacy. “Please ladies, come.” Severus took them both by an elbow each and led them away. “Sit down and have some lunch,” he seated Minerva first, then Hermione and finally himself. “Help yourselves,” he encouraged, but kept glancing around to where Lucius sat on the lounge with Draco. The aristocrat was wearing an unreadable expression as he looked down at his now sleeping son.

Severus absently put some cold meat and potato salad on his plate and rising again, poured wine into four goblets, and handed one each to the women. Then gaining Lucius’ attention, levitated one to him. Sitting back down, he started to explain what had happened in more detail. “The mission I have just returned from is the same mission Lucius has just completed. Dumbledore sent both of us to do one man’s work. We worked towards the same outcome from different ends, and gathered the same result. Only Lucius and Draco lost far more for his trouble. Had we worked together, the whole deal would have taken the initial week, instead of six and we wouldn’t all be sitting here mourning to loss of poor Narcissa.”

Minerva listened silently, nodding, but her mouth was tight. Finally, she leaned in closer. “But Severus, can you be certain he is trust worthy?” Her whispered voice was uncertain, and her eyes registered cold steel.

“Yes,” was Severus’ only response, “I trust Lucius with my life, and we have decided to compare notes if this happens again, to play the old bastards at their own game.”

Minerva watched, as Lucius slowly wandered towards the table. “I can understand you having reservations about my integrity.” His voice was full of forthright confidence, then glancing at Hermione, “and you more so, Miss Granger.” He took a breath before saying, “And I do not ask you to trust me without knowing for certain.” He had held Minerva’s steady gaze as he said it, and then brought his wand to his temple, withdrawing a silvery strand. “Severus, your Pensieve.” The wisp of silver writhed, snake-like, on the tip of his wand.

Severus looked at Minerva, she nodded. “I mean no offense Lucius, but I must to be certain.” Severus rose and retrieved the item from a cupboard and placed it on the table.

Lucius dropped the memory in. “This is the memory of the meeting I had with Dumbledore three years ago. The day after that thing was reborn,” he grimaced and shivered. “As you will see I swore allegiance to The Order of The Phoenix.” He gestured for Minerva to observe. “Only Dumbledore and Shacklebolt knew of my defection, until Severus worked it out, and asked me if I was the other spy today. The mission I have just returned from was the first time Dumbledore had had me working in tandem with Severus, and not knowing the other was there complicated matters immensely.”

While Minerva and Lucius were occupied, Hermione continued to push food around her plate, and Severus encouraged, “Little one, you must eat.”

She looked at him, “This is all very confronting. It reinforces what we are fighting for, but more than that,” and she drew a shuddering breath, desperately trying to keep her voice under control. “It shows us what it would be like if we lost.” Then there were tears trickling down her cheeks again as she spoke. “He takes away our humanity,” she gulped trying not to sob, and she took a large mouthful of wine in the hope that it would calm her, but then found herself attempting to swallow painfully around the lump in her throat. “This shows us a world where monsters can force animal instincts on us and we have no choice.” Hermione tried to brush the tears away but more came to take their place. She met his open eyes and hers were finally wide open. “I understand what we are fighting for now; this is not the game they make it out to be.”

Severus watched her sweet features twist in distress as she realised the gravity of her words, and he made a choice. Rising, he moved towards her.

She gazed up at him wide eyed through her tears. “This utterly terrifies me. How do you keep going?”

The dark wizard remained silent, but reached down and took her hand. Twisting her around, he gently pulled her up out of the chair so she then stood in front of him. Finally, he spoke, but it wasn’t the answer she sought. “Come, you require something to calm you,” he stated flatly, and still gripping her hand, he resolutely guided her into his lab.

Once safely within, his whole demeanour relaxed. He lifted a hand to her cheek, and caressed it with his thumb as he sighed. He had promised himself he wouldn’t show her tenderness, but then he realised he had already failed twice earlier, and that with what had just transpired had shown him how very close to the edge of utter devastation she was. This knowledge prompted him into action. He couldn’t see her without a shoulder any longer, and if it was to be his shoulder she needed, he would gladly offer it.

“Welcome to the adult world, little friend. You’ve worked out the truth, and I agree it’s frightening. I’m so sorry, Hermione, but it is very frightening.” He slowly drew her to him, giving her time to back away if she felt the need to. However, he felt no resistance and soon her head was resting on his chest. He whispered softly to her, “The only way to deal with it all is to remember what it would be like if we lost.”

Severus forced himself to make the embrace as chaste as he could; she needed comfort. As unfamiliar as comforting someone was to him, at this very moment Severus was certain he was taking the correct course, and it had taken far less conscious effort than he had thought it would.

After a time she stopped crying and settled. It was then he felt her hands hesitantly starting to slither from being flat against his chest, tangled in his robes, to finding their way around his waist. It was at that instant that the act of comforting turned into the mutually longed for embrace, and as much as he didn’t want to, Severus knew he had to clarify his intentions.

He allowed her to snuggle in a little while longer, finally revelling in the feel of her slight body against him, before he leant down and murmured in her ear, “Friends, my little lioness.” Hermione pulled back just enough to study his face. He brought a hand up and caressed her cheek once more. “Friends with the promise of possibilities in the future.”

Her flushed and tear-stained face gazed up at him, and suddenly understanding of his meaning became clear to her. “As long as I can hope, I can face anything,” she breathed, her face speaking volumes. “Friends, it is good to hear you say it.”

Severus nodded and smiled, and she relaxed as he drew her head back on his chest. “I can deal with being friends, because friendship grows,” he heard.

The Potions master drew a deep breath. “As long as we understand each other for now, the rest will follow,” he ventured. He allowed his chin to lightly rest on the top of her head, content that they had indeed reached a new intimacy in their friendship. Severus wasn’t certain it was a safe step while she was still technically a student, but he knew it was a necessary one. It relieved some of the tension, and gave them something they both craved; affection from each other.

Voices were heard again in the other room, and Hermione whimpered and held on tighter.

Severus rubbed her back to calm her. “I’m sorry, Hermione, we must return,” he said, sighing as he slowly released her. Without thinking his hands immediately moved to straighten her robes. “Do you have a mirror?”

“No s-si...” and she sighed and her head bowed.

Seeing her confusion, and remembering his thought that morning, he leant down and whispered, “Severus, Hermione,” and when her eyes met his, he added, “in selected company.”

She had been so caught up in all the emotion, in the new knowledge and her confusion over it all. She hadn’t realised that he had already called her Hermione several times in the last few minutes. This piece of information now made everything else scuttle out of her head. “You’ve been calling me Hermione,” she almost accused, stepping back to see his face, her mouth opening in surprise.

“Yes,” he stated resolutely, then added quietly, “and I find I like calling you Hermione. But I have to say your tonsils are most unattractive, my lioness.” He brought his finger up under her chin and snapped her mouth shut.

“O-oh,” she stuttered, then giggled and gasped as a smile started to spread across her face. That same smile he was quickly growing to like very much. Hermione’s expression settled, but the look of forbidden pleasure was still in her eyes as she looked back to him and he nodded encouragingly. “S-Se-Severus?” she finally managed quietly.

“Yes, Hermione,” relieved that his voice sounded even. “I would be pleased if you would call me by my name.”

“Severus,” she breathed, delighting how it rolled over her tongue. She revelled in how the syllables lingering on her lips and touched the different parts of her mouth. She focused on a button on his coat while she mulled over his name. Then looked up to find his eyes focused intently on her lips, and his mouth slightly open.

“I’ve never heard it said quite like that before,” he muttered vaguely. Hermione gave him a wicked smile; this levelled them. They were merely two people now, a man and a woman skirting an elephant in the room until it disappeared for them.

She locked her eyes on to his and breathed out. “Se-v-er-us,” she repeated, slowly allowing her voice to caress the syllables this time, before her smile widened into wicked delight as she saw his Adams apple bob, swallowing hard.

This was the most erotic declaration of want Severus had ever heard. His mouth dropped open and he hoped he wasn’t drooling. Eventually, he managed to get his brain functioning enough to splutter, “Bloody hell, woman, if you keep saying it like that, it’ll be the end of me, before I’m even free to start showing you what it does to me.” Hermione giggled and shivered as she watched him.

Then her crystalline laughter filled the lab. “I’m glad you enjoyed it,” she said feigning innocence. “You were the one who said we should make ourselves comfortable within the boundaries.”

“Yes, but that, as enjoyable as that was, was most certainly way outside any boundaries we can currently enjoy, my dear.”

She didn’t comment, she just kept smiling broadly, before quietly saying, “No, Severus, I don’t have a mirror.”

“Then here, use this one,” and he conjured a small mirror. As she took it he smiled and bowed, winking at her he started for the door he slipped back into his façade and demanded that she recount some imaginary potions phials. “Well, count again, Miss Granger, there should be thirty. You know, that’s the number that comes after twenty nine.”

“Yes, sir,” she replied quickly through her grin, trying to sound very put upon as she caught on to his game.

Hermione then heard him chuckle, then seamlessly change tack as he approached Minerva and Lucius. “So have you two buried the hatchet?”

“Bloody hell, Severus, don’t give her any ideas,” Lucius returned, sounding slightly panicked.

Minerva smiled broadly, and they both wondered what she was thinking. “Thank you, Lucius, for indulging my scepticism. I can see now that you are in fact genuine.”

The man in question bowed, and replied, “Thank you, that is high praise from Minerva McGonagall.”

The austere Gryffindor witch scoffed, “You Slytherins and your propensity for formally uttered shite,” she said, then laughed heartily at the looks of complete horror on both their faces.

Hermione quietly came back out as Severus said, “Well I’m afraid time has overtaken us, we need to get back to work. Lucius, someone should check on Draco periodically, even though he will sleep for another three or four hours at least. Please make yourself at home. I will be helping my apprentice with a Potion after classes, but I will catch up at supper.”

Lucius nodded his understanding.

Minerva was heading for the floo when she suddenly turned, “You know, if you fancy it, Albus is looking for a replacement for old Binns. You read History at university didn’t you? It might allow you some space to think and to be here for Draco.”

“I shall consider it as an option,” Lucius said, watching Minerva throw down the Floo powder and state her destination.

“I’m sure Lotti will do your bidding, she knows you,” Severus said, turning and seeing Hermione. “Well, were there thirty phials?”

“Yes, sir.”

“I told you there would be, now come, Miss Granger, you need to get to class.”

“Yes, sir,” and she scurried out the door after him as he strode off. She got to the first landing and ran straight into him.

“You have quite a habit of racing around corners without looking, don’t you?” He chuckled happily, catching her and then adding, “It’s a good job I like running into you.”

“Sorry, sir,” she replied.

He looked at her hard, his eyebrow raised. “Now I thought I might just qualify as select company.”

“Oh,” she said flustered. “Sorry, it’s just like the sir and professor thing. It’s habit, s-si...  Oh bugger… S-Severus.”

He laughed. “That’s better,” he replied, stroking her cheek. “Are you all right now?”

She smiled, and leant into his caress, she murmured, “Yes, I’m feeling much better now. Thank you, although as soon as you’re gone I’ll not vouch for my peace of mind.”

“Just keep thinking about getting those exams out of the way, for a start, ay? Now go down and get your bag, I’ll let you out up there.” He pointed back the other way.

Racing down into the office, Hermione grabbed her bag and shot back up the stairs. Her head spun as she stopped, and of course Severus instantly noticed and he huffed. “No lunch! Damn, you haven’t eaten again. You really need to eat,” he stated, folding his arms over his chest and staring at her.

“Well of course, I meant to.” she admitted quietly.

She heard him tsk irritatedly. “And it’s all my fault. I’m sorry, little lioness. I’ll send a message to Minerva, you can be late,” he informed her. “Come,” and sliding his hand firmly into hers he said, “A slight change of plans.”

They continued down the stairs into his office, “Lotti, bring Hermione’s lunch,” Severus called, arranging her at his desk. “Eat, my dear.”

Hermione gazed up at his concerned face. “How about you? You didn’t have much of your lunch either.”

“Yes, but at least I had a proper breakfast.”

“I had breakfast,” she stated imperiously.

“Oh Hermione, really,” he chuckled. “Now granted I didn’t actually see what you had for breakfast this morning, but I’ll wager it was a cup of coffee and a slice of toast, if you were lucky.”

Hermione gasped mid mouthful, she actually was famished. “How do you know that?”

He rolled his eyes. “I’ll not grace that with an answer, now it’s time to be overrun with little idiots. Au revoir, ma petit chéri.”

“Au revoir, mon cher professeur,” she returned, smiling.

“Et elle parle français, charmant,” he finished, his expression tender.

Hermione giggled, especially as he then set his expression, and his face became as expressionless as concrete. He winked at her and exited the office, snapping the door shut behind him.

She could hear the general rabble of conversation drifting through the connecting door from the class room. Hermione counted Severus’ unseen strides down the hallway, and timed the sound of wood cracking against wall perfectly. The door rebounded off the stone of the castle, and this coincided with instant cessation of all noise.

Hermione then let her imagination run to him, sailing down between the desks in measured strides, robes billowing out behind him, expression of cold steel. Then, not breaking stride before he reached the front, he would spin effortlessly on his heel and fold his arms; she had seen it hundreds of times. His class had now begun without him even needing to utter a word. My god he’s magnificent, she thought, and so hot! Hermione remembered where she was; sitting at his desk, in his office, soaking her knickers with her fantasies of him, when he was right next door.

She had even seen him point his wand and vanish stray articles, if students hadn’t hidden them quickly enough, as he strode in his steam engine like progress towards the front of the room. It was no wonder he terrified most people senseless.

She relived the fantasy again, and made herself even hotter. Hermione thought about one of her favourite fantasies. His chair would be perfect for it. But no, that would be very stupid. She looked over at the rug, remembering her last foray into forbidden territory. Maybe someday, she thought, and she put the stoppered her imagination where her sensuous side resided.

Hermione tried to settle herself down as she finished her lunch, pondering the dichotomy that was Severus Snape. There was the severe and uncompromising Potions professor who terrorised his students. After her experience teaching the same subject, she now realised that he usually did so with very good reason. The man had no time for fools and idiots, his eyes were empty and hard, and his most effective weapons were cold logic and cruel sarcasm; that was the man the world saw. Then there was the gentle man he showed her. It pleased Hermione very much that he shared this man with her. This man, the one who had made certain she ate lunch, who had bid her goodbye in French. This sensitive man, who had regarded her less than an hour ago with his fathomless, soft eyes, and comforted her so tenderly when she most needed it; this was starting to be her beautiful man.

A noise coming down the stairs from the Potion masters quarters roused her, and she saw Lucius standing in the doorway, and she realised she had been caught up thinking and had finished her lunch.

“Oh, Miss Granger,” the blond wizard greeted her, “I’m glad to see Severus has convinced you to eat.”

“Oh err, yes.” There was a moment of awkward silence. “Well I better get going to class, sir.”

Lucius thought a moment. “Seeing Severus is occupied,” and as if to punctuate his sentence, a cauldron clattered to the floor next door. They both looked as they heard Severus roar, “Mister Flint, there is no need to test the integrity of my floor with your cauldron. Five points from Slytherin.”

They both smiled, and Lucius commented, “It must always hurt having to deduct points from one’s own house.”

“I suppose it does at least cause minor irritation,” Hermione replied.

“Indeed. As I was saying, allow me to escort you from the dungeons.”

Hermione rose from her chair. “Thank you, Mr Malfoy; that would be very kind.”

The blond wizard bowed his head and opened the door for her. They separated on the first floor, and Hermione headed for Transfiguration, looking forward to spending more time with her Potion master that evening. As she walked, she thought about the aristocratic blond man she had just parted company with. It was going to take some time for her to accept his inner persona as normal, but if Severus trusted him, she knew she should as well.

~~~***~~~

Stalking silently between the work benches in his classroom, Severus’ mind was working overtime. He felt so much better for finally having come to an understanding of some kind with Hermione. “Miss Bones, it says dice the root not masticate it.” A general titter flew around the room. Idiots! Severus thought to himself, and addressed the student in question. “Miss Bones, what is the meaning of the word masticate?”

“I-I’d rather not say, s-sir,” the third year stuttered timidly.

Severus wanted to growl at her stupidity. “Twenty points from Hufflepuff for behaviour befitting a dunderhead.” The girl in question now had tears rolling down her face. Severus huffed, trying to find his patience he said, “Miss Bones, to masticate an ingredient is to chew it. Your potions knife obviously needs sharpening, see Mr. Filch and have the problem remedied.” He took a deep breath, trying to calm himself at her still uncomprehending eyes. “However, until that blessed event has taken place, avail yourself of one from the drawer.” She still looked at him blankly, “Get one from the drawer of spare knives, idiot girl,” he spat and kept walking.

Severus sighed internally. I suppose she’ll be so terrified now her potion will be useless. How do these people generate enough brain power to keep their legs moving? Fancy thinking mastication and masturbation... I must tell Hermione that one she’ll get a kick out of it.

The lesson dragged on, with only one cauldron sailing over his head propelled by the power of innocent ingredients incorrectly mixed. He had been ducking cauldrons long enough now not to even have to be watch. They made a specific noise as they sailed through the air, and it only took a vague sense of direction to know from which angle the explosion had emanated from in order to vanish it before it did any more damage. He didn’t even have to look. “Twenty points, Mr Longbottom, clean up your devastation and detention at seven pm.” Severus had already started moving on before he swiftly added, “With Mr. Filch.”

Shit! I thought his witless wonder of a cousin was bad, this younger version is ten times worse. Oh blessed Merlin, only five minutes to go. “You should have your potions complete now, samples in the rack, homework in the pile,” his voice rang out clearly.  Come on you little fuckwits, clean up and get out. Shit my head hurts. I really should have eaten some lunch. No, must be careful not to admit that, that would prove sweet woman correct. Turning away from the students he smiled quietly to himself. Can’t have her thinking she knows too much about me yet.

Chapter Text


When Hermione returned to finish the Wolfsbane Potion, Severus was sitting at his desk, cradling his aching head. He groaned in response to her greeting.

“Have you taken something for that?” she asked gently.

“No,” he growled.

“Severus,” she huffed, ignoring his exclamation. “Here.”

Looking up at the conjured mug, he remembered last time, and inquired suspiciously, “What’s that?”

She rolled her eyes. “Sugary tea.”

The Potions master gave it a sceptical look.

“Your blood sugar is obviously too low. Remember you missed lunch, and that’s why you have a headache. What kind of pain potion would you like?”

“Oh…” and his eyes sparkled with mischief. “My little-know-it all doesn’t have a suggestion?” he scoffed, the sarcastic edge obvious.”I find that surprising.”

Again, Hermione ignored him. “Well, yes, I certainly do have an opinion, but I wouldn’t presume to tell you about your own potions.”

“Indeed,” and he took a sip of the tea. “Go on… humour me,” and he smirked, his tone starting to settle. “Maybe I like it.”

Hermione examined him critically for a moment and then disappeared into the medical supplies store. Coming back with a phial in her hand, she handed it to Severus, and watched his eyebrow rise.

“Excellent choice, my dear.” He flipped the cap and took it. “Now, what else would,” and he smirked, “the learned Professor Granger suggest for a headache?” and he cocked his eyebrow teasingly.

“Relaxation,” Hermione replied calmly. “Lean back in your chair,” she ordered.

“Why?”

Hermione thought his exclamation sounded rather panicked. “Just do it,” she replied, before smiling at him. “I promise you’ll like it.” He still looked rather alarmed, and she huffed. “We’re friends, are we not, Severus?”

“Yes,” he replied slowly and somewhat uncertainly, feeling his grasp of the situation slipping.

“Friends help one another to relax. I used to do this for Harry when his scar bothered him.”

He examined her critically for a moment, then relaxed back into his chair as requested. “Really, my little lioness, then pray do continue.”

Standing behind his chair, Hermione pressed her fingertips to his temples, just above his temporal mandibular, and with gently applied pressure she started tracing small circles. The initial touch was merely to lull him into relaxing, and after a moment, she splayed her fingers out and applied firmer pressure to his scalp, astounded with herself that she’d managed to take the lead without buckling from her inexperience.

It didn’t take long for his eyes to drift shut and a sigh to issue from his lips. Hermione watched her fingers moving through his thick, rather luxurious, raven hair, and it suddenly dawned on her that the sometimes greasy appearance of it was a glamour he employed to appear more unappealing to students. His hair was clean and shiny up close, and it smelt divine.

Hermione was quite lost in her task and jumped when she heard a spell, as the whisper was one she didn’t know. Her head shot up to see Lucius standing near the office door, obviously having just entered. He put his finger to his lips as the lights dimmed gently, and from somewhere unseen sweet string music that she didn’t recognise softly filled the air.

Raising his wand once more, a rotating ball of light green light danced out of it into the centre of the room. It broke into thousands of tiny particles which formed, for want of a better word, a hologram, depicting soft green filtered light through a gently swaying canopy of supple trees. Under the trees grew violets and flowering roses, deep crimson ones. Hermione was certain she could even smell them.

Lucius smiled and disappeared up the stairs to Severus’ quarters.

Not wanting to make him open his eyes, but overtaken by the beauty of the scene. Hermione leant down to his ear, and whispered, “Severus, look what Mr Malfoy...”

Her sentence was interrupted by Severus’ deep chuckle, and she watched as his eyes flickered but didn’t open, and his very relaxed voice drawled, “I know, I felt him come back, and then I heard the music. It’s the forest isn’t it?”

“How did you know?” she said incredulously.

“Ah,” Severus sighed happily. “I know Lucius Malfoy; it’s very beautiful isn’t it?”

Hermione was very gratified that Severus sounded so happy and relaxed. It was something of an eye opener for her to think he could drop his guard like this around people he trusted. “Oh, yes,” she breathed and gazed around the room again in almost childlike wonder. “What kind of spell is it?”

“They’re artist’s instillation spells.”

“Lucius is an artist?”

“Yes, he is very artistic.” He reached up, and stopped her hands. “Thank you, that was wonderful.”

Hermione could see how open and soft his eyes were as he drew her around to the front of his chair. “Is your headache gone?”

“Yes,” he murmured, but hearing the unfamiliar swish of fabric as she moved, the rest of his sentence was mute as he took in the woman in front of him, and chuckled. “The room wasn’t the only thing the mischievous blond, tinkered with.” Still clasping her hand, he held her arm out from her and encouraged her to look down. “May I say, you enhance his efforts exquisitely.”

Hermione glanced down as her breath hitched. She was wearing a fitted floor length Slytherin green silk dress. The Gryffindor witch had been so preoccupied with her task, and her dresser had been sneaky enough not to transfigure her heels too high. Hermione laughed, apart from the fact that she was a little cooler—which she’d thought was a response to the forest scene—other than that she hadn’t even realised he had changed her attire.

“It looks like supper is going to be a formal affair,” Severus laughed, “How very Lucius.” Then he immediately sighed. “We should start,” and he watched as Hermione started turning to walk away. “Wait a minute,” he continued, as her hand was slipping from his. Closing his hand around hers tighter, he halted her progress.  Once more, his fathomless black eyes took her in from head to toe, and he could see goose bumps starting to rise on her skin. His eyes made a quick, almost accidental scan of her breasts, and although he was appreciative to see her nipples had hardened deliciously from the cold, he decided he needed to make her warmer before she froze.

As beautiful as the dress was, it was hardly practical for autumn in Scotland, let alone potion making. Rising, he shrugged out of his teaching robes and placed them around Hermione’s shoulders. She looked around as she felt them settle onto her shoulders, and shivered when his hand inadvertently brushed her cheek softly. “Stand still,” he instructed quietly, and touching his wand to the robes, he transfigured them into a very feminine coat like robe. “That’s better,” he muttered, seeming satisfied, as the coat completely engulfed the dress.

Hermione smiled. Joy of joys it had buttons, many, many small black buttons. “You’ve given me buttons, just like you,” she enthused, spontaneously clapping her hands enthusiastically, and almost vibrating in place.

Severus laughed as he watched her smiling broadly, fingering all the buttons down the front and on the arms in almost wonder.

“I love your buttons,” she told him breathily. The unspoken words contained in her sentence made his stomach twist with pleasure, and his mind instantly fell to the idea of Hermione undoing his buttons.

Raising his very expressive eyebrow, he gracefully stepped behind his chair to hide the stirring in his trousers as he breathed back, “Indeed, my dear. You must tell me more on that subject one day.” He watched Hermione blush deeply, and he chuckled, “Curiouser and curiouser.” Letting his voice wash over her, he observed her as she almost dissolved before him, standing there with all her unresolved needs, written plainly on her face.

Severus felt his erection hardening as he watched her, and reluctantly he changed tack, his voice now growing very businesslike. “Very well, my apprentice, now you are suitably attired for work. To the lab,” and he gently turned her and pushed in the right direction.

Hermione hadn’t realised how close she had move to him until he touched her arm to turn her, and she only vaguely heard him say, “Set up and start, I shall be there momentarily. I wish to check on Draco.”

Snapping out of her fugue state, Hermione nodded and headed in the direction of his push, grinning madly. She undid some of the buttons on her sleeves to roll them up.

Severus saw her then reach for her work apron, and he turned towards his quarters, silently cursing the fact yet again that she was still a student, as she currently looked like a fellow teacher. A very desirable fellow teacher, which if he was honest with himself she was actually qualified to be. He would have trusted her with all his Potions classes while he was absent, if it wasn’t for the fact that doing so would have caused the exact problems it had. She needed to be that peg above the rest of the students. Severus was certain that Miss Weasley, who seemed to be Hermione’s closest friend, would adapt to the change, as would Misters Potter and Longbottom with time. They appeared to be the only people she cared to retain the friendship of, he considered as he walked up the stairs, trying to remedy the distinctively uncomfortable situation in his trousers, as he pondered that one should never chivalrously relinquish one’s teaching robes if in a situation where one’s cock is then going to embarrass one when one is unable to hide the bloody results in the aforementioned teaching robes.

Being deep in thought when he walked into his sitting room, Severus didn’t notice Lucius lazing idly in an arm chair with one leg over the arm. He was examining his nails with the extreme attention of boredom, and with Lucius that always meant he was intent on finding mischief. 

“Potion making has come a long way since I left school, my friend,” the blond aristocrat smoothed suggestively as a greeting.

“Mmmm?” Severus replied distractedly, not really listening.

“For instance,” the blond wizard proposed with glee, his steel grey eyes dancing. “I don’t remember it ever being necessary to have one’s luscious apprentice give a relaxing massage before brewing, ay?”

Hearing the dripping sarcasm, Severus stopped and started taking notice. “Oh, fuck off, Lucius,” he snapped, when he realised the subject of his friend’s rhetoric. “It’s my office, and I’ll do what bloody well pleases me within the privacy of its walls.”

“I can see that.”

“If I had objected to your approach, I wouldn’t have allowed you through my wards.”

Lucius was now positively sparkling. “My dear, Severus,” he drawled, rising gracefully from the chair and coming over. “Me thinks thou dost protest too much,” he smoothed, hanging close to his friend’s ear before chuckling and taking a step back once more. “Could it be, you have finally found the witch of your dreams?”

Severus bristled as his friend cackled and leant casually against the front of Severus’s huge oak desk. “That is none of your concern just at present,” the Potions master returned stiffly.

 “Oh Severus, but I think it is. I also think it’s wonderful. Merlin knows you deserve it.” He watched him a moment, “But why do you hesitate? It’s obvious she’s enamoured with you.” The blond man looked his friend up and down, his eyes coming rest on Severus’ crotch, “And unless that’s for me, and I know it’s not.” He pushed off the desk and sauntered towards him again. “Then. You’re. Pos-i-tive-ly. Gagging. For. Her. As. Well.” Lucius examined him a moment longer before changing tack. “I thought taking her uniform away might have done the trick,” he chuckled. “I couldn’t have been more obvious if I’d wrapped her in a red ribbon.”

Resigning himself to the fact that Lucius was not going to give up, Severus admitted candidly, if slightly imperiously. “It will make no difference what you do, my friend, until the day arrives when she does not have to re-attire herself in the damnable garments again the next day…”

“Surely you jest?” he cut in, scoffing. “Even a blind man can see she’s no student, Severus. That uniform is merely a quirk of fate. Ignore it!” Lucius ordered dismissively, waving his hand as if chasing a bothersome insect.

“Hmph,” Severus muttered, then his eyes narrowed. “You think it’s so fucking easy, don’t you?”

“Well, yes, Severus. It really is,” Lucius replied seriously, “Live every moment, you have been hung up on a dead woman for too long, life’s too fucking short.” He reflected for a moment “Look what happen to Ciss... Oh Shit, Severus,” Lucius took some deep breaths to maintain his composure. “She was a cold, self-centred, manipulative bitch, but she didn’t deserve to go that way.” He shook his head. “No one does,” he finished softly.

Severus wanted to tell Lucius he had realised his mistake with Lily years ago, he just didn’t want to talk about it, especially at the moment. So wanting to get off touchy subjects completely, he patted Lucius’ shoulder and started to walk towards his bedroom as he inquired, “How’s Draco?” He knew Lucius meant no harm, but he didn’t want to think about it. Let alone talk about what he wasn’t going to let himself have until after Hermione graduated.

“Still boringly asleep,” Lucius stated, glancing at his sleeping son and following Severus. He watched as Severus pulled more teaching robes out of his wardrobe. “What happened to the ones you were wearing?”

“You gave Hermione a summer evening dress, in a drafty castle, in Scotland, in autumn. The poor girl was freezing. I transfigured the first set into a coat for her, so she could work on finishing the potion for the werewolf.”

“Blah,” said Lucius, sticking his tongue out distastefully. “You covered up the dress, that dress was a masterpiece.”

“I’m not saying it wasn’t, but it was hardly suitable to brew a potion in.”

“Depends what kind of potion you want to brew,” Lucius drawled suggestively, waggling his eyebrows.

Severus opened his mouth to give a comeback when a sleepy, “Father,” was heard from the other room.

“In here, Draco,” Lucius called. “Just giving Severus a hard time about his delectable little apprentice.”

Draco wandered to the doorway. “Father, leave Uncle S alone.”

“Don’t concern yourself with me, Draco, I give as good as I get,” Severus stated, glaring at Lucius, and sneering, before the corner of his mouth curled into a smirk. “You know how tedious and annoying your father is when he’s bored,” Severus continued in a teasing voice, which had Lucius sneering back and curling his lip at him. “Occupy yourself with your son now he is awake, Lucius. He may produce shiny objects for you to chase. I have work to do,” Severus stated, striding towards the door.

“Actually,” Lucius continued, ignoring Severus’ snip. “Actually, someone did give me the eye on my way back from Dumbledore’s office. A little redhead, shortest skirt, Gryffindor. Do you know her?” he asked his son.

“Only one Gryffindor answers that description,” said Draco, smirking, and both men looked at him. “The Weaslette,” he said, like they had both just blown in from another planet.

“Don’t tell me my son is finally looking at girls,” Lucius inquired, almost hopefully.

“Yes, even I’m curious about that particular witch.”

“Oh, do tell, son,” Lucius pleaded, he may have supported Draco without question, but a part of him really wanted his son to take an interest in at least one girl, even if it was a Weasley. He did want grandchildren after all.

Severus cackled and shook his head, seeing the hope lighting in Lucius’ eyes. “I’ll leave you two to your own devices.”

“It’s all right for you, not all of us have a delightfully attractive apprentice to occupy ourselves with, Severus. I’m bored,” Lucius whined.

Severus graced his friend with a haughty expression and started towards the door again.

“The least you could do, Severus, is encourage this,” Lucius called after him.

Stopping on the threshold, Severus turned. “That’s entirely your department, Lucius. I’ll see you both at supper,” and then he was gone.

Severus was mumbling under his breath when he entered the little lab, and he didn’t even notice the quiet music in the background. (1)

“Oh, you don’t look relaxed anymore,” Hermione commented, glancing up as he came in.

“I’m not, if he expects me to be a bloody dating service.”

“Pardon?” Hermione exclaimed, as her eyebrows shot up.

“My friend, the illustrious Lord Malfoy,” he said, bowing in a courtly manner towards the door, “wishes an introduction for his son to your best friend.”

“Ginny?” Hermione said as she kept chopping ingredients.

“I refused, of course, totally inappropriate.”

Hermione swiftly stopped chopping, and looked at him. “What’s inappropriate about that?”

Snape watched the knife as Hermione used it as an extension of her finger.

“Yes, I can understand you not wanting to do it, but let me tell you something about my best friend,” she said. “Ginny is no innocent, and I’m certain that she would have no problem accommodating the situation, if Draco was so inclined.” Hermione started chopping methodically again as she blushed, but glanced up under her lashes at Severus. He looked truly shocked. “Severus, I once heard Ginny describe Draco as sex on two legs.” Then she cackled, “Harry and Ron were suitably disgusted, but I have no doubt she would take full advantage of the situation, if she were offered the chance.”

“Really?”

Hermione laughed. “Yes really,” and she went back to her chopping.

“But Hermione, as far as she knows, Draco could be a card carrying Death Eater.”

“Bad boys can be incredibly sexy.” She saw him pull a distasteful expression, and ducked her head as her face heated further, especially when he sat himself opposite her and was now leaning forward, listening with his chin resting in his hand. She chuckled at him, despite herself. “It is not a universal truth, of course,” she told him, smiling as she glanced up at him again. “They have to have some redeeming factors in their favour, some chink in the armour, but I think that you, Draco and Lord Malfoy all fall into that category.”

“Me!” Severus exclaimed incredulously, as his chin slipped off his hand. The music seemed to swell the moment this happened, hiding his gasp of surprise.

Once it quieted, Hermione smiled, trying desperately to will away the flush creeping into her cheeks. “Oh yes, Severus, most definitely you,” she gushed airily. Then her head shot down and she was suddenly very occupied with her task.

“Oh,” was the only sound that escaped his lips for quite some time.

Hermione heard him inhale deeply like he was about to say something, so she glanced up from under her lashes again, only to see that he still had a stunned look on his face.

After some time he spoke. “Do you have conversations like this with Potter and Longbottom?”

“Well, when Harry’s speaking to me, most definitely. He’s like my brother. Neville not so much, he’s a little bit too embarrassed for conversations of this nature.” Hermione suddenly smiled, “Neville’s sweet, but very naive.” She had now finished preparing, and added the first ingredients to the base.

They remained silent while Severus watched her starting the next stage, and she concentrated on what she was doing.

When she was in another resting phase he quietly asked, “Why isn’t Potter speaking to you?”

She remained quiet for so long, he thought she wasn’t going to speak. Finally a very quiet voice said, “I think he’s running away, and he needs to be with idiot boy to do it.”

“Why do you think that?”

She blinked several times and rubbed the palm of one hand over the other. “I think he’s trying to prove he’s a man.”

“Minerva mentioned that she thought you were concerned about him, although she said you didn’t tell her what the problem was.”

“Well after her shock at Ron’s ménage à trios, I figured informing her I suspected that her up and coming Gryffindor warrior was bi or even gay, was probably not the best option. Not to mention what would happen if the ginger menace found out.”

Severus couldn’t help it, he laughed. “Mmm, her lips would become so thin they would completely disappear.”

This made Hermione break up as well; her laughter was crystalline as she saw a spluttering Minerva McGonagall telling her that she must be mistaken. “Surely you are mistaken, Miss Granger,” she said in a believable Scottish impersonation of her head of house.

They both roared with laughter again, and Severus discovered he loved the sound of Hermione’s tinkling laughter.

Looking at the time display she had spelled between them while they talked, she rose and added the last ingredients. Severus watched her steel herself for the longest stint of stirring; he could plainly see she was starting to wear out. It was a strenuous potion to brew, and the brewer invested a lot of magic along the way.

However, Hermione forgot her tiredness when finally, five stirs from the end, she grinned broadly as it turned the required steel grey colour. “I did it. That’s twice now, and this one’s a much better colour,” she said quietly.

Severus came over and examined it closely while she grinned hopefully up at him, and he nodded. “Yes, my smart little dear; that is almost exactly the correct colour.” The Potions master smiled, watching as she collapsed into the chair at her desk. “Do you have enough energy to spell the temperature display up?”

Hermione nodded. Her wand shook when she raised it, but the temperature appeared and she relaxed again. Severus disappeared into his office and came back with a block of medi-chocolate.

Conjuring another chair, he broke some of the chocolate. He sat facing her, their legs stretched out side by side in opposite directions. “Eat,” he commanded, offering her a piece. “You need to regain your strength.”

She smiled, and after cleansing her hands thoroughly, she picked up a piece of chocolate as she asked, “What do you think about my hypothesis regarding Harry?” and she looked at him expectantly as she chewed.

“Actually, now you mention it, I’m surprised I haven’t notice it before.” He folded his arms, and pursed his lips. “What first alerted you to this fact?”

“Well, it’s a bit of a hobby of mine to observe people.”

“Really,” Snape’s eyebrow rose. “Is there a little voyeurism involved in that, do you suppose?”

Her blush probably gave away the answer, but she looked at him for a very long time before nodding. “Oh, most definitely,” she admitted candidly. Her lush voice and little laugh, made his eyebrow shoot up with the possibilities, as she continued speaking. “I’ll watch all sorts of situations under suitable circumstances. It’s amazing what some people will do in public without thinking,” she said laughing.

“I won’t disagree there,” Severus replied, with a chuckle.

“I find the library to be very educational, in more ways than it is intended. I see things there on a regular basis, things that I would never contemplate unless the place was deserted, and the doors firmly locked.”

She was wearing that smile again, and he couldn’t help it. “Such as?” he had inquired silkily before he’d thought about it.

“Well,” and her voice became conspiratorial. “I saw Hannah Abbott watching Blaise Zabini, this one time.” Hermione snickered, remembering. “She was gazing at him, giving him her whole attention, and her fingers obviously very busy under her skirt, because she was literally dripping on her seat watching him.” Hermione was amazed she’d managed to get that sentence out, even if her blush felt like it would light Hogwarts for a week.

Look at that exquisite flush; I wonder how far it extends? Oh stop thinking things like that, you fool. Severus was pleased however, that she seemed to be opening up to him. “Oh, you’re joking, that silly little Hufflepuff ninny.” His eyes were wide, but he laughed, “Hermione, that’s an awful image,” and she laughed happily at the look of horror on his face.

“Well, you did ask.”

“Yes, I did ask,” he said, shivering.

Taking another piece of chocolate, Hermione continued reflectively. “Mind you, sometimes what I observe really turns my stomach.” He pursed his lips his brow furrowed. “Well I’ve lost count of the number of times I banished myself from the Gryffindor dorm last year, with the urge to scrub my eyes out because of the Barbie bang dolls. Thank you Merlin, Ron couldn’t get in there. I was really pleased when I was named head girl this year,” she chuckled, “and not just because it’s a great honour.”

“What was the difference between scenes in the library, and scenes in your dorm?”

“Well they enjoyed winding me up with their antics.” She suddenly became coy, “It was probably because...” she examined her hands nervously, “because I’m still a... Oh! I better get the filter paper and funnels into the flasks.” Hermione shot out of her chair, but her renewed bright blush, gave away the last word in the sentence.

Severus sat there a moment wondering if he should say something to make her feel better, then realised anything he said was just going to make it worse, so he kept quiet.

Eventually, she started talking again, “Anyway, Harry started keeping me company during these times. We would often go to sleep on the lounge in the corner of the common room together. Well, he talks in his sleep, doesn’t he? I’ve never broached the subject with him, because the nights that he had dreams where the content was obvious, he was especially surly and short-tempered the next day. Particularly when he interacted with a certain blond Slytherin. At first, I thought it was just the rivalry they have always had, although I started noticing…” She glanced at Severus, his mouth was hanging open.

He suddenly interrupted, “Draco is the object of Potter’s affections?”

Hermione looked at the startled expression on his face. “Oh, I’ve skipped several steps haven’t I? Sorry.”

“That’s perfectly all right. Again it should have been obvious, really.”

“I know, I felt the same when I finally put two and two together.” Hermione looked a little flustered, “Err... does Draco know he’s gay?”

“Oh yes, he’s embraced it willingly.” Severus had risen and walked over to where Hermione was currently pouring the contents of the cauldron into the flasks. He was leaning against her work bench, but waited until she had finished pouring to speak. “Yes, he admitted it to family a couple of years ago.”

Hermione’s stomach unexpectedly rumbled.

“You’re hungry, damn, we’ve managed to miss dinner again.”

 “Oh sorry, yes, I am getting a little peckish,” she replied smiling. “But I don’t mind, I have actually come to hate communal dining as I’ve gotten older.”

“Indeed,” he commented thoughtfully. Hermione was suddenly finding his closeness more flustering than usual. She had to focus to get her brain to keep to the task, as her fingers stoppered the required five flasks.

Absently pushing off the work bench, Severus wandered into his office to collect the charmed goblet that stood beside the ingredients in his store room. “Did Lupin indicate to you any differences in the affects of the potion on the lycanthropy last month?”

“No,” Hermione gasped, “should he have?” She started to panic, “What if I’ve done something wrong? What if he transforms and his not harmless? I worried about this last month too.”

“Stop it, you forget you brewed it last month, and it worked,” he scolded earnestly. “Don’t doubt yourself like that, you are an exceptional brewer. There is nothing physically wrong with your potion, and it will work again. All I meant was that your magic...” then he thought about what he was about to say. “No, don’t worry. I suspect there will be no difference between my magic and yours.” Before she could ask why, he finished by saying, “We will take this up to Lupin, and you can activate it. Then I’ll tail you on your patrol before we have supper.”

He answered her questioning expression before she’d opened her mouth. “No Draco tonight, and you are not patrolling the castle alone. I shall take his place, discreetly, of course.” He gave her a critical appraisal, and chuckled. “Although, no one will recognise you in this attire, I’m not taking any chances.”

Chapter Text


As he followed Hermione on her patrol around the castle that night, Severus wondered at his sanity. Didn’t he have homework to mark and research to do? Yet here he was following Hermione, and she appeared to have turned into a temptress as she walked along. He suddenly realised that he would do anything for this witch, and he grimaced as he reflected on his thoughts at the beginning of the term. My, how things have changed. I would never have thought I would be willingly following a witch around like this, and he shook his head. But she’s become very precious to me.

Hermione felt amazing knowing she had her own personal guardian trailing her. It wasn’t that she thought she needed it, although she couldn’t actually fathom why she hadn’t tried to dissuade him, he had so many important things to do, and here he was following her around to make certain she was all right. It touched her deeply that he cared enough to do that. The whole time she was patrolling she didn’t see him once, although she always vaguely knew he was there, which she put down to her feelings for him.

However, knowing she had a captive audience made her wanton side surface, and possibly her hips accentuated their movements a little more than necessary, and her hair may have swished and bounced more than it needed too as well. It wasn’t often she allowed this private side to have such free rein.

It could also have been the knowledge that she was happy to allow her private side to show where this wizard was concerned, but it is possible she was merely just excited that things seemed to finally be working out. She wasn’t certain, but there was some form of relief that seemed to be fuelling her new found confidence.  

Severus was indeed watching Hermione; in fact his eyes were glued to her backside. What the blue blazes is she trying to do to me? That sexy little arse… Oh fuck! Tearing his eyes away from temptation, concern replaced any feelings of want as he noticed her becoming slower and slower until she was literally dragging her feet as she walked. Finally, on her trip back from the library, his black clad arm reached out of an alcove and bustled her into it.

Before she even managed to get a squeak of surprise out, Severus said, “Very good, you’ve done your bit. You are getting too tired, my lioness, you need to eat and then go to bed.” He pulled her up against him and let her lean there while he opened a portal into his sitting room, and they were home. “Now make yourself comfortable and I’ll get you some food.”

Before she knew where she was, Hermione had been deposited on the lounge. Lucius and Draco had been waiting in the Potions master’s quarters for his return, so they could all share supper and she now found herself sitting with them.

The whole scene, from grabbing her in the hallway to sitting her on the lounge, had taken all of ten seconds. Hermione was startled and tired, and she would have liked to linger against Severus’ warm chest and simply inhale his scent. She felt like pouting, but truth be known that just wasn’t her style. So she swallowed down her desires and sat there waiting.

Lucius watched all this, fascinated by Severus’ attentions to the witch as he sat her on the lounge next to Draco.

The younger Slytherin commented, “You do look tired,” and then without warning he sighed and leaned forward, kissing her cheek.

Hermione gasped, her hand coming up to cover the spot. “What was that for?” she asked, completely shocked.

“You saved me today, and that was thank you,” Draco replied a serious tone.

“Oh,” she gasped totally blown away by his consideration. “Y-you’re w-welcome, M-m-malfoy?”

“My friend’s call me Dray,” he said, looking her up and down mischievously, while his father watched on animatedly. “I think you need a nickname too,” he turned his head to Lucius. “What do you think, Father?”

“Given time, I’m sure you’ll think of the perfect one,” Lucius sighed. “You always seem to.”

“A nickname,” Severus scoffed, coming back with food. “Here you go, and I want to see it all gone.”

Hermione gazed at the plate then at the wizard. “I-I’ll try, Severus... thank you,” and she ate while everyone else collected their own supper. She noticed that Draco only picked at his as well, but she guessed that was only to be expected.

Once supper was over, Hermione quickly discovered that Lucius was still intently observing her over fingers that held his snifter of cognac up to his mouth. Over the course of supper Hermione had quickly discovered that he was an extremely curious individual, nothing like the cold heartless man he was portrayed by circumstance to be.

He had already asked her several questions, and it was obvious now that he had been biding his time, waiting to ask her about one particular subject, and once Lotti had vanished all the supper bits and pieces and left, the blond aristocrat appeared unable to hold his silence any longer. “So, Miss Granger, Draco tells me the Weasley boy has given you some trouble?”

Without too much hesitancy Hermione imparted a slightly edited version of events, telling them about the year of verbal abuse she had endured last year, and how at the beginning of this year that had culminated in the physical abuse. In short, the whole sordid mess came out as both Lucius and Draco listened attentively, interspersing her commentary with exclamations about stupid idiots and gross liberties.

Finally, Draco said, “I must admit I thought the problem would have been solved with the custard pie incident.”

Upon which his father raised his eyebrow. “Custard pies?”

“Fred and George Weasley’s solution to dealing with their brother’s serious lack of maturity,” Severus put in. “As juvenile as it was, it was incredibly amusing and it did solve the problem for a while.” Severus watched his apprentice sitting quietly while he spoke, and knowing she wouldn’t say anything about what Dumbledore had put her through, he added the remainder of the story. “Of course, that was until I was absent on my assignment and Dumbledore stepped in to teach Potions. I had refrained from assigning Hermione any classes to teach before I was sent away, because I knew it would initiate further problems for her. I had decided to wait until I returned so I could ease her into it without the little idiots being too aware of it.”

As he spoke, Severus was finding it difficult to see the pain that was appearing on Hermione’s face, but he wished Lucius in particular to be on the correct footing when he had to deal with Weasley, as it looked like he would be a professor very soon. As he spoke, Severus wished he could comfort Hermione in some way, but settled for just telling the story. “During my absence, Albus had her teaching. He threw her in at the deep end without any support or care about what would happen to her. I still don’t think he is really cognisant of what he has done. The problems re-emerged, intensified, and mainly because the childish little idiots were jealous.”

When the story was finally finished, both Lucius and Draco echoed Severus’ statements from the night before; that retribution would be delivered at some point, they just needed to bide their time.

After much nodding and reaffirming that they would see Weasley suffer for his deeds, Lucius stood, clearing his throat to everyone’s gain attention. “Well, I have a tiny proclamation,” he announced, and all eyes came to rest on him. “After discussions with the headmaster this afternoon, I have accepted the post of History of Magic professor, starting next week. However, due to my current circumstances Albus has allocated me quarters immediately.” Lucius inhaled a deep breath, appearing to try and steady himself before he continued. “Firstly, so I can be here for my son in this time of great need and partially because,” and here his countenance showed uncharacteristic emotion. “I have no wish to ever willingly return to my home while it is occupied by such filth.” After a moment he recovered his composure and stated further, “There will be a memorial service for my dear wife, and Draco’s dear mother next Friday.”

However, this part of his speech was interrupted by a choked sob, and changing tack Lucius said, “I feel it may be time for Draco and I to retire.” Moving to his son, he murmured, “Come, dear boy,” and helping him up, he inclined his head slightly to Severus. “If you wish to find your head boy, he shall be staying with me until he feels stronger. Thank you for your hospitality, my friend,” he concluded.

While Lucius was preparing to leave Severus had been silently collecting several phials of potion, which he now handed to Lucius. “Good night,” Severus said, and gripped his friend’s arm, patting firmly. “They are all clearly labelled,” he told him, pointing to the potions.

Lucius nodded his understanding, and then Severus watched as he dipped his head to Hermione. “Good night, Miss Granger.”

Hermione graced him with a tired smile and said good night as she stood as well, watching as both blond Slytherin’s spun out of sight through the Floo, and she turned to Severus. “It has been a very unusual day.”

“Indeed,” he commented, watching her blinking rapidly to keep her eyes open. “And you definitely need rest.”

As much as Hermione didn’t wish to agree with this it was unavoidable, and she nodded. “Yes,” she replied sadly. “I must leave as well. Thank you for a most enlightening day and pleasant evening.”

Severus bowed his head to her. “You are most welcome, Hermione,” and offering his hand he regarded her with softly glittering black eyes. Hermione extended her hand to his, and he brought it to his lips momentarily. “Bonne nuit, ma chère.”

“Bonne nuit, Severus,” she replied softly and smiled at him.

Severus led her to the fireplace before he allowed any further ideas to enter his head, and offered her the pot of Floo powder.

