Chapter 11

"Severus, can I see you in my office after breakfast?" Dumbledore asked between bites of scrambled eggs at breakfast that morning.

"Of course," Severus said, glancing over at Dumbledore. He watched as the Headmaster's face broke into a delighted smile.

"Wonderful!" he exclaimed, digging into his eggs once more.

Severus shook his head and went back to working on his own eggs, thoughts of the woman sitting next to him flooding his thoughts. He looked over at Hermione and sighed. She had her long hair pulled back into a twist, a few loose strands hanging down and framing her face, showing off her slim neck to its fullest advantage. He couldn't help but feel the urge to run his tongue over that perfect expanse of white flesh. He clenched his fork in his hand and gritted his teeth, willing himself to be under control and not simply whisk her away into his private chambers.

He couldn't believe she had chosen him. The night before, when she had told him that she loved him, he was sure he was dreaming. There was no way a woman like her could ever love him. But she did. He felt a grin forming on his lips and fought to push it back down. It wouldn't do for his students to see him grinning like a madman at breakfast. They would think he was under some kind of spell. Well, he really was under a spell. Hermione had placed him under her spell as surely as the sun warmed the earth each day and there was no place he would rather be.

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"You wanted to speak to me, Albus?" Severus asked, sitting down in one of the chairs in front of the Headmaster's desk.

"Yes," Dumbledore said, leaning back in his chair. He studied Severus from over the tops of his spectacles for a moment. "May I ask where you spent your evening, Severus?"

Severus flinched. Of all the things Dumbledore could have wanted, that was the last thing he expected.

"Why?" he asked, furrowing his brow in what he hoped was a face of confusion.

Dumbledore chuckled.

"Well, I came down at around 11:00 because I had a feeling you needed some company."

Severus shook his head. That man knew everything, pure and simple.

"And?" Severus asked, fighting the grin that was struggling to the surface.

"And I noticed that your quarters were conspicuously absent of, well, you," Dumbledore stated, grinning. "Would I be prying too much into your personal affairs if I were to ask if Miss Granger was the recipient of your company?"

"As always, yes, you would be prying," Severus said, scowling at the Headmaster. "But as that has never stopped you before I will enlighten you of the information that you obviously already know."

Dumbledore laughed aloud, his head thrown back in merriment.

"Oh, Severus," he exclaimed, standing up and coming around the desk to pull Severus into a warm embrace. "I am overjoyed for the both of you."

"Thank you, Albus," Severus said, grinning down at the Headmaster.

"I don't think I need to remind you that discretion is vital," Dumbledore said, taking a seat in the chair next to Severus, rather than sitting down behind his desk.

"Of course not," Severus said, frowning. "I'm more aware than I would like to be of how dangerous our positions are. In fact, I nearly ruined everything yesterday."

"What happened?" Dumbledore asked, folding his hands over his white beard.

"I'm not going to go into detail," he began, "but after dinner I found Hermione by the lake throwing stones into the water. We exchanged a few words, I angered her of course," Dumbledore chuckled appreciatively at that. "And then she kissed me." Snape looked over at Dumbledore, a look of pure wonder clouding his features. "She kissed me! And I couldn't even begin to imagine how this beautiful creature could want me." He trailed off, staring out the window wistfully. "I started to fear for her safety. What kind of person would I be if I were to put her in more danger than she already is in? Certainly not a man who really loved her, not the way she deserved to be loved."

He stood up and walked over to the window, raising one hand to rest on the frame.

"I pushed her away, Albus," he said, clenching his fist. "Do you know how much that hurt?"

"Of course I do, Severus," Dumbledore said, sighing heavily.

Severus turned and waited for the older man to finish. When he simply sat with his eyes closed in silence, Severus continued.

"I don't know how he knew, but Remus came to my chambers after it happened and literally had to put me in a full body bind to get me to listen," he whispered. "And I'm so grateful for that, because if he hadn't talked some sense into me, I never would have gone to her last night. I never would have known what it's like."

"What's that?" Dumbledore asked, smiling.

Severus lifted his head up and gazed into the smiling blue eyes staring back at him.

"Love."

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"Okay," Hermione muttered to herself, running the tip of her quill down a long column of names. "Rhysen, Jacqueline, third year..."

Tap, tap, tap.

She looked up from the piece of parchment and glanced out the window behind her desk.

"Hedwig!" she shouted, jumping up from the chair and yanking the window open. The snowy owl soared through the open window and landed softly on the back of her chair, a piece of parchment rolled and tied to her leg.

Hermione pulled the letter from the owl and sat down, absently stroking the soft feathers of the bird's chest. The owl hooted softly then hopped onto the desk, promptly dipping her beak into the goblet of pumpkin juice Hermione had been drinking.

"Help yourself," Hermione snorted, shaking her head.

She unrolled the letter and smiled.

Dear Hermione,

I was so glad to hear from you! You say I have some competition? Well, I would love to meet this girl. Anyone who loves Quidditch as much as myself is an ace in my book. You know that.

How does Halloween sound to you? We have our first game of the season this weekend, but after that nothing until the fifth of November. I could come up on Friday and stay until Sunday. I can't wait to teach Jennifer some of my tricks. Oh don't worry, I'll squeeze a little time in for you as well.

Hermione rolled her eyes. She could almost picture the smug grin on his face as he sat writing the letter.

Owl me back with your answer. I can't wait to see you Hermione! Not to mention Remus! Sirius keeps me posted, but I still miss Moony sometimes.

Ron, Padma, Ginny, Lily, and all the Weasleys send their love. Hope to see you soon!

Love,

Harry

Hermione let the parchment snap shut, then pulled open a desk drawer for a clean piece. She dipped her quill in the green ink she had started using and smiled. What would Harry think when he saw that she was using green ink? All her life she had been using deep purple ink. She shook her head. If he only knew.

Dear Harry,

Halloween sounds marvelous! I can't help but think, however, that you have ulterior motives, Mr. Potter. It wouldn't be the famous Hogwarts Halloween Feast that is prompting you to come visit, is it? I know how you are, so don't deny it.

She grinned down at the parchment. No doubt he would get a kick out of that.

Although I fear I will have to tear you from the Quidditch Pitch, I will arrange a Friday evening dinner for you, Remus, and myself in my private quarters. Just wait until you see where they have me living Harry! It's absolutely beautiful! I'm sure Ron would say something along the lines of, "It's a bit overdone, isn't it?" It suits me just fine.

I can't wait to see you! Be sure to send my love to everyone as well. Don't forget to kiss Lily for me!

Love,

Hermione

Hermione rolled and sealed the parchment, then tied it to Hedwig's leg.

"Take this to Harry now, Hedwig," Hermione murmured, softly stroking the owl's feathered head. "Off you go."

Hedwig nipped her finger, then took off out the window.

Hermione had just turned back to her paperwork when a soft rapping at her office door caught her attention. She sighed heavily, sure she was going to get no work done that day, then pushed her chair back from the desk and went over to the door. She pulled the door open and frowned. No one was there. She took a step out of the office, looked left, then right, and, seeing no sign of anybody ever having been there, turned to go back into her office. She looked up and just barely held back the scream that had built in the back of her throat. Standing where only a moment ago had been empty space, was Harry. He had a wolfish grin on his face, green eyes sparkling behind his glasses. She was speechless.

"Something scare you, Hermione?" he asked, shifting the Invisibility Cloak to his left arm. His voice snapped her out of her momentary loss of vocabulary.

"Harry!" she squealed, launching herself at him and throwing her arms around his neck. He laughed aloud, then picked her up and twirled her around the office. He put her down, still laughing.

"How dare you!" Hermione yelled, punching him squarely in the shoulder. "You scared me half to death you prat!"

"I'm happy to see you too, Hermione," he said, laughter still bubbling to the surface. "I'm glad to see you haven't changed."

Hermione blanched. If he only knew.

"Well, I can certainly see you haven't changed," she said, sweeping past him to her desk. She perched on the very edge and glared at him. "You still act as if we were only thirteen years old."

He shrugged noncommittally, the grin still plastered on his face.

"Admit it, Hermione," he said. "You missed me and Ron and our practical jokes, didn't you?"

She glared at him, but could not hold it with Harry still smiling at her. A small smiled cracked through her defenses and she sighed, shaking her head.

"Yes, somewhere deep inside I did miss you."

"See? I knew it," he said, looking around him at their surroundings. "Nice office, Mione. Was it like this when you got here?"

"No, I redecorated after moving in," she said, looking around her with a fond smile. "I had to. Everything reminded me too much of Poppy."

Harry looked at her and frowned.