~~~***~~~

Even though Hermione was almost not a student anymore, it had been decided that she would continue with her head girl duties until the end of the term. Therefore, this night, like every other in the past two weeks, found Draco and Hermione patrolling the hallways together.

They were now confirmed friends and happily working together. Draco was getting better at hiding his distress over his mother but had been allowed to remain in Lucius’ quarters, as long as he started fulfilling his head boy duties once more.

What the rest of the castle didn’t know was that the two seventh years also had a hidden entourage on their nightly patrols. Both Severus and Lucius had taken to lurking in every shadow the entire circuit of the castle. Severus often had trouble stopping Lucius from breaking out of his teacher’s role and indulging his wicked sense of humour when they found couples flaunting the rules in hidden alcoves.

He had restrained himself too, well that was until they came across a trio of seventh year Gryffindors unexpectedly. It seemed that Ronald Weasley had taken his concubines on an impromptu after curfew ramble, and thoughts of retribution surged through Severus’ Slytherin brain. It was just too hard to resist, and the Potions master allowed Lucius his fun.

Having muttered a silencing spell so no one could hear them, the two Slytherin wizards each pulled one of the patrolling pair into the alcove with them. The three Slytherin’s whispered among themselves for a moment in the darkness of the alcove, then Severus quietly pulled Hermione further into it with him and Lucius, as Draco left to deal with Weasley. “Let Draco deal with them, my lioness,” he murmured. “I promise you’ll enjoy this.”

Hermione gave them a smile and nodded tiredly, although her lip slipped between her teeth as she looked at him.

Even in the light of the waxing moon Severus thought she still looked exhausted, and he cursed everything she was currently managing to do in the lead-up to her exams.

Regardless of how tired she felt, when Severus’ voice tickled her ear she was in ecstasy, and as she rested up against him she heard, “Watch and enjoy.”

Severus raised his wand and something happened, but Hermione was unsure what it was. Then abruptly the alcove containing the three Gryffindors filled with light via another whispered spell, illuminating three startled individuals. Ron was plastered up against the wall, his eyes shut in pleasure, and Lavender and Pavarti were on their knees in front of him.

Right on cue, Draco casually leaned up against the wall taking in the scene before him as he innocently twirled his wand in his fingers. “And what have we here, Weaslby?” his silver tongue smoothed.

“Piss off, Malfoy,” Ron warned.

Without batting an eye Draco continued, “Tsk, tsk Weaslby, manners.”

Ron snarled. “I said, piss off, Ferret Face.”

“Do you know, I believe it’s you three who should really think about… leaving. However, I suppose the entertainment is tolerable if you wish me to wait until you’re finished, before I deduct points.”

“How dare you, you Slytherin bastard,” Ron yelled.

“Oh dear, Weaslby, now that was rude. I can assure you, I am no bastard,” Draco sneered, his gaze perusing the scene a little closer.  “However, I will concede that perhaps I shouldn’t have startled your obliging little helpers, as one of them appears to have bitten off half your cock.” Then he immediately smirked. “Oh no, dear me, my mistake it’s still intact, tiny… but intact.”

This had Ron scrambling for his wand as he unceremoniously shoved Lavender and Pavarti to the ground as he pushed past them.

“Weaslby, now that was also very rude. I’m sure Miss Brown and Miss Patil were trying their best with the inferior goods on offer,” Draco drawled deftly side stepping Ron and the two witches as they landed sprawled at his feet. “There was no need to dump them on the ground like that.” He pointedly offered the girls a hand up, while Ron, still unable to find his wand, growled at him.

Unaffected by Ron’s temper, Draco lent towards Lavender and Parvati slightly, saying in a stage whisper, “May I suggest you find yourself a nice Slytherin? You will find Slytherin House does not contain any such inferior specimens for your pleasure.” Draco told them pointedly glancing at Ron’s flagging erection.

Both witches giggled and then looked at Draco suggestively, however before he could comment further Ron lunged at him.

Hermione gasped and Severus grasped her around the waist to stop her running to Draco’s assistance. “He’s fine,” he whispered in her ear, and Hermione gave in to the pressure of his arm and let herself lean up against him again.

“Oh no, you don’t,” Draco scolded as his shield charm erected. “Fifty points Weaslby and twenty for each of you. Now as pleasant as it has been talking to you, I have better things to do, so I suggest you all toddle back to Gryffindor tower,” and he bowed his head and took three steps backwards.

This was Lucius’ signal, and as Draco kept his head bowed, a tiger appeared to spring out from behind him. The magnificent beast leapt up over Draco’s head and stood in full attack mode in front of the Gryffindors.

Severus felt Hermione jump and he tightened his grip on her. Ron, Parvati and Lavender looked positively stunned, but soon they gathered their faculties and ran screaming, as the fully grown, conjured animal chased them up the hallway. It then disappeared, but its roars continued, as did their screams.  Of course, it was only an illusion but they didn’t know that; Lucius was a master at producing realistic images.

Initially, there was total silence when they found themselves alone, and Severus opened a portal straight into his quarters. Hermione felt his other arm rise and something that sounded like wood clatter into his hand as all four of them spilt out into Severus’ sitting room.

Hermione found herself gently being pushed away from him, and the three Slytherin’s stood around her, obviously waiting for her reaction. It started slowly as a smile that spread across her face, coinciding with a small giggle. However, soon she was doubled over with laughter, and happy to hear it, her companions followed suit.

As soon as she had recovered enough to straighten up and get her breath back, Hermione directed her attention to Draco. “You were amazing, thank you so much,” she gushed. “I wish Ginny could have seen that,” she said, wiping her tears of laughter away. Then turning to Lucius she gushed, “and that tiger, sir. It was so realistic, and so beautiful. You were simply wonderful too.”

“Thank you, my dear,” Lucius smoothed bowing deeply.

Severus was leaning against the wall where he had closed the portal, his hands behind his back, watching Hermione’s joy at finally getting one up on the little shits who had caused her so much trouble.

Hermione saw Severus looking her, and she moved towards him, her smile firmly fixed on her face. “And you, we’ll you’re just amazing all the time, thank you.” She wanted to stand up on her tip toes and gave him a kiss on the cheek, but she didn’t have the nerve.

“I thought you deserved a break,” he said, letting a genuine smile light his eyes.

Hermione’s urge instantly increased tenfold, but she still hung off a little shy of doing anything. Well, that was until she cautiously examined his countenance and it’s mischievously sly expression, and her eyes slid down to his arms firmly lodged behind his back. “What’s behind your back, Severus?”

His eyebrow sailed higher and his smile grew in wickedness, tempting her to approach him. Finally, curiosity got the better of her and she did. Severus pushed off the wall and allowed her hand to pull his arm by the sleeve around to the front. Much to her disappointment the hand was empty, but his eyebrow sailed higher, and his playful smile grew broader.

“May I see what’s in your other hand?” she pushed inquisitorially.

By this time both Lucius and Draco were watching the game with great interest. Severus let her to perform the same deed with his other hand, but as he allowed her to move it he leant forwards and whispered, “Close your eyes, my lioness,” and three wands were pushed into her hand. Severus chuckled deeply. “Spoils,” he said, cocking the eyebrow once more.

Hermione’s eyes opened wide and she gasped.

The three Slytherin’s surveyed her as her features flitted through several emotions from indignation to amusement and finally the realisation of something new and slightly undefined.

The silence was broken when Lucius enthused, “Severus Snape, you sly bastard, you never cease to amaze me with your tricks,” he cackled.

Severus laughed. “I’ll bet none of them have given any thought at all yet to where their wands might be. I’ll leave them with Minerva and she can return them as she sees fit.”

Draco snorted. “Well, no thought until they want to clean themselves up before changing their underwear,” and all three men grinned at each other again.

The Potions master finally turned back to Hermione. Her face had settled into undisguised admiration, and he smiled at her.

Lucius’ sense of timing kicked in as he said, “Draco, sort the room out for supper.” As Draco nodded, Lucius distanced himself from them and called Lotti to tell her what they required. He only glanced back once at the couple, now guardedly sizing one another up.

Severus leant forward and bent his head down to her ear, his words caressing her silkily. “I see Slytherin tactics appeal to you, my dear. Running with the bad boys is very pleasing, yes?”

“Oh yes, Severus,” she moaned softly right next to his cheek, and only he heard the shiver in her voice. “You orchestrated that whole scene for me, and it was simply breath-taking, and oh so beautifully sneaky,” she enthused softly, leaning further into him.

“We’re sons of Salazar Slytherin, little one, you’ll find we have all sorts of tricks up our sleeves to rid you of your pests,” he whispered quietly then chuckled softly.”If you would like us to, that is.” Severus then straightened to see the look of wanton desire on her face as their eyes met once more.

Gazing up at him she breathed. “Oh yes, please, Severus.”

Moving away a little, Severus slid his fingers through Hermione’s and smiled. “Come,” he whispered as he moved to his desk. At that very moment, not caring that maybe this was firmly moving on from friendship, he said, “I’ll send a message to Minerva inviting her to supper.”

As she walked, Hermione felt her clothes changing, and her hair rising off her neck. She giggled and looked down to see what her impish dresser had clothed her in tonight. Crimson silk and lace, “It’s beautiful,” she gasped, now used to the sensation of her clothes being transfigured by Lucius. She was, after two weeks of late night suppers getting quite a collection.

The Gryffindor witch looked to Lucius and he winked. “Thank you,” she mouthed, as she watched him pull his guitar out of his pocket and enlarge it. Lucius’ playing always reminded Hermione of the little music box Severus had given her, and she shivered remembering it.

She leant against Severus’ desk after placing the confiscated wands there, while he wrote and she watched his blond friend started to play a Carcassi Etude. (1) Hermione had never heard of this composer until a few nights ago when Lucius had started entertaining them at their nightly suppers. She listened avidly as she saw Severus’ note sail into the Floo and felt his hand take hers once more, leading her to the lounge. Looking up under her lashes at him, she smiled, beguiled as Lucius finished the etude and started to play Tempestad.

It took some time for Minerva to arrive, and when she did Hermione thought she looked stressed. In restoring the wands to the head of Gryffindor, Severus stated, “You will find these to be the property of Mr. Weasley, Miss Patil and Miss Brown. The head boy had cause to deduct points from them this evening on his patrol. Curiously after he deducted the points they fled. I witnessed this myself, and the wands were revealed upon inspection of the alcove.”

Minerva surveyed the nodding heads of the other occupants of the room, agreeing unequivocally with every statement. The head of Gryffindor knew something was a foot here, but ignored it. “Thank you, Severus, I shall see that they are returned to their owners… eventually,” she finished, and her eyes crinkled up, as did the corner of her mouth.

After a moment Minerva appeared to relax and taking in Hermione’s formal style of dress, she nodded approvingly, noticing the three men were similarly formally attired. A wave of her wand and she supplied herself with suitable clothing as well. “May I say how charming the formal supper is? It is a tradition I miss very much in these troubled times.”

“Which is precisely why we still engage in it, to remind ourselves of who we are and what we stand for,” Lucius replied, in his effortless silver-tongued drawl as he placed his guitar against the arm of the chair. “I feel it is up to those who know to teach the next generation the values of our society, when so many of them have turned from our traditions in preference of something easier but far less satisfying.”

As Lucius spoke, Hermione thought back to the books she had read at the beginning of her apprenticeship, and saw that his attitude was not at all aligned with the Death Eaters, but lay in the restoration of proper wizard society and it’s time honoured traditions. She could see that her head of house seemed to agree with him.

For some reason, Hermione latched onto this as an anchor, suddenly realising that she had some previously unknown urge for the same. She wondered what this meant, as another layer of the person she had always thought she was stripped away to reveal something new and unexpected.

She was sitting pondering this when she felt a hand quietly pick hers up and squeeze it. “All right?” Severus’ liquid tones inquired gently, close to her ear. He had allowed Minerva to sit in his usual chair, and had quietly settled beside her while she was deep in thought. She gave him half a smile, which on reflection she realised must have looked strained, so she nodded to accompany the smile.

“Mr Malfoy, what were the students doing when apprehended?” Minerva suddenly asked Draco, changing back to the original topic.

“Err,” and Draco looked to his head of house, appearing to seek advice.

“Come now, Draco, I’m sure the head of Gryffindor has some expectation of what you are about to say.”

“Very well, they were engaged in a publically lewd act, Ma’am.”

Hermione saw Minerva steel herself. “Would you be at liberty to say what type of act?” she pushed.

Draco didn’t even blink this time. “Ma’am, to put it bluntly, they were engaged in fellatio.”

It was a very tense as the head of Gryffindor who blinked several times before continuing. “I see, I thank you for your honesty, Mr Malfoy.”

“I hope I haven’t shocked you, Ma’am. That was not my intention.”

“No, I am not shocked,” she replied a little too quickly and flushed slightly. Then taking a deep breath, she abruptly changed the subject. “In fact, you are very brave to be out patrolling at all.” Hermione saw Draco’s face drop, at the mention of his source of recent distress, although he seemed to have overcome his more emotional responses to it.

She knew it would hit him in waves, as grief always did. When she grieved the woman she had never known it had been like that. It had been no easier as she then grieved the rejection of the parents she still had living. She had been hit by depression at the oddest moments, after they shut her out, in fact, she still was on occasion.

Taking a shaky breath at the recollection, Hermione felt a thumb ghost across her knuckles. Harry had performed the same action countless times, at the time she had suspected he had some uncanny ability to work out when she was upset, but now Severus had just done the same thing under the same circumstances, however the results were completely different.

Hermione had never experienced the sensations that now tore through her body in response to this simple caring movement. There was no look or words associated with the movement, but the sense of comfort she felt almost overwhelmed her in its intensity, squeezing his hand in acknowledgement of the deed, but feeling it wasn’t enough, she snuggled a little closer as well, trying not to make it too obvious.

~~~***~~~

The night ended with another kiss on her hand, but this time, possibly because Minerva was watching, she received one as well. Hermione was now snuggled in her bed, the evening running through her mind. She couldn’t help wondering if had they been alone whether he may have maybe kissed her cheek.

There were only two weeks to go, and she would no longer be a student. Sighing she adjusted herself, curling her legs up closer. So many emotions were running through her mind. She was elated that someone had finally managed some retribution on her behalf, and this caused her to ponder this for a time. Finally, her brain refused to think anymore as tiredness overtook her and she closed her eyes.

Chapter Text


Things changed rapidly over the next two weeks. All the new players started to settle into their routines, and Severus finally put his foot down about the amount of work Hermione was expected to complete, insisting that his assistant be withdrawn from classes permanently.

“Now her courses are finished, and she only has her exams to go, I wish her to start teaching once more. She will not be able to concentrate on everything, and will most likely ruin my good standing in her efforts to do so if she is still masquerading as a student,” Severus proclaimed, scowling at Albus.

The Potions master had effectively taken both Hermione and Draco out of circulation, except for their head duties, which Hermione was bound to until the end of term. Severus had then organised with Minerva for Hermione to be able to Floo directly to his quarters, in addition to the other locations he had provided for her security.

It was not common knowledge what had happened to Narcissa, and Draco’s absence from classes was explained as illness. Lucius had even provided him, via a spell, with induced symptoms to satisfy the nosy Hufflepuff do-gooder, who after a thorough examination, pronounced that the boy merely needed rest and quiet to recover.

After that, Lucius and Severus approached Albus, asked that Draco be allowed the same consideration as Hermione. He was almost as advanced as the Gryffindor witch and Lucius wanted him out of circulation for his own safety. Therefore, Hermione now had a study partner, and their exams were—after what seemed an age—rapidly approaching.

~~~***~~~

After taking her away from teaching, Severus waited for two weeks before, as predicted, the rumours and problems died down. He believed now was the time was right to ease her back into teaching.

Hermione was sitting in Severus’ office on their first day of shared teaching as he quietly walked back from the classroom, carrying sheaths of homework from the previous lesson. They had no further classes until after lunch, and he smiled at seeing her sitting in his chair in a thoughtful attitude. Her eyes were fixed on a point on the opposite wall, and she was contemplatively biting down on the nail of her index finger as she rested her elbow on her other arm.

The young woman startled badly when he couldn’t resist sliding up beside her and drawling softly in her ear. “Comfortable, my dear?” As she squealed and jumped her hands came up, knocking the parchments he was carrying out of his arms. They slithered to the floor, and laughing, he regarded her with look of amused disdain before stating imperiously, “No need for hysterics, little lioness.”

Her eyes narrowed at his amusement and she glared back. “Well, you shouldn’t sneak up and scare people when they’re deep in thought.”

He flicked his wand and the parchments obediently flew back up to him. “What has you in such deep concentration?” he inquired.

Her calm returned with his words, and she glanced at him thoughtfully. “Control of students,” she replied evenly, before meeting his now softened eyes as she continued to speak. “You have remarkable control over the students, I can’t achieve that yet.” Hermione looked away, uncertain how he would respond to her next comment.”Your entire demeanour is...”

He cocked his head watching her with mischief in his eyes. “My entire demeanour is what, my dear? Be careful.”

Words like threatening, overwhelming, scary and frightening rushed through her head, but eventually she settled carefully on, “All encompassing,” and turned her gaze back to him cautiously.

“What!” he roared in feigned disbelief. “Is that the best you can come up with?”

Hermione relaxed and laughed, meeting his playful gaze. “I just mean that when you enter a room that mere action has a profound effect on the people within it. You have an overpowering presence,” she stopped and looked up at him as she heard him exhale.

“Profound, really?” he scoffed. “Little lioness, I terrify people.” He leant forward looking intently at her. “And I intend to keep doing it. The reactions of sheep—as you well know—amuses me no end.”

Hermione smiled and then laughed. “I know, dear man, but I didn’t want to say,” and she watched him smile at her in return.

Severus loved her laugh, and he was hoping he sounded composed as he placed the homework scrolls he was still holding in his desk drawer. Finally he said, “Hermione, in time you will have no trouble with the little horrors.”

Hermione was now standing beside his desk, and she took a step towards him as he assured her.

“Besides,” he continued, “I will always be with you at present, so you have no need to worry.” Looking her up and down, he inspected her Muggle attire, before drawing breath and indicating with his hand. “I will say though, that this,” and he gestured to her clothing, “is not really suitable for teaching. It doesn’t in anyway inspire respect, especially where the more difficult students are concerned.”

Of course, his unspoken words, told her ‘purebloods’, but she gave him a saucy smile. “I have no other robes. The only alternative would be to teach in my underwear, and I doubt that would give the appropriate air either,” and her eyebrows rose gaily as she laughed at the look on his face.

Even though his brain instantly fogged over and was chanting to him, yes, yes, oh yes, please. He didn’t miss a beat. “No, I believe that it may also be a tad dangerous for Potions classes, something irreplaceable may get damaged… not to mention very chilly.”

“Oh,” she whined in mock sadness.

Severus chuckled, thinking he would like nothing better than to see her cavorting around in her underwear, or less. “Do you have any idea of what you might like to wear while teaching?”

Her lip instantly went between her teeth. “I’m just not certain I’d know where to start,” she admitted.

He saw her blush, and his hand reached for her cheek. “Don’t be shy, little one; you know we can discuss anything.”

Hermione leant into his touch on her cheek, before nodding, and eventually she said, “Actually, I have given this a lot of thought, but I’m concerned that what I want might sound strange to you,” and she was silent for a moment, before inhaling to speak, “because it will be an unexpected move for me, and will probably shock a lot of people.”

He glanced at the clock. “We’ve got time. Would you like to tell me what it is, and why you think it will shock people?” and he indicated for her to sit again.

“Well,” she started, “I’ve always looked at the more sophisticated witches who occasionally grace these halls, and I’ve realised I wish to dress like them.” Severus listened patiently. “My change of opinion on dress has been gradual; though this final move has kind of coincided with my rejection of all things Muggle.” Her expression had changed, and there was a fierce, but bitter fire burning in her eyes. “If they think I’m a freak, then I don’t want anything to do with them, or their world either.”

Severus’ eyes snapped to hers. “Who thinks you’re a freak?” His demand was ferocious, in an, ‘I’ll kill them’ kind of way. That had been his father’s favourite taunt at him, who would dare say this to his lovely little lioness.

Hermione smiled sadly. “Apparently, my parents do.” Her lip quivered a little and she cleared her throat. “Hogwarts is the only home I have now. I am of age and no longer require parental permission for anything,” she continued in a rush, but then hesitated for a time to steady her voice which cracked as she finished her sentence. “They told me if I returned to take my final year I couldn’t come back. They said they had wanted a normal daughter, one who did normal things. Not someone who spent her time over spells and cauldrons.” Severus saw pain flash through her eyes. “Not one who would probably grow warts on her nose by the time she was thirty,” and that was it, Hermione couldn’t hold back the sob any longer. Her hand went over her mouth, and she bit down on it, trying not to cry. “They said they hadn’t bargained on getting a freak when they adopted me.”

Oh dear, blessed bloody Merlin, I didn’t think it would be this bad, Snape thought. He reached her and pulled her out of his chair in one stride. Scooping her up without a thought, he carried her up to his quarters, and sat in his chair cradling her in his lap. She clung to him, crying, and as he held her Severus shut his eyes and concentrated on the reasons why he hated Muggle killing, because right now he would willingly condone it.

His head swirled with questions, but his silent questions were lost as he contemplated the remembered pain of rejection he’d endured from the ones who should have loved him the most. His thoughts were interspersed with soft comforting noises, encouraging Hermione to settle. So this is the secret pain she’s been carrying around, and stupid people here have made things even harder for her, and this made Severus even more furious.

Finally, Hermione started to settle a little. “I’m sorry, Severus. I didn’t mean to break down like that. I thought I had it under control,” her small, and cry roughened voice said.

“Bugger that, you have every right to cry about your family rejecting you. How long has this been going on?”

She shrugged and sniffed as Severus gave her his handkerchief. “I think they thought I would somehow grow out of magic. That it was just a phase I was going through,” she said, wiping her eyes and looking up at him under her lashes. “Thank you for listening. It feels so much better now that someone else knows.”

“We’re friends, are we not, and you yourself told me that is what friends do,” Severus stated seriously.

“Oh yes, of course, friends.” She slipped off his lap. “Thank you, yes… just friends. That’s right,” she continued stiffly.

Snape wanted to correct her, but found he was unable to without compromising their position more. So he merely rose. “We should get back to my office.”

~~~***~~~

They never did resolve the teaching robes issue that day, and then that evening after dinner both Severus and Lucius were summoned by Voldemort, and Hermione hadn’t endured this before. As soon as his mark had burned, Severus had sent her away. “No, I tell you, you must go, you can’t stay down here tonight,” he’d said firmly.

However, as the hours went by she had been unable to stand the tension, and she’d Floo’d to the reading room. As she expected, Draco was already there, but he had his wand drawn.

Hermione silently stared at the ten inches of hawthorn wood pointing at her, but when he realised it was her, he lowered his weapon and apologised by way of greeting. “I’m sorry.” He glanced up under his eye lashes after sheathing his wand. “When they’re called it always makes me jumpy. I hate it so much; every time Father is called it’s like torture, especially now.”

Hermione plopped down on the lounge next to him. “Yeah, I know what you mean. This is my first time.”

“Oh Duckie, why didn’t you say?”

Hermione chuckled, bumping shoulders with him. “Is that another nickname attempt?”

Draco cocked a pale, disbelieving eyebrow. “You no like?”

Snorting with laughter, Hermione said. “That’s worse than the last one,” and she swiped his arm.

“Oh and such a lady,” he sniped listening to the noise of derision that she’d made. “Maybe miss piggy would suit better?”

Hermione considered him a long moment before ignoring his jab and changing the subject. She took a deep breath. “Dray, if I wished to embrace a traditional adult witch form of dress. How would I go about it?”

Her eyes finally flitted to meet his grey ones, and she was happy to see they looked serious. “What makes you ask that, precious?”

“Well, it’s just that Severus and I were discussing how I should dress for teaching. I got to thinking afterwards, and I wondered how you would go about being more traditional.” Seeing him listening to her, Hermione continued. “There just seems to be something incredibly empowering about the way someone can dress; it can make or break them. Take both Severus and Lucius; they exude power, all the dark colours and the decadent trimmings. Then there’s Professor Dumbledore, he dresses to try and throw people off his true persona. Even you, most wizards our age, pureblood or not have made some concessions to Muggle forms of dress. You haven’t, that pleases me. Whilst you don’t wear a frock coat, your jacket is not a Muggle inspired design. I like traditions, and if I’m going to be a part of the wizarding community I wish to dress for success.

Draco nodded. “I agree, there are many things about the less refined that irritate me.” Then he smiled broadly.

Just as they finished talking about this, a Patronus zoomed into the room. It was a peacock, which spoke with Lucius’ voice. “We’re back.” He sounded stressed, but both occupants of the lounge sighed in relief.

“You should go to bed, Hermione,” Draco encouraged, patting her arm. “Uncle S won’t be any company tonight. When they return, they need time to get the meeting out of their system, and that usually means they end up striped down, and in the gym, bashing a charmed punching bag senseless. We’ll talk further about how you dress later, okay?”

“Oh, okay. Night, Dray.”

“Night, night, love,” the blond said absently, and as she spun out of sight and his head lowered to his book again.

~~~***~~~

The next two days following that seemed quiet, with Hermione concentrating on her exams once more.

“Are you going to study this afternoon?” Severus said quietly, on the way to lunch.

“Yes, that’s right.” She bit her lip and graced him with one of her best concerned expressions.

“Don’t worry, you know everything you need.” He took a breath, “If you decide to take a break during the course of double Potions, could you go to the infirmary and get the list of required potions from Poppy? We can start brewing the bases tonight while I quiz you.”

Hermione nodded, then as always, when they reached the first floor the conversation turned formal. “Very good, sir,” and she abruptly walked away towards the hall and the Gryffindor table. His eyes watched her luscious little arse swinging liquidly in the ugly grey school skirt, and he longed to transfigure it into anything else. Snapping out of his musings on reaching the teacher’s table and sat in his place. He did his usual scan of his house table and it was at this point that Severus noticed three of his seventh year Slytherin’s were missing.

His eyes narrowed as he checked up and down the table once more just to make sure. “Shit, Lucius! There is no peace, is there?” he muttered. “No prizes for guessing who,” Severus added distractedly, as he rose fluidly and approached the Slytherin table. “Mr Flint, where are your brother and his companions,” he asked tersely.

“I don’t know, s-sir” said Flint fidgeting and not meeting his head of house’s severe eyes.

“You are lying to me, Mr. Flint. Where are they?” Snape’s voice lowering to that menacing deliberate whisper.

The third year’s resolve crashed under the most intense stare in the castle. “T-They c-could be in the t-third floor bathroom, s-sir,” he stuttered.

“Ten points for lying before, and I’ll see you at seven this evening in the front courtyard.” Severus turned away without another word, and robes billowing, he strode from the hall.

Hermione was quietly observing this altercation, and watched after Severus with a worried expression.

Lucius had also watched what had happened and he now rose to leave as well.

Hermione was trying not to watch too intently, especially when she saw Lucius leave via the teachers exit, but she couldn’t help but worry about what this meant.

~~~***~~~

Severus strode onto the third floor bathroom, Lucius tailing him at a distance. He approached, and the door yielded to his violent shove. “Out, immediately!” he commanded the occupants, anger radiating from him.

Three surly young men who had obviously been doing more than smoking if their state of undress was any indication, glared at him through a cloud of cigarette smoke, but obediently marched out of the bathroom. They might have been bullies but they withered under the command of their head of house, they knew they were no match for him.

“Smoking, boys, you disappoint me. This deed will cost our house dearly. Have some respect for the name of Salazar Slytherin, will you,” he huffed irritatedly, before adding, “and for future reference,” he said, his eyes flicking to their hasty attempts to tuck themselves back into their trousers. “If you’re going to have a group wanking session, at least have the sense to do it somewhere with a lockable door, and when you’re not going to be missed. Morons! Very sloppy, really bad form,” he stated in a menacing whisper, glaring at each of them. “Twenty, points, each,” he announced angrily, saying one word to each face. “Seven o’clock, front courtyard, now fix your uniforms and get to lunch,” he bellowed.

Watching after them as they hurried up the hall, he went into the bathroom. Sighing he vanished the Play Witch magazine they had been pursuing. I’ll be glad when these three are gone, they’re trouble. I hope Flint’s younger brother turns out better.

~~~***~~~

It was after dinner before Hermione saw Severus again, and he was in a raging temper. As soon as she came in to start work, he growled, “You’ll have to start the bases alone, I’ll get back as soon as I can.”

“Don’t worry, Severus, I’ll get it done,” Hermione told him, not taking offence and trying to smile, knowing what he was up against. “Is there anything else I can do to help?”

Severus didn’t return her smile, but he stroked her cheek, before replying, “Seeing your smile makes it feel much better, little one.” Then his expression turned to stone, and he looked at her sternly, “And whatever you do, do not come looking for me tonight.”

Her smile faltered. “Please be safe, Severus.”

He sighed, relaxing a little in the face of her concern. “I’ll be fine, Lucius will be with me,” he assured her, to help convince her. “Just get those bases prepared.”

Hermione nodded reluctantly. “Very well.” She watched him leave, and she looked around. Her mind travelled back to one evening last week. “Your wand please,” he’d said. She had given him a puzzled look at the command, but handed it over any way. Then as she watched, he laid it in his hand next to his own. “I wish you to have access to everything, now you are no longer officially in classes.” She’d been a little perplexed as he continued. “Portius accessus acsendo,” he’d commanded, and she’d watched both wands lift from his hand, and then she’d started to understand. The wands had hovered in front of them, encased in a spiral of light, then after a moment he’d caught his own wand and sent hers towards her.

She remembered catching it, while still trying to blink away the intense light flashes reflecting in her retinas. She’d found her wand was still warm from his magic, but she had focused again when he’d then instructed, “Please tap this brick.”

She’d done as he asked, and the bricks had jumped into life and started to move themselves out of the way to form a doorway.

Smiling, Hermione remembered asking about the chain around her waist. “What about the charm, do you wish to have it back?”

His answer had made her stomach quiver in delight. “Little one, I didn’t give it to you, merely to ask for it back,” and his eyebrow had swept up. “If you would like to, you may keep it as decorative jewellery, perhaps?” and Hermione recalled smiling as she nodded, and he’d seemed pleased by this.

Pulling herself from her recollections, Hermione, glanced down at the new clothes Draco had helped her transfigure. Knowing how much Severus hated her uniform, she was very happy she was no longer required to wear the awful thing. Tonight she had chosen her favourite tight, long black skirt, and an equally tight fitting Slytherin green silk blouse, with her spiky heeled black boots. She decided that she felt good as she rolled up her sleeves and tied her work apron on before setting to work.

~~~***~~~

It was starting to get late. The bases were prepared, and they all sat cooling on the side bench in the lab, and the cleaning up was completed. However, Severus still wasn’t back, and Hermione was determined not to leave before he returned. She had finally become sick of studying for exams, although she was still nervous about them, and she needed a distraction. So, at this moment she was sitting on the floor, surveying the music in the book case. Finding a volume of Chopin Nocturnes, she decided to see if she could play one. (1)

She decided to go through it separate hands first. Well that worked, she thought, Okay, let’s see what happens now, and she started trying it hands together. Oops, not so good. Hermione vaguely wondered how you managed all the notes in the right hand to coordinate with the left. It had been a long time since she had last played, and she wasn’t really surprised that she was so rusty after such a long break, but she persevered while she waited.

It was very late when Severus finally returned and found her still trying to play the piece. She looked up and smiled when she saw him, observing just from his stalk that he was obviously tired and stressed. He glanced in her direction, but headed into his bedroom without more than a nod in her direction.

Hermione had started to think that he wasn’t coming back out when he finally appeared again looking fresher and in just his shirt sleeves, but with his attitude still frozen in stone.

She had taken the liberty of telling Lotti to bring him some whiskey and she got up from the piano and motioned for him to sit in his favourite chair, but even seated he was erect and tense. The Gryffindor witch handed him the glass, and critically surveyed the state of him. Without his heavy teaching robes and frock coat he somehow looked like part of his armour was missing; he looked almost vulnerable and Hermione had the urge to soothe him.

He needed to relax. All the work was done, surely now, they were simply two friends, and friends comforted one another. She wanted to climb onto his lap, throw her arms around his chest and snuggle in, but on reflection, she thought that would probably garner a negative reaction at the moment. Work up to it, she thought. “Tough, night?” she asked quietly, starting to move around behind him.

He nodded. “Thank you,” he said holding up the glass.

Hermione smiled at him. “You’re perfectly welcome,” and she refilled his glass. “It must be difficult to deal with young men like that. They are so angry about everything.”

“And for all the wrong reasons,” he replied tiredly, tensing more as her hands started to knead his tight shoulders.

“Relax, Severus,” she soothed. “Just sit back,” and she smiled. He was so distracted by his thoughts, he was just obeying her. Hermione started dimming the lights to a soft glow, and his favourite Chopin of the moment (2) started wafting around the room, enveloping his senses further.

“It’s their parents who are the true problem,” he continued after a moment. “They are merely products of their environments, but just knowing that doesn’t make teaching and disciplining them any easier. Really some people shouldn’t be allowed to breed,” he muttered, jadedly.

“That bad, huh,” she replied quietly.

“Oh, it was much worse, little lioness.”

Hermione’s heart constricted at the tone of his voice. She stayed quiet and concentrated on her task, and she smiled when she heard a relaxed sigh of pleasure issue from his lips, then she was rewarded even further as she felt him finally start to loosen up under her hands.

“That feels amazing, my little love,” he sighed, and she gasped quietly, certain he hadn’t realised he’d said it.

Severus shut his eyes, and he calmed further with the music caressing his senses, and the whisky dulling his pain.

Hermione slowly worked her way down both shoulders and eventually moved around in front of him when her arms started to ache from reaching around the high back of the arm chair. Finally, she was standing between his legs facing him, massaging tiny circles around his temples and forehead with her thumbs.

She had actually thought he was dozing when his hands slowly rose to quietly still hers. Glancing at his expression she saw his mouth starting to curl into a smile, and oh how she wanted to kiss that mouth right at this moment.

His eyes slowly opened to meet hers. “Thank you, my dear, little angel,” and he placed a soft, almost reverent kiss on the back of each of her hands before releasing them, as his arms enclosed around her middle and gently pulled her to him. “Thank you,” he repeated softly.

Stroking his hair as his head lay on her stomach, she then heard him take an extraordinarily nervous sounding breath. Finally he spoke. “Hermione, would you sit with me and allow me to hold you?”

Hermione didn’t have words to speak. She heard him gasp quietly when he heard her heartbeat increase significantly, but if her mouth refused to work, at least her body didn’t. She silently twisted herself and sat on his knee, allowing him to reach down and swing her legs up so she snuggled into his lap, head resting on his chest. She heard him sigh and felt his arms tighten around her.

Severus sat there with her nestled in close to him. No one had ever been able to make him feel this relaxed. It suddenly dawned on him that this woman had indeed become indispensable to him. He wanted, and actively sought out her company, and now her comfort. Her comfort was like relaxing into heaven, and he was certain that he would never tire of sitting like this with her.

Finally, he heard her soft voice, as he was thinking. “Is there anything else I can do for you, my dearest man?”

Her hand tentatively reached up and stroked his cheek. Raising his own he stilled it. “I can think of many things I would like you to do for me, but not tonight. We only have one week to go, and as much as it pains me, one week and Christmas will solve a problem.”

Hermione buried her head further into his chest, and sighed. “One week,” she repeated, and sat there contemplating what would happen then.

Chapter Text


The next night, Severus questioned Hermione for her exam in The Study of Ancient Runes, which was the next day. By the time they had finished brewing it was late, and he told her not to worry about the marking she hadn’t finished, but Hermione was nothing if not stubborn. She obstinately sat herself at her desk and started. Severus merely shook his head and went to his own desk in the other room to start his own marking.

When he next looked at the clock it was two thirty in the morning, and he hadn’t seen Hermione leave. Surely she wouldn’t leave without saying goodnight, he thought. He wearily took himself into the lab to look, and there was Hermione, sound asleep, with her head resting on her folded arms supported by her desk.

Severus looked at her blissfully slumbering, and try as he might he couldn’t bring himself to wake her and send her back to her rooms. He was sick of her being there anyway. Surely they had waited long enough. He wanted her with him, not stuck up in Gryffindor tower where he worried something would happen to her. Trying not to disturb her, he gently swivelled the chair around enough to pick her up. With her head cradled against his chest, he walked towards what he hoped would be her room in the not too distant future. The door opened at his muttered command, and the covers on the bed flew back.

Placing her gently between the sheets, he heard her sigh and murmur something he didn’t quite catch, but it made him smile anyway. She had already removed her jacket; it was hanging over the back of the chair in the lab, and Severus looked at her dainty boots. He carefully took them off, and he also removed the heavy clip from her hair.

Standing and gazing at her for what seemed a long time, he finally placed the clip on the bedside table before covering her. The Potions master wished he had the nerve to steal a kiss, or better still, to place her in bed with him. He had wanted to kiss her the night before, and had resisted, asking her to sit on his knee had been bold enough under the circumstances. If he was caught trying to steal a kiss, then that could definitely lead somewhere inappropriate, and he did not want her penalised for his weakness.

Eventually, he quietly closed the door and left, wondering what had happened to the Slytherin opportunist he had always been. The answer came quickly - he was still that man, but even that man realised how important this woman was to his future. Being caught would prove disastrous, and shaking his head he wandered to his room and to his own bed.

~~~***~~~

The next morning he was just walking back from the lab, after brewing his morning coffee, when he heard the whoosh of the floo. As he came back into his sitting room he found himself being stared down by the angry eyes of the head of Gryffindor, in full moral protector mode.

The austere witch didn’t have to say a word. Severus could see the accusation written all over her face. He couldn’t help himself, he smirked shark-like at her, which as he predicted notched her temper up to infuriated. “Good morning, Minerva, bee in your bonnet, dear?” he soothed silkily.

Her lips were so thin they had almost disappeared. He loved sparring with this witch when given the opportunity; she was priceless fun.

“Severus Snape! Where is Hermione Granger?” she seethed. “I went to find her this morning to give her a message, and found her bed empty.”

Severus pursed his lips, and his eyebrow sailed gracefully skyward. “I believe you will find your prize cub is sound asleep in there, if you care to check,” he said, indicating the door. “You will find her completely clothed and her honour intact,” he drawled, smirking predator-like again.

He couldn’t have wished for a better reaction, and he watched as Minerva stalked across the room towards the door he’d indicated. The head of Gryffindor was just about to place her hand on the knob, when it opened, and a blurry-eyed Hermione wandered out. Her hair was a glorious, riotous mess, and she was a little disorientated, but otherwise obviously unharmed. “Good morning, Hermione. Your head of house is concerned that your honour may have been compromised.”

All remnants of sleep were instantly gone. “My what?” she gasped in disbelief. Hermione stared open mouthed at Minerva McGonagall, then vehemently asserted, “I have no qualms concerning my honour, or my virtue. Severus is an utter gentleman, and I thank him for taking care of me. I should learn not to be so obstinate, and admit it when I’m far too tired to keep marking. I fell asleep at my desk.” Hermione said, standing there looking every inch as fierce as her protector as she drew breath to continue with her declaration. “And I wish it to be known that I trust Severus implicitly with both my honour and virtue.” She looked at her shocked head of house and quickly added. “But I also thank you for your concern for me. I appreciate your care, and your interest in my welfare very much.”

Seeing she was obviously mistaken, Minerva gave in graciously. “Well, I am very pleased to see everything is accountable. I will see you both at breakfast. Good morning,” she said stiffly, and grabbing a pinch of floo powder she was gone in a flurry of tartan indignation.

By this time, Hermione was standing stock still at the door she had just passed through. Her hand was firmly covering her mouth, as her wide eyes met Severus’ smiling ones. “Did I just talk down my head of house?” she said in a horrified voice.

“And you did it so beautifully, my Lioness,” he enthused, before he began to laugh, and it was such a beautiful laugh. There was no sign of tension or discomfort in it at all, just crystal clear, joyous laughter. Severus walked over to her, and taking her face in his hands he caressed her cheeks with his thumbs. “And thank you for your trust, my love.” Their eyes locked, and he started leaning into her, but then stopped and appeared to fight with himself. As soon as he could manage it, he let go and distanced himself once more, picking up his mug and not looking at her. He walked to the French doors, where he stood stiffly, looking out as Hermione remained silent and stationary.

Her lips were parted, and she was fighting the physical pain in her heart from wishing that he had kissed her. Her eyes started to fill and a tiny hiccup escaped her control as she felt bitter disappointment rising with her blush. She had wanted that kiss so badly.

Even though he had allowed himself to cuddle her the night before last, he still wouldn’t kiss her. Hermione wiped at her tears and walked over to him, cautiously placing her arms around his waist, and laying her head on his chest she said, “You deserve my trust, Severus,” and then pulling back just enough to see his face, she added, “and you are very welcome,” and standing on her tip-toes, she brushed his cheek with her lips, but then quickly ducked her head to snuggle into his coat. She was happy to find one of his arms forgoing the grip on his mug, and enclosing around her. She smiled against him and sighed. “I wish these exams were over and I was free,” she murmured, and held on tighter.

“Oh that is something you are not alone in wishing, my love,” he returned, and sending his coffee mug to his desk, brought his other hand up to smooth her hair, so it stopped tickling his nose.

“I like standing like this,” Hermione murmured against his chest. The young woman felt rather than heard the rumble of his chuckle, as it vibrated through her from deep within him.

“However, as much as I agree with you, you only have an hour before your exam.” With a quick peck of his lips onto the top of the head, he gently pushed her away, holding her at arm’s length as he suggested almost mischievously, “We could have breakfast here to save time before you go?”

“What, thereby giving you another reason to joust with your favourite sparring partner?”

He didn’t reply, but his smile told her the answer, and she nodded. “Very well, Professor Cheshire Cat, I would like that.”

~~~***~~~

That evening, Lucius shadowed the head girl and boy on their patrol without Severus, because the Potions master had detentions to supervise again.

Lucius watched his son as they walked, Draco had been down all evening. The pressure seemed to be starting to get to him, what with his exams, and knowing he had to go back to the manor for Christmas, and on top of all that, the fear of what might happen next. It was all becoming too much.

Lucius decided that an early night was in order, and he regretfully sent a message with Hermione that he and Draco were unable to attend supper this evening. So Hermione bade them both good night in their quarters, which is where their patrol had finished, and she Floo’d down to Severus’ quarters.

Stepping out of the fireplace Hermione found Minerva and Severus deep in discussion. They looked up and smiled when they saw her, but seeing how exhausted she looked, Severus made her comfortable in his chair and handed her a glass of the same wine they had been drinking.

Minerva watched this and smiled quietly as she finished her glass and rose to leave. “I believe I will bid you both, good night,” and she turned to Hermione. “Do not stay out too long tonight, dear, I feel the urge for a surprise bed check and impromptu house meeting, at say, six o’clock,” Minerva stated, with an evil glint in her eye. “I am determined to put a stop to all the bed hopping that seems to be running rife.”

“Yes, Ma’am, but may I respectfully suggest that five thirty may be a better time,” Hermione replied.

Minerva nodded. “Really?  That’s very interesting,” and her eyebrow arched.

Severus had risen as Minerva stood, and she now turned to him. “I thank you for the supper and conversation, good night, dear boy.”

As the head of Gryffindor spun out of sight, Severus looked back at the young woman in his chair.

“I suppose I better go as well,” she said, but gazed longingly at him. It was then she remembered. “Oh, Lucius sent their apologies, and could you send Lotti with some more Dreamless Sleep and Calming brew.”

Severus nodded, and reaching down as he passed, he stroked her cheek. “You look very tired,” he asserted, before he called Lotti. Hermione smiled wistfully, watching as he organised the potions Lucius had requested in his note of apology, and she wished she didn’t have to go.

Coming back, Severus saw her eyes trained on him. “Perhaps we could sit together, just for a moment?” He offered her his hand. “We haven’t talked all day.”

“I know,” she replied, allowing herself to be pulled up and installed with him in his chair. Hermione sighed, and relaxed, as his arms enveloped her.

“See that’s better already, isn’t it?”

She nodded against him.

“How did the Study of Ancient Runes exam go today?”

She relaxed even more as his wonderful voice danced over her senses. “Good,” she said. “But it took a lot of brain power. I guess that’s why I’m so tired now.”

Severus was stroking her hair, the temptation to kiss her was starting to overwhelm him, so he kept asking her questions. “Mmm, what exam’s tomorrow?”

Her voice was weary. “Arithmancy,” she sighed, playing with her favourite button on his frock coat, as he nodded in acknowledgement. “Then two days off before Defence, and then Potions, and I’ll be finished,” she said, sounding very relieved.

The truth was she was just too tired to be more excited about it, and she snuggled further into Severus’ chest and sighed. It wasn’t long, and Severus was regretting keeping her from her bed. Her breathing changed and deepened, and he realised she’d dozed off. Thinking he would just deposit her in the bedroom she’d used a few nights back he started to rise. Then he remembered Minerva’s caution and he knew she had to go back to Gryffindor Tower. “Hermione, wake up, you need to sleep in your own bed. Hermione!” he said louder.

“Yes, Severus,” she slurred sleepily.

Her voice sounded so luscious. He tried to ignore as he said, “Sweetheart, wake up. You need to go back to Gryffindor Tower,” he encouraged, shaking her gently.

“I want to stay with you, darling,” she mumbled, and burrowed further into his arms.

“I wish you could, but there’s a bed check, you have to go to your own bed.”

“Ohhh,” she whined sleepily, but her heavy eyes slowly started to force themselves open.

In one way Severus was very pleased about this. He couldn’t have taken very much more of her half asleep, accidental tempting—as it was he was rigid—and his voice husky from want.

He quietly pushed her off his lap and she swayed, blinking exhaustedly at him. Finally, her swaying caused her to over-balance and Severus caught her, and she wasted no time collapsing back into his arms.

“Oh Severus, can’t you just put me in bed with you,” she gushed, rapidly losing control.

At that moment his most ardent wish would be just to comply, say to hell with it all, and claim her, but he fought his baser self, and remained controlled.

“I will see you tomorrow, my lioness. Sleep well,” he said, forcing his voice to sound sober. “However, if Minerva’s going to drag the entire house of Gryffindor out of bed at five thirty, you could come down here for an early breakfast after her rant.”

"I’d like that," she replied airily, smiling sleepily and attempting to plaster herself against him again. She tried to reach up and kiss him, but he turned his head.

Severus had noticed that Hermione was far more prone to allow her mind to wander into illicit territory when she was tired, and smiling, despite himself as he caught her by the arms and pushed her back. "Oh no you don’t, you little temptress. You need to go to your own bed, ma chérie.” Holding her firmly by the upper arms, Severus pulled her close enough, to gift her with a kiss on the forehead. “Bonne nuit."

Hermione had trouble forcing her eyes away from his black orbs, as they observed her with such gentleness when she looked up, but she finally forced herself to wake up enough to concentrate and collect some Floo powder. Stating her destination in a voice full of sleep, she spun out of sight.

At the same moment as Hermione fell to her bed sighing, the wizard she had just left sat back into his favourite chair cursing his nature. Even though his current friendship with her was providing him with a very enticing taste of the kind of easy conversation and exchange of ideas he craved with her, the tension it was producing as their relationship tried to naturally morph into something deeper was becoming painful.

Finally alone, he attempted to adjust his painful erection which refused to go away. Sighing he popped the buttons on his trousers and looked down at his now proudly jutting member. “How much more waiting can I endure?” he asked it distractedly. “I’m so sick of denying myself,” he got up to head for his shower. However, his mood continued on its dejected downward spiral, and suddenly Severus felt more trapped than any other experience had ever made him, and panic started to engulf him. Now he’d had a taste he wanted more. “For fucks sake, there’s got to be common ground,” he mumbled distractedly as he walked.

Looking at the whiskey he stopped and poured himself another drink. Yes, it’s difficult, he tried to tell himself. But really, difficult is better than impossible. He knew he had sent Hermione off just as frustrated, but partly because she was extremely tired, and it appeared that in that condition she lost all rational thought.

However, that was when he froze for a second time. Gryffindor were having a pyjama clad house meeting in the morning. He didn’t want her caught in the clothes she had left in. In her state of tiredness, she was likely to doze off in them, and be caught in the morning. He did something, he normally never did. He panicked.

“Lotti,” he called. “Go to my little lioness’ room and take this note.” Completely forgetting about the state of his trousers, he hurried to his desk, and thinking of her lack of stamina he accioed a potion, and explained completely what he required to his elf.

~~~***~~~

The pop that accompanied the elf as she landed on Hermione’s bed, startled the dozing young woman and she shrieked. The elf clicked her fingers, and the lantern bedside Hermione’s bed burst into life. “Little lioness not sleep yet,” Lotti said, in her squeaky little voice. “Potions master is sending Lotti to be helping,” she held out the note, wrapped in the phial.

Hermione’s shaky hand came out and took the note and potion. Lotti hopped off the bed and went into the bathroom. Yawning, Hermione unrolled the note off the phial of potion.

Hermione, ma chérie,

I have sent Lotti to make certain you end up sleeping in your night attire and not what you are currently wearing. Drink the potion and then let the bath the elf is preparing you ready you for sleep again. She will watch over you and help you into bed.

Rendez-vous au petit déjeuner.
Bonne nuit ma petite lionne.
Votre ami dévoué
Severus.

Reading the note. Hermione’s heart tightened. He was right, even now she was too disturbed to fall properly back to sleep, and she didn’t have the energy left to remove her clothes. Flipping the lid on the little bottle, Hermione smelt Pepperup which she drank, as she felt a tugging on her arm. Looking down, she saw the huge amber orbs of Lotti, trying to encourage her to her feet. “Master says Lotti must get little miss into bath,” she squeaked, earnestly.

“Does he indeed?” She sighed absently, but then giggled sleepily. She held her arms out. “Very well, Lotti, do your worst,” she muttered, as she wandered towards the bathroom, arms outstretched. There was a soft click and her clothes melted away. Hermione let out another little giggle. “Thank you, Lotti.”

Lotti watched intently as the young woman’s form gracefully lowered into the scented bubbles. “Miss is being very welcome,” and there was a slight pop, which told Hermione she was once again alone.

The fragrance of roses and violets filled her senses. How did the elf know that was her favourite? Forcing her eyes to stay open, she thought back to the forest scene in Severus’ office that Lucius had made the same plants under the trees. She suddenly realised that the scene he created was as much for her relaxation as Severus’. Boy had she learnt a lot about Slytherins and their habits recently. Her mind started to absently flit through all the different aspects as she yawned once more.

She groaned softly, as she thought about treasured moments with Severus. Her head seemed to fit perfectly in the hollow below his collar bone, almost like it had been specifically designed for her.

Happily sliding further into the water, her mind was blissfully unfocused, and Hermione finally allowed her body to relax a little as the wine from supper vied with the potion Severus had sent her.

She was far too tired to think about much. She was feeling extremely frustrated about not being able to stay with Severus, and  Hermione found she couldn’t prevent her fingers straying into the petal soft folds of her pussy, and she uttered a sleepy moan as her pleasure built. Even as tired as she was , it wasn’t long and she felt that needy ache take centre stage, and it only mattered that she complete what she had started. She was really too sleepy to think anymore, as she allowed her fingers to bring her pleasure, and she came wishing Severus was there with her. She was still shuddering in pleasure as she started to doze in the bath. Life was altogether too exhausting at the moment.

After an undisclosed amount of time, movement roused her a little. “Thank you, Lotti,” Hermione slurred sleepily as the elf levitated her dozing charge out of the bath, dried her and clad her in her pyjamas. Suddenly her eyes refused to stay open any longer and she drifted off.

Lotti smiled. “Good night, little lioness,” and clicking her fingers to douse the lights, she left with a quiet pop.

Severus tightened his grip in fright, as the elf returned. “Lotti has Miss in her bed, in pyjamas, sir. Can Lotti do more?”

Severus was still sitting at his desk intensely unsatisfied when the elf came back with her report. “Good,” he managed, through gritted teeth. “Good night,” he said distractedly, and as soon as the elf was gone he became intent on what his hand was doing under the desk once more.

Chapter Text


Five thirty in the morning seemed to come in the blink of an eye for Hermione. She was suddenly being woken by the forceful knocks of her head of house. Stumbling out of bed and into her slippers, the Gryffindor witch grabbed her dressing gown and made for the door.

Professor McGonagall actually looked relieved when she finally appeared. “Bed check, Miss Granger,” her professor cautioned tightly, and Hermione opened the door further allowing her entry. The elder witch came out of the head girl’s bedroom carrying Hermione’s wand. “Don’t forget this, dear,” she commented, sticking it in the pocket of Hermione’s dressing gown. “You still look very tired; I hope you didn’t study all night again.”

“No, ma’am, I did get some sleep,” Hermione replied wearily.

“Very good, Miss Granger, please take a seat in the common room,” she announced officiously.

Walking into the common room, Hermione could see it was divided by years and allegiances. Neville and Harry were the only two sitting alone and she quietly sat on the lounge next to Neville, which just happened to be the most convenient place to sit. Hermione paused a moment before sitting. Was Harry just giving me a longing look? She smiled tightly, and patted the seat on the other side of her in encouragement. She saw him glance at Ron who didn’t look happy, he was sitting along the far wall.

Hermione’s eyes travelled around the five people sitting along that wall, separate to each other and the rest of the room. She gasped as she recognised Ginny as one of them, then realised also that one was Terry Boot, a Ravenclaw. Her eyes then moved around the rest of the room. It looked like only fourth through seventh years had been woken. This pleased Hermione, the younger children didn’t need to know of the older student’s indiscretions. Thankfully they’ve been left some innocence to go on with, she thought.

It was at that moment that Professor McGonagall spoke. “I have to say that the behaviour of certain sixth and seventh year students profoundly disappoints me. The house of Godric Gryffindor has always been one dedicated to bravery, honour and valour. Each person in this room was chosen for possessing these qualities above all others.” Her mouth had become a thin line which indicated the enormity of her displeasure. “Sexual misconduct is punishable by expulsion under school rules. This is why the nightly patrols are so harsh on persons found in various form of ardent embrace in the school at large,” at this comment, many of the sillier individuals tittered. McGonagall’s mouth tightened before she continued, “Regardless of age or status. If you are a student it is against school rules to fraternise, end of story.” McGonagall cast an eye around each student present. “It has been known for seventh years to marry before they leave school, and if you are certain this is for you, this is an acceptable way around the rule. However, this state is not to be entered into lightly.”

The head of Gryffindor levelled withering stares at the students along the far wall. “Bed hopping, reversing charms placed for student protection and secreting those of the opposite sex in dormitory rooms is forbidden.” The Transfiguration professor had a full head of steam up now, but then as she glared once more at Ron she seemed to veer off her topic slightly. “However, worse still is being caught in an alcove in a hallway of the castle, where anyone could stumble by, that is tantamount to stupidity, and seriously offends the good standing of Gryffindor house.” She took a deep steadying breath as she surveyed the line of all but one contritely bowed head, as the offenders sat against the far wall. “Right, I believe that sums it all up, does anyone have any questions?” and she glanced around the room. “No, good. With the exception of you five, be aware Gryffindors, this is your first and last warning, from this point onward I will have a zero tolerance policy concerning these matters, dismissed.”

Hermione had to admit that she was very shaken as she rose to go back to her room. She tried to catch Ginny’s eye, but the redhead was resolutely staring at her hands, and had been the entire time. Her eyes scanned past Ron and he saw her, he was the only one who had his head raised. Was he really so stupid not to acknowledge what he had done. He sneered at her when he saw she was looking at him, and Hermione turned away.

As she turned to leave, Harry approached on the pretence of speaking to Neville, but he discretely grabbed Hermione’s arm to hold her in place. “I need to speak to you,” he whispered, “can I walk you to breakfast later?”

Regardless of his earlier betrayals, Hermione nodded, she’d had a feeling he would need to clear the air sooner or later. “Sure, eight thirty? I’m going to see if I can catch a little more sleep.”

“Great, thanks, Hermione. I’ll collect you from your room.” Hermione nodded and kept going.

Safely back in her room Hermione dressed and organised herself for the day. McGonagall’s speech was still playing in her head, and it was unsettling her badly. If having sex in a hallway or even in your own room gets you expelled. What would happen if you were caught having sex with a professor? She took a stuttering breath, why was she thinking such things. Severus would never let that happen under any circumstances.

She had to admit though; it was a very sobering thought. Grabbing some floo powder, Hermione smiled as she told the fireplace, “Professor Snape’s, quarters,” but nothing happened. Her stomach instantly felt like lead, what was wrong? Had he warded it against her? Hermione tried again, still nothing and her mind immediately thought the worst. Even when she tried flooing to his office instead, nothing happened. Wandering into her bedroom, she collapsed on the bed. What’s happened, I thought we were getting on so well, why’s he shut me out?

~~~***~~~

In his quarters Severus was ready for the day and pacing. It’s seven twenty, where’s Hermione? Has something happened to her? I have to know. “Lotti!” he called urgently. Little Lotti bowed. “Find little lioness, if she’s able to come, bring her to me.” The elf nodded.

Hermione heard the soft pop, and saw the elf’s little face swimming in front of her through her tears. She recognised it immediately and a glimmer of hope pierced her sadness. “The floo won’t let me,” she sobbed, as Lotti approached her.

Hermione had never known an elf to be caring, but Lotti gently patted her arm. “Not too be crying, I can take you to master. He is most agitated, he is telling Lotti to bring little lioness if Lotti able. Lotti is able, can little lioness come?”

Hermione wiped her eyes, if Severus hadn’t warded the floo, then it must be from her end. Her brain started fathoming the possibilities as she dug in her bag on the bed next to her to get the items she needed to create a note.


Dearest Severus,

I think Professor McGonagall’s surprise bed check has had unexpected consequences. The floo in my rooms won’t give me access to your quarters or your office anymore, and I can’t leave my room to come to you by normal means, as she is still raging at those she caught in the common room, and we’ve all been told to avoid the common room until she’s finished.

I would happily come with Lotti, but I am concerned it might get one or both of us into trouble, awaiting your opinion on this matter by return elf.

Yours
Hermione.

“Lotti, please take this to Master of potions,” Hermione asked.

Lotti bowed and left with a pop. When she reached her master he was still pacing back and forth.

“Well,” he demanded, “where is she?” Without a word Lotti handed over the note, he read it. “Oh Shit,” he cursed, “I bet that irritating tabby cat has placed a ban on all the floo’s in and out of Gryffindor tower.” Striding to his floo, he grabbed powder. “Head girl’s room.” There was nothing.

It crossed Severus’ mind that he could over ride Minerva’s ban, but that may have undesirable consequences for both of them. He raced to his desk. “Damn her,” he stated as sitting he wrote a reply.

My Hermione,

You are correct, there is a problem. Your head of house appears to have locked down all the floos in and out of Gryffindor tower. I will need to ascertain the parameters of her general ban before Lotti can bring you. She may not have thought of elf travel, (one can only hope).

I will be in touch as soon as I find out. Good luck with your exam this morning.
Yours in return
Severus.

Hermione sat hugging her pillow waiting for Lotti’s return, and when she heard the soft pop of her arrival her head turned instantly to the elf. Lotti smiled and handed her the message. “Thank you, Lotti,” Hermione said grabbing for it eagerly. After reading it, she breathed a sigh of relief. “Lotti, please tell Master of Potions, thank you for his reply.”

~~~***~~~

It was a very irritated Severus Snape who entered the Great Hall that morning, he didn’t like unexpected surprises, and now he wasn’t going to get to talk to Hermione until after double Potions that afternoon.

As expected Minerva was nowhere to be seen, no doubt still dealing with the fallout from what was quickly being labelled, the Gryffindor sex scandals. Severus scanned the Gryffindor table to see who was missing. He chuckled despite his fowl mood when he saw that, as expected, Weasley, Brown and Patil were missing. However, he was shocked to see the other Weasley was also missing. Ah, but there’s my little lioness, and his raven brow slid up. Interesting, she’s deep in discussion with the boy wonder, and she’s learning how to be discrete. He watched as her conversation with Potter remained the focus of her attention but her eyes moved. Momentarily they locked with his own, before sliding back to Potter, a master Slytherin couldn’t have done it better.

Then his eyes moved to the Slytherin table in an attempt to counteract the curl of pleasure that pulsed through him at her perfect clandestine public acknowledgement. As he surveyed the Slytherin table he recognised that there was no Draco either. The poor boy, he’s still finding life difficult, we’re going to have to do something more permanent there.

It was as he was thinking about Draco’s predicament that Severus remembered the conversation he’d had with Hermione while they were brewing Wolfsbane, and Severus moved his eyes back to the Gryffindor table to watch his lioness’s companion. Yes, Hermione’s correct. Potter is trying to make it discrete. Severus scoffed to himself, and failing dismally, he’s such a typical Gryffindor. But he IS glancing towards Draco’s empty place at the Slytherin table, and the Potions master counted six times before he looked away.

His irritation at everything made his breakfast a quick, perfunctory affair, and he headed back to his office with his patent scowl firmly in place, as he thought about the possibilities of Draco and Potter, and more pointedly, what they were going to be able to do to protect Draco, as he also wondered where Lucius was this morning.

~~~***~~~

That afternoon Hermione loitered for the required ten minutes before she came down to Potions knowing Severus didn’t want people seeing her letting herself into his office. Today she had no choice now, she had to take the long way down as the floos were still not working. The young woman wondered how much longer she could stand waiting until these exams were over. This whole situation was becoming extremely tiresome. She couldn’t wait for the end of term to come, if for nothing other than the fact that she could stay with Severus whenever she wanted with no one to question her any more. She huffed and started down the Dungeon corridor.

The four Gryffindors who had been detained that morning had turned up again just before lunch. Ginny and Pavarti had only been given one evening of detention, to be served at St Mungo’s in the department of Sexually Transmitted Wizarding Diseases, where they were to be accompanied by Professor McGonagall and Madam Pomfrey. Ron and Lavender on the other hand were repeat offenders and as well as the hospital visit they were each assigned a month’s detention helping Mr. Filch clean toilets, with no magic.

Hermione opened the door of the Potions master’s office and entered, she leant up against the back of it for a moment, feeling her sense of belonging engulf her once more and simply breathing in the familiar air of the office. The countless ghastly looking jars that lined the walls didn’t bother her anymore. She knew what each ingredient was now, and the significance of the more macabre specimens. She had laughed heartily one day when Severus explained that he merely kept them to make his office look more foreboding.

Finally she sighed and tapped the bricks that opened the doorway that went up to her desk in Severus’ private lab. They had kept the charmed parchment for the same reason as when it was in the little lab, of course now the notes usually weren’t work related. Hermione saw it sitting on her desk glowing, which indicated it had an unanswered message. Her stomach twisted in pleasure and she hurried to her desk.

So, my sweet girl, what are we discussing this afternoon?

Severus was settled at his desk totally put out and bored with the whole day, he had felt Hermione enter through his wards, and was now eagerly awaiting her reply to his question. If he couldn’t do anything else, at least they could write to one another this afternoon. He glanced up at the students once more, he couldn’t even rake up the effort to stalk around the class room today. He was completely fed up with this situation, and this morning had finished it all for him.

Taking another cursory sweep of the classroom, his eyes landed on Ron. Idiot boy is back, with one half of his harem, but they don’t look happy. His eyes moved to Harry. The boy wonder’s still casting inquiring glances towards Draco’s empty bench, which means he doesn’t know yet what has happened. As he was thinking about this a reply came on his parchment.

Hello lovely man, Defence is next, quiz me.

The reply was swift.

Hello yourself. You’re in a room, there’s a mirror and an entity that resembles a vampire, how do you distinguish if it is what it appears to be, or if it’s actually a boggart?”

Hermione thought for a moment.

Well if a vampire was your deepest fear, it’s possibly a boggart, but to know for certain use the mirror, and vampire will back away, a boggart won’t bother.

She tapped the parchment with her wand to send the answer.

They conversed this way for the whole of the first lesson, and were about half way through the second. As usual the questions were no longer just about work. Hermione followed her next answer with, what do you suppose we’re having for dinner tonight?

Excellent answer, love. I don’t know, what would you like for dinner?

Hermione didn’t need to think too long about that.

I’d like to go somewhere quiet, just us, and maybe have fish and chips.

Indeed, came his reply.

Hermione shivered she could hear the innuendo in the one word answer. She was just thinking about how to answer him, when Severus gave his classroom another cursory sweep and was about to look down for Hermione’s next comment when he abruptly caught a movement in the shadows. What the fuck? How did someone sneak into my classroom? Shit, shit, shit. Whoever it is, they know to keep to the shadows. Snape’s keen eye sight followed the vague glint of the disillusionment charm. Now he was really pissed off. Severus discretely drew his wand and then wrote a quick note. Hang on, Boot and Corner have disappeared, but why would two Ravenclaws disillusion themselves, they’re just not the types, I better get assistance, I can’t take any chances with students around. Whoever it is, they’ll pay for this, he fumed as he quickly wrote a note to Hermione.

Hermione, get Minerva and Lucius, tell them to come to my office. Tell Lucius not to let Draco come, someone unknown is in the classroom. I think there’s two and they’re disillusioned.

When the parchment shone this time Hermione was surprised, it was her turn to write. However, her heart immediately leapt into her mouth when she read the message. She instantly followed his instructions, her patronus lioness springing from her wand, and splitting into two to carry her messages.

Severus, now on full alert tapped the parchment to wipe it clean. He was more than a little angry with himself that he’d let his guard drop like that. His eyes swept the classroom now watching for every movement. It was then that his attention turned to Lavender Brown. If it didn’t look fairly normal for her, I would swear she was imperialised. He rose from his chair, watching the shadow he could still see next to her and sensing more than feeling the presence of the other.

Hermione had just arrived at the bottom of his stairs, and wand drawn she tapped the bricks and the doorway shimmered out of view.

Back in the classroom Severus was cautiously approaching Lavender Brown as though he was about to check her work, waiting his chance, as soon as he got a clear shot. “Stupefy,” and there was a loud thud beside her.

Students unfortunately started screaming, especially after Ron yelled. “The bastard’s finally flipped he’s trying to kill us.”

“Don’t panic,” Severus commanded loudly. “All students under your benches, NOW!” Of course this meant that general panic ensued. Hermione was already going towards the classroom door when Minerva launched out of the floo, closely followed by Lucius.

They both looked at her for more information. “People, disillusioned in the classroom, Severus thinks two. I heard him use Stupefy once,” she abridged, and went to open the door, but as her hand grabbed the knob there was a violent explosion.

“Oh No!” she cried, and reefing the door open she momentarily stood back as a cloud of green smoke invaded the office. The swirling tendrils of choking sea-green mist in the classroom made it easier to spot anyone disillusioned, and Hermione saw a shadow move behind Harry, who had instantly struck a defensive pose as soon as the professor had stupefied that first intruder, but he was looking the wrong way.

“Duck down, Harry,” Hermione bellowed, and as Harry dropped she cast her spell. “Stupefy,” and there was a second thud.

Minerva now strode into the classroom. “Silence!” she commanded. Hermione scarified the air and vanished the fires from beneath all the cauldrons.

The shock of their Transfiguration professor’s voice in their Potions classroom brought every cowering fool to heel. Harry and Neville were the only ones who hadn’t taken refuge under the benches with the rest of them, and it made Hermione very proud that they were her friends.

McGonagall huffed. “You can lower your wands gentlemen,” Neville obeyed, but Harry looked at her hard, and her mouth tightened. “I said lower your wand.” Finally Harry relinquished his defensive stance and lowered his wand, but he kept watching.

 “Finite incantatum,” murmured the Gryffindor head and a wave of magic swept the room. Two seventh year Slytherin’s, who were not in the advanced Potions class popped into view. “Professor Malfoy, this pair need to be confined.” Lucius nodded.

It only took him a moment to disarm them and a wave of his wand saw them scooting towards two table legs where ropes appeared and bound them.

While Lucius was doing this, Minerva then sent for Madam Pomfrey and Dumbledore. “Mr. Longbottom, please see to the safety of the uninjured students, guide them to the closest empty classroom and watch over them until I arrive.” She turned to Harry. “Mr. Potter you stay and stand guard here with Professor Malfoy while we tend the wounded,” both men nodded.

Hermione had dropped to her knees on the floor next Severus, who was starting to regain consciousness after being knocked senseless by one of the two cauldrons involved in the explosion. Minerva was seeing to Lavender and Lucius was looking at the olive green sludge covering both Zabini and Goyle, with a look of disgust on his face.

The two seventh year Slytherins and their head of house were covered in whatever potion had been created by the merger of the two cauldrons, and all three were rapidly becoming more and more disorientated and uncoordinated.

Severus’ foggy brain started to take note of his symptoms and his reactions. A very rasping undertone beside Hermione croaked. “Hermione, you will need to solve this, I’m so sorry.” Severus shook his head to try and clear it, but that made his head hurt. Grimacing in pain, and blinking hard, as he took in the expression on his apprentice’s face.

Hermione reached out to touch him. “Don’t touch,” he warned, “…absorbed through skin.” He groaned holding his head, then gazing with unfocused eyes at her frightened face, he told her. “Appears to be more potent than living death, I know you can…” but he stopped talking.

“F-find an s-solution?” Hermione’s shaky voice asked, and when he didn’t respond, “Severus?” she whispered, her voice now trembling badly, but he had fallen victim to the effect of the potion he was drenched in.

Hermione was certain she was the only one who had heard, until Lucius arrived next to her. “Well, better get to work, my dear,” and he offered her his hand to get up. “I’ll sort Severus,” he added.

Harry was watching these interactions in stunned silence, not really able to believe what he was seeing.

“M-make him as comfortable as you can, b-but without touching him,” and when Lucius gave her a questioning look, she added, “He told me… it was absorbed through skin,” Hermione finished, as she watched Lucius levitating Severus into his office. She forced her mind to think, as she prepared to start her task. She glanced at the office door, knowing Severus was relatively comfortable and had at least some of his dignity returned helped her.

She pulled parchment and a quill out of her robes, and sitting down at a student desk, she copied the equation of the recipe for the potion being brewed off the board. The board was splattered with gloop as well, but still readable. Lavender’s cauldron seemed to only contain the base for the potion and she added that equation, only vaguely wondering why she had not completed the Potion as Zabini obviously had.

However, it was the tiny open Potion bottle she retrieved out of the depths of Lavender’s cauldron with a glass stirring rod that worried her. It was a Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes bottle. “Damn,” she muttered, as Dumbledore walked in.

“Is there a problem, Miss Granger?”

Hermione cast worried eyes to the headmaster. “I don’t have time to work out the parameters for the chemical equation of this potion, it would take days alone to work out the ingredients. It would really help if I had Fred or George Weasley, or better still the equation for the formula.”

“Consider it done, Miss Granger, keep working out the rest of the solution until I get back.”

Dumbledore took the bottle from her, with it still hanging on the stirring rod.

“Careful, sir, don’t let it touch you,” Hermione warned, “Professor Snape warned me that he thinks it is absorbed through skin.”

Harry came and sat with Hermione while she worked, Madame Pomfrey had Lavender sorted fairly quickly, she had only fainted from the shock, and Minerva went to make certain everybody else was uninjured and dismiss them for the day.

After she had seen to any small problems, Madam Pomfrey came over looking most unimpressed that she thought a student was to solve the problem, and proceeded to interfere. “I should be the one working this out,” she stated.

As kindly as she could, Hermione replied. “I am Professor Snape’s apprentice, and before he lost consciousness he asked me to solve the problem.”

“You are lying, you are a mere seventh year and what would a seventh year know about brewing an antidote for an unknown potion?” she scoffed cruelly, looking Hermione up and down. “You don’t even appear to be able to remember to put on your uniform.”

“No offence intended ma’am, but I know quite a lot, actually.” Hermione looked at her clothes. “And I’m no longer required to wear my uniform.”

“You can’t speak to me like that. I shall be talking to your head of house about you, you impertinent little up start.”

“As you wish ma’am, but please excuse me I have work to do,” and Hermione went back to work and ignored her.

The mediwitch looked very flustered by Hermione’s dismissal, and huffed several times before curtly asking, “So, little-miss-smarty-pants, do you know what this potion is?”

Hermione calmly looked up. “Before he lost consciousness, Professor Snape indicated that I was dealing with a powerful sleeping potion, very similar to Draft of Living Death. Do not touch the victims, it is absorbed through the skin.” Taking a deep breath Hermione continued, wearing a twisted little smile. “A little like sleeping beauty… you know the Muggle fairy-tale,” she finished with a snicker, which made the mediwitch look even more unimpressed.

The matron glared at her and then stated importantly. “Dumbledore has moved Professor Snape to his quarters where he is away from students, and I have seen to him.” It seemed that this definitive statement was meant to belittle Hermione.

Hermione’s eyes narrowed. “Shouldn’t someone stay with him, he was hit in the head by an iron cauldron, after all.”

“That young lady is none of your concern,” the mediwitch stated imperiously.

Finally, Lucius had heard enough, he bristled and rose to Hermione’s defence. “Madame, every first year knows that someone with a head injury needs to be observed,” he spat with the cold distain he was famous for.

The matron’s nose went in the air. “What would a death eater know about looking after people,” she returned but it didn’t take her long to loss her courage and leave.

Lucius’ eyes narrowed, and he instantly reached for his wand, but thought better of it. Instead he leant towards Hermione. “Jealousy,” he whispered. Hermione looked up from her work with tears swimming in her eyes. She graced him with a shaky smile of thanks. “You, my dear, seem to have some competition for our dear friend.” Hermione’s expression became horrified. “Do not fret, ma cherié, the battle is long over and you are the supreme victor.” Hermione’s mouth opened and closed wordlessly several times. Lucius squeezed her hand and chuckled. “Well, keep going” he indicated flicking his free hand at her parchment and still chuckling, finally she wiped at the tears that had threatened to fall and smiled at him, before setting to work again.

Harry sat watching in wonder as Hermione and Lucius Malfoy interacted, the supposed cruel and cold-blooded killer, sat encouraging his best friend and watching on with a concerned expression. “How’s Draco today?” Hermione asked glancing at Harry.

Lucius gave a concerned glance towards Harry, Hermione snickered. “It’s all right,” she assured him. “He wanted to know what had happened, I didn’t tell him, but he’s concerned. Isn’t that right, Harry?” Hermione encouraged.

“Yes, sir,” replied Harry shyly. “Draco’s not like the... I err… I mean,” but Harry didn’t know what to say to finish the sentence, even though he had finally broken and confided in Hermione, he was not quite at ease with the situation yet.

“I understand,” said Lucius, “in that case Mr. Potter I will tell you.” The blond wizard took a deep breath. “Draco is not ill as you may have heard. He and I are in mourning for Madame Malfoy, she met an unfortunate end two weeks ago, I’m afraid Draco is taking it rather hard, as is understandable.”

“Oh,” said Harry bashfully, turning red. “I’m very sorry, sir. I know a fair bit about that subject, would it be all right if I visited Draco?”

The corner of Lucius’ mouth curled into the semblance of a smile. “I’m sure that could be arranged, I’ll let him know.”

“Thank you, sir.”

Turning away for Harry’s benefit, Lucius changed the subject. “Well, Miss Granger?” he asked, seeing Hermione had stopped working.

“I’m waiting for Dumbledore to return to finish the job,” as if on cue Dumbledore floo’d in grasping a piece of parchment.

“Fred wrote this down for you, well at least I think it was Fred,” he said, scratching his head as he chuckled and handed her the piece of parchment. Hermione nodded in thanks and set to work again. Dumbledore watched her work, his expression unreadable. It wasn’t long and she had a six page arithmetic equation balanced, and announced with what sounded like a fair amount of trepidation. “I think I can brew an antidote,” and stood to move to the lab she shared with Severus. It only struck her just in time that she couldn’t, well not without giving her friendship with Severus away anyway.

Chapter Text


Hermione eventually solved the problem of where to brew by setting everything up in the classroom. Lucius left to go back to Draco, although after a little time he came back and sat to watch Severus while everyone else was occupied.

Dumbledore stood looking at the two still Stupefied students for some time. He suspected this had not just been an act of mischief. Considering the fact that these two students weren’t in the Advanced Potions class, and they’d been disillusioned. He wondered how they’d gotten into the classroom. He sighed, if he turned them over to the Auror’s, he was certain Severus and Lucius would be summoned to explain where the two Slytherins had disappeared to, so the headmaster decided that indulging in a little Legilimency before he woke them would be appropriate.

He wasn’t surprised to find his suspicions confirmed, he found that the pair had been told to deal with Draco Malfoy, and he took time to send Minerva to tell Filius that he would find two of his students in the fourth floor boy’s bathroom. It had been a rather sophisticated plan involving Polyjuice. Dumbledore also confirmed what he already suspected, that Tom doubted that Draco was, in fact hiding from everyone.

This piece of information meant Lucius was also in danger, and by association Severus. Albus knew he had to get his key players all out of here as soon as he could, because very soon it would be the time to strike that final blow. Finally satisfied, he levitated the unconscious men into Severus’ office, and shutting the door then the entrance to the Potions master’s quarters, he prepared to revive them.

Albus had also taken the opportunity to erase the fact that Severus and Hermione had stupefied them. He sat calmly behind Severus’ desk watching them. They had been going to kill Draco, this thought disgusted him. They had changed their plan when they hadn’t found him in class, and decided to get even with Severus for the last time he gave them detention. Albus sighed quietly, this is so typical of these individuals, and thank Merlin it is, they very rarely hit their mark.

Rennervate,” Albus commanded gruffly, but before they got their bearings he spoke. “Ah, finally awake boys. That was a terrible accident, Madam Pomfrey would like to see you if you have any problems.” The two confused Slytherin’s glanced at one another. “Well if that’s all, best be off to your common room. There’s a lot of paper work to fill out over this.” He tsked and pretended to search Severus’ desk for parchment.

Flint who seemed to be recovering quicker than Stone, leaned forwards slightly. “Professor Dumbledore, we would like to visit our friend Malfoy. We miss him,” but Albus saw the sly expression creeping though.

“I’m afraid Mr. Malfoy is ill, and far too ill for visitors, perhaps you could mention your request to your head of house. He will tell you when the young man is well enough.”

“What’s wrong with ‘im?” Flint questioned.

Albus saw his sneer and smiled, unaffected by it. “Again you will have to ask your head of house.”

Plainly seeing that they were going to be referred back to Snape at every turn, Flint rose from his chair. “Very well, professor. We better be going.” Without another word, he was pulling Stone out of his seat and they wasted no time in disappearing.

It had gone against his sense of what was right to let the two go, but he had to, even if it did put people in some danger. It was a fairly shaken Dumbledore who came back to the Potions classroom to sit with Harry, the bespectacled young man was still watching Hermione in almost wonderment.

The headmaster was also impressed with the knowledge this almost former student was displaying. But still his thoughts circled on what he’d just heard, he thought about their recent problems with Ronald Weasley. Can this trio be fixed? He watched the two young adults passing casual comments as Hermione worked. The bonds of childhood friendship with their third seem to have broken, this often happens as people grow and change, Albus thought. Another solution seems to be needed… If thugs are going to start taking actions like this, would the school be better closing until this is over. I feel the whole conflict is almost at an end now, perhaps… He glanced at the studious Hermione. Then a sudden and very unpleasant thought hit him. She’ll be their next target; none of them would dare touch Harry. She is in just as much danger as Severus and Lucius, they’re all in danger. I wonder if she’s been working on her project…

The headmaster was pulled from his thoughts by Harry speaking to Hermione. “Hermes, I didn’t know you knew all this stuff, as well as everything else, you’re amazing. I can understand now why you were teaching while Snape was away.”

Hermione sighed. “It’s Professor Snape, but thanks, Harry. I really enjoy teaching, but while I’m a mere student it seems to have a terrible back lash. Look what Ron and his concubines were able to do to me.” She had noted Harry’s features chasten, when she’d corrected him over his familiar slip, but now he looked puzzled. Hermione sighed, and automatically dumbed her words down for him. “Ron, Lavender and Pavarti.”

“Oh,” he said, patting her hand.

She drew breath and kept talking. “Then of course it’s not only the students who try to belittle me, you heard and saw what Madam Pomfrey thinks of me.”She took a deep breath as she started chopping the Valerian root again before continuing sadly, “I know I’m different, I don’t need every supposed normal person to rub it in.”

Harry nodded. “Yeah, what she said was uncalled for.”

Using her cutting knife as an extension of her finger, Hermione continued. “You know, I have a fair idea that one day they will all need me to solve a problem for them and they will be expecting me to just jump, even after all the hurt they’ve caused. I like Zabini, we have Arithmancy together, and he has always been pleasant.” Her eyes narrowed angrily. “But the antidote I’m brewing will also help a bastard who will probably try and kill me at some stage in the next year. I already knew Stone and Flint were just junior death eaters waiting for the opportunity to inflict something unspeakable on someone like me.” She took a shuttering breath and Dumbledore kept listening. “Goyle will be next, you mark my words.” Her brow suddenly wrinkled and she said quietly. “Do you know how scary that is?”

Harry nodded again, what else could he do. “Yeah Hermes, I have a fair idea, well at least they’ve been separated now.”

Both Harry and Hermione soon forgot they’d ever been apart, and fell back into their candid style of speech with each other.

Dumbledore snapped onto Hermione’s candid comment. She’s right, he will be the next one to attempt something stupid. His mind suddenly took a turn in another direction. Maybe I should release Severus from the unbreakable, damn his bloody suspicious nature, I wish he trusted me more. He glanced at Hermione. After all, there’s no need for it now, and I need him to trust me, Lucius too. This madness needs to end.

Again it was Harry’s voice who pulled him back into the room. “Snape trusts you,” his voice was awed, Hermione rolled her eyes. “Oh sorry, Hermes, Professor Snape… he’s relying on you to solve,” he indicated with his hand. “That’s just amazing,” he said in wonder, he looked at her again “and you get on with Lucius Malfoy.”

Hermione chuckled, “Mmm,” she said thoughtfully. “Just a sec Harry, while I count these drops of Essence of Mandrake,” Hermione continued abstractedly.

Harry dutifully sat silent, watching her in wonder.

When she had finished, it was the headmaster who cleared his throat and smiled benignly at them, for a moment. “Miss Granger, would you be so good as to inform me what Madam Pomfrey’s specific objections to you dealing with this situation were?” He watched Hermione blink as he continued. “After all, it was only natural that Severus would ask you to do this.”

“Well, sir,” Hermione said, looking a little flustered. She didn’t want to make it sound like she was complaining. “She intimated that as I was only a student, that I couldn’t possibly know what I was doing, and that she should be solving the problem,” Hermione finished in a rush, and Harry nodded in agreement.

Taking them both by surprise, Dumbledore cackled loudly. “I could just see the look on Severus’ face, if you had let her try.”

Unbeknown to Hermione, Dumbledore had also been reading through her notes while she was otherwise engaged. “I must ask dear Poppy one day to decipher the treatise you have produced here in the space of two hours,” he said, holding up the notes. His countenance wearing an uncharacteristically contrite expression for a moment. His withered hand came out and patted hers. “I have also been guilty of underestimating you.”

Hermione’s eyes almost bugged out. “Sir?” she managed to stutter.

“I am very impressed with you, my dear,” he continued, smiling. “There are some steps in your logic and explanations of reactions that even I would have struggled with.”

Hermione blushed as she muttered, “Thank you, sir.” While they’d been talking Hermione had kept working, and the brew was now complete. She started setting up the funnel in the flask to decant the potion. “I must admit, sir,” she said candidly, “I am finding my situation here at Hogwarts extremely frustrating,” she gazed down a moment, seeming to ty and centre herself, then sighing and looking at the temperature display she picked the cauldron up with her wand, and started pouring.

“I can see that now, Miss Granger,” he said, patting her hand again when she had finished pouring.

The only sound that permeated the silence for a moment was the dripping liquid as it drained through the filter paper. Hermione, still very flushed, started absently vanishing the scraps. The Gryffindor witch, was quietly very pleased with herself. She had worked out the complete formula for the two potions and the base together. She had then reciprocated the calculations to provide the equation for the antidote, worked out the ingredients and amounts, then successfully brewed it, and even anticipated correctly what colour the final potion would be. All this on top of the fact that she had found everything she needed in Severus’ still virtually unknown to her private stores.

Vanishing the dregs of filtered scraps, Hermione went to the drawer of clean 10 ml phials in the storeroom and withdrew ten, along with ten stoppers from the next drawer above. She brought them back and carefully labelled them before lining them up in the rack. Dumbledore and Harry sat watching her as she finished her task.

When she looked up she also found Lucius watching from the doorway. “Severus is a little boring this afternoon, I thought I’d come back and make certain that the irritating Hufflepuff ninny of a mediwitch hadn’t come back to bother you.” He drew an audible breath. “She didn’t do much of a job at cleaning poor Severus up either, I had to finish the task when I arrived,” he tsked irritatedly. Hermione snickered at the expression on his face. “It certainly is the most disgusting goo I’ve ever seen,” he added disdainfully, then nodded towards her. “It looks like you’re just about ready to wake the sleeping prince,” he commented casually.

“Err, yes, sir.”

Hermione went to hand the Potion to Dumbledore. “Oh no, my dear, I just wish to speak with Professor Malfoy a moment, then I’ll take you up. You did all the hard work; you get to see the fruits of your labour.” Dumbledore rose and beckoned Lucius into the office.

“Okay, Hermes, I’ll get going,” Harry said, also rising, “I’ll catch you later,” and he gave her a quick hug and a peck on the cheek.

Albus interrupted them as he walked back through the office door. “Actually, Harry my boy, would you mind flooing up to my office from Severus’ office, and wait for me there, please.”

Hermione watched as Harry nodded; it wasn’t unusual for Dumbledore to ask such a thing of him. “Harry, bye,” she returned.

It only took a moment and she heard the floo whoosh once more, and Dumbledore was back. He studied Hermione carefully. “Miss Granger, the project I set you, have you gotten anywhere with it?”

“In all seriousness professor, if I had a philosopher’s stone it would be simple.”

“Have you discussed this with Severus?”

She nodded. “Yes, actually we’ve had several discussions about it.” Hermione declared, wondering if she should have admitted that.

“Very well, Miss Granger, keep working on it,” and Dumbledore indicated she should go before him up the stairs, without saying anymore, and anyone watching would have seen that it was a very pensive old wizard who followed Hermione up to Severus’ sitting room.

Hermione didn’t notice, she was too focused on Severus. She was pleased to see that Lucius had indeed cleaned the potion off his skin and hair; however it had stained his clothes badly before it had been removed.

The headmaster turned to his younger companion. “Do you know how to infuse a potion straight to the stomach?” Hermione shook her head. “Here, allow me show you.” Dumbledore took the first phial from her and charming the buttons undone on Severus’ jacket and shirt, he then demonstrated how it should be administered.

Hermione watched closely to see how he held his wand and what he said. It wasn’t long though, and her gaze became mesmerized by the strip of pale skin with its slither of silvered scar visible through Severus’ open shirt instead. Her fingers burned to touch it, but she forced her gaze back to his face, and her heart constricted when initially there was no change. Her mind was immediately running to what she must have done wrong.

Dumbledore saw her brow furrow in concern. “Miss Granger, have more trust in your ability than that, my dear. I haven’t heard of a potion yet that’s instant,” he commented, chuckling on seeing her expression.

Hermione’s eyes slid back to Severus’ very shallow breathing up to his face again. She was intensely worried. I didn’t have time to test the potion, what if it poisons him? She looked again. He looked so peaceful, and much younger without the stress lines of consciousness. Then abruptly she saw his eyelid flicker, and her attention was fixed, she didn’t notice Dumbledore step back a little, eager to watch a hopefully unguarded moment between them.

She couldn’t help it, she dropped to her knees beside her master. “Se… s-sir?” she murmured, almost forgetting Dumbledore. She looked up at the headmaster, her eyes frightened. “Should I give him more, sir?” Hermione was desperate for him to wake up.

“Give it time, Miss Granger,” Albus replied calmly.

Hermione was still wondering what she should be doing, when unexpectedly a very groggy voice murmured. “I knew you could do it,” Hermione looked back to the lounge, to see two very sleepy black eyes trying to focus on her face.

“Oh, sir,” she blurted managing somehow to control herself and stop herself from hugging him. She desperately wanted to, but she also wanted to warn him they had company. “Sir, Dumbledore brought me up to give you the antidote. I hope you don’t mind, sir.”

 Severus was resolutely trying to get his brain to function, as her words started to make sense to him. “How much have you given me?”

“One ten ml phial, sir.” Hermione hoped if she kept calling him ‘sir’, his brain might take the hint that he needed to be guarded.

“All right, one more dose,” he suddenly said officiously, through the fog still engulfing him.

He was already sounding cool with her, her ploy was working, he had realised they were not alone. “Are you able to drink it?” Hermione uncorked it and put it in his hand.

“Of course I can drink, Miss Granger,” although he looked at it vaguely, so she took his hand and guided it to his mouth. “That was unnecessary,” his still groggy voice said as he finished.

Every instinct Hermione Granger possessed was telling her he was only acting, but the return of the cruel Potions master was hurting her beyond belief. “Now you’re awake, sir, I’ll finish cleaning the classroom.” She tried not to sound as dejected as she felt, her eyes were searching his face for approval, a sign; any small sign would do. She saw nothing, his face was hard and cold, and she rose to her feet, allowing him room to sit up. “The other phials of potion are in the classroom in the rack, sir. I’m sure you’ll wish to check them before you administer them to students. Good afternoon, sir.”

Hermione turned to say good bye to Dumbledore and saw him sitting himself in Severus’ chair. “Hermione, sit next to Severus,” he commanded, “I have something I wish to discuss with you both. Severus glared at Albus. “If you’ll pardon me for saying so, cut the crap, Severus. I am aware of how you feel about Hermione, it transfers from you thorough the unbreakable,” he shifted his eyes to Hermione, “and I can also see how you feel about your Potions master,” he watched Hermione blanch thinking she was about to be expelled or worse. Looking back to Severus, he spoke. “As I think I indicated to you after the incident with the Hippogriff, I knew Hermione would make you the perfect disciplined partner.”

“Well congratulations, old man. You were right,” Severus said, rising unsteadily to his feet. “But what I said then still holds true now, excuse me.”

Dumbledore rose as well. “Stop fighting me, I will not harm you. We need to work together now.” At Severus’ huff, Albus acted. “Severus, give me your hand.”

The Potions master looked blankly at the hand being offered. Did he even dare to hope he was about to be released from purgatory? Severus gulped and slowly extended his long fingered, pale hand.

Dumbledore took a firm grip on Severus’ wrist and encouraged him to do the same. Then the headmaster looked to Hermione, who was standing there, in awe. “Would you unbind us, my dear?”

Her wand was shaky as she pointed it at their joined hands. Hermione knew the spell, but had never performed it. Saying the words, she watched as three tongues of fire leapt into life, joining their hands. The headmaster spoke, revoking the magic he had said to bind them. The Gryffindor witch watched each bond disappear as it was undone. When the last disappeared her retinas still burned with flame.

She heard Severus sigh, his eyes were warm. “Thank you, Albus. Your trust means a lot.”

“You have earned it, dear boy.” He glanced at the state of him. “I’ll leave you two to yourselves. Please be in my office in one hour,” Albus moved his eyes to Hermione. “By the way, my dear, you are now finished your NEWT exams. You only had Defence and Potions to go, and from what I’ve seen today, I’m recommending that you receive an O on both without any further input.” The headmaster shut the door behind him as he left.

Hermione turned to Severus, her eyes huge. “Does that mean I’m no longer a student?”

Without any further thought, Severus removed his teaching robes and frock coat, relegating the ruined clothing to the fire. When he was completely free of all potions residue he then pulled her against him. “I believe it does,” he murmured happily.

It had been a beastly day all round, but now with unexpected and very pleasant consequences. Severus took a deep breath, he closed his eyes wanting to stay where he was holding Hermione. Taking a deep steadying breath he said, “I’ll clean myself up. Then we’ll drop the potion into the hospital, and let the Hufflepuff ninny deal with the other sleeping ones. I’m sure she will keep them in overnight anyway, so I won’t have to worry about them.”

Hermione huffed, “The less said about her, the better,” she said sarcastically, and smirked.

“Why?” Severus asked suspiciously, now holding her at arm’s length.

Knowing she sounded petulant, but not caring, Hermione told him what had happened. “The matron decided I was not fit to solve the conundrum of the sleeping Potions professor.” She heard him growl a little, and stroked his chest with her hand. “She informed me I was lying when I told her you had requested me to do so, and she told me that being a mere seventh year I couldn’t possibly know what to do. Finally, when I tried to defend myself she resorted to her privileges and is reporting me to my head of house for disciplinary action over my alleged rudeness to her. If Lucius hadn’t stood up to her, I’m afraid you would still be sleeping, my dear man,” she smirked, but her expression abruptly changed. Gazing up into his fathomless eyes, her face became pinched. “Severus I’m just so fed up, I’ve felt so trapped this year.”

“Well apparently, not anymore, my love,” his knuckles gently grazed her cheek, before sweeping her hair back out of her eyes. It was then he saw the fear still lingering in them, and she drew breath to speak.

“This afternoon I was terrified when you just passed out like that, but then suddenly all the learning kicked in.” She took a deep breath. “It was all Potions and Arithmancy concepts I have studied with you, outside the school curriculum.” Hermione took a deep breath and sighed. “I’ve been treated like dirt by almost all the student body, you know it might sound arrogant, but I can’t relate to most of them as peers, because almost all of them are complete idiots.”

Severus chuckled and nodded. “Yes, I know.”

“Of course you know, dear man,” her eyes locked with his, “but you get the profound pleasure of telling them and treating them as such, something which up until this moment has been denied me.”

“Don’t worry,” he leaned over and kissed her on the head. “I’ll make certain everything will be fine now, I can sense some serious arse being kicked very soon.”

She sniggered. “Thank you, Severus. You’ve made me feel so much better.”

“You are entirely welcome, my lovely girl,” and he was winding his arms more securely around her. “You know, really, it is I who should be thanking you. After all, if you hadn’t managed to find an antidote, I would still be snoring, who knows how long the damn stuff would have taken to wear off; considering the mess it made of my clothes.” Bringing both of his hands up to brush her face, Severus caressed her cheeks. He knew he was fighting a losing battle, and it was a battle he was no longer willing to win. Inhaling deeply, he seemed to breathe her in.

Hermione found herself with both hands flat on his chest gazing longingly up at him, her eyes caught in the endless blackness of his, and not letting herself believe what she hoped was about to happen.

Eventually he leant into her, the hands stroking her cheeks gently cupped her face, holding eyes captured with his. “You, my sweetest love have almost accomplished something that two maniacs haven’t been able to do,” he murmured, still watching her eyes.

“What was that?” Hermione almost couldn’t breathe; her words had come out like a small squeak.

“You’ve almost sent me mad,” he told her as his head came closer.

Hermione felt herself shaking, and heard his intake of breath. Then their lips gently brushed with a feather light touch, once, twice and a third time making her eyes slide shut.

“I’ve been wanting to do this for so long,” he whispered, his lips hovering just above hers.

She could sense his mouth suspended, above hers, stationary. Opening her eyes she was instantly lost once more in the two black pools of glittering light that were his own, watching her with all his need and hunger to be loved, finally evident, and she was transfixed.

He held his mouth so tantalizingly close, without contact, his sweet breath caressing hers, and she knew it was an invitation. Hermione realised, she wanted to taste those lips once more, more than she’d ever wanted anything. He was asking her to meet him, biting her lip as she did it she reached up. Hearing his erotic rasping intake of breath, her world dropped away, all she knew was the feel of his hands still holding her face and the taste of his lips on hers. It was a beautiful kiss, gentle, full of hope and guarded desire, and it totally consumed her. His lips were warm and soft as they gently caressed hers, such a simple kiss, but she had never experienced anything so utterly beautiful before.

When it ended Hermione found herself swaying backwards and was instantly enclosed tighter in his arms, she hadn’t realised she had shut her eyes until she opened them nor that she was trembling until she was enclosed. As she rested her head on his chest he kissed her hair. “You beautiful, amazing witch, I’m so proud to have you. I don’t know anyone else who could have accomplished such a detailed solution to the problem we encountered this afternoon, so quickly. I am planning to read it, and when you have finished working on the whole concept, then I’ll help you work it into your first academic paper. It really is an astounding feat.”

Hermione was left utterly speechless by his enthusiastic praise of her work; she simply snuggled further into his arms. “T-thank you, you don’t know how much that means to me,” she stuttered.

He chuckled, “Now, my sweet-miss-know-it-all,” he said, relaxing into a smile as she looked up at him. “I better get myself presentable,” and he released her, but snatched her hand. He squeezed it as he began to walk. “Will you wait while I shower and change?”

“Of course, love, I’ll make us some tea while you get organised. Do you think we’ll be able to have supper and a decent conversation, after that?”

“Oh, I sincerely hope so,” Severus returned, before kissing her quickly and disappearing into his bedroom.

Chapter Text


At the meeting with Dumbledore, Hermione, Severus, Lucius, Draco, Harry and Minerva heard what had actually transpired to cause the explosion in the Potions classroom.

Everyone present was shocked by the audacity of the young men, and complexity of their plan. Without Dumbledore saying anymore most of those present realised what this meant.

Albus then went on to explain what he’d said about Draco to them and he’s belief that very soon things would come to a head, and the end of the war would be upon them. Hermione also sat there as Dumbledore told those present what he had learned from the two Slytherins who’d caused the incident in the classroom and why he had modified their memories and released them instead of calling for the Aurors.

This had prompted Severus to exhale before speaking, “So have the two Ravenclaws been found and revived.”

“Yes,” Minerva told him. “They are being cared for within their house.”

Severus nodded, as he processed what had happened with this added information, and his hand quietly found Hermione’s sensing that she was drawing the same conclusions and it was upsetting her badly, especially when Dumbledore then addressed her directly.

“Miss Granger, technically you are now finished as a student here, and in light of what has happened I believe it might be prudent for you to allow us to place you in a safe house with Draco.”

Hermione glanced at Severus, and saw that his expression had suddenly turned to stone once more, even though he was still holding her hand. That would mean they would be parted once more, they had only just found one another and she couldn’t do it. “No, Headmaster. I wish to finish the term as head girl, it’s only two days.” As she was saying this she was thinking, and I’m planning to be living down with Severus anyway now that I’m free to do so.

As it turned out, it was decided that Draco would be safest in one of the many hidden quarters of the castle as well, so they were all to stay here. They had then invented a suitable illness for Draco and the meeting had drawn to a close.

~~~***~~~

It was her urge to stay with Severus that explained why she was now patiently sitting with Neville while he bumbled through his Potions homework, and then Colin’s Charms problem, which he kept incinerating on him by accident.

When Harry and Hermione had arrived back in the Gryffindor common room they had finally caught up with Ginny as well, and now Ginny was quietly cuddled up on Harry’s lap, and they were trying their best to placate her after her awful day as well.

“It’s just so embarrassing,” Ginny cried dejectedly to Hermione when the latter sat down with them once everybody’s homework questions were answered. Ginny was curled up with Harry, and sniffing she gestured with her hand towards Ron. “And look at stupid over there, he still hasn’t learnt a thing.”

Hermione tried not to laugh as she glanced at Ron still trying to dodge the last of the bats bogey’s coming out his nose. “Good hex though Gin,” Hermione grinned, rubbing her knee.

Ginny managed to smile shakily through her tears. “That’s not all I did to him, notice how his sitting,” she said giggling, “wait until the pus starts.”

That’s when Hermione had left her friends with her mind firmly focused on the fact that she was meeting Severus again once she’d finished her patrol duties.

~~~***~~~

Later, while on her required head girl rounds, she found no one doing anything they shouldn’t. While she walked she started dissecting the day, trying to fathom all the bits of information she’d accrued. The meeting with the headmaster had basically been a debriefing of the afternoon’s incident. Although, she pondered, it really is all quite scary; you just don’t know who might be out to get you, do you, poor Draco.

As she walked up the next corridor, Ginny came back into her mind, and strangely she remembered her, sex on legs, comment about Lucius. It was true the man was almost a walking erection, but he did nothing for Hermione, her heart belonged to Severus, and the same comment applied equally to her wizard, even though she knew many would not believe her. Oh that kiss… and she sighed as she walked, but then scolded herself. Get your mind back into focus, Granger, she chided herself. These are dangerous times we’re living in, you need to keep your mind clear.

Wandering towards the great doors of the library, and still absently thinking thoughts better left elsewhere, the Gryffindor witch took in the huge ornate doors, but knowing they would be locked and warded Hermione didn’t bother trying them. She could feel the wards tingling on her skin even now as she drew nearer.

The library had always been a special place for Hermione, she found her love of learning and especially books not only stimulating but also very arousing. On more than one occasion she had been tempted to give in and do what she often caught other people doing in the library in its forgotten dark corners and alcoves, especially late in the evening.

Even though Hermione was outwardly a stickler of rules, she often found herself leaving these people to the peace of their pleasure. She had always prided herself on the fact that she could see scenes like that and remain in control of herself, however at night when it was deserted. Her eyebrow rose, well that was another matter, she shivered, if only she could get in.

Of course, these thoughts also made her mind snap straight to the occasion she’d lost control in Severus’ office, while he was away. That loss of control had shocked her out of thoughts of this nature for quite some time, of course, after today she had no need to worry anymore, did she?

Further up the hallway, Severus had been tailing Hermione on her rounds as he always did now. There was no way he was letting her out of his sight after this afternoon, especially now that their nightly exploits with the Malfoys that ceased.

One of the discussions with Albus tonight, had been suitable replacements for the head boy and girl. Surprisingly, Draco had recommended Neville Longbottom, and of course, Albus and Minerva loved that idea. Hermione on the other hand thought that Padma Patil merited a mention. It wasn’t usual for the current holders of the honour to be able to name their successors. Severus had a niggly feeling that Albus had been planning to speak of something else when he’d originally called the meeting, yet he’d failed to discuss it.

The dark wizard, recalled seeing Draco and Potter at the meeting tonight, it was actually interesting to see them trying not to show an interest in one another. He saw Lucius watching it too. It seemed they were going to have another lion in their midst. Well we do need him to finish this, Severus thought.

Severus wanted to laugh, he wondered if Albus was already rueing his moment of compassion. Well he can’t take it back now. He’s released me from my vow and that’s an end to it. Severus shook his head. Although, that was really the only thing holding me back, now we can finish this. We need to find a way to gain Potter’s trust. He needs to come with us for his own protection, even though the Dark Lord has forbidden anyone to touch him that will not stop idiots from trying, and as this becomes more desperate there will be more of them trying to garner snakeman’s favour before it’s over.

Severus had been watching Hermione as he pondered. His lioness seemed deep in thought as well, the only reason he hadn’t approached her yet to end her patrol was that he was intrigued by the wonderful array of expressions flitting across her pretty face. He had heard her laugh a couple of times as she thought as well.

 Seeing her turning from the library, Severus took his chance. A short cut through a tapestry saw him overtake her, and brought him out further up the same corridor. Once there, he opened a portal into his quarters and casually stood waiting for his sweet little lioness to walk by. Holding out his hand to her, his honeyed baritone smoothed, “My, lady.”

She graced him with her sweetest smile, and a shiver ran through her before she replied. “Dearest, sir.” The depths of her eyes flared, and she took his hand, dipping her head to him and giggling deliciously. Drawing her into his sitting room, he closed the portal and brought the same hand to his lips. “Are you hungry?” he asked as he pulled her into his arms, by the hand he’d just kissed. “Lotti has organised some dinner for us.” Nodding, Hermione sighed, as she felt his lips on hers for just a moment.

As he released her, Severus directed her down in front of the fire.

“Muggle fish and chips,” she said and turned to him shocked as she smiled. “You remembered what I said,” and she clapped her hands excitedly. “Where did house elves learn to make that?”

Severus cackled and smiled broadly at her. “Of course, I remembered,” he said, stroking her cheek again. “My mother lives in Manchester, we had fish and chips one night during a summer break and thought it would be nice on occasion here, so I invited Lotti to dinner in order for her to see what it was.” His wand completed its single down beat, and soft voices drifted into being. (1)

Hermione listened enthralled, as they started eating. “That’s amazing,” she smiled happily. “I love fish and chips, and it’s even in newspaper.”

“Then, I’m glad I remembered.”

“You certainly did.”

“So where do we stand now that Dumbledore has declared my N.E.W.Ts finished?” Hermione asked, picking up a chip.

“Well,” said Severus thoughtfully, taking a breath and a sip of his wine, “Minerva has always encouraged me to explore our friendship,” then a small huff escaped him, making Hermione look. “Even when I was still in denial about it, and it appears now, so does Albus. I dare say we could push boundaries until they pushed back and they wouldn’t bat an eyelid.”

Hermione flushed, but cackled loudly. “Opportunity would be a great thing,” she scoffed shakily, wondering where this sudden boldness was coming from. Her face then turned serious and her hand landed gently on his cheek. “But I can think of nothing I would like more than to push limits with you, my darling man.”

Picking her hand off his cheek he kissed it before holding it warmly in his. “Well, that’s settled then.”

Hermione picked up her wine. “Guess so,” then reaching for another chip. “I don’t suppose you would care to elaborate on exactly what you had in mind to push limits?”

He smiled suggestively, “My sweet girl, how about we just take each situation as it comes and explore them one by one.”

Hermione nodded. “I can deal with that. That actually sounds like a lot of fun.” It wasn’t long and they were conversing animatedly once they were full of dinner and content about any ramifications their deepening friendship might have.

Now they had finished eating, Hermione had her head and arm resting on Severus’ chair, and Severus was sitting next to her leaning up against the small lounge. What was left of their meal was between them on the floor, and Hermione had her head turned towards him as they talked.

For a reason completely unknown to her, she suddenly thought seriously about Severus’ life here surrounded by mostly spinster witches, and said in all seriousness. “It must have been difficult for you before Lucius arrived, being the only male staff member who isn’t ancient, a part goblin, a ghost, or a half giant.”

“What, you mean being surrounded by sexually frustrated, bored over fifty witches who spend their days thinking of ways to try to touch me up, and their free time at night with their vibrating wands of joy,” he said, smirking sarcastically.

Hermione crinkled her nose up. “Boy, what an image.”

“I just hope they don’t give you a hard time, like matron goody-two-shoes did this afternoon,” he said reaching out for her cheek. He saw the young woman close her eyes with a blissful expression on her face as she leant into his hand. When she opened her eyes again, Severus noticed they were soft and dewy as she gazed at him.

“Don’t worry I’ll have plenty of comebacks before the hexing starts. Well, once I’m not a student, anyway,” she replied softly, content just to look at him.

He laughed gently as he watched her. “Oh I’m sure you do.”

Hermione watched him for a minute then spoke. “You know Lucius thinks the reason Madam Pomfrey was so nasty today is because she’s jealous.” 

 Severus nodded, “And he’s probably right. She takes every opportunity she can to undress me when I’m unconscious. Gives me motherly kisses on the head when she thinks I’m too out of it too object”

“That’s terrible, Severus”

“Ah, but all done in the name of caring,” he replied, mockingly.

Hermione shook her head. “Well that doesn’t make it right.”

He gently ran his thumb around her chin. ”No, it most certainly doesn’t.”

She moaned softly at his touch which made him smile.

“Would you like desert, my lioness?” She nodded and gently rubbed her cheek further into his hand.

“Ohhh yesss,” she sighed, and then suddenly sat up. “I know, devil’s food cake,” she announced resolutely.

His smile broadened. “Excellent choice,” he smoothed stroking her cheek once more. “Lotti!” he called, and added coffee to the order.

The elf supplied two coffees and a huge piece of cake with two forks. Hermione’s head had sunk back to the chair. But what the elf had given them had her sitting up again. Giggling wickedly, Hermione plunged one fork into the cake and pushed it towards Severus’ mouth, her own mouth opening in encouragement. “Go on, it’ll be fun,” she encouraged.

He smiled, and his mouth twisted. “Who am I to object, if a beautiful woman wants to feed me cake, as long as I get to do the same.”

It wasn’t long and they were both laughing, but when the cake was all gone, Hermione looked at the plate like it was a personal affront that it should have disappeared on her.

Severus cackled at her, but quickly spied her chocolate covered fingers. “How did you ever manage to get so much chocolate on you pretty little fingers?” He picked up the offending hand. “You silly, silly, little sweetheart, here let me clean them,” and gently pulling her hand forward, he guided it to his mouth.

Hermione watched enthralled as his tongue came out and started licking the chocolate from her digits. She was instantly so aroused that she had to squeeze her legs together so she wouldn’t allow them to fall open.

Severus chuckled wickedly watching her mouth as it became an o, and she studied the tip of his hot tongue sliding around her fingers.

She swallowed hard and almost choked when he then sucked her index finger into his mouth.

His eyes locked onto hers as she scrutinised his actions, and he raised an eyebrow inquiring casually, “This isn’t bothering you, is it?” he teased.

Hermione’s head shook vacantly from side to side, her magnificent brain appearing to have completely turned off.

When he had finished cleaning her finger he simply placed her hand in her lap and picked up his coffee as he watched her tense then shiver from his actions, knowing how much he’d just turned her on. The look on her face was simply priceless, and he smiled at her bringing her hand up in front of her face, and staring vacuously at it.

Placing his coffee back down after taking several sips while he watched her, he chuckled and reaching forward he pulled her closer. “I have done well,” he drawled, kissing her forehead. “That very astute organ has completely shut down. I’ve often wondered what would make that happen. Who knew it would be so simple.”

Hermione, finally able to form words said, “T-that was the most erotic thing I have ever experienced.”

Severus smiled at her innocent words. “Well then, my little sweetheart, aren’t we in for some fun.”

He heard a vague noise escape Hermione as he got up and encouraged her up with him. He sat in his favourite chair before gently pulling her into his lap. “Come, sit with me,” he sighed. “It’s been a long day, and I want you here.” He patted his lap.

Hermione simply nodded and smiled happily as she closed the distance between them.

He groaned in response and breathed to her. “Merlin witch, that smile does things to me, come here.”

Hermione was shocked at how much his words turned her on again, and then all thought started to trickle from her brain again. 

He brushed her forehead with his lips then her nose with his nose. Kissing her cheeks, he followed each kiss by a brush of his cheek on hers. Once he reached her lips he kissed her once then brushed her cheek once more, repeating the action on the other cheek, the next time his mouth met hers the pressure was delicious and she immediately sighed and opened to him, feeling his lips part in reply.

After a short time his mouth left hers and followed her jawline around to her ear, finding the sensitive patch just under it, he kissed and nibbled there until he heard her gasp and moan. Whispering against her neck, his deep voice rumbled. “Let go, Hermione,” and he heard her utter a sweet little mewling sound in response that made him smile.

Slowly kissing his way back around to her mouth and suckling on her bottom lip, Severus was surprised when her tongue came out in search of his. He willingly let her lip pop out of his mouth and encouraged her questing explorations.

Hermione found her senses quickly becoming overpowered, his mouth was so hot. All her concentration was centred on the pleasure he was bringing her, how lusciously wet it was and how amazing he tasted. Not to even mention how hot his tongue entwining with hers made her feel, every slick caress of his rough but slippery organ on hers made her feel fabulous.

Severus heard her quiet groan and it was taking all his resolve not to do the same. Kissing back around to her ear he chuckled silkily. “You taste divine, my dear,” and when his hot breath made her whimper, he claimed her mouth once more, allowing himself to devour it until he felt her squirm on his lap, and heard her groan a deep throated moan.

Groaning again and louder, she grabbed at his robes.

Severus snickered, and releasing her mouth he gentled her neck with his mouth while she panted and tensed in pleasure, groaning deeply at the waves of sensations her body was sending her enveloped her. Still kissing and licking her neck, his deep velvet voice softly crooned, “That’s right, allow yourself to float, I have you.”

Hermione had never experienced anything like this before. “Wow,” she sighed quietly. Severus smiled against her neck and nuzzled further down onto her collar bone, she groaned, and sighed. “I’ve never felt anything like t-this… oooohhhhh,” and her words dissolved into moans.

“I think I like you all hot and bothered,” Severus said, licking her lips and smiling at the glazed expression of pure bliss on her face.

Hermione groaned again. It was all she seemed to be able to do. “Mmmm,” she sighed, and despite herself she blushed bright red.

“You know you are allowed to feel this way, don’t you?” He asked, his tongue now sliding circles down her throat.

“Mmmm,” she moaned, “but it’s always been under my command, I’ve err… never been this out of control.”

“Ah yes, but I’ve woken that wanton little creature that lives within you, and it is demanding certain things of you now, not asking politely anymore.” The whole time he was saying this he had returned to delivering short hot mouthed kisses to her lips and jaw, suddenly he stopped and pulling her closer he murmured, “Don’t be afraid of it, it will afford you and I much pleasure as you learn how to use it.”

Hermione heard Severus chuckle wickedly, and it rumbled through his chest and lodged in the pit of her stomach.

Allowing her a breather, he was determined not to rush he pressed his lips in a line around to her ear and finally, he murmured, “Hermione, sweetheart I’ll pace this for us.” He blew softly in her ear and then ran his tongue around its parameter. He felt her shivering violently. Smiling, he slid his hands back to her waist to caress it. Lightly rubbing his cheek against hers he finally pushed her head so it was resting it on his shoulder.

Hermione snuggled in closer, and sighed contentedly.

“Mmmm, little one?” his soft voice rumbled in her hair. “You’re not going to sleep are you?”

“No, just happy,” she murmured, without lifting her head.

“Oh I see,” Severus allowed himself to kiss her forehead once more. “I’m pleased.” He sat there quietly holding Hermione, desperately wanting to keep kissing her, but knowing it would be too much too soon. It was almost like a dam bursting, once that first tiny crack appeared it grew larger and larger. Finally, as much as he didn’t want to, he forced himself to let her go without further intimacy. “Come,” he encouraged, “it’s time to say good night, little lioness.”

Then they were standing in front of the fireplace. “Minerva has assured me your floo connection will work again. We shall see,” he said helping Hermione back into her outer robes, which she’d taken off through the evening. “Good night, my precious girl,” he leant forward and placed a tender kiss on her lips. “I shall look forward to our next exchange with much anticipation.”

“As shall I” she returned, sliding once more into his embrace, “but Severus, I don’t want to leave.” She looked up at him, “I wish I could stay with you.”

“Don’t tempt me too much, if you knew what I’m standing here thinking at the moment.” He ran the back of his hand over her cheek and she made the sweetest little mewling sound. “Good night, dear one,” his lips lingered on hers, before he gently pushed her closer to the floo.

“Good night, sweet man,” she returned sighing and grabbed for the floo powder before she changed her mind.

~~~***~~~

The next day, Hermione floo’d into Severus’ quarters after breakfast, and went to her desk to work while he was teaching. She quickly became immersed in the project Dumbledore had spoken about the day before. She hadn’t forgotten it, but there were other things that needed doing.

When she knew he had a break Hermione snuck down the stairs from his rooms and found him watching her with glittering eyes from his desk as the door from his quarters shimmered into view.

“I was hoping you would remember I have no class now, I was about to come up.” He took her hand and led her back up the stairs and straight to his favourite chair where he gathered her into his lap, and proceeded to kiss her soundly.

Hermione sighed, “I love being here, I hope you don’t feel I’m invading your privacy too much?” she asked stroking his cheek.

“My lovely lioness, your invasion of my personal space and privacy is very much welcomed.”

Hermione felt her heart somersault in her chest at his words. “You’re amazing” she breathed, snuggling into his arms more.

“Hermione, I want you to feel at home and safe here,” he gestured around with one hand. “I’m expecting the castle will relocate your rooms adjoining mine. It is usual for an assistant to be located next to their master.”

“Oh, that would be wonderful” she sighed gazing up at him, but was suddenly biting her lip. “Do you really think my moral protector would allow that?”

“She will have little say in it, hopefully,” and he watched her grinning at him. “How about you and your orange monster get settled into the bedroom you stayed in the other night. I’m almost willing to bet that room will be your bedroom when the rooms are reorganised.”

“You know about Crooks?” she blinked owl-like at him.

“Yes, my omnipresent image demands that I know about everything. How else can I keep my advantage over everyone.”

Hermione giggled at the commanding look on his face. She grinned at him again and her hands brushed the front of his robes as she tentatively took the lead and tried to engage him, trying to smile cheekily as she pulled his head towards her to kiss him. He chuckled against her mouth sending a surge of electricity through her as his mouth met hers.

The hour Severus had free flew by in a blur of heated kisses and gentle conversation, and before Hermione knew it their short reprieve was over, and he was giving her a kiss good bye.

However, she wasn’t ready to give him up yet, and snuggled back up against him.

He sighed and enclosed her in his arms as he dodged the sharp end of a quill again when she moved her head, and this reminded him she’d been working at her desk.

“So what are you actually doing today?”

“I thought I’d give another stab to working on the cursed mark, blocking formula.”

“Mmm,” he replied thoughtfully, giving her a kiss on the forehead. “Have you made any progress?”

Hermione nodded. “But it still requires a stone we haven’t got.”

Severus gently pushed her off his lap and stood. Taking her hand, he walked her to his bookcase. Thoughtfully pursuing it, he pulled down several volumes. “Give these a read; we’ll work on it once I’m finished tonight.”

He turned them towards her desk with his hand gently in the middle of her back. “Back to the books now, my dear.” He smiled at her, “I’ll see you at lunch time. Don’t forget where your quills are,” and he pulled on one of the four currently lodged in the bun she had twisted her rebellious hair into and handed it to her.

She sniggered and took it. “I won’t,” she replied.

Severus sighed, he loved he hair, and she appeared to have taken no measure to tame today. He smiled at her, reflecting that he had always loved her habit of securing her hair with such items when she was busy with a project. There was something very absent minded Professor about it, and it suited her very much.

Chapter Text


The last day of term arrived, and the Hogwarts Express was leaving in the morning to take students home for the for the Christmas holidays. At the end of term feast Dumbledore announced that Hermione Granger had sat a special N.E.W.T. examination sitting and had gained equal marks with this century’s highest scoring student, and currently Hogwarts Potions master, Severus Snape.

There was a small ceremony in which she was handed her testamur. The Headmaster went on to say that when term resumed, Miss Hermione Granger would be a member of staff. She was to apprentice under Minerva McGonagall in Transfiguration, in addition to her apprenticeship in Potions, and she would become assistant Potions mistress while doing this as other matters were increasingly taking the Potions master away from his duties.

A wave of the headmaster’s wand saw a place open at the head table between Professors Snape and McGonagall and Dumbledore escorted the very flustered Hermione to her new seat. While this was happening Severus and Lucius were busy watching this news register on the faces of several Slytherins, and both wizards cast uneasy glances at one another. It was obvious they were going to be summoned to explain this development, once the junior Death Eater league sent owls home to the parents.

Severus glowered at Albus, didn’t he know he’d just placed Hermione in terrible danger by doing this, but he seemed oblivious, even after asking her to go into hiding. This was all supposed to be done so quietly and now he’s just shouted it from the roof tops.

~~~***~~~

The next few days after term finished was spent completing the blocking potion, because the night the students went home Dumbledore had approached Hermione and Severus. He’d floo’d to Severus’ quarters and found them both deep in discussion over the blocking potion and placed a small velvet bag on the desk between.

Smiling at the two quizzical faces, he said, “Ask no questions, you say you need this and we need to finish this, I trust you to return it once you’ve done what’s needed with it.” Then with his canary yellow robes swishing garishly he was gone once more.

Now having a Philosopher’s stone the potion had been easy to complete, and they had begun the testing phase of the potion in the Room Of Requirements. Every indication was that it would neutralise almost all curses, but would it work on the dark mark and other curse marks? This was the final piece of the puzzle.

It was now Christmas Eve and they had all set to test to do the definitive test on the potion tonight, but then Severus and Lucius had been summoned by Voldemort. Hermione had not thought too much of it this time, as just lately they were being summoned quite regularly, and while she was always concerned about what might happen, she was getting used to them going.

This time however, Severus had had a bad feeling about things after Dumbledore’s end of term announcements concerning Hermione, and about unbeknown to her, he had asked Lotti to watch his witch while he was unable to and to summon the nearest help if anything went wrong.

It was just before dinner time and Hermione was walking to Minerva’s office, and she was deep in thought about the blocking potion as she walked and did not see that she was being watched from the shadows.

~~~***~~~

Arriving with Lucius at Malfoy Manor, Severus and Lucius were greeted by the fiend who had watched her sister die without lifting a finger and the witch’s brutish husband when they arrived. It didn’t take Bellatrix long to start bragging that she knew the evening’s plans, and Severus instantly found it took all his nerve and grit not to literally vomit, let alone stay calm when he heard what the intended entertainment was. It also made him very pleased that he was an overprotective wizard, but still it was only all his years of training that prevented him from killing both the brutes instantly after Bella’s announcement.

Severus forced himself to bow and speak the appropriate words for the merits of the Dark Lord’s plan, even as the bile rose in his throat. This action being twofold, it pleased the monsters he was forced to treat politely, and guaranteed if any of them were later subjected to The Dark Lords form of questioning no guilt could be cast. Then with difficultly Severus forced himself into a state of calm and sat down to politely take tea with monsters.

~~~***~~~

Back at Hogwarts, Hermione was still deep in thought as she rounded the last corner on her way to Minerva’s office. It was then that sudden terror engulfed her as she heard a sudden movement and everything went dark then something tight constricted her throat. Being so engrossed in her thoughts she hadn’t even had time to draw her wand. Then fetid breath arrived in her ear.

“You’re comin’ with me, mudblood, we’re goin’ to a party.”

“Goyle,” she spat. “Let me go!” However, her panic increased tenfold, when her voice was absent, and her legs and arms started thrashing wildly. She felt her foot connect with something and heard her attacker groan.

His retaliation for her strike to him was vicious. “Mudblood slut,” he roared and threw her.

Hermione hit the ground cracking her head, and seconds later, before she’d regained her senses his heavy boot connected with her face and then her ribs. She fought the sudden intense stabs of pain and groaned, and despite everything was still desperately trying to find her wand.

The world then took on a surreal aspect as she heard a door open and the distinctive sound of a hex sailing through the air. Then suddenly there were running footsteps converging on her and more hexes. She was currently curled up on the ground fighting to stay conscious, groaning in silent agony. A heavy weight landed on her adding to her pain and terror, she screamed but no sound came out, and she choked on something.

Then hearing a voice somewhere in the distance she recognised as Remus Lupin saying, “Damn, he fell on her,” and the sound of scuffling as the weight was lifted from on top of her.

Of course, now panic had set in and the world was rapidly going blacker, it was weird because she suddenly realised she could still hear everything. “Get the little swine out of here, Remus,” she heard her head of house say, and then there were familiar hands on her. “Hermione, oh no,” the same voice continued, but it was suddenly soft and full of pain.

Opening her mouth in a painful moan, this time she realised that the liquid she was choking on had a metallic tasting tang and she gagged. She made a mad grab for the voice she could hear and the pain stabbed into her cruelly with her movements. She tried to speak but again nothing came out, then she felt something loosen around her constricted throat and slide off her head. She grabbed again and held on for grim death to the arm she contacted with as she heard a horrified gasp.

Then a new voice spoke. “Miss Granger, don’t fight me I’m trying to help you.”

However, Hermione was beyond reason now, panicking because she couldn’t see or speak, and all she could taste was blood.

“Minerva, hold her still,” came Madam Pomfrey’s voice again. “Miss Granger, I can’t give you a sedative, try to lay still so I can help you.”

Fighting the pain to try and listen as their voices finally started filtering into her head, it took many fought for, painful, shallow breath, but eventually Hermione managed to get herself to breathe through her panic and lay still.

“That’s it,” Pomfrey encouraged, remembering her recent talk with Dumbledore where he had set her straight on a few things after the potions incident. The Mediwitch was not pleased that this witch had captured her Severus’ attention, but she didn’t want to see her suffer either, and she set about reducing the swell around Hermione’s obviously broken nose.

Hermione felt the cool tingle of a healing spell and suddenly she could see a tiny slit of light. “I can do more once I get you to the hospital, but do try to stay still you’ll only hurt yourself more thrashing about.” The matron’s hand patted her arm. “I know you’re scared,” she soothed, “but I need to see what else he’s done to you.”

Then Hermione felt the strange sensation of liquid entering her stomach as Poppy gave her something for the pain. Putting her hands to her throat weakly, and trying to breathe through the pain in her head and chest, as she desperately tried to indicate she couldn’t speak.

“Oh dear,” Poppy said, correctly interpreting her signal. “That sack must have had a silencing curse of some kind on it.”

Hermione grabbed for Minerva again, and she didn’t see the concerned expression on Poppy’s face change to dread as she cast the diagnostic spells over her, and was suddenly reefing her blouse out of her skirt and pulling it up.

Hermione could only vaguely see the two women, but panic was the only thing she did feel when suddenly the matron started pulling at her blouse.

“What’s wrong, Poppy?” Minerva said, sounding panicky, and she looked down when Hermione’s rapid intake of breath indicated that what Poppy had done had caused her significant pain.

“We need get her to the hospital, right now,” Poppy indicated quietly. “But first I need to stop this blood loss.”

Hermione panted for breath, her blood-soaked face a study in pain as the matron quickly used her wand to realign a portion of broken rib and seal the tear in Hermione’s spleen that the rib had caused. This stopped her bleeding to death internally before they reached the hospital.

Having done this she sighed and rubbed Hermione’s arm. “I’m so sorry, dear, but speed was of the essence.”

Hermione was still panting for breath and had a death grip on Minerva’s hand as the stretcher materialised, and she dazedly felt herself being levitated into it. She couldn’t think any further, shock was now definitely settling in rapidly.

The Poppy looked to her companion as the Transfiguration mistress opened a portal doorway to the Hospital and they passed through with the critically injured young woman. “I can fix the broken ribs, ruptured spleen, her eyes, and nose, but I can do nothing for her voice. Where is Severus? Surely he will know how to fix this.”

“He’s away from the school at the moment” and Minerva’s voice was tight. “I’ll inform him as soon as he gets back.” Minerva felt Hermione’s grip tighten on her hand.

All Hermione thought was, Severus, they’re talking about my Severus, I want Severus right now.

“It’s all right, settle down Hermione, dear,” her head of house encouraged, then to Poppy. “I’m certain he will be here as soon as he’s able, Poppy.”

It was after this that Hermione lost her fight to stay conscious and Minerva looked down at her as she felt her grip slacken and fall away, all Hermione’s fight was gone knowing Severus was coming, no matter how long it took and her world fell into silence.

She didn’t hear Minerva comment, “I hope Albus and the Order members will get to her parents in time.” The elderly witch shook her head sadly. “Muggle killing for Christmas, it sickens me, Poppy.”

~~~***~~~

By the time Poppy had finished treating Hermione, the castle was literally crawling with Aurors looking for other death eaters. Everyone was trying to work out how anyone had gotten in to start with, and Minerva quietly wondered as she watched Hermione sleep if this was Goyle’s retaliation for the loss of his friends.

It was only known amongst a few that both Flint and Stone had been taken home by their parents straight after the botched potions incident, and the official line was that they had been withdrawn from Hogwarts, but Severus and Lucius had informed senior order members that they were both indeed dead.

Minerva McGonagall stood guard over Hermione, even though an Auror was stationed outside the door as well. Poppy checked her head injury and mended her ruptured spleen properly, then her broken ribs and nose, after she had done this the matron infused Hermione with Blood Replenisher and stronger pain potions. Then she disappeared off to the Pensieve to extract her memories of the injuries and her required treatments for evidence. The Aurors took possession of the evidence and Poppy returned to Hermione tending to all her bruises with bruise paste.

Albus had gone straight to the Granger’s home after receiving the message from Minerva that Hermione had been attacked, knowing how Death Eater’s worked he knew her parents would be in danger as well. He’d sent a patronus message to Arthur Weasley, who had then met him in the same place. Unfortunately when they apparated around the corner from the residence, they found the house was almost burnt to the ground, and the deed complete.

It seemed that Goyle senior had convinced several lesser—and apparently blood thirsty young Death Eaters—to come and witness the taking of Muggles, for their education. However, when the son was slow to turn up, the younger members had become impatient for blood and had supplied their own entertainment.

The Aurors, Dumbledore alerted arrived, and four death eaters were captured, and another three were killed outright. Of course, the father who had been expecting his son to turn up with the captured Hermione, had panicked when this hadn’t happened and Aurors had arrived instead, and he had instantly disapparated from the scene.

~~~***~~~

Knowing nothing of all this yet, Lucius and a paler than usual Severus entered the drawing room for the evening’s meeting. As soon as they walked in, however, Severus felt a glimmer of hope as it was apparent that the evening’s entertainment had changed. They were now there to witness the punishment about to be inflicted on the father of another young man who had failed to please the Dark Lord, and it appears had thankfully upset the original plans for the evening.

Severus surveyed the tattered inner-circle, as he allowed himself to breathe a little easier. There were few of the original members left, and it appeared that there was to be another original member paying for the crime of his son now. The Dark Lord did not take failure well, and this wizard was a respected inner-circle members and as such he was to be made an example of as a warning to them all.

When finally they were able to leave, it was with a sense of relief, as always. Relief that they’d made it out alive and undiscovered yet again. However, this time there was also other emotions mixed in as Severus and Lucius bid their fellows good night and apparated straight to the gates of Hogwarts.

It was close to midnight by the time they had given Albus his report. That was another thing that had changed, Severus and Lucius had confronted the old man with the knowledge that they knew they were both his spies. To their surprise this seemed to confuse Albus, but then the old man had seemed to accept it and it had streamlined the whole process. It also added an interesting duality to the reports, because both wizards picked up on different things and then found that they could give Dumbledore far more complete intelligence.

Once dismissed by Albus, Lucius had gone straight to Draco, who knew nothing of the night’s fiasco, while Severus had run to the hospital. When he reached it, all was quiet. Dumbledore had informed him of what had happened from their end, and that Goyle had been captured in possession of a Portkey set to take them to the Granger household, and that the young man had been charged with attempted abduction and gravis bodily harm.

Cautiously opening the doors of the infirmary Severus made his way to the only room that still contained light. His eyes instantly settled on Hermione and he gasped in horror. If he thought she had looked pale the night she dragged him from the forest, he’d been wrong. She was positively ghostly white now, and it was all made worse by the inky black bruises and swelling that marred her pretty face. He watched her pained breathing and her restlessness. “Poppy,” he commanded, his hand scooting forward to touch Hermione’s injured face.

Poppy knew what he wanted and gave a report of her condition, then told him about the silencing curse. His hand moved to Hermione throat and he closed his eyes. Of course he knew the words to reverse it. The hood was one employed by snatchers and it sickened him further that he knew such things. The hood had left a slither thin red line circling her graceful throat where it had tightened on her, and he wished he could kiss it away. He lifted his hand away and heard a tiny groan as well as her intermittent pants which now had sound, so he knew he had been successful.

The matron cast another set of diagnostic spells and Severus watched the results as she did. “She’s stable,” she finally said, mainly for Minerva’s benefit. “All we can do now is wait for her to recover,” and she bustled off to her office without another word.

 “Her parents?” Minerva inquired, her voice sounding strained as she looked to Severus as soon as they were alone.

“They were too late to save the Muggles living there,” Severus replied in a soft voice.

“Oh no,” she gasped, and bowed her head again.

“However,” he continued, “they had only been living there a month.”

“What!” Minerva cried in disbelief. “Hermione’s parents left without telling her?”

“It seems so. Arthur questioned the neighbours and they told him that Hermione’s adoptive parents had packed up and left to start again—as they put it—in Australia.”

“I knew she was estranged from them, but to just leave...” Minerva huffed, intensely irritated. “Callous barbarians.”

The elderly woman groaned painfully as she rose, seeing the devastated look in Severus’ eyes, and she placed her hand on his arm. “It didn’t happen Severus, she’s going to be all right.”

Severus gripped the end of the bed, his knuckles white and his eyes shut tight. When he opened them there was nothing but raging fury and hate in their dark depths. He spoke through clenched teeth. His knuckles growing whiter. “If I had been summoned to wa... watch,” he spat deliberately. His eyes squeezed shut again, “The hate... damn it, the hate,” he groaned pitifully, while his eyes, now open again, cut into his companion. “I would have torn my soul to shreds to save her, Minerva... every hateful one of them and we would have been gone.” Minerva’s grip tightened on his forearm, and his hand covered hers for comfort. “They didn’t intend killing her,” he muttered, and collapsed forward supported only by the bed end, unable to bear the weight of what would have happened. “No, it would have been much worse than that.” His head bowed. “That monster wanted her returned to Potter so broken she would be useless to him,” he finally whispered. Then he was running for the bathroom, being unable to stomach it no longer.

Minerva looked back to Hermione as she heard muffled wrenching noises issuing from the bathroom, and she buckled against the bed. Finally, she found her voice. “No,” she rasped out.

The black-haired wizard returned, far more composed after some minutes to control himself again, only to rush to Minerva’s side fearing for her, her pained gaze met his softening one. “Between the two of us we have got to keep her safe,” her gaze was full of fear. “Severus, she’s my great niece. The papers arrived this afternoon.”

Severus gazed at her intently. “Don’t worry, we will,” his eyes softened a little more. “Albus thinks it might be best if she goes into hiding. There will be a headline in tomorrow’s Prophet, he is organising it.” Severus took a deep breath. “It’s best everyone thinks she didn’t survive.”

Minerva was just digesting this piece of information when both their heads turned as they heard a painful groan from the bed, and they quietly approached the wraithlike pale figure.

Even since Poppy had applied the bruise paste, the swelling had started to recede, but she still looked incredible fragile.  “Hermione, my lioness,” Severus whispered, and heard another louder groan issued forth.

Minerva patted his shoulder to gain his attention and whispered, “Good night Severus, reassure her, she’ll be very frightened.”

Slowly Hermione’s eyes opened as far as they could, more than initially but not fully and she tried to smile as she saw Severus in front of her.

“Lay still, my love,” he whispered, and softly brushed a wayward curl out of her face.

Her eyes attempted to focus and suddenly the pain started to stab at her again. Tears trickled out of the corners of her eyes and a little sob escaped her.

“Do you need more for the pain?” Severus asked, watching her shaking her head slightly as his hands started brushing her tears away. “Don’t cry, sweetheart.”

“Severus?” her voice was a hoarse whisper, and her hands were grabbing for his arm. “Am I going to die?”

“No!” he exclaimed in horror. “No, my sweetest girl you’re going to make a full recovery.” Severus sat down on the bed next to her, and lent down to her ear, whispering, “And when you do, together we are going to kick some serious Death Eater arse, my beautiful girl,” and his cheek gently caressed hers, as he planted a line of kisses across her forehead to gently punctuate his words. “We’ll get as many of the bastards as we can.”

Hermione tried to snicker but her head pained cruelly and she groaned. “I might have a bit of trouble doing that in the near future,” she muttered almost incoherently.

“Shhh,” he soothed, “just lie there and rest. Don’t fret.” Her breath shuttered, she sounded terrified. “You’re safe now, and that is all that matters. Try to go back to sleep,” he continued in the same tone and he heard her sigh.

Abruptly she groaned, tightening her grip on his arm and attempted to say something else. Finally he caught it, “Stay,” she rasped, “Severus?”

“Just try and stop me. Now you rest, and please don’t fret, I will be close by, trust me, my love.” Finally kissing her tenderly, he whispered, “and then tomorrow, I’ll take you home so I can look after you.” He saw Hermione try to smile, but her lip quivered, and he stroked her cheek. “Shhh, sleep, my sweetheart.”

Just moments after her had lulled her back to sleep Severus heard thundering foot falls advancing on the ward. He drew his wand and placed a silencing charm around Hermione before standing in front of her as the door burst open and Harry flew in, gazing wildly around for Hermione.

“Ah good evening Mr. Potter,” Severus drawled, stepping forward.

“Where is she?” Harry panted breathless. “Arthur said she’d been hurt again.”

Severus stepped aside and conjured a second chair. “Sit down, I believe it’s going to be a long night.”

Harry gasped and closed the distance to the bed. “Bastards!” he muttered.

“For once, you and I seem to be in complete agreement,” Severus replied.

“Will she be all right?” Harry asked.

“The matron says so,” Severus stated. “It could have been a hundred times worse,” he added. Then he thought of Lotti. “Lotti!”

When his elf arrived, he patted her arm. “You are an amazing elf, little friend, thank you. Could you bring me whisky and a sandwich?” he said quietly, cutting a glance at Harry, who seemed too caught up with Hermione’s appearance to have noticed anything else. He turned back to Lotti and saw her ears drooping in worry.

“Is little miss going to be all right? Lotti is being worried,” the little elf asked.

“Yes, Hermione will be fine in a few days,” Severus answered.

The elf’s grin helped. “Lotti is being very pleased, sir.”

When the elf had returned with what he required, Severus finally settled enough to have some food and then settled in with his unlikely companion to watch over Hermione for the night.

Chapter Text


By the time dawn had arrived, Severus was so tired his eyes were only staying open because he was forcing them to do so, and Harry was sound asleep in his chair. The common bond of Hermione had seen the two wizards united in their concern for her, and it had allowed Severus to see Lily’s sweet nature shining through in the young man.

That was something Severus had never been able to see before, and it went a long way to allowing him to accept Harry’s presence tonight. They had sat in quiet vigilance on either side of her, and as she had woken throughout the night it had seemed to help her.

The matron came and went to give Hermione more potions, but it had always been with a tight mouth, like she disapproved of Severus being there. Severus ignored this because he knew that in the morning her memories of this night were going to be altered to fit with Hermione not surviving the attack.

Hermione had seemed extremely pleased that Harry was present as well, and they both had one of her hands as they sat here now. The sound of approaching footsteps brought Severus back from his thoughts, and regardless of his tiredness, his drowsy brain leap into action. His first ward chimed, and then the second, and the steps abruptly stopped in the doorway.

“I knew I’d find you still here. I’ll watch, and you go and get a couple of hours sleep,” Minerva stated, as more of a command than a request, as she shook her head and spoke quietly.

Ever cautious, Severus put a silencing charm up around them before he spoke. “No Minerva, there’s too many things at stake here at the moment, and besides I promised Hermione I would be here for her.”

“No buts, young man, go. Everything is now secure, Albus has closed off the avenue they entered by last night and placed additional protection wards around every entrance, seen and unseen. Ginevra and Draco are safe, Harry is here, and Hermione is recovering. I’ll stay with her until you get back, hand the wards over.” She looked him up and down, “You’re dead on your feet.”

Severus thought about fighting her, but her mouth was set and he knew that look. So he ignored her and changed the subject. “It’s a bloody pity, Albus didn’t think of all those unguarded entries before Hermione was attacked,” he spat bitterly. “Him and his grand bloody plan.” He grimaced. “There’s nothing we can do about it now, it is already in action, and I suppose he wants me to just trust, Potter, as well?” Severus glanced at the still sleeping young man.

Minerva’s lips tightened. “Harry launched himself so violently through my floo last night I almost hexed him. Arthur must have told him when he got back last night. But, I don’t think we have to worry about his loyalty.” She took a breath, and her eyes narrowed. “Albus has escorted Ginevra here as well, and she’s safely housed in my guest room with her own guard elf.” The Transfiguration professor finally smiled. “I have to say, using the elves in this way is a sheer stroke of genius, Severus. None of us need be at risk from being alone in a situation again.”

He nodded. “Yes, I know, Lotti is very fond of Hermione, and the elf has now recruited several other elves as well. You know what they’re like, they were happy to be put to some additional service.” Severus’ eyes scanned back to Hermione and then over to Harry. “I’m glad Miss Weasley is safe.” He shook his head. “The Dark Lord sees Hermione as the key to this conflict, which is more perceptive than I gave him credit for. However, his intentions towards Miss Weasley are far more sinister, but thanks to the mad witch’s blabbing we’ve cut off that planned abduction before it happened. I guess we’ll all have to find some common ground between us,” and he sighed, tiredly rubbing his hands over his face, “and I’ll have to explain why the girl has been snatched from his grasp.”

Severus glanced around the little room again as a distraction from the thought of what he would have to endure at that meeting with snakeman, and his eyes landed on Harry Potter again, the son of the only other friend he’d ever had, sleeping with his glasses crooked and still holding Hermione’s hand.

Then his eyes settled on his much improved lioness and he realised it was all worth it. He sighed, “You can stay if you want, Minerva, but I’m not leaving,” and he moved closer, blinking tiredly. As he said this Hermione stirred and pushed herself up a little with only a small grimace and a little hiss at the pain as she saw Severus approaching her bed.

He sat himself on the bed, also hearing Minerva distancing herself to give them privacy. “Are you feeling a little better?” he asked, looking at the phial of pain potion on the bedside table and then picking it up. It was Poppy’s habit to leave the potion through the night in case it was needed, a charm made it not noticed until it was due. “Here sweetheart, can you manage to drink this?”

Hermione nodded slightly, and gave him a wane little smile. “But could I have some water first, please?” she asked. “I’m having trouble swallowing, my mouth is so dry.”

It was true her voice sounded thick and very dry, and Severus produced a glass of water and handed it to her, she drank shakily and handed it back before taking the potion. Tenderly brushing her hair back away from her face, he asked softly, “Where does it hurt most?”

Hermione happily leant into his touch, nuzzling against his hand. “Mainly my ribs, but I still have a headache.”

“Ribs take a long time to heal,” he replied. “Don’t worry we will get you released, and I’ll take you to your own bed where I can look after you.”

Hermione smiled and leant further into the thumb stroking her cheek. “Thank you. That would be wonderful.”

“What do you want to do about?” he indicated Harry with his head.

“I want to trust him, do you think we can, Severus?” she asked, her lip easily slipping into her teeth.

Severus’ eyes narrowed as he watched Harry, he wanted to look at his thoughts, but knowing the link he had with the Dark Lord and also knowing its significance, he left well enough alone. “We have no choice we’ll have to; he’s part of our plan. However, I think we can provide him with something he can’t get anywhere else, and from what I’ve observed since you originally put the idea in my head, I can see it’s something he really wants.”

Understanding dawned and Hermione smiled. “Oh Severus, that’s inspired, devious,” she managed a painful giggle, “but inspired. Do you think Draco feels the same way?”

Severus smiled and nodded. “That, my little lioness is the inspired part, I know he does.” He gave her a tender kiss. “It looks like we’ll be stuck together, and in hiding until this is ready to be finished.” Hermione gave him a puzzled look, and he knew he had to tell her. “Hermione, this war is almost at its climax. Dumbledore thought it best if you and certain other’s disappeared until the event takes place,” he watched her eyes narrow. “This morning’s Daily Prophet will inform wizarding Britain that Hermione Granger died last night after a death eater attack.”

“Oh,” was all Hermione could manage. Her eyes glanced at Minerva who had come a little closer again, and her head of house nodded in agreement. Hermione’s eyes came back to Severus.

“It allows us to train intensely to take advantage of our affinity, hidden from view.” He watched her digesting this, before saying, “The potion is almost perfected, and once it is, I believe that the Dark Lord will strike, because he will think Lucius and I are gone, as well as Potter, and that the resistance will be at its weakest. That will give us the element of surprise.” Severus chuckled, “And take it from me, he doesn’t like surprises.”

“Oh,” she said, she was definitely not pleased. “You know it’s not in my nature to hide,” she stated stiffly.

“I am aware of that, but you’re not going to be the only one disappearing,” Severus said, seeing she was starting to tire again. “Anyway, that is enough talking for the moment, try and get some more rest,” he instructed kindly, as he stood. Leaning forward his lips met hers, and gently caressed them, lingering but careful not to hurt her. “I need to attend to several things, but I’ll be back just after breakfast,” he whispered, drawing an audible breath as he carefully placed a line of kisses all the way to her ear.

Apart from the fact she was displeased with the development of her forced disappearance, her still foggy, potion doped brain, realised there was nothing she could do about it. The decision had been made around her, it was too late to object, and at this very moment she wasn’t certain she had the energy. The Prophet was, no doubt, already printed and would be winging its way to homes as they spoke. So sighing, she smiled, “And I’ll be waiting,” she whispered in return.

Pulling back a little to examine her face, Severus’ eyes were captured by hers, he could see that the swelling was gone and she could see properly now. However, the offensive inky marks around them still tore at his heart; they were faded significantly but still present, and he reluctantly released her and stepped back.

Collapsing tiredly back onto the pillows, she sighed, but encouraged, “Do try to get some sleep yourself, dear man, and thank you for staying with me.”

He nodded, but simply said, “I’ll be back after breakfast,” he repeated.

Hermione smiled once more and slid further down the pillows, her hair fanning over it like an out of control halo. Severus smiled as he regarded her, he couldn’t wait until he saw her doing the same between the satin sheets of their own bed. “I’ll see you soon,” and he strode from the room with fierce determination.

Hermione, as sore as she was, couldn’t help the flame of desire that licked through her at the look on his face. Casting her eyes down at the ugly hospital robe, she yearned for one of her silk nighties. Up until last year, she had always worn practical sleep wear, well no more. Life was too short for that, you needed to enjoy every minute, and she intended to do just that. She didn’t even blush this time as she blatantly tried to imagine what he would look like thrusting passionately between her thighs, and her twisted little smile made its first post trauma appearance, as her eyes turned to the door, hearing Minerva, and she blushed.

“You need rest young lady, best not to think things like that in your state,” said a very amused looking head of Gryffindor, from the doorway.

Now wide awake, Hermione chuckled, “Oh, is it that obvious?” and her lip slipped between her teeth again. “I thought you wouldn’t approve.”

“My dear, it’s been that obvious for a long time now,” her mentor said kindly, sitting down next to her, “and I think it’s wonderful.” She smiled at Hermione’s expression, “I haven’t always been old you know, I do vaguely remember what it’s like to be in love.” They both laughed, but Hermione immediately grimaced holding her ribs. Minerva did the same in sympathy, and inhaled deeply, which brought Hermione’s attention to her. “Besides, I can say such things to you, because I now have proof of a claim on your affections as well,” she smiled when Hermione’s expression turned from interest to puzzlement. Minerva dug into the pocket of her robes. “I hope this is a good get well, Christmas present for you,” she finished, handing Hermione a sheath of parchment.

The young woman shot her another puzzled look and unrolled the official looking document.

Minerva kept talking while Hermione read. “This arrived yesterday afternoon. I hope it resolves an issue for you. I had been planning to tell you last night when you arrived at my office, unfortunately…”

Harry had been sound asleep until this point, but now Severus’ silencing charm had been lifted when he left, he started to stir hearing their talk.  As the sleep started to leave his eyes he realised his glasses were the reason he couldn’t focus, and straightening them he took in the intense expressions of the two women on the bed. Then the happy gasp that escaped Hermione as she perused the contents of the parchment, and looked back to her head of house with tears in her eyes.

“I have always had a keen interest in the wizarding equivalent of the Muggle science of Genealogy,” Minerva continued seeing Hermione glance up at her. “Mainly because of an anomaly in my own family,” she raised a hand to the young woman’s cheek. “Which has now just been solved for me.”

Hermione spluttered incoherently, unable to make any intelligent remarks at all, it all seemed too amazing.

This made Minerva chuckle. “Would you like a picture of your mother?” The head of Gryffindor watched as Hermione nodded, her mouth slack and useless, but her arms reached out and shakily pulled the elder woman to her.

“So, you’re my aunt?” she asked.

“Yes, my dear, great aunt. You are my sister’s, daughter’s child.” They held on tightly for some moments, and finally Minerva guided the shaking Hermione back onto her pillows, as euphoria finally left enough for her to grimace at the pain she had just inflicted on herself by moving so rapidly. Hermione panted, but managed to say, “I always knew you were going to be special to me.”

Minerva graced her with a smile and dug in her pocket again to withdraw the photo. “As soon as I saw you in the robes Draco helped you choose, I was certain my suspicions were correct. This merely confirms them.” Hermione gazed down at the photo of an older version of herself in traditional robes, smiling back at her. “Although, I’m sorry to say that your mother is not with us anymore, although I’m sure you know that from your birth certificate,” she watched Hermione nod as she ghosted her fingers over the picture.

The austere professor was wishing she could have been the bearer of better tidings for her niece. “I had been planning to allow you to tell Severus, but I ended up blurting it out to him last night in my distress over what had happened to you. The poor man, as if he wasn’t having to bear enough already.”

“Yes, he certain does have a lot to deal with.”

“He is so exhausted, after everything yesterday and beside himself with worry over you. I hope he sleeps before he takes you home.”

Hermione bit her lip. “And it must have been hundreds of times worse for him, not being able to come and rescue me himself.”

Harry had been sitting there quietly listen all this time. Even though had known about Hermione’s interactions with the professor, he had never seen them for himself until last night. In fact, Harry was simply in shock at how much different all the Slytherins Hermione trusted were to what he’d known from how Ron had told him. In fact, Harry realised that his whole outlook about Slytherin house had been cultured from Ron’s prejudices. Harry had been visiting Draco regularly since the incident in the Potions classroom, and both his father and Draco had been polite and hospitable to him. He was very pleased to admit that privately Draco and he were rapidly becoming very good friends. Of course, he had told no one about this yet. Hermione and Ginny was the only friends he had who would understand his need for Draco, and out of those two only Hermione knew at the moment, although, considering his friendship with Ginny—that ran very deep-he really should have told her first.

He watched as Minerva nodded and the young woman fell back grimacing and holding her ribs again. Her expression soon settling into one of adoration.

“He’s such an amazing man,” Hermione sighed.

Both Harry and Minerva could see the love she felt radiating off her gaze.

“I’m so lucky,” Hermione continued and then her tears started. “I’ve finally found out how he felt. At long last, he’s allowed himself tell me,” a little gasp left her lips. “He wouldn’t let anything happen before I’d graduated.”

“I know,” Minerva responded, reaching for the cloth Poppy had left as bloody coloured mucus started oozing from Hermione’s mended nose as she cried. “Here,” she said, “wipe very carefully before it gets everywhere, it’s the dried blood that was still up your nose.”

Hermione cautiously wiped the bloody mess away. “That he’s been...” she continued, trying not to sob again. “It must have hurt him so much,” then gazing at her elder, now aunt. “I have loved him for so long, and I thought he hated me.”

“Well, I did try to drop some hints, if you remember,” Minerva told her.

“I know,” Hermione replied, starting to giggle through her tears.

“There was little he could do while you were still a student, even if you were an adult, but now you’re not,” she leant forward and rubbed her arm. “It will still be difficult, especially now until the war is over, but we’ll just take it a day at a time and keep it to the trusted few.”

Hermione nodded, but sniffed which started the blood again.

“Sniffing only makes the blood worse, Hermes, take it from the victim of many broken noses” said a voice that made both women jump, and they turned to see Harry Potter’s serious face staring back at them.

They were both watching him wearily as he rose and came over to the bed. Hermione was wearing a horrified expression, but he took both her hands and leaning forward, kissed her forehead, eager to reassure her he was a safe hand. “I think it’s wonderful that you have resolved your origins, and I have always known that there was something... well undefined between you and Snape. So really, now you’re an adult, it comes as no great surprise that you’ve found each other.”

“Harry, I thought it would horrify you.”

“Hermione, Snape…”

Hermione looked at her friend hard again over the dropped title, and he had the grace to flinch.

Professor Snape, is the only other person I’ve met who’s as intelligent as you,” he huffed, “Well, you and he are able to communicate on a different wavelength to the rest of us. That’s something that none of us can give you, even I can comprehend that. When he offered you that apprenticeship I knew something had to be in it for him, he’s Slytherin after all.”

Hermione sighed. “He recognised that I was bored senseless, and was the first one to offer me something more fulfilling to occupy my time.” She looked coy. “I’m very grateful to him, he’s amazing, and yes I know you hate him so spare me the look.”

“Hermes I don’t exactly hate him anymore. Now I’ve grown up a bit,” he looked awkward and sighed. “And well I’ve realised life is not just black and white.” His eyes met hers, “And all the things Sirius told me... the things he bragged about doing to him,” he shook his head. “Even though I loved my godfather fiercely, well it kind of turned my stomach. I came to realise, watching them interact, that Snape… That, Professor Snape,” he smiled and nodded at her, “was the better man. He constantly tried his best to ignore the taunts that Sirius always initiated, and when he did lose it, it was only after sustained hassling by Sirius.” He watched her a moment and then added, “And then last night, I saw that he’s not the man I thought he was. It’s so obvious that he loves you, and I think he’ll be everything you’ve ever wanted.”

If she’d been able to she would have launched herself into Harry’s arms. “Oh Harry, I’m so pleased you’ve finally worked that out.” As it was, she said it grimacing again as she reached for him.

Harry suddenly laughed. “So when’s the wedding?”

“Harry!” Hermione exclaimed blushing brightly, and looking towards Minerva, who smiled despite herself as Hermione added sagely, “I think maybe that subject should be left in the same category as your feelings for Draco, at the moment ay?” They looked when they heard Minerva’s rapid intake of breath before Harry laughed louder.

“Fair point, sister dear,” he cackled and very carefully pulled her back into a hug.

Painfully pulling back enough to see his face, “Harry,” she said as she earnestly regarded him. “Please don’t let idiot boy come between us again. I need you, Harry.”

Harry nodded. “I’m sorry, I thought...” he looked down, “I was... confused.”

“Harry, I understand why you did it, and I don’t blame you at all.” She screwed up her face again from the pain her activities caused her and added in a warning sort of voice. “Just don’t do it again.” But her voice was starting to sound breathy and exhausted.

After a moment, Harry cast a serious look at both women. “I believe I understand how important this is, but what about Dumbledore?” Harry asked, then his expression turned troubled. “He has been very strange lately, even paranoid and unpredictable,” the young man said, looking down. When his eyes came back up, his gaze was serious. “Ma’am, please take this the right way, but can wizards suffer from Dementia?”

“Oh, Harry, my boy, that’s a rather large statement, what makes you think this?”

“Well, my uncle’s sister, Marge has just been diagnosed, and I was reading some of the literature that was around the house before I came back this year,” his mouth went suddenly dry. “Well it sounds just the way Dumbledore is, as well.”

“Mmm, it is something to consider,” Minerva said thoughtfully.

While they had been talking, Hermione had been resting back against her pillows listening, and watching the photo of the woman she still held. The woman in the picture would smile then bite her lip and smooth her riotous curls. “What was my mother’s name, Ma’am?” she asked suddenly.

Minerva looked back at her startled, after the conversation she had just had with Harry. “All my nieces and nephews call me Aunt Minerva, dear, if you would like.”

Hermione smile, it actually felt right.

“And your mother’s name was, Diana Heather May McDonald,” Minerva told her.

Hermione felt her throat constrict and her vision blur, and Minerva reached forward, just as careful as Harry had and gently offered comfort.

They were sitting quietly when Poppy bustled in like a starched white nun, she looked around. “How many breakfasts should I order?” she asked officiously, as she checked Hermione over. “Are you feeling better this morning?”

“Yes thank you, Matron,” Hermione replied.

“Three please, Poppy,” McGonagall stated, and taking a breath she prepared to continue, but thought better of it.

The matron busied herself collecting the soiled clothes and empty phials. “What made your nose bleed?” she asked curtly.

“Oh, I got a little upset.”

“Mmm, the blood is the side-effect of the broken nose, when did you take the potion?”

Hermione looked to Minerva.

“About six o’clock, Poppy,” the elder Gryffindor answered.

“Very good, I shall send breakfast in when it arrives,” and she was gone again.

Hermione was starting to feel tired again, when a small pop took her attention, and without even looking Hermione said, “Good morning, Lotti.”

“Lotti is being pleased to see little miss is safe,” the elf squeaked happily.

“Little miss is also pleased to see Lotti, thank you, my little friend.” She watched the elf’s ears stand erect, and she recognised that as pleased. Then she looked at the three mugs, and snickering quietly said, “Well, Severus is up again, I do hope he got some sleep.”

“How do you know that?” asked Harry, puzzled.

“This,” Hermione said pointing to the mugs. “Oh Harry, you’re in for a treat,” she enthused as Lotti offered them one each. “This tea is almost orgasmic it’s so good,” she continued.

McGonagall chuckled, “Actually, that describes it perfectly, doesn’t it?”

Hermione nodded and they both laughed, making Hermione clutch her side once more as Harry gazed into the cup like it might contain poison. They watched him sniff it, take a tentative sip then another, and then a smile spread across his face. “Oh my god, you’re right. What’s in it?”

“Ah,” said Hermione in her best Severus impersonation. “Would you have a brewer give up all his secrets, my love,” she crooned, and then giggled. “Damn, that works so much better if you can do the eyebrow thing as well,” she said, and chuckled again.

Harry looked on still thinking it all a little surreal, but surprising not caring, and he turned his attention to the professor as she spoke.

“Well if he won’t tell you, then the rest of us have no hope,” Minerva laughed. They were still laughing when Lotti returned, having asked if she could bring their breakfasts as well.

Harry reflected on it all as he quietly sat eating, it was almost like he’d been thrust into an alternative universe, with a kind and gentle Snape, Gryffindors who trust Slytherins; especially Malfoy’s, and where his best friend has not only finished school but was now a member of staff, and possibly a pure blood witch.

He suddenly appreciated he had been allowed into an undisclosed world, a world Hermione had obviously been admitted to some time back, and that this was an opportunity. He so wanted to get to know Draco on a more intimate footing, but apart from the occasional friendly conversation (in secret), he never thought he would get the chance. Oh god, he groaned to himself. Draco makes me so hot. When Hermione told me that she thought Draco was gay, I’d sobered quickly thinking we’d never be allowed to socialise, but then as we’ve become better acquainted, again through Hermione’s efforts. Well, here is my opening to get to know him even better.

Harry wanted to be true to himself, and he was heartily sick of Ron’s homophobic everything anti-Slytherin idiocy, and his thoughts went back to Draco. He was glad he had the tray on his lap though, because thinking about shagging Draco was making him so hard.

Breakfast finished, Hermione called Lotti again. “Lotti, could you help me use the bathroom, please.”

Lotti nodded and levitated Hermione in without further instructions and the door shut. Minerva and Harry talked quietly while waiting for Hermione, and Severus came back as well.

“Hermione’s in the bathroom,” Minerva informed him.

“Oh,” he replied, then his eyes landed on Harry. “Still here, Mr. Potter?”

“Stop it Severus, we have come to an understanding, haven’t we, Harry?”

“I hope so, Professor,” Harry responded cautiously, looking at the weary look the Potion master was levelling at him.

“We shall see, Mr. Potter,” and he turned his attention to the empty bed again.

Finally the bathroom door opened and Lotti levitated Hermione, dressed in her own bed clothes, but plainly exhausted, back onto the bed. “Thank you, Lotti” she said weakly. “Hello Severus, love,” she continued, gazing at him.

“Lotti is pleased to serve, little miss, can Lotti be helping little miss back to her quarters?”

Severus looked at the elf. “No, we’ll be right.” He moved to the bed and sat down. “Hello, sweetheart,” he replied softly, glancing at Harry before tentatively leaning forward and kissing her. “You look brighter,” he said quietly, and lifting a hand to her face, he added, “Bear with me a moment, Albus is fixing the Hufflepuff meddler as we speak, he’ll be here shortly,” Severus assured her, “and he’ll make the room look like the matron has cleaned it up after the unthinkable has happened.” Stroking Hermione’s face he sighed, he gave her a lingering kiss, before whispering, “Even though we know it didn’t.”

Moments later, Dumbledore appeared in the doorway. “Ah, Miss Granger, good to see you looking much better this morning.” He turned to Severus, “Everything set, and you better leave before she comes round.”

Severus rose and opened a portal into his sitting room, he ushered his companions through, and turning back to Hermione he gently swept her into his arms and carried her through. The last thing Hermione saw as she passed into the sitting room was Albus waving his wand, and the room instantly arranging itself like she’d never been there.

Walking quickly with Hermione to her bed, he heard Harry and Minerva trailing after him. “I’ll leave you with Minerva to help you get comfortable, and I’ll come back with your potions when you’re ready.”

Hermione smiled wanly, and Severus looked at Harry. “Come, Mr. Potter, we’ll leave the women to themselves.”

Harry didn’t answer, he merely followed. He was still far too confused by all the new alliances he had just discovered to comment.

~~~***~~~

Harry and the professor were in the lab and Severus was gathering potions. Harry was awkwardly hanging by the door, when the Potion master spoke. “You will forgive me for being wary of you, Mr. Potter. You bear an uncanny resemblance to your father, and my history with him is disastrous,” Snape stated dispassionately. “Although, last night I saw you’ve inherited aspects of your mother’s sweet nature, and that has allowed me to overlook a lot.”

“Err, thank you, sir,” Harry replied.

“But be warned young man, as far as I’m concerned you’re still on probation. In my opinion you have always been a loose cannon.” He allowed his serious gaze to linger on Harry. “Here is your opportunity to prove me wrong. There is everything at stake here, and let me tell you, we will all topple like a house of cards should anything go wrong.”

Harry stood watching the now pacing Potions professor. “Sir, I appreciate what you’re saying. Please know that my priorities have changed. Last night, I had to go through the silly idiot I still thought harboured at least some feeling of friendship towards me to get to the floo at The Burrow. He was trying to stop me coming,” he shook his head. “Somehow, I don’t think we’ll be friends anymore, and I have two friends who have always supported me, no matter how big an idiot I was.” He looked down, embarrassed. “I had to make a choice, sir, and I chose for my own sanity, because Ron seems to have issues with everyone else I wish to be friends with, even his own sister.” He looked to the Potion master, who was now giving him his whole attention. “In fact, Ron would never comprehend any of this, he doesn’t have the facility.”

Severus observed him steadily. “The question is though, Mr. Potter, do you?” Snape’s dark eyes bored into him. “Can you comprehend just what is going on here, just how important this all is?”

Harry nodded, “Yes, I believe I can, sir.”

“I sincerely hope so, because I’ll only warn you once, if you cross me, don’t expect to live long after doing so, and if you hurt Hermione again do not expect to ever father any children,” he advised seriously, his eyes cold obsidian menace.

“Dually noted, sir,” and Harry swallowed hard, knowing that the man was perfectly capable of carrying out his threats. “You will have no reason to take that course, I’m certain of my alliances,” Harry replied steadily holding his gaze.

“Indeed,” the Potion master smoothed silkily.

Harry was relieved that his statement hadn’t been met with more stinging vitriol as he had expected, and he stood watching the professor silently for a time. Finally he scoffed to himself. If anyone had told me this morning when I woke up that I’d be in a different world, and by mid-morning would be discussing this with Snape, I would have laughed at them. As it was, he felt like he needed a good lie down and a cold compress, but he settled for continuing to watch Snape picking potions out of the cupboard.

Chapter Text


Severus was standing with the three phials of potion, still considering what Harry had said. He found his attitude towards the son of his schoolyard nemesis adjusting, becoming marginally softer.

The floo roared into life and a voice called, “Uncle S, are you back?”

“Lab, Draco,” Severus replied, watching Harry’s face blush.

Draco launched himself through the door, “I’m so sick of being couped up in that room…” but he came to a dead halt. “O-oh…” he stuttered, trying to hide his utter surprise at Harry’s presence. His whole demeanour changed, and his voice went cold. “Potter!”

Severus actually laughed. “Oh come, come, Draco, you’re seriously slipping if you think I don’t know all about you two. Now, how about you go and greet your friend properly.” Draco looked at his uncle, who offset what he had just said by saying, “Is your father back yet?” while a mischievous smile played around his mouth.

“Err, no… I’m not expecting him back yet, he wanted to sort everything out before he came back,” Draco spluttered vaguely, before asking, “What exactly do you mean by, properly?”

“Dear boy,” Severus said, chuckling as he walked over and placed his hand on Draco’s shoulder. “I’m certain your imagination can supply any number of possibilities.” His eyebrow soared, “Now, I really must get these potions to Hermione.”

Still standing contemplating the offer just made to him, Draco remembered Hermione. “Is Mia okay?”

Severus instantly saw red at his offhand question. “She’s as okay as you would be if some shitting little fuckwit had kicked your face in and ruptured your spleen, breaking several ribs in the process,” Severus hissed irritatedly.

Draco nodded. “My apologies, Uncle S, allow me to rephrase the question.”

Harry was impressed by Draco’s cool demeanour in the face of his uncle’s wrath.

When he spoke again, his voice was still perfectly even. “Is Mia feeling better this morning?”

Severus inclined his head in thanks. “Yes Draco, I believe Hermione is feeling a little better this morning. I will inquire if she is up to visitors while I’m with her.” He looked between the two of them, his calm having returned. “Now I’m sure you boys can find a way of amusing yourselves, the possibilities are endless,” he stated slyly, and left for Hermione’s room.

Harry watched the retreating Potion master’s back. When he had come into the lab Severus had shed the flowing robes, and Harry had never seen him without them. However, he only contemplated this a moment before looking to Draco and stuttering, “D-did he just suggest…”

Draco reached forwards and took Harry’s hand, and nodded before answering, “His right you know, we do have endless possibilities,” he said quietly, and raising his eyebrow, he locked eyes with him, and breathed, “Utterly endless.” The blond wizard took a step closer to his obviously flustered companion, and ran his finger down the Gryffindor’s cheek before leaning forward and breathing in his ear. “Would you like to amuse yourself with me, Harry?”

Harry almost choked, he was already hard, and words now failed him completely. He wanted this so badly. Draco was blowing in his ear and snickering softly as Harry turned his head enough to bring his tongue to Draco’s neck. He used the tip of it to lick a sensual trail from his ear along his jawline.

“Shit, what a hot tongue,” Draco moaned, and dipping his head he met it with his own. “You’re so fucking hot,” he stated seductively, entwining the fingers of both hands through Harry’s and backing him up against the wall. Harry found himself submitting, as his hands were pinned lightly by Draco’s either side of his head and Draco’s mouth descended on his. He willingly let the Slytherin devour him, their tongues raging, battling in their quest for discovery, and Draco’s mouth eventually found Harry’s ear once more. “Is this what you wanted?” He heard Harry moan, “And this,” Draco groaned in his ear, pushing his pelvis against Harry’s and grinding.

Harry thought his legs were about the collapse as he felt Draco’s hard length rubbing on his through their trousers, and he lost it. His mouth claimed Draco’s and he moaned. “Yes, oh fuck, yes, I’ve wanted you for such a long time.

Draco released Harry’s hands, their eyes locked and his hand skimmed down over the Gryffindor’s stomach to undo his pants. “All you had to do was ask,” he whispered, licking Harry’s lips with the tip of his tongue. His hand now inside Harry’s trousers caressing his length, “Your cock feels beautiful,” he breathed next to Harry’s ear. Harry’s face contorted in pleasure seeing Draco looking down as he pulled Harry’s prick from his open pants.

Of course, perfect moments never last long, and it was then they heard a sobering voice assaulting their brains. “Mr. Malfoy, Mr. Potter?”

“Shit,” exclaimed Draco, “your fuckin prude of a head of house.” The mood instantly evaporated, and Harry quickly deflated from shear dread. “Fix yourself up, I’ll stall her,” and he was gone. “Yes, Professor McGonagall?” Draco drawled, sauntering into the sitting room, after making certain his robes covered any evidence of his pleasure.

“Oh there you are, where’s Mr. Potter?”

Without blinking Draco replied. “We were talking near Granger’s desk, well Potter being completely clumsy managed to knock a pile of papers off, he’s currently straightening them.”

“Oh, well Miss Granger is ready if you wish to see her,” McGonagall stated.

Hearing his head of house coming towards the door, Harry ran with the lie and launched himself at what looked like Hermione’s desk. He figured that Snape wouldn’t have a bunch of pink roses and forget-me-nots on his, and when she entered the lab, he was ensconced under the table after grabbing a pile of papers.

“Mr. Potter?” Minerva said, only seeing his backside sticking out from underneath, and as Harry’s head popped up the stately witch tsked. “You should be more careful,” and she glared at him.

He hoped he looked suitably contrite.

“Be good enough to come and see me once you have finished here,” she continued.

“Yes, Ma’am,” but his expression suddenly changed, and he couldn’t contain his grin any longer.

“Why are you grinning like an idiot, Mr. Potter?”

“Oh, no reason, Ma’am,” Harry replied innocently.

Her lips tightened. “Very well, just don’t forget to come and see me. Good morning, Mr. Potter.” Then passing Draco she nodded. “Mr. Malfoy”

“Ma’am,” Draco returned politely, and watched her turn towards the floo as Harry appeared in the doorway. “We must continue our conversation later, Potter.”

Trying not to blush Harry replied, “Yes, it was a surprisingly interesting discussion, Malfoy.”

Minerva shook her head and muttered to the fireplace, “My office,” and stepped in as the flames turned green.

~~~***~~~

“Oh Severus, how could you?” Hermione squealed. “She almost choked this morning when Harry and I only mentioned how he felt about Draco. What if she goes out there and…” but soon Hermione couldn’t contain her mirth at that image and started to giggle.

“Yes?” Severus inquired, gathering her more firmly into his arms, “and you shouldn’t laugh, it will only hurt you,” he said, watching her frowning in pain before brushing her lips with his. He occupied himself caressing her pretty bow-like mouth a moment, and was half way to her ear when Hermione heard his muffled voice between kisses. “I only told them to find something to amuse themselves with, how am I to know what they’re up to?” he stated innocently, but finally pulling away from her, he sighed, “You taste amazing,” he stated, wearing an obscenely mischievous grin.

Seeing the grin, Hermione regarded him sceptically. “Oh sure you did, you simply love getting a rise out of Aunt Minerva, don’t you?” He watched her hands come up to her face, as she gasped. “That still sounds foreign.” She smiled. “Right,” and she nodded, “but foreign.”

“Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it.” Then he appeared to remember their original line of conversation, and his grin became predatory as he moved back to his task of kissing and licking her neck. His hot breath finally breathing in her ear. “I suppose I could be guilty of baiting her just a little bit, but she just reacts so well,” he mumbled into Hermione’s neck, before moving his mouth lower and letting his lips brush along her jugular. “I can’t get over how amazing you taste,” and he wondered if her skin tasted this good, what would the rest of her taste like? Proceeding to lightly pull her bottom lip into his mouth to play with it, a shiver of anticipation past through him at the thought of another part of her anatomy in the same position.

“Severus that tickles,” Hermione tried to murmur around his lips, and her attendant chuckled against her mouth.

“Feels fabulous to me, love,” he mumbled, kissing his way to the other side, this set her giggling again. “Don’t do that, you’ll hurt yourself,” he admonished playfully, still against her mouth.

Hermione groaned. “Well stop exciting me then, I’m supposed to be resting.”

“Oh, so it’s all my fault, is it?” he replied teasingly, cocking his eyebrow. He ran his thumb softly over her now swollen lower lip. “And you are resting; I’m the one doing all the work.”

Hermione had the urge to tell him he could explore anything he wanted, she was literally aching for his attentions to become more intense, and she opened her mouth further, wanting desperately to suck his thumb into it.

“I think you’re getting better already,” Severus murmured, watching his thumb moving on her swollen pink lip, and teetering on the cusp of being sucked into her parted lips.

Their playful conversation was interrupted by a knock on the door, and Severus immediately released her and stood, although still smiling like a predator as he did so. “Ah Draco, Potter.” If possible his grin grew. “There arose no incensed cry from mother Gryffindor, so I assume you were innocently amusing yourselves.”

Draco shot Severus a glare. “Uncle S, you bastard, you sent her after us on purpose,” then looking at Harry and seeing him blush he continued. “Stop it, you’re upsetting Harry.”

Hermione was a little surprised to see how quickly they had bonded, but very touched to see him then pull Harry protectively against himself.

Severus’ mouth twitched. “Well a man’s got to have some fun, and I see at least you put the time into something productive,” he chuckled.

“You looked like you were having plenty of fun when we came to the door,” Draco returned.

“Touché, dear boy, you’re getting quicker,” Severus laughed.

They heard the floo activate and then something heavy land afterwards, followed by the aristocratic tones of Lucius Malfoy. “Severus?”

“It’s like Waterloo Station in here today,” Severus muttered under his breath, and was off out the door. “What in hell are you doing to my living room, Lucius?” he asked irritated.

“Oh keep your pants on man, it’s for Hermione,” the three in the bedroom heard, as Severus stormed into his sitting room raging his fury.

“Help me move them into her living room,” Lucius continued.

“Why the hell have you brought Hermione two large packing crates?”

“You’ll find out after she does, where is the poor, sweet girl?” Lucius asked soothingly, as he removed his cloak and sat his cane down, then dug carefully in his jacket pocket.

“She’s resting, in bed.”

“Is she up to visitors?”

“Draco and Potter are already in there.”

“Well lead on then, kind sir,” he said, enlarging a spray of orchids he had just removed from his coat. Severus looked at him irritated. Then turning he pointed his wand.

A huge vase of crimson cabbage roses appeared on Hermione’s bedside table.

“Oh, father must have brought flowers,” Draco said, snickering. “Uncle S is upping the ante before father sees.”

Hermione was in the middle gushing about the roses that had just landed next to her, when an irritated Severus, stalked back through the door followed by a chuckling Lucius, who was in the middle of saying “...can’t believe you forgot to give the woman you love flowers when she was feeling awful.”

“Oh go fuck yourself,” Severus huffed, under his breath.

Lucius sighed philosophically. “Ah, if only that were possible, it would save me a fortune in whores,” he whispered to his friend, as they entered the room.

“Severus,” Hermione gushed holding out her hand to him. “They’re beautiful.” She stated, only grimacing a little as she pulled the disgruntled wizard down and presented him with a tender, caressing kiss. “Thank you, sweet man.” She kept a tight hold on his hand, and also noticed he was wearing a happy smile now as he stood next to her. Hermione sighed; she never tired of seeing Severus’ smile

Lucius approached her in his usual confident style. Seeming unaffected that she was in her dressing gown in her bed. “I do hope you are not thinking unkindly towards the upstanding members of Slytherin house in the light of some member’s disgusting and thuggish behaviour, Hermione, my dear?” Lucius inquired, offering her the orchids. “I cut these for you in my greenhouse before I returned. I do hope they will assist in your recovery.” Lucius then stepped back again and acknowledged his son and Harry.

“Thank you, s-sir” she said, setting them down in her lap. 

Lucius took a breath and continued, “When you are recovered enough to leave your bed, you will find two large crates in your living room. You are just starting out, and I thought you may appreciate a helping hand. I am certain you will wish to transfigure the garments in some way, so you don’t walk around looking like a Narcissa clone.” Lucius actually choked a little when he then said, “But I wanted her things to go somewhere nice, and well you were my obvious choice.”

Hermione had tears in her eyes as she looked around the room. Harry was holding Draco who had tears running down his face, then up to Severus and she noticed even he looked a little misty eyed.

“Go on,” Severus said, smiling at her unspoken request to thank Lucius, “he deserves it.”

The young woman looked back at the normally cool blond wizard, and held out her hand. “Thank you,” she said, wiping her eyes. Lucius graced her with a genuine smile that actually reached his eyes, something she felt bad now for thinking him not capable of. Moving forward he leaned down to her and Hermione pulled him tight, saying quietly, “That was beautiful, and I appreciate it very much, sir.” She gave him a kiss on the cheek, holding him close for just a moment.

As Lucius straightened he nodded. “You are most welcome, and I wish you would call me Lucius,” he drawled, watching as Hermione smiled happily. “Rest, my dear, I will see you later, good day,” Lucius stated, bowing to Hermione, he picked up her hand and kissed it before he nodded to Harry. “Mr. Potter,” then said to his son. “Will you come please, Draco?”

Draco nodded, and whispered in Harry’s ear, “I can see father’s upset now I better go with him, I’ll catch you later,” he gave him a kiss on the cheek and got up, Harry smiled.

Draco moved to Hermione and leaning down gave her a kiss on the cheek as well. “Take care, Mia,” then turning, “See you later, Uncle S.”

Severus nodded and saw the two guests back to the floo.

Harry was hugging Hermione when he returned to the doorway, he could see Hermione yawning. It really was time for her to rest now. “...Hermes this is all so amazing to take in,” he heard the young man say.

“So you and Draco finally connected,” Hermione said tiredly.

“He is so hot, he’s amazing.”

Yawning again she smiled. “I’m glad you finally worked out what’s best for you, Harry.”

Seeing how tired she was Harry said, “So am I, you better get some sleep. I’ll go and see McGonagall now.”

As he straightened up and turned, he saw the Potion master in the doorway, Severus looked at him a moment, then nodded. “Remember, Mr. Potter, loose lips,” and he looked at him hard.

“It’s okay, sir. I know when I’m on a good thing. I might be slower than you two, but I’m not stupid.”

“Glad to hear it,” Severus said, trying to sound pleasant in the hope of easing the tension between them. “Good day, Mr. Potter,” he continued, ushering him towards Hermione’s floo.

~~~***~~~

“I know its boring love, but I think you better get some sleep,” Severus said, coming back into Hermione’s room, he smiled when he found her already asleep. He quietly divested her of her dressing gown, and felt himself harden just looking at the gorgeous scrap of crimson silk and lace that had been hiding under her robe. It clung to her curves and he had hard time ignoring the urge to rip it off her and let his eyes drink her in. He pulled the covers around her, kissed her head and left her to sleep.

Severus was passing back through Hermione’s living room, musing on the next step of starting to unwrap his Hermione; he was really looking forward to that, and his eyebrow cocked thinking of that longed for event. Then his thoughts then turned to Lucius, he knew his friend was watching Hermione as he watched any comely witch, and he was very aware of what he was thinking. They hadn’t discussed it, but he knew Lucius. Lucius also knew was how fiercely possessive Severus was of Hermione. The tiny scene that had just played out had better not have had any strings attached.

Those thoughts spurred his mind further; No. Lucius knows he would catch the sharp pointy end of my wand under his throat, if he looked at Hermione the way. He was just musing over this fact when the vain of his thoughts made him glance involuntarily at the crates as he walked past. Something from one of them drew his attention pointedly and all thoughts of anything except protecting Hermione were instantly erased from his mind, and his wand was drawn. “Lotti, bring Lucius Malfoy, immediately,” he called.

Lucius arrived via the floo, moments later. “Where are you?” his concerned voice inquired.

“Hermione’s living room,” Severus replied, casting a silencing charm, so as not to disturb Hermione.

“What the hell’s the matter, your elf…” he said, running into the room his eyes instantly going to Severus’ and then following them to the crate.

“Did you see that?” Severus said, as another small pulse of blue was just evident in the crate.

“Oh shit,” exclaimed the blond wizard.

“This is very important Lucius; did you at any time leave these crates unattended after you packed them?”

Lucius caught on instantly. “Fucking, Bella, shit that witch is an interfering bloody cow, I only left them to get the orchids before I came here.”

“Well obviously, that was enough time.” Another stronger pulse flashed from within the crate. “Looks like she put a time strengthened summoning spell on it.” Severus shook his head. “For a mad bitch, she’s bloody smart.” He huffed, “Right! Lotti!” and the little elf returned. “Summon Minerva, and then bring Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy. Oh and get, what’s its name... err Tinky, to bring Ginevra Weasley.” Severus turned back to Lucius. “Do you still have that storage facility in Knockturn Alley?” He watched as Lucius nodded. “Then that’s where they go, we can retrieve them once the spell has allowed us to capture some more scum.” Lucius nodded once more as the floo activated in the next room and Minerva walked in just in time to witness another pulse of blue.

“What in hell is that?” she demanded.

“Ah Minerva, that is Bellatrix trying to take Hogwarts by surprise. We need Tonks, Remus and Kingsley straight away, by the increasing strength of those pulses and taking into account the greater distance of Knockturn Alley, I’ll say we’ll have some more Death Eaters for them in about an hour, get them to meet us at...” he turned to Lucius for the address, “In ten minutes,” Minerva gasped, nodded and was gone again.

Lotti then turned up with Harry, Draco and then finally Tinky with a very startled Ginny. The cacophony of voices all trying to be heard at the same time, obviously disconcerting her further.

“Silence!” Severus commanded, then turning to a blinking Ginny. “Miss Weasley, I assume Professor McGonagall has been kind enough to inform you that your friend Miss Granger did indeed survive the attempt on her life?” He watched as Ginny just nodded. “Then would you be good enough to sit with her for a while, she is currently resting. The boys will be back after they have helped us. All the entrances are warded against all others except your head of house, or us returning. All four of you are then to stay here in these rooms until we return. Use one of our trusted elves if you need anything, do you know which elves they are?” Severus finished.

Still surveying the occupants of the room and her current location with caution, Ginny nodded once. “Err, yes, sir. W-where did you say ‘Mione was?” she stuttered.

“Through there, Miss Weasley, do you understand what I am asking of you?”

“Yes, sir, no one in or out until you, Professors McGonagall or Malfoy return.”

“Good, go,” he said, “speed is of the essence; we need to get these crates moved.” As she watched with horror, an even stronger pulse of blue filled the room. “It’s all right, Miss Weasley, I know you’ve had a few terrible shocks in the last twenty four hours, but I assure you, you will both be perfectly secure here,” Severus stated, trying to boost the young woman’s confidence.

Harry was not aware of what Ginny had been told last night about Voldemort’s intentions towards her, but he could plainly see that she was completely at sea about something. He walked towards her and drew her into his arms. “You are safe, Gin, I promise,” he assured her. “I know it’s all very weird, but Hermione trusts these three Slytherins and so does Prof McGonagall, me too. It will be all right.” He kissed her head.

She looked up at him with her lip wedged between her teeth. “Thanks, Harry,” she said.

He watched her hurrying towards the door Severus had indicated, glancing back over her shoulder as she moved and once she’d disappeared through then Harry turned back to the crates and saw the others waiting patiently.

“Right,” Severus stated. “We can’t risk a lightening charm it might alert her that we’re onto her. Draco, you and Lucius take that one.”

“I think we better glamour these two, before we go,” Lucius stated to Severus.

“Yes, pardon me a moment, Mr. Potter,” and Severus gave him brown, shoulder length hair and brown eyes, while Lucius adjusted Draco’s appearance.

“Mr. Potter if you please,” Severus indicated the other side of the crate nearest to them, and put his wand between his teeth so he could still open the portal. “Okay, lift.” The dark-haired wizard wasn’t happy about taking the boys with them, but they had little choice, the only other people they trusted were organising a surprise for the Death Eaters.

“Won’t moving them through there disturb them?” Harry asked, nodding towards the shimmering blue door way that had just appeared. He hadn’t even flinched when the portal opened.

“It shouldn’t,” Severus said, then after he’d put his wand in his mouth, he continued through his teeth. “It’s only indirectly affecting them.” They lugged the crates through the portal and came out at the front gates of Hogwarts. “We will apparate from here, too risky to use portals outside Hogwarts.”

The men hauled the crates through the main gates. “Now, side-alonging with an object in between, just follow my movements and I’ll get us both there,” Severus said to Harry, and watched him nod.

“Very well, you do the same,” Lucius indicated to the young man beside him, who now had black hair and blue eyes.

Once they arrived at the warehouse, Severus asked, “Did you bring anything else from the Manor?”

“Only the clothes father thought I might like to keep,” Draco cut in.

“We better check them then,” said Severus, turning to Harry. “Mr. Potter if you will grasp my elbow and again move with me,” Harry felt himself being squeezed and constricted, and they were back at the gates of Hogwarts. The Potion master saw the young man lurch unsteadily, and stepped out of his way before steadying him. “Was that your first apparition experience?”

“No, sir, Professor Dumbledore has side-alonged me a few times, but it still turns my stomach.”

Severus chuckled, “And it will continue to do so for some time,” he commented casually, leading them straight through another portal.

They stepped into Draco’s bedroom. “Shit, I wish I could do that,” Lucius grumbled, “Think of the bedrooms I could get into.”

Severus shook his head and huffed. “You’re not a head of house, and do you ever think of anything except sex?” Lucius looked at him like he was stupid. “Don’t bother, I know the answer,” Severus finished, laughing, as an almost blinding flash of blue hit them.

“Using her nephew,” Lucius shook his head.

“Are you certain there was nothing else?”

“No, the only other thing I brought back were the orchids, and they were in my sight or pocket from the moment I cut and shrank them.

“All right you two floo back to Hermione and Ginevra, dispose of the orchids if they start to glow, and keep the girls safe. We’ll be back when we’ve dealt with this.”

The men left with the crate to meet with the Aurors and Harry and Draco cancelled the glamours and floo’d back to Hermione’s quarters.

Chapter Text


Racing into the bedroom Harry and Draco met Ginny in a defensive stance, wand ready and red hair flying around her as she turned. Draco instantly halted, taking her in from the tips of her dainty feet to the exquisite fiercely protective expression on her face. She looked like a fiery Amazon and he had never seen her looking like that before, he felt his desire boil, but he ignored the call of his groin and scoffed to himself. How could I like a girl, it must be just a coincidence, right?

“You could have announced yourselves,” Ginny snapped irritatedly, as both men raced past her to the bedside table and started studying the orchids.

“Can you see anything?” Harry asked.

“No, can you?” returned Draco, glancing back at the shimmering copper hair of the young woman in front of him.

Abruptly her flaming hair was spilling down between them. “What the hell are you two doing, have you lost it?” she hissed. “You’ll wake Hermes up and she needs her rest to recover,” and she set up a silencing charm and then without warning swatted them both in the ear.

“Ouch, what the hell was that for,” Harry whined, having copped this treatment before. He knew it came from having a domineering mother and growing up in a house full of brothers.

“Hey,” Draco snapped irritatedly, “watch the hair, girlie.”

“Oi blondie, no one calls me, girlie,” Ginny returned, glaring pointedly at him.

Straightening up Draco suddenly cackled taking in her defiant stance once more, and he drank her in a second time. Her shapely long legs were parted, she was wearing leggings so he could easily see all her contours and the arms folded in front of her with her wand ever ready. Draco found himself as hot as hell for the second time today. “I think I love you, Red,” he drawled, giving her a long slow look, which she returned just as hotly. “Shit you’re fine, for a girl.”

Turning, Draco whispered in Harry’s ear. “I’m going to have her, and I’ll keep you too, because you want her too, don’t you?” It was not really a question. “Let me touch you, I want to see what she does.” Harry blushed but smiled and Ginny’s eyes followed, as Draco’s hand then moved to Harry’s crotch and rubbed. He gave Harry his mouth and the Gryffindor wizard moaned longingly into it as his lover kept rubbing him.

Harry knew he had always been torn between the wizard teasing him so beautifully, and the pretty red-head watching. He already loved Ginny, and he knew it would be the perfect arrangement the three of them together. Draco would be both expected to marry, and produce an heir, in fact they both would, and this would be perfect.

As he was pondering this, he felt Ginny step forward between them. “Seize the moment,” she murmured, and her hands travelled to each man’s crotch. Brushing Draco’s hand away, she took over arousing Harry. Turning to Draco she said, “So you love my Harry too, do you, I’m pleased.” Her other hand travelled to the opposite wizard and her eyes locked with Draco’s. “Yes, I am pleased, now I can have both of you.”

Each man placed a hand around her waist and Draco pulled her in for a heated kiss. “It will be a pleasure being had, Red,” he said against her lips.

Ginny then swapped her attention to Harry. “Happy, Harry. You’ll get everything you’ve ever wanted.” Ginny asserted, kissing him fiercely. Then snickering, she cast her eyes down to examine the product of her teasing, while still stroking them. “I’ll fix those problems later for you boys, but remember we’re minding Hermes for a wizard very capable of being extremely nasty to us if anything happens to her.” She gave each of them one last caress and watched with pleasure as their eyes rolled back in their heads, and then she withdrew her hands.

“Ahh, kill joy,” muttered Draco dejectedly. “But you’re right. I don’t want Uncle S touching a single hair on either of your pretty heads.” He gave them both a kiss, and looked to the still sleeping Hermione. “That girl could sleep through an earthquake.”

“Nah, I put up a silencing charm,” Ginny stated, waving her wand again.

Harry had forced himself to go back to watching the orchids, while Hermione slept on. “Considering what was going on with those boxes, don’t you think if there was a problem, it would have shown itself by now,” Harry said to Draco, putting his arm around him as he came back to watch also.

Ginny went back to sitting on the end of the bed, but her book was forgotten. She couldn’t remember ever being this aroused, and she was determined to come to some arrangement with the two wizards. She was still trying to wipe the memory of what Voldemort had been planning out of her mind, and she decided that playing with what she wanted was a good way to start. She had thoroughly enjoyed the teasing, and couldn’t wait for the next round, but right now she had the perfect view of two taunt wizard backsides in well fitted trousers. She could see the muscles of their thighs rippling; she licked her lips, and thanked their demanding Quidditch practice schedule.

With Ginny’s Muffliato cancelled, and with all the noise they were making it wasn’t long before there was a grumble from the bed, and a very groggy Hermione slurred, “What are you guys up to in my bedroom?” She yawned. “God, you’re noisy.”

“Sorry, Hermes, I got distracted, I did have a silencing charm up,” Ginny stated.

Hermione looked around at the sound of her friend’s voice. “Gin!” she cried excitedly, sitting up and holding out her arms without thinking and then grimacing with the pain.

Draco tried to settle Hermione again, but what he said just woke her up more. “Go back to sleep, Mia, we’re watching your orchids.”

“You’re watching my what?” Hermione exclaimed still hugging Ginny, who seemed reluctant to let her go.

 “Uncle S told us to watch the orchids for signs of Aunt Bella’s summoning spell,” Draco explained very seriously.

Hermione winched and grabbed at her side when Ginny let go and sat back down beside her, and Hermione tried to push herself up the pillows. “Severus told you to watch orchids for Death Eater spells?” she laughed, “Are you serious?”

“Yes, apparently Aunt Bella put a summoning spell on the stuff father brought for you, and he and Uncle S have gone off to catch some more Death Eaters with it.”

Hermione tried to hide her fear by laughing again. “Really, Draco you have some truly dodgy relatives.”

Draco poked his tongue out at her.

“Oh yes,” Harry put in to support him, “and he told us to dispose of the orchids if there was any sign of glowing.”

Hermione raised one eyebrow in a very disbelieving gesture, and gave the orchids a cursory glance, before changing the subject. “Well, I for one need the loo,” she laughed quietly, and managed to get out of bed with much greater ease than she thought she would.

“Arrooo,” Draco called like a werewolf. “Oh Mia darling, the fall of that scrap of silk you’re almost wearing is illegal.”

Hermione startled at first, then recovered and chuckled watching him hanging off both Harry and Ginny. “You’re as sex crazed as your father, and besides I thought you didn’t like girls,” she scolded playfully.

“Yes, well I’m willing to make an exception where Red is concerned here, and besides both Father and I are very lovable,” he returned, wiggling his eyebrows at Hermione’s expression of scepticism. “Really,” he affirmed, coming over. He kissed her on the forehead then whispered in her ear, “and totally hot,” Hermione swiped him on the arm.

She had suddenly realised with Draco’s comments that she was no longer wearing her dressing gown, and she was cold. Severus must have divested her of it to make her more comfortable. She only vaguely remembered him showing Harry to the floo. Hermione dreamily wondered what her wizard had thought of her negligee. “So where is my gorgeous hunk of wizard then?” Hermione said, turning around to collect her dressing gown.

“We said, remember, on an unexpected err...” scratching his head “errand,” Harry finally settled on.

“Where?” she asked, concern evident in her face.

“Some warehouse of father’s in Knockturn Alley,” Draco replied, shrugging casually.

“Oh,” Hermione mutered, instantly becoming more worried.

“Don’t worry, love, he can look after himself, and father is with him. They’ll be fine; they know which end of the guy wearing the silly silver mask, has the pointy little death stick.”

Placated somewhat, Hermione decided there was nothing she could do about it anyway. “Well, I really am going to wet myself if I don’t get to the loo.”

As soon as she was gone, Ginny grabbed them tighter, “Spill,” she demanded.

Harry and Draco looked at her. “Spill what?” Harry asked, turning within their three sided embrace and leaning up against Draco so they could both see Ginny.

Draco immediately started playfully biting his ear, as he added, “What do you want to know?”

“Everything!” exclaimed an excited Ginny. “Like when did you and Hermes become so close?” she pointed accusingly at Draco.

He looked at her innocently, “Now really, Red,” he drawled.

Ginny was almost jumping on the spot as she gestured between them, but instantly continued without giving them a chance to answer her. “I thought Hermes hated you, didn’t she give you a right hook in third year?”

 Draco rubbed his jaw and chuckled, “Yeah, she sure is a feisty little package. Its part of her charm,” he returned. “We became friends when I learnt her worth, Red. In times of need she’s a priceless asset,” his expression became unreadable, and Harry nodded in agreement.  

“What happened?” Ginny was sobered by the expression on his face.

“There came a moment just after Uncle S came back, last term. He asked her to walk me down to the dungeons to meet my father.” Draco shuddered, “Mia reached for me through the most painful experience of my life, she talked sense into me even though she didn’t particularly like me at the time, even let me hold her hand, well we sort of bonded. I know for a fact I wouldn’t be here if she hadn’t given of herself to me and held on that day.” He sniffed quietly Harry had turned around to hug him, and Ginny found herself joining them.

Then Harry suddenly laughed, appearing to try to lighten the mood. He looked towards the closed bathroom door. “So, do you reckon Snape knows his dealing with a wild cat yet?” he cackled.

“I think his got a fair idea,” Draco ansered, recovering a bit. “You’ve seen them together. Uncle S makes her purr like a kitten.”

“That’s true,” he agreed nodding.

“Oww, that’s another thing, how long has Hermes been living down here?” She looked around. “Snape is so… err un-Snape-like about her.”

Harry looked at her seriously. “Gin, we can only tell you things, if you promise not to tell anyone.”

“What kind of friend do you think I am? It appears I’m as stuck as you guys are, I won’t be seeing anyone until this is over either.”

Harry rubbed her arm. “I know, but we have to say it.”

Draco nodded “It’s very important.”

“Guys, the only people I care about at Hogwarts, apart from Nev are currently all present.”

“Hey Red, does that mean you care ‘bout me too?” Draco responded playfully.

“Play your cards right and you’ll never know. The new improved you definitely has advantages.”

“Severus wouldn’t have let Ginny down here if he didn’t think she could be trusted guys,” Hermione supplied, coming back from the bathroom.

She watched Ginny’s mouth go from gapping open to stuttering, “W-what?”

“Just what I said, he has a lot of time for your family,” and she chuckled as she added, “Well, except idiot-boy now he’s proved himself to be such a menace.”

“Merlins balls, this is getting stranger by the minute,” Ginny exclaimed.

“You’re going through what I did, first thing this morning,” Harry returned. “For a moment I thought we must have slipped into an alternative universe,” and he chuckled. “A place where the cold unfeeling Potions master is actually a front and Severus Snape is human and caring, and as much as I find it difficult to comprehend, it appears true.”

Hermione nodded but felt compelled to add, “He is reaching deep within himself to allow the people I trust to see what I see because it’s important to me to have my friends around me, so he is trying to find common ground with you. However, his public persona is the only thing keeping both him and us alive at the moment,” she looked at her hands, “I hate it, but until this war’s over that’s the way it has to be.”

“Yes,” Draco added, seriously, “his life certainly is a delicate juggling act, with far too much pain.”

Draco turned to Hermione, and releasing the others he took her hands. “These last three months, it has been so special to watch him finally allowing himself to show his feelings to you.” Their emotions seemed to always be on the boil, and as a tear snaked down Draco’s cheek Hermione found herself in the same state. “He’s my godfather and I love him very much, he’s always been very indulgent with me. I’ve always known the man you are now seeing since I was a small child. Hermione, it just hurt watching him suffer, I’ve known for about two years how he felt about you, and the pain he was going through over it. I heard him and father talking after a few too many Firewhiskys one night. Then yesterday, father told me that you didn’t have to be an empath to feel the torment he suffered when he found out you were marked for capture.” Draco took a deep breath as he tried to calm himself. “Despite it all he kept his death eater persona up. I swear a lesser man would have killed them all on the spot, they’re monsters,” and Draco sniffed as Hermione suddenly sobbed.

They all reached for her and hugged her as she appeared to realise exactly how close she had been to actually dying. If it hadn’t been for the efforts of the incredible man she loved so dearly, she would be dead or worse. The four young adults clung to each other, painfully aware that their lives would be and had been changed forever by this war, and seeing all his sacrifices from Draco’s perspective really brought it all home for Hermione.

Finally they broke apart but Hermione had an uncontrollable urge to be in Severus’ arms, and couldn’t wait for him to arrive, at the very least so that she could thank him for saving her. Drying her tears and fighting valiantly to stifle her melancholy, she changed the subject, forcing her voice to sound cheerful. “Hey, I’m starving. Lotti,” she called, looking around then moving towards the sitting room. “What do you guys want, I feel like junk food?”

Little Lotti listened as Hermione said, “Hamburgers and chips, coke and...” she gazed around at them.

“Oh ice-cream, Rocky road,” Ginny chimed in.

Draco sidled up behind Hermione and whispered in her ear, “Mia, order a bottle or two of Bacardi and some ice,” he added, “Might as well make it a celebration ay, sweetie.”

Hermione nodded, “Did you hear that Lotti, better just bring glasses and bottles of coke as well. “Harry you want to add anything?”

“Chocolate,” he mused, “Oh I know, how ‘bout Honeydukes Vanilla creams?”

“Those things are decadently wicked,” Ginny sighed.

~~~***~~~

With all the food and drink arranged on the coffee table, the four friends sat down comfortably to talk. Draco had taken on the barman position and was currently handing drinks around, while Ginny was watching his progress as she reclined on the lounge with her head in Harry’s lap.

Hermione was feeling better as she sat there in her robe, but she was still very sore, and she definitely was not consuming alcohol as her friends were. That would be a disaster with the head injury and the amount of potions in her system, and she watched on cautiously as her friends made themselves comfortable.

Draco lifted Ginny’s legs and sat down, placing them on his lap. Ginny grinned at him, before turning her attention to Hermione. “So you and the Prof, ay? I knew he made you hot, and he had done for a long time, but I didn’t know you had hooked up with him. Merlins balls, honey; you’re practically living with him.”

“We have adjoining apartments,” Hermione stated in a slightly frosty voice. She was not certain that she liked Ginny’s of hand way of talking about something as special as this. Then Hermione reminded herself that her friend meant well, and this was just her.

Not affected, Ginny’s smile grew, “But you are sleeping together.”

“No!” Hermione exclaimed, shocked. “We haven’t actually gotten that far yet.” She blushed, but then a slow smile started to erupt on her face, she couldn’t help it, and she sighed. “I’m really hoping now that it won’t be long.” She shivered and giggled, “He makes me a quivering gooey puddle of desire every time he touches me,” she sighed, blushing bright red, wondering what had made her say that.

Draco snorted into his drink. “Now there’s a sentence I never thought the ice queen of Gryffindor would utter.” He laughed, “But I’m glad to hear it.”

Ginny squealed, “I’m so happy you’re finally going to see a bit of action, you’ve waited a long time for this,” she enthused happily, grinning at Hermione.

“Do you mean you’re still a...” Draco all but squealed, his mouth poised to pronounce the last word before Ginny smacked him.

Glaring at Draco, Ginny moved seamlessly on. “So honey, do you know who will be the new head girl?”

“Hannah Abbott,” Hermione said, glad of the change of topic. “I suggested Padma Patil, but it seems that Hannah’s Quidditch record pipped my choice at the post.”

“Oh,” Ginny laughed hysterically. “She of the dripping library seat.” and she howled laughing again, this time with Hermione snickering too, even though it hurt her injured ribs.

The boy’s looked at each other then down at Ginny and across to Hermione. “Give,” Draco said, beckoning with his fingers. “Sounds like something we need to know.”

They had eaten their food and between Harry, Ginny and Draco they had drank one whole bottle of Bacardi and started on the second.

“Well,” Ginny squealed, glancing at Hermione. “Hermes and I were in the library, and well, I got sick of working and I started looking around at what everyone else was doing.” The girls looked at one another and Ginny let out another howl of laughter.

“Aw, come on, Red, tell us properly,” Draco whined.

“Okay, okay,” she replied fanning herself with her fingers. She picked up her drink and downed it, then held up her glass suggesting she would like another.

Pulling a distasteful face Draco summoned the ingredients and mixed them in mid-air, after all he was comfortable just where he was. He gave her his best smirk for her sickly sweet smile, and then pulled the drink away from her reaching fingers. Cocking an eyebrow he brazenly inquired, “What’s my prize for getting your drink?”

Ginny graced him with a heated look and crooked a finger for him to bend across to her, when his mouth was hovering just above hers she licked his top lip and gave him a heated kiss. “Thank you Draco, now where was I?” she said, not missing a beat, and taking her drink she watched his lips move up and give Harry a kiss as well. Ginny breathed deeply as his shirt brushed her cheek, he smelt amazing.  It was then that, looking back at Hermione, Ginny saw that her friend had suddenly gone very quiet and looked flustered. Ginny wasn’t sure what the problem was, maybe Hermione was merely tired again. She remembered where she was in her story and kept going. “Oh, that’s right,” she smiled at the boys. “Well I noticed Hannah had this moony expression on her face.”

“She often looks like that,” Draco interrupted, scoffing.

“Anyway, to start with I thought she was just thinking about something. Although she appeared to be looking at Zabini, suddenly she gasped and I saw a little shiver run through her, and that’s when I started to take more notice. She had her quill poised to write, but then I saw that she seemed to be losing her grip on it, and she was still gawking at him. Well it was when I looked under the table, and there she was in the middle of the library legs spread, fingering herself, her juices were literally running off the chair.”

“No!” exclaimed Harry, “While looking at Zabini.”

Ginny nodded, “Honest, tell them Hermes.”

Hermione agreed, “Mmm, I wouldn’t have believed someone would be that stupid in the middle of the busy library,” she shrugged.

“And Zabini didn’t work it out?” Draco sneered.

“Nope,” Ginny laughed.

They suddenly heard the floo activate in Severus’ quarters, and regardless of how her ribs cursed her Hermione launched herself out of her chair, and reefed the door open. She met Severus half way to her, he smiled broadly, but scolded, “Why are you running, love?”

“To get to you,” she replied, as if it were obvious, and giggled happily as he scooped her up to stop her hurting herself further. He was most pleased to see Hermione looking brighter.

She reached up to put her arms around his neck even though it hurt her and kissed him enthusiastically.

“Hermione?” his muffled voiced reverberated from under her mouth, and she giggled. “Have you been drinking?”

“No, they have,” she giggled merrily, “but I thought it best not too, but we’re having a little celebration.”

“Is that so? What for, sweetheart?” Severus had tasted the rum on her breath. He’d be having a word with Draco Malfoy later, this had his mark all over it.

“Because we’re all alive,” she returned wide-eyed and enthusiastically.

Severus shut his eyes tightly. “Oh, my love,” he almost sobbed, and crushed her to his chest holding her tightly. “Now that’s a good reason for a party,” he murmured, but he was deadly serious.

Hermione stroked his hair and cheek. “I didn’t realise until Draco was talking to me earlier what you actually did for me yesterday, what you risked. Thank you, thank you, my dearest man, thank you,” she said, her mouth finding his again to add strength to her words.

“It was really Lotti who saved you, I merely gave her the instructions.” Severus told her, placing her on her feet again once they’d finished their kiss, and cupping her cheeks with his hands. “But know this, my angel; I would have done anything I had to to save you, and if I could not have I would have died with you.”

Hermione groaned and crushed her lips to his again, but when their kiss finished she did not comment of his declaration. It had been said with such passion and to say anything would have cheapened it. “I missed you when I woke and you were gone.”

Severus took a deep breath, pleased she had not replied to his statement, her kisses were telling him all he wanted to know. “Unavoidable I’m afraid, I suppose the boys filled you in,” he managed between kisses.

She nodded before he continued, “Now, as much as I appreciate the welcome and love the attention, my dear,” he said, taking a breath. “Would it be all right if we continued with this tonight?”

Hermione thought back to that morning, he had released her the moment Draco and Harry had knocked, and she realised that he might feel a bit awkward now, with students in the next room, regardless of who they were. “I’m sorry,” she said quietly. “I shouldn’t have been so forward.”

Severus ghosted his knuckles over her cheek, and playfully licked her suddenly tentative lips, before smiling. “It’s not that, you look exhausted again, I want you to get some more sleep, love.” His lips went to her ear and he blew softly, making her giggle once more despite her now sombre expression.

Finally, Severus gave her one more lingering kiss, allowing his hands to wander over her.

Hermione wanted more of that, and sighing appreciatively attempting to wriggle within his grip to get him to repeat the act.

“Oh you want more do you?” he smoothed quietly.

“Yeeess,” she moaned, “I want you to touch me.”

“Don’t worry, love, I’ll touch you,” he breathed.

Hermione sighed, and suddenly it came rushing out, most probably courtesy of her tiredness, plus the alcohol she hadn’t realised she’d had. “Severus I want to feel like everybody else acts. Harry, Ginny and Draco have been touching one another all afternoon,” she gazed at him longingly. “I want you to do that to me.”

He rewarded her honesty with another lingering kiss and a slow caress of her waist and hips. “Ginevra as well?” his eyebrow rose in question.

“She’ll go off with Harry and Draco later, there seems to be something happening between the three of them, and…” Hermione fiddled with the same button on his coat that she always played with when she was nervous. “And that will leave us alone,” she heard whispered in her ear. Hermione looked up to meet his gaze.

“I’m sure under those circumstances we can think of something to keep ourselves occupied, something that will excite you without over taxing your recovery.” Severus ran his thumb over her bottom lip. “Do you think you might like that, my love?”

Hermione regarded him, kissed his thumb, nodded and smiled.

“Now, I’m going to walk you past your traitorous friends who are all getting more than you, and tonight we’ll see what we can do about it remedying that situation.”

“Thank you, thank you,” she enthused, hugging him.

“You’re welcome, angel, in fact you’re very welcome. Now come.” He took her hand and led her back to her sitting room. He could see exactly what she had meant as soon as he walked in. Harry, Draco and Ginny were still on the lounge, and Severus saw Draco’s astute grey eyes watching Ginny’s reactions to his caresses of her, while he explored his other partner’s mouth.

The Potion master cleared his throat, both Gryffindors jumped, but Draco only cocked a lazy eyebrow.

“How many Death Eaters, sir?” a flustered Harry nervously enquired, as he hastily crossed his legs.

“Oh we did well, Mr. Potter,” Severus chuckling, watching his obvious action. “Twenty four silly fools, who chose to follow a mad woman without question.”

“What about the illustrious Aunt Bella?” Draco asked, with an air of casual calm, not of someone who had just been caught delving his tongue into another man’s mouth.

“Your aunt is too slippery to be caught in her own trap. However, she personally managed to bag us ten additional fools, if the talk of the others is anything to go by. She killed them when they refused to say yes to her plan. Perhaps her ardour will be curbed a little when she is unable to walk after the Dark Lord’s punishment.”

“Oh,” said Hermione quietly. Severus squeezed her hand for comfort.

“Bellatrix needs a more permanent solution to her problem, a complete cessation of her reign of terror, it would be good if she didn’t survive the punishment the Dark Lord is certain to inflict on her for her foolishness, but it’s not likely.” He heard Hermione’s little gasp so he changed the subject.

“Now, as much as I hate to say it, I need to meet the Aurors again.” His arms slunk around Hermione, “You’ll have to excuse Hermione, she is going to rest again,” and he kissed the end of her nose as she looked up at him. Severus was happy he could finally show he cared for Hermione amongst her friends. As much as he was an intensely private person, they needed to see that he genuinely cared for her. She clung to him a moment, but then he led her into her bedroom.

As soon as they arrived, Hermione leant up on her tip toes to reach his lips, ignoring the pain in her side, and kissed him passionately.

He didn’t want to let her go, but he had to. He very reluctantly untangled himself and turning her around rubbed his hand firmly over her sweet shapely little arse. “Go to bed before you get up to any more mischief,” he commanded, and gave her backside a light smack then another rub.

She bent over a little and stuck it out for him again, standing with her legs slightly apart, watching him cheekily.

“Do you like that?” his resonant voice inquired with a playful smirk, as he noticed her quiver then smile with mischief.

“Maybe?” and she laughed coquettishly. “I bet you’ve always wanted to,” she replied playfully, pouting and opening her legs a little further, as she stood presenting her bottom for his attentions.

Severus grinned. “Oh yes, there were many times during the last six years when I’ve wanted to put you over my knee and most certainly not in fun. You were so wilful,” he levelled a stern look at her. “Of course now it would definitely only be in fun,” he replied, applying his hand once more and rubbing it before carefully aiming and slapping in between the cheeks this time. This allowed his middle finger to connect with the objet between her legs. He pushed his digit in a little feeling her nether-lips part under the light pressure, and then his finger slide easily as it glided with the silky fabric. His definitely excited member twitched and he had to stifle a groan before he slid the finger with great precision and care the full length of her enticing slit, before very reluctantly lifting his hand away.

Severus smiled when he heard a tiny whimper escape her, and he forced himself not to react further to her tempting. “Now take these, and into bed to rest, or I’ll be late for my meeting.” When she turned to face him, her eyes wide with need, and all he wanted to do was satisfy her. “I’ll see you when I get back,” he said quietly, and gave her a kiss on the forehead as he guided her to her bed. “Until later,” he murmured,

“Take care, Severus,” she purred seductively.

“I will, angel,” he replied taking her offered hand, but wanting nothing more than to bend her over further and lift her dressing gown. Instead he handed her the potions one by one. “Into bed before I give you that last one, you still look very tired.” His eyes took in the pebbled nipples jutting out under the silk of her nightie, and he groaned internally. “I’ll shut the connecting door when you go through,” he said, trying to sound casual, and fighting desperately not to stay and play with her some more.

As she was sitting in bed, she was eye height with his swollen crotch, “Okay,” she replied dreamily, her eyes fixed in place.

Severus let her, he watched her unconsciously wetting her lips, and decided he was really looking forward to getting back tonight.

Chapter Text


Severus sighed as he walked back across his sitting room. He felt like he had a flag pole attempting to escape from his trousers, and he adjusted it as he pondered Hermione. She was so ready for him. He could see in her beautiful eyes that the urgency of her needs was starting to overwhelm her. He sighed once more, when he’d held her just now, the scent of her arousal had filled his senses like expensive perfume, it was such a wonderful fragrance. Damn everything, she needs more rest before she’s actually up to responding to me, no matter what she thinks at the moment.

As he’d wandered back through Hermione’s sitting room he had muttered a good bye to the three on the lounge, and noticed that they were mysteriously on their best behaviour, sitting up straight, and apparently waiting for him to leave. He smirked; he just knew they were going to get up to mischief while he was gone, but he found himself surprisingly turning a blind eye. They were all of age, it was the holidays and they were fighting in a bloody war. Every one of them should take pleasure when they were able to. He knew he hadn’t left Draco and Potter much time to consummate their relationship before they’d arrived back to help move the crates this morning. He arched an eyebrow. Mind you, they didn’t appear to have that air of sexual tension around them anymore when they did arrive, so they must have managed something.

 He’d closed and locked the connecting door between the apartments, and was now heading for his lab. Severus hissed a breath through his teeth as he cupped his very opinionated cock through his trousers, and he wanted nothing more than to go back to Hermione and bury it in her. He ran a finger up and down himself. “So you want attention, do you?” he crooned to it. “Well get over it, I haven’t got time,” he finished irritatedly, summoning a deflating potion and downing it.

~~~***~~~

After Severus left, Hermione ended up just lying there totally frustrated, not able to sleep and on the verge of tears, it was then that a sudden thought entered her mind. She wondered what her friends would be up to in the next room. In fact, she became overwhelmingly curious. Rising, she padded silently to the bedroom door, uttering first a Muffliato, and then a Notice-Me-Not, she opened it enough to peek out.

She was instantly disappointed, as they were in exactly the same position as they had been when she’d left, conversing quietly. Hermione closed the door, cancelled the spells and wandered back to her bed, she really was very tired, but her brain was working overtime.

Laying back down and turning on her side to cuddle up with a pillow, her thoughts turned for probably the millionth time to trying to picture her lovely wizard naked. She so wanted to see him, especially the one part of him she had so recently been staring at. She tightened her grip on the pillow for comfort she curled into a little ball. She did not want to be alone, or this unsettled, she wanted Severus back to hold. She wanted him to explore her like she’d dreamed and fantasised about, and she sighed in frustration.

~~~***~~~

Had Hermione cared to cast an amplification charm while looking out her bedroom door, she would have realised that the conversation happening between her friends while she was peeking out the door was anything but innocent.

“Have you indeed?” Draco’s eyebrow sailed up. “That’s cheeky of you, Harry. Were you planning to tell me you were fucking this luscious witch as well?”

“Of course, it’s just that we got a bit… err busy when we were together before.”

“Busy?” Draco chuckled, and leaned across Ginny. “I fucked your brains out, lover.”

“Yes you did,” Harry responded, “and it was bloody amazing.”

Ginny groaned, now no one was watching she ran her hands over Draco’s chest while he kissed Harry, and then she drew both men’s attention as she moaned and her hand slid under the waistband of her tights. “I’m so hot for you guys right now,” she stated, her fingers working little circles over her sex.

Both wizards grinned.

“Care to show us,” Draco smoothed,

Ginny grinned and whipping her hand out of her tights she quickly shed her jumper. Standing she pushed off her tight and knickers and then as she sat herself back down between them she pulled her top up before pushing her bra cups down. “You want the whole picture,” she told them. “There, now we can play. You guys can suck my tits while you finger my pussy,” and she swung a leg over each of their thighs. “Off you go,” she demanded.

Harry glanced at Draco as saw him looking like a child in a lolly shop as his eyes avidly took in Ginny delights. Harry quickly lowered his head to the breast closest to him and drew the nipple into his mouth as his fingers sank into her slippery auburn trimmed sex. As he did so he recalled his short, but incredibly passionate encounter with Draco that morning after his meeting with McGonagall.

He had arrived at the History of Magic rooms just as Professor Malfoy was heading for his office. “By all means, Harry, Draco would love to see you,” Lucius had said, on his way out.

Harry had knocked on the bedroom door. “Draco?”

The door had opened and Harry almost come in his pants. There was Draco stretched out on his bed, naked his hand around his tool, pumping furiously. Their eyes met and his strained voice had almost pleaded, “Please tell me you’ve done this before, because right now all I can think of is burying myself inside you.”

“Never with a wizard, but plenty of times,” Harry had mumbled, more interested in launching himself at the bed, so his mouth could worship Draco’s cock, while he struggled to get his clothes off, seeming to forget he could use magic.

Without another word, they had worked quickly. The blond wizard rolled Harry onto his back claiming his mouth, as his fingers started to tease Harry’s puckered entrance. Harry had been in heaven, urging him on. He knew that Draco had summoned all his control not to just plunge into him when he’d had him ready, but last, they’d both groaned in ecstasy when he’d finally been buried to the hilt. Neither of them lasted long after that, and it was a good job to, or the elf that arrived would have caught them in the middle.

Back to the present, and Harry saw Draco with his eyes watching Ginny’s reactions as he pleasured her, and Harry could see she was close so he slid onto the floor and replaced his finger with his mouth on her clit as Draco’s fingers pistoned in and out of her.

They worked seamlessly. Harry didn’t realise that as he’d changed position, Draco’s other hand had taken over pinching and squeezing the breast Harry had left. Harry’s hands moved to undo Draco’s jeans and pull him from his pants. He performed the same deed on himself and then occupied himself on Draco and himself as he sucked on Ginny.

The noises Ginny was making were beautiful and she screamed as she keened and then came. Ginny moaned and smiled as Harry started licking her, lapping up her juices, she loved the feeling of his tongue sliding in and out of her. He did it better than anyone she knew. She caught Draco’s eye, and saw his pale eyebrow rise as he watched the show. Still panting and sighing at Harry’s ministrations, Ginny beckoned Draco over for a kiss.

“I’ve never been with a girl before, they’ve never interested me,” he admitted as he leaned forward trying to keep Harry stroking him while he closed the distance between him and Ginny. “But you, Red,” his eyes took her in. “I could definitely do you, you’re beautiful.”

Then Harry looked up with a saucy grin. “Then you fuck her, lover. I’ll watch.” Their eyes were locked in a heated stare.

Starting to feel left out, Ginny moaned, “Ohhh… please, one of you, I need one of you in me, right now,” her tone was demanding and urgent.

Draco grinned and standing, took his jeans off. “Lay down, Red,” he said, and he climbed on the lounge.

Ginny hooked one leg over the back and put the other foot on the floor and lay there giving him an impish grin and pinching her own nipples while she waited.

Draco wasted no time, he didn’t need a tutorial and he slammed home in one movement.

Ginny howled at the sensation. “Bloody amazing, you’re both fuckin amazing,” she was babbling and yelling.

Harry moved to her head knowing what she liked. He was not disappointed as she allowed him to push into her mouth, and she sucked his shaft while he watched Draco thrusting in and out of her. Then he saw Ginny’s fluttering eyelashes and her guttural moan and he knew she was close. Seconds later she yelled her pleasure around her mouthful of Harry, and they all came within seconds of one another after that.

They ended up in a tangle of arms and legs as they all collapsed, laughing for all they were worth. Finally Draco managed, “Thank Merlin for Silencing Charms,” and they laughed louder.

~~~***~~~

Oblivious that her friends had just consummated their relationship on her sitting lounge, Hermione had finally managed a restless and broken sleep. It was close to teatime when she woke, but as soon as her mind started to focus, images from her dream about every one having sex and her just sitting there, started to fill her mind. Hermione huffed irritatedly, and got out of bed. She decided to get dressed this time after a relaxing bath.

Finally dressed and fresher, Hermione’s hand was on the bedroom door. What if they did something after I looked? Taking the same precautions she opened the door a crack. Ginny, Draco and Harry were sitting where they had been when she’d peeked last time. Hermione breathed a sigh of relief and cancelled the spells.

Opening the door again, Hermione said, “Anyone for tea?”

~~~***~~~

When Severus returned at nine forty five, he looked tired and extremely stressed. He thanked Draco, Ginny and Harry for staying, and watched them saying their goodbyes to Hermione.

Hermione rose with them and hugged everyone good night, and once they were gone, she snaked her arms around Severus’ waist and snuggled into him. “I’ve missed you this afternoon.”

He pulled back and looked at her and then stroked her cheek. “Mmm, how are you feeling?” He gently guided her back towards the chair she’d recently vacated, sitting down and encouraged her onto his lap.

“I’m actually feeling much better, although I didn’t sleep very well,” she stated, trying to sound convincing. “My brain was running too fast.”

“It’s been a long twenty four hours, but as long as you’re all right.” He kissed her forehead, before he claimed her mouth and allowed himself to show her exactly how much he wanted her. After some moments spent in heated snogging, he encouraging her to straddle his lap, and his knowing hands started caressing up and down her body. Starting at the flair of her hips, he moved languidly up around her shapely waist, over her breasts and around to rest on her shoulders. “That doesn’t hurt you, does it?” he asked, as his hands moved.

Sighing, Hermione leant back against the feel of his hands on her shoulders. “No,” she murmured, “it’s not hurting me, love.” She managed to hold herself steady, and her ribs only complained a little.

Leaving one hand between her shoulder blades for support, Severus started to slip the other back down her spine as his eyes devoured her.

Hermione allowed her head to fall back and her arms to rise, giving him more area to use his fingers to stroke her.

Severus found that this allowed him to bring his fingers down her back and around one hip again. He dipped his hand momentarily between her already parted thighs and watched with great pleasure as she groaned urging him to stay. He smoothed his hands back up to cup her breasts, his thumbs caressing circles around her nipples.

Hermione actually surprised herself with the guttural groan that left her lips as his hand moved away and travelled back up to her breasts.

This time when it went to join its mate on her back he chuckled and pulled her toward him, his mouth seeking her gracefully arched throat once more. While he kissed her, he asked, “Did your three miscreant friends get up to anything this afternoon?”

“Why, were you expecting them too?” she stuttered, sitting bolt upright.

Chuckling, Severus resumed his attentions to her neck. “I could see what they were thinking before I left this afternoon. Draco did an excellent job of stirring both of them up; he is just as mischievous as his father.” He kissed her head again. “So did they?”

She stroked the front of his robes nervously for a while before speaking. “Well, I did sneak a peek at them.”

“Mmm,” he picked up her hand off that same button she always played with when she was nervous and occupied himself with drawing little circles on her palm with his long finger to distract her. “Did you see anything?”

She looked up at his knowledgeable face and shook her head.

Raising her palm to his mouth he replaced his finger with his tongue.

She was watching his tongue and shivered at the ticklish sensations that accompanied the action, as she felt a gush of moisture to her knickers.

Severus could still smell her musky arousal and feel her now rhythmic squirming movements; it was almost making him drunk. “Hermione?” he asked softly, in his liquid silk baritone, his eyes concentrating on the patterns he was weaving with his dextrous tongue. “Were you disappointed that they weren’t naked and writhing against each other?”

Her eyes were so wide watching his tongue, she was mesmerized. “I… I, err...” she gulped, as his tongue then started up her wrist. Shivering again she giggled, and saw him smile as he did it again. “That tickles,” she laughed.

“Indeed,” he chuckled, and left for her neck. “Well?” he murmured, and felt her stiffen. “Admitting you like watching isn’t bad, sweetheart,” and he went back to nibbing her neck.

“It isn’t?” she sighed, and lifted her chin so he could reach further, but he changed direction and suddenly started going down to her collar bone. “No, under the right circumstances it can be very enjoyable.”

“I’ve often wanted to watch things,” she admitted quietly, after some time. “And of course I have, remember, I told you about those times in the library.”

“Indeed,” he chuckled against her breast bone, his hand caressing her breast gently. Hermione suddenly had the urge to tell him everything, but didn’t actually know where to start. “Severus I have so many fantasies” she gushed. “But they make me feel guilty...”

“Why?” he inquired.

“I don’t really know, it’s just...” she looked at him lost, “it’s just...”

He lifted his eyebrow. “May I take a guess?” He rearranged her so she was sitting back across his lap and he pulled her close. “I’ll bet the only outlet you’ve ever allowed yourself was pleasuring by your own hand.”

Severus saw her still completely at his suggestion, and he held her tighter as she spluttered.

“Oh!” she finally managed.

“Hermione, you have never connected with any of your so-called peers in that way, so it’s only natural that you would do that.” He kissed her around to her ear and whispered, “And I’ll wager that you are exceptional at it, like you are at everything.” He chuckled, and kissed the top of her head, leaving her to think further about what he’d told her.

They sat quietly for some time then Hermione broke the silence. “I thought I was very liberally minded, and it’s not the fact that I’m continually watching other people pairing up and sneaking off together. That doesn’t bother me, in fact it sounds like fun,” she admitted, trying to get the words to come out of her mouth without letting herself become flustered, but still turning a burning shade of red, despite herself.

Severus snickered deeply. “It is, and I think you are open-minded,” he muttered against her neck, starting to kiss her again. Severus suddenly realised with great satisfaction that this situation finally felt quite perfect, and he cuddled her into his chest again, but noticed her starting to yawn once more.

Hermione sat cuddled into him for some time, she took a few deep stuttering breaths starting to feel much more relaxed about matters, then in the blink of an eye everything had left her head but one thought. I want to sit like this forever. Determined to fight her growing fatigue, Hermione sighed and ran her hands up his front, tangling them through his hair. Hesitantly at first, then with more assurance she gave him timid little kisses on the mouth, before she took his bottom lip between hers and sucked on it. It was then she heard a soft groan and she did it again.

Then she spent a little time exploring his responses to her, adding to the sensations with little licks as she kissed. These actions gained her more groans of enjoyment and she was almost over come with pleasure just from hearing the sounds he was making in appreciation of her attentions.

Finally, Severus took control back and sought her mouth. This time he let himself kiss her fiercely, their tongues battling wildly, complete with noisy slurping sounds, but he became aware that Hermione was wearing out. He tamed his kiss, guiding her to settle into a more placid rhythm, allowing his attentions to become softer and gentler. He swapped his focus to her neck and tried to make her relax as he leisurely pleasured her in return with kisses and licks.

Moving up to her mouth again Severus started guiding their kiss down to little touches all over her face as despite her best efforts not to, Hermione started to become lethargic. Finally, he stopped completely and nestled her head back onto his shoulder. “You’re starting to wear out, my darling, but considering the state of you this morning you have lasted incredibly well with only two additional sleeps throughout the day.” He stroked her hair until he heard her yawning again. “You should go to bed.”

She shook her head. “No, I want to stay with you,” she said, a little panicked. “I’ll be fine, I’m not that tired.”

Severus realised she was frightened, but didn’t want to say. So he continued to stroke her hair and it wasn’t long and she was very drowsy. “Come, you need sleep,” he insisted.

“No,” she stated, trying to force her eyes to stay open.

“I’ll make you some tea, you go get changed and into bed, I’ll bring it in.”

Her frightened eyes surveyed him, but she couldn’t hold in the next yawn and she sighed and reluctantly rose. “Very well,” she said sleepily, and wandered towards her bedroom.    

~~~***~~~

It didn’t take Severus long to make the tea, and he came in with two mugs and a phial of potion. Hermione was sitting in bed with her arms wrapped tightly around her knees. “Sit with me,” she pleaded, gazing up at him with wide eyes. Severus had been afraid that would be her next request. “I’ve brought you some sleeping potion if you wish.”

“I don’t think I’ll have a problem getting to sleep, I just don’t want to be alone,” she sighed. “Please, couldn’t you just stay in here with me?”

Handing her a mug, Severus sighed. “Hermione the floos and entrances are locked and warded. No one can get in.” He looked at Crookshanks surveying him with a dubious expression. “Look even your ginger monster is on full alert.”

“I know it’s irrational, but I just don’t want to be alone,” she sighed.

His face remained calm, although he huffed. “Hermione, it’s not irrational, I’ll stay with you until you’re asleep, and then we’ll see.” Looking at her, he reasoned that that wouldn’t be long. He desperately wanted to stay, he was only human, but he also wondered if she was ready for the next step.

Knowing that was the best she was going to get Hermione settled a little. She drank her tea with the appropriate appreciation, while Severus encouraged the chair from near the mirror over with his wand and sat on it on the other side of her bed. Resting his socked feet, crossed at the ankles across the end of her bed, and he patiently waited for her to doze off.

Hermione finished her tea and cuddled down under her quilt, grabbing one of her many pillows to cuddle.

Watching her pretty brown eyes getting heavier and heavier, Severus yearned with every fibre of his being to be that pillow. He sighed, and saw her eyelids flickered.

“Good night, sweet man,” she muttered. “Thank you for watching over me,” and her eyes finally closed and allowed sleep to take her.

“Good night, my sweet angel. I will always watch over you and protect you from the dark,” he murmured lovingly. He hadn’t thought she would hear, until he saw her lip curl up a fraction.

Then almost inaudibly, she breathed, “I know you will, my love.”

Sitting, relaxed, watching his beautiful lioness sleep, Severus felt a smile creep over his lips, they had explored a lot of new ground tonight. She just needed more confidence in herself, and to give herself more time to adjust to this new world of sexuality she was discovering.

Severus suspected that she needed something special to make her feel as exceptional and sexy as he knew she was, and he resolved to ponder that and work something out. Raising his eyebrow, he chuckled, and most definitely before their first public outing, once this was over.

When he presented her, he wanted her to be self-assured and have a cool confidence. His mind flitted back to Lucius’ extraordinary bequest that morning. Perfect, he thought. In fact Lucius can assist, his knowledge will help her no end.

Sighing he transfigured the chair into a seamless extension of her bed, then his shirt and trousers into the black silk pyjamas he wore on occasion, and his robe into a dressing gown. He grabbed the extra quilt off the end of Hermione’s bed along with some summoned pillows from his, he settled in. He really didn’t want to leave, and Severus cuddled down and watched her sleeping form.

~~~***~~~

In her dream Hermione suddenly heard a high-pitched wailing scream, and abruptly scuffling and bumping, the earth under her seemed to bounce, then there was a light. She couldn’t get up; there was a heavy weight on her chest. “I’m trapped, I can’t get up,” she howled, then she heard a voice, oh it was Severus. Hermione was holding out her arms and calling, “Severus!” What’s he saying? “Bloody cat! Get off her,” she heard him scold, and the weight was gone. “Wake up! Hermione... wake up!” But still caught in her dream in the dark, the light seemed a long way off. She heard herself say. “No,” then another scream escaped her.

“Hermione sweetheart, wake up, you’re having a nightmare.” Severus didn’t want to touch her in case it frightened her more.

Then he heard her cry. “No, they’re going to hurt me, Severus please get him off me, don’t let him… Arrrrrrhhh…  no, no… NO!”

Thinking fast he said, “Hermione, it’s all right he’s gone, I’ve got you sweetheart, open your eyes.”

“Huh,” she muttered dazedly. Then her eyes shot open rapidly, and inhaling she sprang bolt upright, her eyes still terrified and unfocused. She heard Severus say, “It’s all right, you’re perfectly safe, Hermione look at me.” She slowly turned her head. He was kneeling on the bed and took her face in his hands.

“You’re perfectly safe. I’m here nothing can hurt you, it was a nightmare.”

She nodded hazily at him, there were tears cascading down her cheeks and she started to shiver.

Plucking his wand out of his robe pocket, he used a cleansing spell to rid her of her sweat, and then grabbing her dressing gown he threw it round her shoulders. “Shhh, my love, breathe.”

Hermione nodded vaguely as he placed gentle kisses on her brow. Still shivering and obviously concentrating hard on breathing through her mouth, all she could hear was her heart pounding in her ears and Severus soothing her.

Severus summoned Calming Brew from his store in the lab and in a moment he had the cap off. “Here drink this,” he encouraged, finally stowing his wand in the pocket of his robe again.

Hermione took the phial in a shaking hand and drank. It was like the ultimate calming breath, as the liquid entered her system. Instantly she focused on him. “I’m so sorry, I woke you, I didn’t mean to.”

“Don’t worry about waking me, are you settled again?” he asked emphatically, as he sat down next to her and pulled her further into his arms, she let herself fall against his chest and he enclosed her in his arms happily. “I really hate dreams sometimes,” she murmured shakily, with the odd shiver still running through her.

Severus was fairly certain he knew the content of the dream. Well at least he could comfort her tonight; he had felt so helpless last night. “What do you wish me to do for you?”

She shrugged against him, “Just hold me, I want to feel your arms around me.”

So Severus sat there with her, stroking her hair and occasionally kissing her head and face. Finally, he realised he was holding a sleeping Hermione. He looked down at her resting against him, and wondered why this exquisite creature had been put through so much torment, but now he had her in his arms, he was not about to relinquish her.

He sent her robe back to the end of her bed and divested himself of his own. Then encouraging the sleeping woman to snuggle back down, he climbed in with her to hold her while she slept, quietly kissing her head and stroking her hair. She murmured something unintelligible, and nuzzled into his chest. “I’m here, my love, I’ll not leave you again,” he whispered against her forehead, as he kissed it.

“Mmm,” she mumbled, and cuddled closer in her sleep.

 

Chapter Text


The next morning Hermione woke wondering what had happened to her. She remembered the awful dream but something else as well, had she dreamed it or had it happened, because she was currently alone.

She dressed and prepared to go into Severus’ sitting room unsure of what she would find. Peeking through her door she saw him standing at his French doors coffee mug gripped tightly in his hand, he glanced at her as she peered round her door. “I brewed a weaker one for you,” he said, breathing out and indicating the desk with his free hand. “I thought you might need something stronger than tea this morning.”

Hermione then knew she hadn’t dreamed her midnight comforter. She quietly walked to the desk. “Thank you,” she paused, her lip going between her teeth. “W-why did you leave before I woke?” she asked warily, picking up the mug with both hands, its hard porcelain warmth somehow centring her thoughts.

“I thought it best,” Severus returned quietly, as Hermione took in the robust almost seductive aroma of the brew. Taking a tentative sip she discovered it was beautifully sweet, which in turn made her wonder if it was just normal coffee or his special blend with who knows what added, like the delicious tea. Looking at Severus, she sighed. His posture was erect as he stood clutching his mug tightly in both hands, unsure and obviously feeling uncomfortable now about climbing into bed with her without her given permission.

Hermione walked over and stood with him, looking out at the frigid garden and she slowly inclined her head on his arm as close to his shoulder as she could reach, as she said, “Thank you for protecting me from my night time terrors, my darling,” and she felt him relax a little.

Shifting his coffee to one hand, he put his arm around her drawing her closer. “I said I would,” and his lips kissed the top of her head. They stood there for a short while, slowly letting the coffee work its magic, and watching the snow swirl in helpless currents as it was tossed on the stiff, intermittent winter wind.

Eventually, Hermione commented, “You know, I could become accustom to this,” she said, holding up the cup.

He offered her a sidelong glance, before sending his cup to his desk and sighing, he turned her, gathering her close.

After a moment of enjoying being in his arms again, Hermione said, “You know, you’ve set a precedent now, what are you going to do about it?”

“What do you want me to do about it?” he inquired silkily, even though Hermione was certain she heard a quiver of uncertainness in his voice.

When Hermione gazed up at him, he had his eyebrow aloft and a hopeful smile desperate to curl his lips. “I want you to keep doing it.”

“Indeed,” his sigh seemed incredibly relieved.

“Then it’s settled?”

He kissed her forehead. “I believe it is.”

She sent her coffee to join his and flung her arms around his waist. “So, what are we doing today?” she asked, snuggling into his chest. Her body was humming, and she really hoped he would say that they were instantly going back to bed.

Hermione couldn’t hide her disappointment when he said, “Well, among other things, we need to finish testing our potion if you’re feeling up to it.”

She instantly stiffened in his arms. “Yes, that’s important,” she conceded, but bit her lip, and sighed. Hadn’t she almost just pleaded with him to take her last night, and still he’d sent her to bed alone, but now when she thought they had it settled, still he was denying her.

The Potions master knew why she was suddenly disappointed, but he had an agenda of his own. He graced her with a scandalized look, ignoring her look of disappointment. “Now, I believe you have been seriously remiss this morning, my dear, and I must insist on the immediate restitution.”

As he predicted, her anger forgotten, Hermione gulped. “Why, what have I done?”

Having no trouble keeping a straight face, he continued, “It’s something you haven’t done, my lioness.”

She missed his sly grin. “What?” she demanded, suddenly panicking.

“Gryffindors,” he breathed, dipping his head down towards her lips, “you’re so easy to wind up,” and he claimed them, kissing her heartily. After a time of happy oblivion, his mouth moved to her ear and he snickered. “Now that’s more like it.” His hands were caressing her body and she couldn’t help it as a moan escaped her.

Severus pulled back far enough to take in her expression. “Are you feeling well this morning?”

Hermione thought for a moment, and wiggled her body within his hands. “Yes, everything appears to be mostly pain free.”

He still kept a straight face. “How about your stamina, has it returned?”

Smiling, Hermione allowed her hands to wander over his chest before, crooning seductively. “Oh yes, I believe I feel obscenely healthy.”

Finally he allowed emotion to appear on his face, and his countenance suddenly wore a most mischievous expression. “Excellent,” he stated teasingly, “then I can put you to some heavy lifting.”

Hermione was partially distracted by the delicious circles his thumb was tracing around and around her left hip, but soon gasped, “W-what?”

To which he chuckled joyously. “Gryffindors.”

Knowing he’d played her again, she graced him with her best scowl, and his chuckle turned to a laugh. She stepped away, turning to face him and folding her arms as she pouted in temper. This of course made him laugh louder. Severus took a step forwards and she correspondingly took another one back, still glaring at him, and as he predicted she found herself up against the cold glass of the door.

His eyebrow suddenly ascended, and his mouth twitched when he heard her gasped intake of air on connecting with the freezing pane. “Tsk, tsk,” he teased, “a cornered lioness with nowhere to go,” and he took the final step. “Now, what to do with her,” he pondered, tapping a finger on his lip, his eyes scanning her from head to toe as his arms rose and his hands arrived either side of her, against the glass, caging her.

She stiffened, attempting to resist him in her mock indignation, but he closed the final step, and as soon as his rich dark baritone murmured in her ear. “Do you really believe I would make you work like a trogon, when I can make you sing like an angel instead, my beautiful girl?” His hands slithered down her sides to caress her waist, before moving up to her breasts, and his mouth was on her neck.

Hermione instantly melted. Being plastered to the pane of glass was delicious, the juxtaposition of the cold hardness against her back and the hot sensual warmth drifting between them in front was lovely, and she sighed softly, feeling herself turning into a righteous puddle of unfulfilled Gryffindor desire.

Now his witch was finally not a student and she’d recovered from her recent trauma. Bugger breakfast, he was finally going to make her his before anything else intervened. It had really upset him last night, when she’d whispered how much she’d wanted him, and he’d felt obliged to only kiss her. Now however, all bets were off. Severus was kissing and licking her neck while his hands tenderly fondled her breasts.

Hermione’s hands were suddenly useless as all the new sensations overwhelmed her. She couldn’t and didn’t want to do a thing with them.

Drawing back to take in her expression, Severus smiled knowingly. His mouth went back to her neck and his hands started on the buttons between him and her skin and he soon reached the white lace of her bra. Pushing her jacket and blouse off her shoulders, he watched them slide down her arms before his fathomless black eyes drank her in.

Hearing the tiny mewling sounds of desire escaping her parted lips from his attentions, he went back to her neck. His questing tongue was soon exploring her collar bone, kissing and licking onto her shoulder, where his teeth carefully nibbled, grabbing the flimsy strap of her bra he pushed it off her shoulder. Again his eyes watched it slide down her arm, and he smiled before kissing and licking his way to the other side and performing the same task there.

Hermione started to catch on and smiling in return, effortlessly slid her arms out of the straps as her eyes came back to his.

Severus’ mouth curled upward, seeing her need to be touched written all over her, and still allowing her to occupy herself with his mouth, he gathered both her hands in one of his and firmly pinned them just above her head. She gasped in shock, but he reassure her. “Trust me,” he crooned in her ear, “I would never hurt you.”

All he received in response to his hot breath, was a moan as she attempted to rub her almost bare breasts against him.

“Patience, angel,” his delicious voice encouraged. She had also parted her legs, and her eyes were now pools of wanton need, alight with a fire that made his blood boil. However, if there was one thing Severus Snape was good at, it was controlling himself, and he continued on his journey of discovery with the same controlled pace that he had intended to. Slowly he started raising her arms above her head as he continued to kiss and lick her neck and shoulders.

Hermione’s chest heaved and the young woman groaned, feeling her breasts sliding up the silky material with Severus now hungrily watching their process. She saw the intense concentration on his face as her nipples slowly emerged, and his eyes flared when they finally popped free as her arms were almost fully extended.

“Beautiful,” his deep voice rumbled. “You are so lovely,” and his head slowly descended to her again, but lower this time.

Hermione gazed, transfixed, as his tongue extended and its very tip flicked back and forth over the sensitive nipple of one breast. She yelped and jumped when the contact became more intense. “Oh my… wow,” she squeaked. She saw Severus grin, and taking a deep breath through his mouth, he slowly blew across the wet morsel. “Oooohhhh,” she trembled, groaning. This made him chuckle and repeat the process with its mate, garnering the same result. 

The only thing holding Hermione up at that moment was his grip on her hands above her head, and not wanting to hurt her, he gave her more support by pushing his leg in between hers to help her stay upright.

Grateful, Hermione instantly collapsed on it and moaned again as duel pleasure hit her. Landing astride Severus’ leg in her current state felt wonderful and this coupled with him finally drawing the ripe hard flesh of her nipple into his mouth and rolling his tongue around it, made Hermione’s brain shutdown. She was unable to help herself from grinding wantonly onto his leg.

On his way to the other side Severus kissed up to her ear. “Your tits are obscenely delicious, my darling,” she heard his hot breath announce. She moaned loudly, and ground down harder trying to get more contact, her voice useless except for inarticulate sounds of delight.

He chuckled as his mouth went back to his task, and she soon felt his hand undoing the catches on her skirt and then sliding inside as his tongue slid his mouth back up to her ear. “Sit still my passionate little beauty,” his voice breathed, as she rambled nonsense noisily, utterly desperate for the first time in her life. Feeling his hand slip over the top of her knickers, she instantly stilled, literally panting and straining in anticipation.

This time it was he who groaned. “Oohh feels so good, you’re sooo wet, I’ll make you come,” his voice told her.

Her groans became deeper and more urgent as his fingers on her desperate clit, coaxed her to her climax, but it was his beautiful dirty voice in her ear that finally sent her over the edge. “Does my little angel like my fingers in her hot, wet pussy?”

Hermione grit her teeth against it but she still heard a deep guttural howl, as she shuddered into sated bliss listening to his obscene sweet nothings.

It was music to his ears and Severus smiled wickedly, knowing he had just wiped away several years of her experience with her own hand, as he knew she would never have managed an orgasm that tore through her as this one had.

“That’s a girl, my beautiful love, you sang for me,” Severus’ voice smoothed in her ear, while she continued to shudder and tremble.

The dark wizard gathered her into his arms while he licked his fingers clean of her nectar, and his husky voice continued its litany of sexy comments. “Oohhh and you taste magnificent, so sweet, just like honey.”

This kept her pulsing and fluttering even longer, panting and moaning her satisfaction to him, unable to do more than lean against him for support. Finally, he whispered, “You are the most exquisite creature, Hermione Granger.” Then without warning she found herself being carried, bridal style. “Come, I think we would both be more comfortable horizontal, and he held her against him while he walked into her bedroom.

Placing her on the bed, Severus removed her skirt completely, his eyes drinking her in lying there in just lace knickers, stocking and suspenders. She looked exquisite on the bed, still completely boneless from pleasure, writhing slowly and sensuously like a cat, sighing her satisfaction to him, while her liquid eyes examined his bulging crotch.

Hermione saw him about to take off his shirt, and she acted. “No, I want to do that,” and she knelt up on the bed and guided him down to where he’d placed her. Giggling charmingly, she positioned herself in between his legs, her backside sitting between her parted legs. This brought back recollections of the night in front of the floo when he’d been in Bulgaria, and what he had thought then, and he sighed happily. That seemed like such a long time ago.

Hermione had him exactly where she wanted him, but with no real knowledge of what to do with him. Her desire doped brain was of little use, but determination was a useful Gryffindor trait, and taking a deep breath she released the first of his shirt buttons. It went better than she had anticipated, and soon she had all his buttons undone and was happily running her hands under his shirt onto his bare skin while he sat back smirking happily at her.

However, all too soon, Severus became aware that Hermione’s fingers were mapping the network of scars that littered his torso, and he tensed ever so slightly.

It was only minimal but she felt it and leaning forward she whispered in his ear. “Don’t, my darling. These are your stripes of honour, I cry for each one, but I love you more because you have them.”

Severus pulled back a little when he felt something wet hit his chest, and found that Hermione had silent tears snaking their way down her cheeks. He took her face in his hands and kissed them away. Finally, murmuring against her forehead, “I knew you would know and understand.”

Hermione gave him a fierce expression and pushing the material of his shirt out of the way, she took her mouth and tongue to each of them, her eyes taking in every defined muscle and contour, while her tongue traced each scar. When she’d finished she pulled back, but left her hands still exploring his chest, and she looked at him. He had a true man's chest, firm and well-muscled with just a sprinkling of raven hair. The coarse hair came to a fine line as it travelled down his stomach and then disappeared into his trousers, and Hermione saw him watching her hands stroking his stomach and inching closer and closer to his belt buckle as she bit her lip.

Severus could see her hands trembling, and he knew her bravery had forsaken her. She was going to need more encouragement to relax and enjoy this next step of discovery, so he provided it. Raising his wand, guitar music (1) started playing; it was woody, mellow and almost ethereal. A fire sprang into the grate in her room, and his velvet voice caressed her ear as he guided her back to the bed beside him. “Don’t be shy my love, lay back down, relax.”

Hermione found herself forgetting everything again as his lovely voice tickled her ear and he started guiding her down to the bed.

“Close your eyes and just feel.”

Severus exhaled slowly watching her lying there, her eyes obediently shut, and he saw a smile flitting around her lips and he conjured a feather.

Hermione felt something exquisite and soft, lightly brushing her body, it just felt so good. She squirmed and shivered under its touch shocked by the violence of the feelings surging through her, and she whimpered. “What is that, it feels fantastic,” she murmured.

“Have a look,” his voice smoothed.

Hermione opened her eyes to see him sitting beside her, drinking in her partially lace-clad form, and lightly draping a black ostrich feather over her naked skin.

Severus brushed the feather over Hermione’s perfect breasts once more, watching her shiver at its touch. Her already puckered, dusky nipples standing like cherries on ice cream sundaes as she lay languorously on the bed beside him. “Hermione, my love, you’re so beautiful” he groaned, and banished the feather as his head descended to her lips, and then further to capture one craving peak in his mouth. He heard her explode with sensation as his lips closed around it, and then she was writhing once more under his gifted tongue.

“Ohhh,” she exclaimed, arching and pushing herself further into his mouth. Her chest heaving and her legs parting instinctively. “Ooohhhh.” Her breath was coming in pants as his tongue slid down off one peak and trailed across to the other, and his fingers replaced his mouth on the first.

Severus felt her hands leave his chest and grab his shoulders, as she squirmed and arched into his mouth, and her nimble fingers were soon skimming towards his stomach again, searching. He chuckled around his mouthful of breast, and murmured, “Ah, I see your courage is returning.”

“I want to touch you, give you pleasure too,” she blurted, but she hesitated, her hand now hovering over his crotch. Severus looked up, hearing her uncertainty. Her eyes moved to meet his. “Will you show me what to do?”

Smiling, he sat up straighter and took her hand. Kissing it, he guided it to his trousers. “Rub, like this, love,” he purred, watching her shiver as he showed her.

Buoyed by his encouragement, her fingers were soon releasing him from his pants, and Severus was happy to give himself over to her explorations. Hermione came back up to her kneeling position, and initially only observed, however soon she touched as well.

The look on her face was beautiful; it was a cross between reverence and hunger. “I’ve wanted to see you like this, for such a long time,” she admitted. Then without warning her lips were on his cock, kissing and licking. She moaned when she heard Severus’ breath hitch in pleasure at her ministrations. “You taste wonderful,” and she shimmied closer and balanced herself with her hands on his hips and she started licking in earnest.

It wasn’t long before all he could manage were guttural cries of joy as he teetered on the brink of exploding into her waiting mouth. His head was tossed back in ecstasy as he growled, “Oh sweet Circes, I’m going to…. oh fuck.” Severus had never experienced such an intense orgasm from this act before, and he was certain he blacked out momentarily. As he recovered, a growling pant left his lips and he had her pinned to the bed in an instant, devouring her mouth. “I am going to worship your body, and then make you mine,” he affirmed to her, and kissed her once more, his hands already caressing her body, eager to discover, her one last hidden secret.

This declaration made her quiver and she urged him on. “Ooohhh yes, touch… Severus now, please,” her broken plea was beautiful.

He bathed her breasts once more with attention, and his tongue slithered down her stomach. Before when he’d touched her, he’d felt his fingers glide through hair, and now he finally wanted to see her. Undoing the clasp on her suspender, he patiently removed it and her stockings, then slipping his fingers into the elastic of her last piece of clothing, he peeled them off her wet and heated core.

Once the last scrap of lace was gone, Hermione smiled naughtily and opened her legs to him with no hesitation, inviting his eyes to see her.

Sweet Merlin, he thought, as his tongue snaked out to lick her beautiful rosy flesh. She tastes so sweet. He slipped his tongue into her lapping her honey as quickly as it could, and listening to her cries of encouragement.

The feel of his tongue made her writhe and squeal on the bed in delight, gripping the sheets tightly. Hermione had never imagined that there would be sweet torture like this, as she panted and pushed herself further into his wonderful mouth.

He then swept up and sucked her clit causing her to cry out his name louder. As he sucked and licked her he slowly slid a finger inside her, and after a moment another, trying to stretching her as much as he could.

He knew he was well endowed and she was so small and delicate, and that this was where the worst of the restraint came; knew he would have to go slowly with her. The tip of his finger brushed her barrier and he pulled his finger back just a little and curling it into a crook he started rubbing her internal pleasure zone. His efforts made her still and tense, before screaming in delight, as she flew apart for him.

Feeling her inner muscles clenching around his fingers he removed them and replaced them with his tongue. He wanted all of her sweet nectar, and his tongue lapped as much as it could. When he’d had his fill, he crawled back up to her, kissing her hungrily.

The taste of herself on his lips almost sent her over the edge again, but then he was abruptly gone. She opened her eyes and heard him whisper a summoning spell and a jar of ointment slapped into his hand.

Severus chuckled when he heard her groan of frustration, but when he reached down with one hand again he had found her already wet again for him and he couldn’t wait any longer. “A little preparation is worth the irritation, because it will make it painless for you,” he told her.

Despite her frustration at him stopping, Hermione found herself interested in what he was doing. The white cream in the jar sparkled, and was surprisingly warm to the touch when she couldn’t help but reach out and press her finger to it. “What is it?”

He chuckled. “It has a very biblical name, but its intent is to take away the pain associated with losing one’s virginity. It’s called Balm of Fallen Grace, and if made and applied by a lover true, it will eliminate the pain associated with first penetration. I made this this morning in the hope that we would be doing this.” Severus had taken a healthy dollop onto his index finger and was inserting said finger into Hermione.

Hermione gave him a loving look at his thoughtfulness but then she laughed. “Oh, it tingles,” and she was soon groaning again as he spread it liberally. Then she stilled, thinking again about the care he was taking of her. She’d overheard some horror stories from girls about what happened their first time. Leaning forward, she took his face in her hands and kissed him. “I love you,” she whispered against his lips.

After some moments, where he fought to keep his emotions in check, he whispered, “I love you also,” and he responded to her kisses ardently. Finally he worked his mouth around to her ear. “Are you ready to become mine, Hermione?”

Hermione gave him a slightly scared expression but nodded, and gave him her hands when he silently asked. Her voice was soft but steady, as she held his eyes with hers. “Severus I have waited for you, so long.”

His black eyes sparkled with his love for her and a need to finally be complete; he merely nodded not trusting his voice, before kissing her in return.

Giving her another lingering kiss, he hooked her knees around his elbows opening her legs as far as they would go. Positioning himself at her entrance he rubbed the head of his painfully rigid member up and down her opening, watching it sliding in the wetness and the slickness of the balm.

Hermione groaned at the feel of him positioning himself once more. She gasped and involuntarily tensed when she felt him push a little and the head slid inside her.

“Relax,” he crooned to her, feeling her tense. “I can guarantee you this won’t hurt.” Withdrawing he did it again, sinking a little further.

Hermione’s eyes opened wide as his stiff length started stretching her walls.

With more control than he thought he had, ever so slowly he pushed further, entering her and allowing her to feel herself stretching and becoming secure with each step as he stretched her gently. Finally, withdrawing and pushing again, he came up against her barrier and stopped. With himself this far inside her, he rose further up over her body and kissed her face gently. “This step ties us together irrevocably,” and without further waiting, he withdrew until only just inside her, and with one swift snap of his hips he was seated completely.

Severus nestled between her thighs, holding himself perfectly still, panting to remain controlled, because she just felt so amazing around him. He murmured words of comfort while he kissed and stroked her face until he felt her starting to relax around him, and getting use to the feeling of fullness.

Hermione became aware of an instant feeling of utter completeness. “Oh,” she gasped, “You were right, it didn’t hurt,” and she smiled, laughing shakily.

Severus smiled in return, and once she appeared ready, he tentatively pulled back just a little. “Does that feel nice?” he inquired. When she nodded, he slowly pushed back inside again, and heard her sigh. Taking this as approval he moved more this time, and found her offering more consent, so he started to establish a steady rhythm, as his mouth claimed hers again, and he joined them more firmly.

The sensation of their tongues entwined and sliding, coupled with the now delicious feeling of his cock sliding in and out of her, saw Hermione totally incoherent. The only sound she was capable of uttering was a groan that started in the back of her throat and built to a steady whine, before joining the corresponding sound being articulated by him, while their mouths and hips were locked together.

After a little time Hermione had the urge to meet and compliment his movement, she experimentally pushed back against him and his corresponding groan told her to do it again. Soon they were in perfect unison, as emotion and sensation built.

The rest of the world no longer existed it was just them; it narrowed to mere floating sensation. Hermione was uselessly running her hands up and down his back, moaning and sighing, meeting and reciprocating every thrust. She had never experienced such sensations, ever, and her pleasure was slowly becoming deeper and louder as wave after wave of pulsating delight started to build within her, entirely consuming her. She could feel herself on the very edge of a sweeping chasm, she was shaking, her chest heaving, and then she stilled, her breath hitched, and she screamed.

At the identical moment she felt Severus tense, and his thrusts becoming frantic as his hot breath arrived in her ear saying between grunts. “Come, sweetheart, come with me.”

Her face was so beautiful. He watched her cry out as her body gave in to its pleasure. A howling exclamation erupted from deep within her, loud and long. Her fluttering walls clamped down so hard on him that he thought he was going to die from pleasure as he hurtled along after her. He threw his head back, his tendons straining, lost in the sensations of bliss as his seed shot forth, and Severus screamed his satisfaction in a deep guttural cry of delight that rose with hers.

What followed was such ancient and powerful magic its evocation totally consumed and ravaged them. Their magic reared up from within them and knotted together, creating a feeling so beautiful they both cried, clinging to each other, and weeping in sated delight.

Totally spent and dripping with sweat Severus collapsed as far as he could to the side of Hermione without losing contact with her. He couldn’t bring himself to leave her body, and he felt her shift herself enough to make him more comfortable, as his mouth joined hers in a languid wet caress.

Finally, his now soft member slipped from her and he heard her whimper at the loss. Realising why she was distressed, he held her tighter. Neither of them were capable of speech, just touch. They stroked one another as their lips still expressed their love in caresses.

Laying totally incoherent, Hermione’s eyes tried to open and focus when after a little time she felt herself being pulled tighter into Severus’ arms, and her face being caressed with his gentle kisses. “I’ve never felt like this,” she mumbled in wonder.

“Indeed,” his amused chuckle, rumbled next to her ear. Severus was oblivious to everything but the incredible joy he felt at finally having her here without boundaries. “There are special circumstances to your feeling of completeness that we shall have to discuss.”

Hermione just smiled, and said, “The book,” but without warning her stomach rumbled plaintively, making she giggled.

Severus suddenly wondered what time it was. Casting, “Tempus,” he was shocked that it was eleven o’clock, but he turned back to her. “Yes, the book. Perhaps we should have spoken about it before we did this,” and he looked a little concerned.

“It wouldn’t have changed anything, Severus, so we can discuss it once the war’s over.”

“There’s actually more to it than that, well as far as the war goes anyway. Let’s get Lotti to feed us and we’ll talk.”

Hermione smiled, “I love you,” and she kissed him. “Thank you for making my first time amazing.”

“It was my privilege, my love,” and it was as he was moving his arms up to caress her face again that he noticed it. He just stared, it was gone. “What?”

Hermione saw his features change to shock, and she was instantly sitting up straighter. “What is it, love?”

“It’s g-gone,” he stuttered dumbly. “I… it’s gone. No wonder I feel lighter than air.”

Her eyes followed the same path as his and she gasped.

Then Severus pushed passed his initial response, and his eyes widened. “This changes the game, Lucius, Potter, we need to get to them before the Dark Lord does. This is the start of the end, my love,” he declared and was up off the bed, pulling on his trousers as he called, “Lotti assemble all elves and their charges in my sitting room immediately.” Severus took one more look as the material of the shirt covered his arm, and he couldn’t help smiling. “I’m sorry, we’ll have to eat later,” he said, watching Hermione pulling on her clothes beside him.

“Don’t worry; let’s finish this for New Years, ay?” she said, as emotions churned within her.

Severus smiled, “Yes, lets,” and they turned hearing confused voices arriving amid pops from elves.

Chapter Text


The first thing Severus did after he’d sent Lotti on her errand was to summon the rest of Hermione’s clothes from in front of the French doors. They landed neatly on the bed beside her, but in her haste to dress and follow Severus, Hermione rose too quickly.

She hissed as an ache made its presences known in her hips. She may not have been sore from the actual intercourse, but she had just used muscles she obviously hadn’t used before, and every movement now reminded her cruelly of their presence.

Of course Severus noticed this. Wordlessly he summoned a healing potion and handed it to her. “All right?” he asked.

“Wonderful,” her smile told him much more than the word, and her affirmation was punctuated by a kiss, as she stood on tip-toes ignoring the pull of her stretched muscles.

Seeing her grimace. “Drink!” Severus commanded, but his eyes softened as he watched her do so. “I promise this is not what I had in mind for right now,” he told her sincerely, concerned that she might be upset that they had been torn out of their love nest so abruptly. He knew he wasn’t happy about it. “It is the bloody holidays after all,” he added, while using his wand to button the many buttons down the front of his frock coat.

“I know, but if you’re concerned, then I know there’s good reason to be,” she replied, earnestly. “Let’s go and make sure our friends are safe, shall we?” Hermione reached up to smooth the front of his frock coat. “I love you,” she affirmed, taking one hand and buttoning one cuff before rising up for another kiss.

He hugged her to him tightly. She’s an amazing witch, Severus thought proudly, as he willingly gave her more tender kisses.”And I you,” he murmured against her lips. Most witches would fly at me and accuse me of being uncaring that we hadn’t been able to take time after, but not my lioness. He sighed happily, and kissed her once more. He felt he should warn her, “Hermione, you will hear things this morning that I haven’t had a chance to tell you yet, please don’t think I was withholding information from you.”

“Never, we trust one another completely, don’t we?”

“Yes, we do. You will find over the next few days that other trusts will make themselves known as well,” he told her cautiously.

“Like in the book?”

“Yes, love, like in the book,” but hearing noise in the next room rising, he glanced towards the door. “We better go and face them.” Hermione nodded and Severus took her hand.

In the Potions master’s sitting room, the rumble of voices was getting louder. There was a distinct Scottish brogue being heard over everything else. “Severus Snape?” Minerva called, “What is the meaning of this, why have you gathered us all so abruptly?”

“Because of this,” Severus said, striding through the connecting door. He raised his one unbuttoned shirt sleeve and coat cuff. Three occupants of the room gasped at the creamy white, unblemished skin present where his dark mark had once been.

Forgetting his aplomb, Lucius rushed over to him. His demeanour was almost frantic, fingers touching the inside of Severus’ forearm, as if trying to feel whether there was a glamour present. He gasped once more. “How?” he questioned, hoarsely.

Severus drew an arm around Hermione’s waist and kissed her temple. “When our bond ignited just now, it purged us—or rather me—as our souls connected,” he said softly. In saying this he knew he had just admitted that they’d taken the next step in their relationship. He saw Minerva’s eyes narrow slightly, but he ignored it, and taking Lucius aside, with Hermione still close, he warned, “If your mark burns do not answer the summons.”

Lucius’ eyes widened. “Are you trying to get me killed?”

“No, I’m saving you. He will have felt my magic leave the collective, and he will be looking for answers as to what has happened. He’ll call you to find out.” Severus sighed heavily. “This pushes our plans forward, I don’t think he trusts either of us anymore, not after Draco,” Severus glanced across as the younger Malfoy. “He suspects we’re holding something back.”

“What makes you so sure? We’ve both played our parts well.”

“That may be so, but the last time he entered my mind, the night of Hermione’s attack.  He was far more brutal they he usually is, he was looking for the truth. I’m lucky he wasn’t giving it his full attention because of what was going on around us.”

“How do you know he didn’t find it?” Minerva had joined them.

“Because if he had, neither of us would have returned that night,” Lucius said seriously.

Severus was now stroking his thumb over Hermione’s knuckles as he spoke to Lucius. Knowing they had cut their intimacy short abruptly, he wanted to make certain she still had a physical connection to him for as long as they could maintain it.

Minerva had been listening to what they were saying, and Severus now saw Draco, Harry and Ginny approaching. But it was at that moment that Lucius gasped and clutched at his forearm. “Father,” Draco cried, breaking away from his companions and changing gait to a jog. He’d heard enough to know what was happening.

Severus looked at Minerva. “It’s time; is Albus…?”

It had happened last night after every one else was asleep, Poppy had pronounced it a stroke. Minerva had been the first to woken in the night, sensing that something was wrong as wards started to change over to her as second in command. She had come and told Severus early this morning while he was brewing, as now technically he was deputy head, and this was another thing that he had not had time to share with Hermione.

She nodded. “Yes, it may well be just in time for him.”

Hermione was listening to all this and wondering if this was one of the things Severus had been alluding to in the bedroom. She squeezed his hand, but he didn’t look at her, only pressed it back. This indicated to her that everything was fine, as he continued speaking to Minerva.

“Indeed, we haven’t finished testing the blocking potion yet either, I hope it works as intended, but all Albus has to do is lay there.”

Minerva nodded, and without another word she was gone.

Always the inquisitive witch, Hermione had so many questions, although she knew now was the time for action. Watching Lucius, she could see him suffering terribly, and her heart twisted.

Severus turned back to Lucius, and noted his eyes were starting to turn wild. The Dark Mark was an insidious invention and the Potions master knew what his friend was suffering. The night of the Tri-wizard Tournament, when he himself hadn’t reacted immediately to the summons the pain had become so intense that Albus had rendered him unconscious. It had passed in time, and once the mark had paled again his mentor had revived him. Unfortunately this time, no such relief would come. They had better hope that their potion worked, because it was possible for Voldemort to transfer enough power through the mark to cause a stroke and death. “Do you want me to stun you until the Potion is ready?”

Hermione could sense there was no time to answer the questions still bubbling away in her mind. She watched Lucius gritting his teeth, there was real fear in his eyes. Turning away, she was about to head into their lab to start the blocking potion, when she heard Lucius’ strained voice. “Do it,” he managed, through panted gasps, sweat starting to glisten on his brow.”

Severus nodded, drawing his wand. “Draco, Potter; get ready to catch him.”

Hermione moved over to Ginny, who was watching on worriedly. Their hands reached for each other’s. “Stupify,” they heard in Severus’ deep voice, and watched the red bolt of magic hit Lucius. As he crumpled to the floor Harry and Draco caught him and dragged him to the lounge.

Severus turned to Hermione. “That will buy us a little time, best heat the base and start preparations.” Severus muttered, and examined his friends a moment; he placed his hands on Draco’s shoulders. “Stay with your father. If he starts coming around stun him again.”

The floo activated, and Minerva stepped back through, seeing Lucius sprawled on the lounge, unconscious, her brow rose. “What happened to him?” she asked.

“I stunned him,” Severus stated in a matter-a-fact voice. He shrugged, and Minerva didn’t seem concerned, she understood why.

Hermione had already gone to the lab, and Severus’ eyes landed on Ginny looking worriedly between Harry and Draco. “Miss Weasley, if you wouldn’t mind helping Hermione, I’ll be there in a moment.” Severus saw her smile in almost relief at having something to do, and she nodded and took off for the lab.

Severus watched her go, and then turned to Harry. “Mr. Potter…” but he paused and took a deep breath, “Harry… what we have to ask you to do, won’t be easy. However, you are the only one in the position to do it.”

Severus steeled himself for what he was about to say. All was not as it appeared; he had held a secret about Harry that he’d told no one about. It had made everything so much more difficult over the years, but especially now, when he was potentially throwing him to the wolves. Severus looked at him with new eyes a moment, and felt almost admiration bubbling up through him. Actually the young man was perfect for the job being asked of him. Harry Potter was a stereotypical Gryffindor, just like his mother, every emotion he felt, was displayed and acted on for the world to see.

Severus sighed and censured himself before he continued. “What we must ask of you, will be hard. You must convince the Dark Lord that you are friendless, and Dumbledore is gravely ill, as indeed he is.” Harry’s eyes opened wide in shock, but Severus was uncertain which part was shocking him. The Potions master watched the young man square his shoulders and stand taller in an attempt to shake it off. “Once Voldemort realises Professor Malfoy is not going to come, he will most likely chose the next most convenient means of seeing what’s…”

“The link in my head?” Harry cut in, relief evident on his face.

“Yes… how much do you understand about the link?”

“Not a great deal. Professor Dumbledore hasn’t answered any of my questions about it, but the Occlumency lessons have helped control it. I only get flashes now, when he’s very pleased or very upset. Like the night of Hermione’s attack, I didn’t exactly know what had happened until Ginny’s dad told me, but I sensed great rage over something.”

Severus glanced at Minerva, who nodded. “Harry, will you allow me to temporarily plant some images in your mind for the Dark Lord to see?”

Harry nodded, but said, “They won’t be nice, will they?”

“I’m afraid not, Mr. Potter,” Severus confirmed, cautiously returning back to a more formal footing.

“Well I guess, I know what to expect, I trust you now, sir.” He was silent for a time, “I-I’m sorry I’ve been such an idiot, I can see Hermione has always been right now.”

The last thing Severus wanted at the moment was to let his guard down further, so he continued on, almost curtly. “Indeed…” he sneered, so used to this game. Harry’s eyes widened, and clearing his throat, Severus smirked. “We haven’t got time for sentimentality.” Then seeing the boy’s face fall further, he added, “You need to hold on to your hate for just a little longer. Come, you can leave from the other rooms, and Professor McGonagall will give you your further instructions before she takes you to the headmaster.”

Harry gave a last lingering look to Draco, and then to the open lab doorway, he could hear chopping and the tinkle of glassware but couldn’t see Ginny or Hermione. “Hurry, Potter,” he heard and dutifully followed Snape into the next room. As soon as the door was shut, Harry’s green eyes rose to the cold black eyes of the Potions master.

Legilimens,” Severus murmured, without preamble, and with practiced ease he entered Harry’s mind, he wished to get this last deed over as quickly as possible. Segregating Harry’s memories, and building solid walls for them, finally he projected images of Hermione laying in the hospital room, not gravely injured, but dead, then a dead Draco and a terrified Ginny with Severus telling her to prepare herself to come with him to be married to the Dark Lord.

Severus ignored the tears that started to trickle from the boy’s eyes at these images, and followed this with Harry witnessing McGonagall discovering Severus threatening Ginny. Snape duelling with McGonagall, and he impressed on the young man the certain knowledge that his Potions professor was actually a loyal Death Eater. The next image was of a dead and bloodied Snape, and an incarcerated Lucius being locked in the west tower, awaiting the Aurors. Severus finished by saying, “Sleep,” and catching Harry by the upper arms, he rested him in the arm chair.

Turning to Minerva, he said, “Once it is over, take him into Albus’ spare room and give him Dreamless Sleep. When I have Lucius stable, I’ll come up and undo what I’ve done.”

Minerva could see how much it had hurt Severus to do what he’d just done, and her hand landed on his arm and she squeezed. “Are you all right, Severus?”

Snape nodded curtly, but grimaced and remained silent, and then spinning on his heel he left. Severus took time to momentarily rest up against the door once he’d closed it. It had felt awful doing that to the young man, but they needed to set this up carefully. Minerva, Lucius and he had discussed it all at length yesterday after they had returned from the warehouse. If Voldemort felt that all the major players were gone, and that the boy-who-lived was a broken mess, then they could trick him into attacking with the mistaken notion that he was going to have an easy victory. The only problem they had was, now they didn’t have any inside information to tell them when.

Severus pushed off the door and walked over to check on Lucius. “Will Harry be all right, Uncle S?” a concerned voice asked.

Severus patted the concerned Draco on the back. “Do not concern yourself, Draco. It has to be done, but he’ll only remember it as a bad dream when it’s finished,” and Severus walked into the lab.

~~~***~~~

Minerva McGonagall led the distraught young man through the halls of Hogwarts. They had just entered the headmaster’s office, when without warning Harry clutched his head and grunting with the pain as he almost dropped to his knees. It had started, Minerva quickly grabbed for his arm, but swaying wildly he pushed her away.

“No, stay back. I’m fine,” he said through gritted teeth, and kept walking. He could feel Voldemort in his head, Merlin how he hated the feeling. It was always there in the background lately, even through the shields. But moments like this when he pushed the link and invaded his head, Harry always ended up vomiting. Trying to keep his legs moving through the pain in his head, his stomach rolling mutinously, Harry stayed ahead of his professor, he felt tainted by dark magic, and he didn’t want the evil wizard’s eyes to see his head of house.

The images Severus had planted had placed so that Harry would truly believe them, and this was now coming to pass, the further they got into the charade, and the sicker he felt.

Harry could feel Voldemort eating up the pictures of his dead friend and of his terrified girlfriend. Through the pain and the rising nausea he felt, he truly believed what he thought had happened. Bloody Snape, hadn’t he been trying to tell Dumbledore for years that the man was a traitor. I’m so glad he’s dead, Death Eater scum, that’s all he was. The Malfoy’s are no better; thank Merlin, ferret’s gone and his father’s going back to Azkaban.

He was now standing in front of the unconscious Albus Dumbledore, his mentor was dying. It had happened so quickly, one moment he was fine, and then the next. Harry sat beside the bed, tears streaming down his face. Everyone was gone, Ginny had been taken away. Ron wanted nothing to do with him, and Hermione was dead. He was rocking on the chair, the only thing anchoring him at the moment, was Professor McGonagall’s hand on his shoulder.

Without any warning the pain spiked, and he howled with it, what was happening? It had never felt like this before, suddenly the edges of his vision started going black, and the world was slowly drifting out of focus, and then Harry knew no more.

~~~***~~~

Back down in the dungeons, the Potion was ready. “Can we really give him an untried Potion?” Hermione asked, her teeth worrying her bottom lip.

“We have no choice; we need him to block the Dark Lord,” Severus replied.

Hermione sighed. “Well let’s get this over with then.”

“Good thinking.” They walked into the sitting room and Severus strode straight to his friend. Opening his shirt, Hermione, Ginny and Draco watched as he infused the Potion into his stomach. This treatment was actually two-fold, as well as the potion there was a balm. Not wasting anytime, Severus rolled Lucius’ sleeve up and applied a liberal coat of balm to his dark mark.

The mark itself was dark black with angry red edges, but the balm soothed it instantly, and they all watched it calm and pale. “Rennervate,” Severus, commanded. They watched as Lucius’ eyes blinked and he took a sudden breath, and rubbing his face, he sat up straighter, taking in the four anxious faces watching him.

“I think your treatment’s a success, my dear,” he said to Hermione, then hearing a snort he chuckled. “Well done, to you too Severus.”

“Oh gee, thank you, Lucius. How kind of you to include me,” Severus scoffed sarcastically.

Everyone was just starting to laugh with the stress finally lifting, when a cat Patronus arrived. “Severus, come as quick as you can, it’s Harry.”

Without further thought, Severus looked to Hermione, Draco and Ginny. He didn’t care who saw, he hugged Hermione to him. “You must stay here,” he entreated. Releasing her before she’d even had time to answer, he quickly grabbed an ashtray from the coffee table and made a Portkey. He handed it to Draco. “If Lucius or I are not back in one hour, you are to get Hermione and Ginevra to safety. I’ll know where to find you.” Turning he opened a portal and both men were gone, before anyone could stop them.

~~~***~~~

The two Slytherins followed the Patronus trail to reach Minerva. She had levitated Harry onto the bed in the spare room, as per the original plan, and now stood there looking very anxious. “What’s wrong?” Severus asked as the portal snapped shut.

“I don’t know,” Minerva said, “He suddenly howled with pain and collapsed, I didn’t want to call Poppy, so I called you.”

“Did he hit his head?” Lucius enquired, seeing the trickle of blood snaking its way down Harry’s temple.

“No, I don’t believe so,” Minerva said. “He just screamed and collapsed, his head was cushioned by the mattress of Albus’ bed.”

“Interesting,” Severus replied, thoughtfully. Reaching forward, he pushed Harry’s fringe out of the way with his wand, and laughed. His two companions both looked slightly horrified. “Look,” he said, “The curse, his scar has broken open.”

Minerva didn’t know what this meant, and just looked confused. “The Dark Lord has tried to kill him.” She still looked confused, and Severus tsked, “Minerva, the-boy-who-lived, has just become the-boy-who-lived… twice.” Severus held up two fingers, but her face just became more confused. “The link that we just used to convey the images we wanted The Dark Lord to see has been severed. What Albus had always refused to tell him, was that it was actually a small piece of Voldemort’s soul that Harry had been carrying around.”

“He was a living Horcrux?” Lucius interrupted.

Minerva gasped. “Voldemort tried to kill him, through the link?”

“Correct,” and Severus chuckled, nodding. “But all he’s managed to do is solve a problem for us. He’s killed a part of his own soul,” he glanced at Lucius. “Boy he’ll be really pissed when he works that out.” Then Severus became serious and started casting diagnostics, all looked normal. “He’s going to be fine.” Severus looked back to Lucius, “You go back and let the other’s know, I’ll fix his mind and I’ll bring him down once he’s awake.”

“I’ll go back and sit with Albus,” Minerva said, leaving.

~~~***~~~

So all in all, even though it was one in the afternoon, and Hermione and Severus still hadn’t had breakfast. The war was so close to being over, they could almost taste it. Once Harry had been patched up and reunited with friends and lovers, Severus and Hermione finally got their alone time, but it was anything but peaceful, there were so many questions that needed answers.

They were currently ensconced on the lounge by the fire, having lunch. “What’s wrong with the Headmaster?” Hermione asked.

Severus decided to make her think. “You see if you can work it out, what are the facts as you understand them?”

She put down her empty plate. “Well,” she said, snuggling in closer and holding up the fingers on one hand. “He isn’t seen in public much anymore, and Poppy has said he’s had a stroke,” and she tapped one finger. “He is very old, I’m not certain if that’s a symptom or merely a fact,” she giggled and Severus kissed her head.

“Fact,” he said watching her. “Go on,” he encouraged.

She thought some more. “I’ve thought more than once that his left hand is almost skeletal, and there have been a couple of times I could have sworn he had a glamour over it,” she tapped two more fingers, then gasped, “and Harry thinks he’s got dementia.” It all slotted into place, and she looked at Severus, who smiled knowing she’d solved it. “He’s cursed, someone or something has cursed him,” she grimaced as she continued, “and it’s painful. It’s the pain and the curse that’s draining him and making him incoherent at times.”

Severus shook his head. “Sweet Merlin you are the brightest witch of your age.” He kissed her for a moment, “Yes, you are correct, and it’s a nasty curse. I’ve retarded its progress but I can’t cure it.”

“Was it something a Death Eater did?”

“Actually, the Dark Lord himself indirectly, although he doesn’t know it.” Hermione gave him a puzzled look. “Let’s get some tea and get more comfortable.” Hermione nodded and stood, but Severus held on around her waist. “Put your legs around me,” he said, lifting her. She smiled and locked her legs around his waist.

After much laughing and happy kissing they arrived in the small kitchen, where Severus sat her on the kitchen table. He set the kettle to boil and started revolving some bread over the flame of the fire place, then went back to Hermione’s neck.

She arched her neck and sighed at the hot kisses he was delivering to her throat. Then licking back up to her mouth she shivered with the sensation of his tongue entwining recklessly with hers.

It only seemed to take a moment for the kettle to boil and he released her. “You butter the toast and I’ll make the tea.” Hermione looked at him, so he gave further instructions. “Butter’s in that cupboard, and knives are there,” he said pointing.

“I’m sure I’ll learn as time goes on,” she said.

“Oh I’m certain you will,” he returned happily, and it wasn’t long and they were snuggled up in his bed this time, with their tea and toast. Severus cast a charm to make any stray crumbs vanish.

 “So,” Hermione encouraged, “where were we?”

“Oh yes, it was a curse set by the Dark Lord to protect a Horcrux.” Severus looked at her to see if she knew what he was talking about, and was quite pleased to see understanding in her eyes. “Have you read the Beedle Bard tale of The Three Brothers?”

Hermione nodded. “But isn’t that a fairy tale?”

“What is the basis of most fairy tales, my dear?”

“Oh,” Hermione gasped, “folklore.”

“Precisely, the Deathly Hallows are quite real, and between the two of us we know where each object is,” he stated calmly.

“We do?” Hermione gasped, Severus nodded. “Oh!”

The ring that contained the Horcrux was the resurrection stone of the tale. Not actually knowing its true value, The Dark Lord only saw it as a family heirloom and placed part of his soul in it when he murdered his Muggle father. Unfortunately, the night Dumbledore destroyed that Horcrux, he made a fatal error in judgement.” Severus huffed, “he put the ring on before he had neutralised it.”

“Oh, and the curse leap into him,” Severus nodded.

“By the time he had called me, it was too late to save him. He has known these past six months that he is dying.”

“Do we know how many Horcruxs Voldemort has made?”

“Yes, and we think they are all accounted for, until today there were only two that still needed to be dealt with.”

“Why do you say, until today, what happened today?” Then she gasped, “Harry…” she saw Severus nodding, “Harry was one. Does he know?” she asked, tears were suddenly dripping from her cheeks.

“Don’t cry, sweetheart, it didn’t happen.” Severus pulled her closer. “But to answer your question, no, it’s something Dumbledore wouldn’t tell him. He and I fought heatedly over this for the past year, but the old man just wouldn’t budge on the subject.” Severus took a stuttered breath. “It hit home really hard when I discovered the truth. All these years I’d protected and cared for the boy, and it wasn’t for the reason that Dumbledore thinks either.” Severus waited for the inevitable question, but it was more of a statement.

“I always thought there was more to it than was being let on,” and Hermione looked at him earnestly, as she wiped her eyes.

Nodding, Severus kissed her head. “As usual you’re right. His mother and I had been friends, and once I’d seen the error of my ways, we rekindled our friendship. We could both see what was going to happen, so we formulated a plan for the worst. I was the one who told her about the ancient magic of mother’s love.” Severus sighed, “But Harry’s father was an arrogant and stubborn man, he hated me and proved to be Dumbledore’s man to the last. Both James Potter and Albus Dumbledore read more into my friendship with Lily than there was. Whilst I never understood what Lily saw in James Potter, I accepted her decision to marry him. She was my first and only real childhood friend, of course that’s special, but Potter and Dumbledore cheapened it, made it seem like I was lusting after her,” he sighed.

Hermione wrapped her arms tighter around him, and only nodded her agreement with his statement. It was not for her to comment on what other people did, and she continued with her questions. “So we only have one Horcrux left, do we know what it is?”

“The last one is Nagini, and she must be killed during the battle, before Harry faces Voldemort.

 We need to time our strike precisely. There must be a guard, and it will consist of a Pure-blood, a Half-blood and Muggle-born. That is the most powerful combination.”

“Lucius is the pureblood, isn’t he?”

Severus nodded. “You really are very astute, my angel.”

Hermione suddenly looked horrified. “What if I’m not Muggle-born anymore?”

“Oh but that’s the sweet bit, after Minerva told me, I did a little research, concerned about the same thing, and I discovered that your father was indeed a Muggle Frenchman who is ignorant of your existence, and your mother as loved as she was by her family was a squib. So technically my darling you now have the powerful McGonagall name to fall back on, but you have the added distinction of still being Muggle-born.” He kissed her head.

Hermione nodded, sighing happily between kisses. “Do you know how much I love discussing things with someone who I don’t have to explain each step too?”

“Yes, my darling one, I believe I do.” Severus smiled contentedly, “I love you,” he whispered and he deepened their kiss.

Breaking the kiss long enough to vanish the remnants of their tea and toast, and their clothes in that order. He rolled and encouraged a now very naked Hermione to straddle his hips. She grinned and circled her hips on his lap; this caused both of them to moan longingly.

Ever the inquisitive witch, Hermione was determined to explore this time. Leaning forward her hair tickled his chest as he watched her tongue come out and tease his flat nipples as she’d seen him do that morning with her. She kept her hips moving while she pleasured him. “You certainly are a quick learner,” Severus commented, between his gasps of pleasure.

Hermione giggled. “Well, I’ve had a good teacher,” but suddenly she stilled as her mind hurtled back to the beginning of her apprenticeship when she’d said that to him for another reason entirely. Her chortle turned into a full blown laugh. “I thought you were going to burst something the first time I said that to you, do you remember?”

Severus smiled, “I certainly do, and you’re right, I almost did.”

She sighed. “That seems like such a long time ago now,” she muttered appearing deep in thought.

“Mmm,” Severus replied in conformation. Then suddenly growling in the back of his throat, he flipped them again. “Now let me demonstrate just how much has changed since then, my little know-it-all.”

Laughing merrily, Hermione locked her legs around his hips and one thrust saw him buried inside her.

They both moaned in response. “Ohhh, so wet,” he mumbled heatedly. “So wonderful,” and his lips captured hers once more as he thrust into her with abandon.

Soon Hermione wasn’t thinking, and neither did she regret the lost opportunity to explore. She was simply consumed by this incredible wizard and what she was feeling. Her words started to come in garbled litanies of syllables, and finally with his heated encouragement in her ear, as much as she wanted their encounter to continue she could not stop herself from falling into delight, and she groaned deeply as her orgasm hit her.

Severus soon followed as her fluttering inner muscles, milked and squeezed him so perfectly.

As she lay there with Severus’ arms tightly around her, basking in the after-glow of the love-making, Hermione decided to just let Severus orchestrate everything. There was only one more obstacle and then they would be free, and it appeared that they would have to work with Lucius. Even though she would never have seen herself thinking it, she was looking forward to this next step, even if she didn’t know exactly how that would work.

 

Chapter Text


The Prophet on New Year’s Eve carried two headlines. One was the announcement that Minerva McGonagall had been installed as Headmistress at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, with the accompanying story explaining that due to ill health Professor Albus Dumbledore had resigned the position.

The second and possibly larger article was documenting a failed attempt to kill Harry Potter. They all wanted Voldemort to know in no uncertain terms that Harry Potter was still alive, and furthermore that the young man was gunning for him.

There was just so much happening. Minerva sighed; nursing her oldest friend to his death was hard. He was asleep at the moment. She snorted, in fact most people probably were. But she couldn’t settle, there were too many questions rattling around her mind. Why couldn’t Albus be cured with Fawkes tears? After all, the bird had cured Harry of the Basilisk poison in second year, ah but then the tears had to be offered freely by the bird.

She glanced at the large red and gold creature, who was softly trilling from his perch beside her. “It’s not that simple, is it?” The strong Gryffindor witch suddenly felt frail at the enormity of the task she had to face alone, and she found a tear welling in her eye. “You know it’s time for him to rest, don’t you?” Minerva mused sadly.

The bird’s song increased in activity as if in answer, and Minerva nodded. “Yes, I see now,” she mumbled, and took another sip of her whisky.

The headmistress looked back to the Prophet on her desk. Little had been said about the apparent demise of Professors Snape and Malfoy, but the reporter had recounted faithfully Harry’s set features, as he told him he was coming to get the wizard responsible for his friend’s death.

~~~***~~~

The six companions hidden in the Hogwarts dungeons had been going to make Christmas as low key as possible, but decided to decorate anyway. Well mostly Harry and Draco did, in an attempt to get Ginny to stop missing her family. Still, Christmas was passing into New Years in a fairly sombre way, with all of them remembering people who weren’t with them.

Severus was watching Hermione talking animatedly while they sat together at lunch. He suspected that Ginny wasn’t the only one missing her family. Hermione was obviously over compensating for her now absent parents as well. She hadn’t gotten used to Minerva being her aunt yet, and the fact that even she couldn’t be here today, made it even harder. What between tending Albus, trying to empty the school of as many people as possible, and then trying to go on as if nothing was happening was a huge load for the new headmistress. She was staying away today, busy putting on a brave front for the remaining faculty.

Then thinking about family, from somewhere in amongst all these thoughts, his own mother’s words of long ago suddenly echoed anew in his head. It was with a stab of sadness though, when he realised he hadn’t thought of his poor mother on Christmas, or indeed what she’d predicted since the night of the Hippogriff attack.

His ponderings wondered off with the background hum of the voices of his closest companions anchoring him in place, and he recalled her words. You’ll meet one who’s an outcast like you; she’ll protect you and bring you great happiness. You’ll know her by her touch, embrace her, my son. He glanced at Hermione and offered her a smile which she returned, while still talking to Lucius. The fact that Hermione was the one he sought had been known to him for some time now. Deep down he’d known it for much longer than he’d actually admitted to it.

But there had been more to her prediction that even after he’d given in to his feeling for Hermione, he still hadn’t understood. Now though, what his mother had said was tickling around the edges of his mind once more, and just starting to make sense. There will also be another, and you will keep yourselves chaste from him or in time of crisis none of you three will soar... Could that third be Lucius?  They both felt at ease around him. Could she have only meant the upcoming battle?

Hermione is mine, I will not share her, my brave little Gryffindor, he thought lovingly. Severus caught her eye and winked, and she giggled and blushed. He felt his trousers tighten, but his mind roared further down this train of thought. Are the three of us destined for something great, could this be the correct way to go? ‘Chaste’ is the only way I could countenance any partnership of that nature.

Finally Severus was pulled from his thoughts by the scrap of a chair and Hermione came around behind him encircling her arms around his neck. “Penny for your thoughts, my love,” she whispered in his ear, while she nuzzled his neck.

Deciding any conversation on the subject of his thoughts could wait until it was only the people it concerned, he said, “I’ve always hated celebrations.” He gently pulled her face around and kissed her, for once not worrying about the others at the table. “Until I had you,” he whispered against her lips.

Hermione felt her insides swoop. “I love you, Sev,” she whispered back.

“And I you, beloved,” and he kissed her again.

As their tender scene played out, he’d noticed their companions stop and start watching the uncharacteristic play. Severus couldn’t stop the spike of snark that rose up. His eyebrow ascended and his lip curled. “Well now you have your proof, I am human.”

Hermione giggled and squeezed onto his lap, hugging him. Lucius and Draco rolled their eyes and Harry and Ginny in a way looked relieved that there wasn’t something amiss with their Potions professor.

~~~***~~~

The next day Severus told Hermione and Lucius about his mother’s prediction. “Do either of you have any feelings or ideas about this?”

Of course, not knowing, Hermione had instantly asked, “Is your mother still alive?” Then watched Lucius grimace as Severus fell strangely silent and turned away.

Knowing what had happened to his mother was a sore point. Lucius placed a hand on Severus’ shoulder, and inquired gently. “You haven’t told Hermione about Eileen yet, old friend?” Lucius watched the Potions master shake his head sadly, and he sighed. Squeezing Severus’ shoulder in sympathy, he turned and took Hermione gently by the arms. He could see questions about to bubble out of her. Her eyes were so alive that it frightened him sometimes. There was a certain innocence about Hermione that made Lucius want to simultaneously protect her from everything and look away, like he was unworthy. “Hush, princess, no more questions,” he encouraged quietly. 

Hermione gulped as the grey eyes of Lucius Malfoy warned her to stay silent. She looked to Severus, who was visibly trying to compose himself, and wondered what she’d done wrong.

Finally Severus spoke; his voice was quiet and flat. “It was another oversight by the great Dumbledore, just as he promised to keep Lily safe, and failed. My mother was another victim of his…” he snarled then silently attempted to control himself again. “She’s in the Janus Thickney ward… part of my punishment for not returning to The Dark Lord’s fold quickly enough. Of course, Dumbledore arrived to save the day…” he shook his head. “Too bloody late, she would been better off…”

“Oh Severus,” Hermione said, horrified. “I’m so sorry, I had no idea.” She’d broken away from Lucius, and her arms were around him comforting him before he could think further.

He allowed it for a moment, revelling in the reassurance offered, but he too took her by the upper arms so he could see her. With some effort he managed to get his sardonic mask back to the surface. “Little lioness, on the whole, my mother was a nasty old cow who neglected me, and cursed me with this ridiculous nose.” He heard Hermione’s rapid intake of breath, and saw her expression change from its previous pained to horror, to finally settle to seriousness. Severus kissed her forehead. “But I thank you for your concern,” he stated solemnly, his eyes taking on a faraway look as he drew her back to him for a moment and looked past her to Lucius to offer his reassurance that he was all right.

After a moment, seeing him still fighting to stay rational, Hermione responded by reaching up and stroking his nose with her finger. She forced a smile to her lips before stating resolutely. “I like your nose Severus.” He watched her eyes trying to get past the horror he had just informed her of and fight to improve his mood. “I think it’s a rather magnificent appendage.” But she immediately bit her lip, wondering what he would say.

Severus heard her sigh audible with relief, and Lucius chuckle when he merely cocked his eyebrow and smoothed, “Well I’ve never heard it called that before.” He gave her a strange look, his tone indistinct as the eyebrow slid higher and his mouth twitched, before he stated enigmatically, “It does have some rather amusing uses, now you mention it.”

When she heard Lucius’ chuckle darken, she wondered exactly what he’d meant. Hermione giggled nervously, her brain trying to fathom the meaning, but she somehow knew she lacked the experience to do so. The corner of his mouth rose more significantly, and he gave her a quick peck on her nose as he started to release her.

~~~***~~~

Dumbledore’s health was failing fast, and they all knew it wouldn’t be long before there was another sad announcement to deal with as well. They were all eager to go into battle and finish this, but they were also meticulously planning as well. New Year passed, with the Aurors having bagged even more Death Eaters by crushing at the Christmas day dark revel.

Reading the Prophet the day after Christmas, and doing some private mental arithmetic Severus and Lucius came up with a figure of exactly how few inner circle members and known supporters the dark wizard had left. They were both very thankful that this year they had been saved from the horrors of dark revels. Now the stage appeared to be set for the final showdown.

~~~***~~~

The next day, Hermione woke still in the same position she had settled into the night before. I must have been tired, she thought, as her eyes lifted to the sleeping man whose chest she was using as a pillow. He was lying on his back, mouth slightly open. Hermione had always thought that he would snore horribly given the size of his nose; however, as usual all she could hear was his steady breathing.

She didn’t want to move, but her bladder had other ideas, after all the wine they had consumed with dinner, then the tea at supper she needed to go. Trying to disentangle herself quietly she made to get up, but his arms tightened around her, as he mumbled something in his sleep. She tried again, and this time managed to extradite herself successfully.

Hermione placed her wand on the bedside table as she came back from the bathroom, and quietly climbed back into bed. Severus had rolled over to her side obviously looking for her in his sleep. So she carefully attempted to slither back into his arms without waking him. She thought she’d managed, until a sleepy voice rumbled. “I missed you when you left.”

“I had too, I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be sorry, love, but I’m glad you’re back.” He gave her a squeeze and a quick kiss on the shoulder. “My turn,” and groggily rising, he plodded to the bathroom.

Now, here was another belief that had shattered back on their first morning together. Hermione had also always thought Severus would not be a morning person, she remembered seeing him in the Great Hall at breakfast times with coffee mug gripped tightly, and the glazed look in his eyes of a person forced to be awake from necessity not choice.

Climbing back in, Severus wrapped his arms around her, and she squealed when his cold hands slithered over her belly. He chuckled darkly and turned her onto her side so she was lying facing him, raising his hands to her face he cradled her cheeks.

Severus was planning an experiment. He wanted to see if they could talk to one another in their minds. She had accidentally already done it a few times over the past few days as their bond settled further. Now it’s time to find out for sure, he thought, and looking deeply into her eyes he pushed a message forward. “Good morning, sweetheart,” he thought, being carefully not to move his lips.

Hermione’s lips opened and a gasp escaped her. “I heard you in my head,” she exclaimed.

Severus rolled his eyes, but smiled. “Well answer me then,” she heard.

She opened her mouth to speak, inhaled a breath, but felt his finger land on her lips. “Oh,” she gasped.

With your mind, love,” she heard.

She gazed deeply into the black pools currently observing her and heard further. “Focus your thoughts on me hearing you.”

The Gryffindor witch concentrated hard, her heart starting to pump faster with excitement. “Good morning,” and when she saw in his eyes that he had received her message, her smile was radiant.

Severus leant forwards and kissed her. “We really are compliments,” he stated happily. “I have never met another natural Legilimens.”

Hermione squealed and launched herself at him, hugging him tightly. “I always hoped that’s what it was.” She pulled back and looked him in the eye, and her eyes narrowed. “When Harry was granted lessons with you and he completely squandered the opportunity,” she took a deep breath, “do you know how angry I was with him?” Hermione renewed her embrace, and Severus stroked his hand over her back. “I would have given anything at the time, just too even talk to you about it,” she swiped angrily at a tear that trickled down her cheek.

Severus realised that he had just been granted another glimpse of the pain she had felt because he hadn’t been able to show any concern for her over his bloody Slytherins. He brushed her hair out of her face and drew her closer, shhing her gently.

“It’s okay,” Hermione muttered, “we’ve both been through a lot of pain to get to this point.”

“It is most certainly not ‘okay’ as you put it, and I wish there had been any other way, Hermione,” Severus sighed heavily.

“In a way I’m just pleased it has finally been confirmed for me. I have so many questions,” she said, sniffing, as Severus kissed her tears away.

Severus actually laughed. “Of course you have, my darling little know-it-all,” and he continued his ministrations. “Well, you have my undivided attention, but coffee before questions.”

On the way into their newly installed little kitchen Severus kept their non-verbal communication going. “You need to be able to communicate with me from any angle, not just when I’m staring into your gorgeous eyes, in public that will be a dead giveaway,” Hermione heard and nodded.

I understand,” she thought, and was most pleased when even though she was behind him he responded to her.

Good girl.”

When they were sitting comfortably in the now warm kitchen both cradling their coffee and buttering toast, Hermione looked at the jam Severus had placed on the table. “Wow, this is amazing, did you make it?”

He nodded, “The strawberries grow in the garden,” he pointed outside and looked at her. “I find cooking is like potion making, most therapeutic. There is something about the structured routine you must go through to achieve results that allows me to order my thoughts.” He smiled and stroked her cheek. “Now to your questions, my lioness.”

Severus watched Hermione quietly thinking about what she wanted to ask while they spoke. He received some of her ideas non-verbally, and was impressed at how quickly she was picking this up.

Severus smiled; he could see and occasionally hear that she was deep in thought. “Hermione?” he finally said softly, her head came up to grant him her full attention. “Did you know we can share more than thoughts through this link?” He saw her eyebrow rise. “In fact,” he continued, “some time ago you inadvertently shared some most beguiling images with me.” His brow rose in response to hers furrowing. Smiling, Severus leaned toward her ear. “Would you like me to show you?” he breathed suggestively.

Hermione nodded, but her teeth worried her bottom lip. After kissing her neck a moment, coffee forgotten, he took her hand and led her into the sitting room. “Come,” he thought, as they sat on the lounge together he continued. “I found these images exquisite, and I used them to pleasure myself.” He was honest, knowing Hermione was broad-minded, and they were always candid with one another, even though she often still blushed. “Don’t fluster, my darling, in the past I have found it was the only way I could stop going mad from the empty want.”

“I know,” she whispered, and Severus took her face gently in his hands his eyes locked onto hers. It was different this time, she instantly felt herself tumbling down a cavernous tunnel towards something, and almost all too quickly she saw everything. It took her some moments to adjust to his vision of her. Hermione saw that in his eyes that she was radiant and she felt his feelings of love encase her. What she then saw, she saw through his eyes.

The images of her delicately poised in the chair in her bedroom, legs capriciously cast over the arms. Her eyes fixed on her dressing mirror, and her fingers plunging in and out of her glistening pussy. Her corporal corresponding part pulsed, sending a shiver through her. “You are so beautiful,” she heard in her head, his low honeyed voice seeming more melodious. It caressed her every sense and she heard herself moan. “Would you care to show me that act in person?” he asked, as his liquid caresses continued.

“Ohhh yyeeessss...” she sighed. “I’ve wanted you to watch me for so long.”

“Keep contact with the images,” he smoothed, and she felt herself being lifted. Hermione moaned again still watching herself. “I have the perfect place,” he crooned as he carried her.

Hermione was conscious of his cock jutting out under her as they walked.

“Just concentrate of the images, and I’ll show you what I did with them.”

It was the strangest feeling, Hermione could still sense herself watching herself in the mirror in his mind, but now she could also see him naked in his bed, head tossed back groaning, as he caressed his length in response to what he was seeing. Hermione felt herself being placed somewhere.

“Open your eyes, sweet girl.” Severus had placed her on the ladder he’d installed on the wall of books so she could access to the higher shelves.

After placing a Cushioning Charm on the rung of the ladder, Severus watched her heatedly for a moment, before he leant forward and crooned in her ear. “Would you like to open your beautiful legs and tease your pretty pussy for me?”

Smiling, Hermione shivered as she nodded enthusiastically. Quickly pushing her gown aside she opened her legs as wide as she could, watching his black eyes fixed on the path of her fingers caressing her skin on the way over her stomach. Smiling as his dark gaze watched greedily and she pulled the lace of her knickers aside, asking breathily, “Is this what you wanted to see?”

“Oh yes, that’s exactly it,” he said, watching as her fingers started stroking.

“I’ve wanted you to watch me do this for such a long time, Severus,” she whimpered.

“Indeed, tell me more,” he smoothed, eyes still unerringly trained on the activities of her fingers.

Her eyes moved to his tented pyjama pants. “I want to see you too.”

She groaned, sighing, as without moving his eyes, his hand drew the item she wished to see from his pants, and he started stroking it, still mesmerized by her moving finger as he leant against the back of the lounge for support. He could see that she had quickly worked herself up and was on the edge of falling into pleasure

Hermione uttered a series of beautiful sweet little yowls, and Severus’ voice sounded in her ear. “Come on… come for me,” and he allowed his smooth silky voice to caress her, as his hot breath and words washed over her.

That was enough and Hermione tumbled over the edge. As she started to come down she sagged against the ladder, her legs still wide open for his pleasure. “Oh, I think I’m going to love you watching me,” she groaned to him, before their eyes met. “Lick me, I want your tongue on me… please,” she pleaded breathily.

Severus smirked happily and lowered his head to her without question. He licked her firmly and then chuckled against her. “Sweet Merlin, I still can’t get over how exquisite you taste, every time it’s better than the last,” and he thrust his tongue as deeply into her as he could.

His mouth was sucking and kissing while his two middle fingers found her internal pleasure point and started rubbing. Her thighs started to shake uncontrollably, and it only took him a moment to swap his tongue for his aching cock. A burst of magic adjusted their relative heights so they lined up and he thrust into her deeply in one stroke.

“Oh… god, Severus...,” she groaned, as he plunged into her. She was surprised that the metal guides of the ladder were still straight she had them in such a death grip.

Only two strokes and she came, her quivering internal muscles closed around his shaft deliciously as he kept thrusting through her orgasm hearing her guttural moans was like music to his ears as he drove towards his own climax, he loved hearing her pleasure.

Severus saw her through another climax came before he allowed himself to come, his arms caught her, pinning her in place as they recovered. His head rested on her sagging shoulder, as he whispered, “I take it you enjoyed that?”

“Oh... oh m...” she managed, and lay back against the support of the ladder wearing a blissful grin. Even though Severus would never have let her slip, she was still holding on tightly, her hands unable to move and the lower half of her body seeming to be completely useless.

This made him chuckle. “Lost the power of speech, my dear,” he asked, laughing as he reached between then and ran a single finger up through her folds, making her jerk once more.”That’s always a good sign.”

“Amazing” she stuttered finally, happy that she had managed to get a multisyllabic word past her lips. “It just keeps getting better.”

He smiled. “That it will.”

~~~***~~~

This was the last private time that Hermione and Severus would got. They had now locked themselves away with Lucius, trying to perfect their communications. They were also trying to get Lucius temporarily into their loop. If they were going to act as one, they needed to work out the dynamics of that.

Severus sighed irritatedly, rubbing his hands over his face, it was not going well. “I know we’re all tired, Lucius, but try it again.” Poor Lu, he thought. It really has been an awful week for him, having to continually be dosed to stop his mark burning, and we haven’t been able to modify the potion to take away the nausea that it causes. Now a crash course in Legilimenic non-verbal communication, he can occlude but he’s never taken it past that to the opposite extreme. It’s all very well for Hermione and I, he’s just not a natural.

The three of them had been at it for three days now. They could all talk to one another when they were looking at each other, but they needed to be able to do it from every angle, so they could protect Potter well enough for him to get in the definitive blow. Severus leaned across and whispered to Hermione, who was sprawled out beside him, she looked tired too. “There must be something we’re missing?” and he raised a brow significantly.

“But what?” she whispered back. “How did you teach Harry?”

“That was different that was only occluding, besides Albus ended up taking him on; we just had too many issues.” “I still can’t believe we’ve managed to get over most of them,” Severus thought. He glanced at Lucius, and saw he had his eyes closed.

I know, you’ve both done incredibly well.” Hermione answered, but then winked and purposely moved closer to Severus’ ear, but also stage whispered. “Lucius is very sex orientated,” Hermione said, her eyes twinkling with mischief. “We could try showing him something like that,” she watched Severus’ eyes narrow a little, and then saw the penny drop. “Blind-fold him, restrain him, and then put up a Silencing spell and we go…” she looked around. “Oh yes, I’ve always wanted to be rogered senseless over the Potions master’s desk.”

You’re a little minx, that’s what you are.” Severus told her. “You do realise if he manages to break into our loop, he’ll see everything I see,” he smoothed, knowing their friend would be straining to hear now they’d piqued his interest.

She grinned, “Or, maybe everything I see, I suspect he swings both ways.”

“I can hear you pair, you know, and I’d much rather see Hermione than you,” Lucius muttered, he still sounded very tired.

Glancing back at Lucius, Severus saw that he was laying back against the lounge with his eyes still closed, but now he was rubbing his arm as well. “Well, it doesn’t matter who you want to see, because Hermione’s little ploy has worked, we said all that last part just to ourselves,” Severus chuckled.

Lucius nodded, but groaned and grit his teeth, and they all knew it wasn’t from any pleasure.

“You better take your potion; don’t let it build up too much,” Severus warned.

Without opening his eyes, Lucius sighed. “It still makes me feel so sick, so I keep trying to put it off.”

Hermione leaned across Severus and rubbed Lucius’ hand. “I’m sorry it’s not perfect.” They both knew that she took all the side-effects of the Blocking Potion as personal failures. They had both tried to talk her out of thinking this, but to no avail.

Lucius opened his eyes and quickly turned to her. “Don’t, princess, it’s keeping me alive.”

Severus sighed and summoned a phial of potion from his stores, and then picked up one from the rack on the table. “Take it, then have another anti-nausea potion and try to rest for a while.” They kept Lucius’ potions close by, so he could get them quickly if he needed to. There was still the possibility that something might go wrong and his mark would start burning again.

During the time they had locked themselves away, they had all become quite casual. Well Severus and Lucius had already been casual with each other, and Hermione just fitted in with them. They currently sat on the lounge all thoughts of formal dress gone. It was warm in Severus’ quarters and they were working hard, even if they were only expending mental energy.

While Lucius took his potions and rubbed the balm into the mark once more, Severus reflected on how lucky he was. Hermione had been eager to try anything sexual, right from the beginning. She takes every opportunity where Lucius is resting to be with me, to the point that she doesn’t wear underwear anymore. Then he remembered himself and was pleased Lucius was occupied so he didn’t pick up on that comment, although Hermione blushed heatedly.

“So, how much longer before this war then, General Snape?” Lucius asked, levering himself off the longue to head to the room the castle had provided for his bedroom.

Severus sighed, “I sincerely hope our hand will be called soon. Let’s all try and sleep, ay? It’s getting quite late.” He took Hermione’s hand to pull her up and they disappeared into their bedroom as well.

Chapter Text


Hermione, Severus and Lucius still hadn’t surfaced from their self-imposed exile. Their shared quarters remained tightly warded and silenced, and the only person they were accepting—and then only occasionally—was Minerva. Draco, Ginny and Harry hadn’t seen them for days.

The latter three had taken over Hermione quarters because there was less chance of anyone seeing them if they were in the dungeons. This really wasn’t that much of a hardship as it was the middle of winter, and regardless of what some people may think, it really was warm inside their quarters. Of course they were also in a new relationship as well, so all the time alone with each other was very welcome.

New Year had come and gone, it had only been celebrated by the three on Hermione’s side of the door. In fact the three of Severus’ side didn’t even acknowledge it. As soon as Lucius got the idea of communicating with Severus and Hermione’s minds, they started work on perfecting the skill together. There was only one, no go zone, and that was when Hermione and Severus were in their bedroom, then they warded their minds—and their bedroom door—against their mischievous, and very Slytherin friend.

At the moment, it was difficult to find time together, and just like the people on the other side of the door, Hermione and Severus were trying to find as much time alone as possible. Hermione was almost ravenous for sex despite everything going on around them, and who was Severus to deny her, after all he was a man. Their favourite part of the day was the time they spent in their bedroom, especially first thing in the morning.

Lucius was in the habit of sleeping late when he didn’t need to be up, and seeing they were both early risers they could spend quality time together while they were not too sleepy to enjoy it. The training they were undertaking was very mentally draining, and often at night they simply fell into bed and went straight to sleep.

Severus would inevitably wake first, and he loved to see how long Hermione would sleep when he started kissing her ear and neck. She was very sensitive around her ear and even in her sleep she would giggle and wiggled as his lips explored that particular spot. It was not unusual for her to roll over and coil her arms lazily around his neck while still asleep, so he could attend to the other side as well.

If by chance she woke with his name falling from her lips in a sigh, as she did this morning, he would count that as a good start to a day and know that it was about to immediately get even better.

“Severus… touch me.”

This morning’s breathy whisper, sent a jolt of pleasure through him, and he peeled the covers from her body, simultaneously adding a warming charm so it wasn’t such a shock to her. Severus realised that after his attentions before she woke, she had incorporated him into her dream-like state. Even though her eyes were partially open, and her voice was sleepily giving him instructions, she was still dreaming.

His mouth travelled down her neck to the valley between her breasts, and he trailed his tongue up to one peak, flicking it until it was pebbled and hard, and then across to the other to give it the same treatment before his lips closed around it to suckle.

By this time she had shifted onto her back and her legs had opened, he loved that she simply opened to him, and he took eager advantage of it, moving swiftly down her body. The first swipe of his tongue parted her cleft and lifted her back from the bed. She was awake now, and he watched her hands slide down her body to open herself in encouragement for him to continue.

Severus became mesmerized; he paused in his intimate explorations to simply look at the rosy flesh, already wet and glistening just for him in the early morning light of their bedroom. He was finally roused to action again when he heard above him, “Lick… oh please, Sev, I ache.”

Never one to allow his witch to want for anything, Severus instantly wrapped his lips around her clit, as his own hips started flexing in time into the mattress, trying to appease the aching throb of his cock while he attended to Hermione’s pleasure.

His lips and tongue worked in unison and his fingers explored her internal pleasure points. He was soon rewarded with a sound that was becoming his favourite sound of all; his witch keening her pleasure, before she let go and howled in delight.

While she was still convulsing and fluttering in her after-shocks, he surged up the bed and impaled himself on her. Her squeal of joy was exquisite, and he gave into his urge to thrust into her, listening to her cries of encouragement as he sought his own pleasure in her willing body.

This morning when she was properly awake, she took over and rolled them over, so she was astride him. Hermione knew how much he loved watching himself going in and out of her, so she let him. She shivered in pleasure watching his pupils dilate further as his shaft disappeared and reappeared from her supple sheath. Sometimes she swore just watching his eyes could make her come, even without the feeling of him filling her, and that exquisite burn of anticipation in her belly tightening until she thought she couldn’t take it anymore. He was so attuned to her, he knew that moment, and his hands arrived on her hips to guide her.

“Come, my love,” he whispered through gritted teeth, “so I may follow.”

He would never just strive for his own pleasure, once he’d made her come initially. He made certain his cock made her climax at least once more before he did, Merlin how she loved this man. “I love you,” she moaned, throwing her head back in abandon as she exploded around him.

Severus growled and flipped them deftly, pounding into her with her sounds of delight echoing in his ears.

Every time they made love it was the same, her last climax followed quickly on the one before and her vision left her, all she was left with was her intense pleasure and the sound and feel of Severus’ body making hers sing.

They collapsed into a panting heap, him delivering fluttering kisses to her face, “And I love you too,” he answered finally.

As they settled, Hermione rolled over and snuggled into his side. “I will never tire of starting the day like this with you,” and she smiled as his lips captured hers in answer.

~~~***~~~

The book on blood bonds and soul affinities was mostly folklore according to the author, L.K Glass. However, everything they tried worked for them after a little trial and error. The trio found that Hermione was their conduit, there were no blemishes on her soul and she could direct their power without tainting herself with anything dark.

Working in accord had just taken on a completely new twist. None of them were actually certain how much they were capable of, but there had been some interesting displays of magic. All three of them were powerful magical people, putting that together so the three worked as one was awe inspiring. Their magic just seemed to mesh completely on those occasions when their mind-set was right.

It had to be said, that on the whole Lucius was very understanding of their shared situation as well, which was unusual for him. For a man prone to fits of boredom, he actually left them alone as often as he could. Perhaps he’s growing up a little, Severus pondered, or more likely he is just too full of potions to care at the moment.

~~~***~~~

Of course, like everything, Draco had a theory about their neighbour’s apparent disappearances and reluctance to let them in, and it had nothing to do with practicality of working in peace and quiet or for the war effort. “They’ve formed a triad,” he said simply.

“What makes you think that?” Harry spluttered, laughing at the idea.

“I know things,” the Slytherin said significantly.

“Oh get out of here, Hermione isn’t that liberal,” Ginny stated, certain she knew her friend.

“Gin’s right,” Harry agreed. “She’s far too straight.”

Draco shrugged, “Oh well, don’t say I didn’t warn you.” Then he chuckled as his eyes perused his naked companions set expression. “I still think you should consider it, I know I’m right.” He shrugged, and suddenly became serious, sitting up on his heels between Harry and Ginny. “It seems surreal that we’ll be going into battle any day.” He reached out and took a hand of each person. “You guys are really special to me. When this is finished I hope we can explore options to make this more permanent.” Then he scoffed at his statement. “Imagine me, a Malfoy, shackled to two Gryffindors. My ancestors will be spinning so fast in their graves, they’ll tilt the world.”

Ginny rose up to a sitting position pillow in hand and she proceeded to smack the blond wizard over the head with it, laughing between words. “Enough with the Slytherin theatrics, you burk.” It didn’t take long for Harry to join in. After that all that could be heard was laughter and the occasional ‘ooff’ of a pillow hitting its mark.

Finally when they were laying in a panting heap, Ginny grabbed a hand of each wizard. “We’re trailblazers us three.”

Harry laughed and sat up. “Sure are,” he added. Leaning one way he kissed Draco then the other Ginny. Then with a mischievous look in his eye he grinned. “Now pleasure me slaves, I’ve survived snake-man twice.”

Draco snorted, looking at Ginny. “And you thought I was being dramatic,” he laughed.

“Yes well,” Ginny sighed, “maybe I spoke too quickly.” Giggling wickedly, she did the submissive kneel. “Where would sir like me to start?”

Draco eyed her a moment, and gave her a sharp smack on the arse. “Bugger the ‘sir’ crap,” he scoffed, watching Ginny quickly sticking her backside in the air for more slaps. He obliged, before on his last smack, he slipped his fingers into her slick folds and rubbed. “Lay on your back, lovely Red.” He watched her roll over, giggling happily at his command, although she pouted when his fingers left. He turned to Harry. “Up on your hands and knees so she can suck you, saviour boy.”

After copious amounts of experimentation—because it was holidays after all—the three of them had found out more of each other’s strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes. They all discovered they liked it when Draco took control, and the prima donna in the blond Slytherin was really turned on by being the controller.

The wizard in question, now took a moment to watch what he’d set up. Ginny was on the bottom, with Harry  straddling her face and her arms around his thighs to give her more leverage as her head slid up and down off the bed, while her mouth serviced his cock. Draco initially watched, idling stroking his own length, mesmerised by Ginny’s head reaching up and down as she took Harry’s length into her mouth, and seeing Harry’s tongue sliding in and out Ginny, ravenously lapping up her juices, it was too much for him. One hand increased the force of his idle strokes, and the other started preparing Harry to receive it. Draco saw Ginny’s legs shaking, she was moaning around her mouthful of Harry, and he timed his moment perfectly. Sliding the head of his cock into Harry’s entrance, the black-haired wizard groaned into Ginny, and she exploded around him.

Once she came down from her high, Draco watched her start to earnestly pleasure Harry once more, she’d done what she always did when she was close to orgasm, and forgotten what she was doing. Harry was groaning and panting in need. Once seated completely, Draco leaned forwards as he started thrusting, finding Harry’s ear he murmured, “Is this what you had in mind, Har?

“Oh yes… fuck yes… more,” Harry moaned, slamming back against Draco which simultaneously pushed Draco further into him and pulled him out of Ginny’s mouth.

“As my lover commands,” Draco snickered, and doubled his thrusts. Ginny took advantage of the loss of Harry to slither around and wrap her legs around Harry’s hips. Knowing what she wanted, the two men adjusted their position to accommodate her. She placed Harry at her entrance and sighed when Draco’s strong thrust then pushed his cock into her with little effort.

It didn’t take many of Draco’s powerful strokes for Ginny to catch up to them, and within three more thrusts they had all lost it. Ginny revelled in the sensations; only with both of her lovers that she felt completely sated. There was only one thing she loved more than what they’d just done, but they needed a rest before they even contemplated that.

~~~***~~~

The date was the 4th of January. It was a bitterly cold day, colder than Minerva McGonagall had lived through in a long time. The new Headmistress of Hogwarts had used the weather as an excuse to keep the children home with their families for another week.

Her intentions had been twofold. One she knew that Albus’ funeral would hit everyone hard and she wanted the children supported, and two she knew the culmination of their battle against Voldemort was imminent, at any moment in fact, and she wanted the children safely away from here. If she’d had her way Hermione, Harry, Ginny and Draco would be gone as well, having watched them grow up, she didn’t want to admit that they were young adults, and all of age.

In any case, she knew she had no choice, especially with Harry, it had to be him that cast the deciding blow against the evil wizard, but he also needed his friends. She suspected there was more going on under her nose than she was comfortable with Between Harry, Draco and Ginny, but she kept reminding herself that they were entitled to make their own lifestyle choices.

Standing in the master bedroom of her quarters, she shivered. It was still occupied by the frail form of Albus Dumbledore. Since taking over as headmistress she had occupied the second bedroom. She glanced around as she heard him