"Are you holding up okay?" he asked. "It must be hard spending all your time in a place that holds so many memories."

"Yes, well I manage."

Hermione heard the door to the Hospital Wing click open, then small, quick footsteps. She looked at the clock and grinned. Jennifer would get quite a surprise when she came in for her nightly rounds.

"Miss Granger?" she called, rounding the corner and stepping into the office. "I needed to ask you..."

She trailed off as she noticed the second occupant of the room. The transition was hilarious. Hermione barely held back the hysterical laughter bubbling up inside as she watched Jennifer's eyes widen, her mouth opening into a wide "o" of surprise, then the blush creeping up her cheeks. She opened and closed her mouth a few times, no sound coming out except for a small "eep."

"Jennifer, I would like to introduce you to one of my very best friends, Harry Potter."

Harry stepped forward and took Jennifer's hand in both of his, grinning widely down at the speechless girl.

"Hello Jennifer," he said, bringing her hand up to his mouth and placing a light kiss on her knuckles. "It's very nice to meet you."

Hermione shook her head. Harry always was a charmer.

"Erm, I mean, hello," she whispered, gulping.

"Hermione tells me you're a Seeker as well."

"Yes," she said, smiling faintly up at the handsome man. "For Gryffindor."

"Our old House, Hermione," Harry said, looking back at Hermione and winking roguishly at her. "I trust you still keep up the tradition of kicking Slytherin's arse, right?"

Jennifer laughed.

"Of course," she said, blushing deeper. "Although Professor Snape did a very fine job of picking his team this year. I'm not sure if we'll beat them."

"Snape picks the teams?" Harry asked, frowning. "I didn't know that."

"He only started picking the teams two years ago," Hermione pointed out, taking a few steps toward Harry and Jennifer. "He was a fine Quidditch player when he went to school here."

"Really," Harry said, narrowing his eyes suspiciously at Hermione.

"Jennifer," she said, dodging the look in Harry's eyes. "Could you please file this paperwork for me, then check on Mr. Albright?"

"Of course, Miss Granger," she said, looking regretfully up at Harry.

"Jennifer, if you'd like, I could give you a few pointers tomorrow morning," Harry said.

"Really?" she squealed, positively glowing with delight. "You'd teach me some of your techniques? Oh I would love to! What time? Can you show me the Wronski Feint?"

Hermione laughed, noting with great amusement the matching looks of excitement and love of the sport in the two people's eyes. It was amazing, really, the way a true lover of Quidditch could forget everything else.

She cleared her throat, raising an inquisitive eyebrow at Jennifer and Harry.

"It looks like you and I both may be in serious trouble if we don't end this conversation pretty quick," Harry said, grinning amusedly at Hermione. "How does eight o'clock sound?"

"Perfect!" Jennifer exclaimed, literally bouncing on the balls of her feet in her excitement. "I'll see you then!" With that, she bounded off into Hermione's file room, not bothering to hide the exuberant cheer that escaped her lips the moment she was out of their sight.

"Looks like you made a fan," Hermione noted dryly, rolling her eyes at Harry. "Come on. I'm sure Remus will want to see you."

They made their way out of the Hospital Wing, then down a long, winding flight of stairs.

"Remus stays near the Gryffindor quarters," Hermione said, taking long strides toward a long tapestry near the end of the hall. She stopped in front of the tapestry and curtseyed formally to the knight standing guard at Remus's door.

"Why..."Harry began, before Hermione nudged him hard in the ribs.

"Bow!" she hissed, eyes still lowered cordially to the floor.

Harry made a clumsy bow, clutching his ribs where Hermione had nudged him.

"Good evening Lady Hermione," the Knight said, taking off his helmet and bending slightly at the waist. He pushed his long, dark hair out of his eyes, then nodded politely at Harry. "I see you have a companion this evening."

"Yes, Sir Roderick, this is Harry Potter. Harry and I have come to visit Sir Remus. May we enter?"

"If you would allow me a moment to check with Sir Remus?" he asked, raising his eyebrows at Hermione. She bowed her head in acquiescence, then watched as Sir Roderick disappeared from view.

"What was that all about?" Harry asked, chuckling lightly.

"Sir Roderick guards Remus's door," Hermione said, reaching over to smooth down Harry's hair. It stood on end as soon as she stopped smoothing. "Remus likes the formality of the curtseying, and the 'Lady Hermione' and 'Sir Remus.' He may be a bit of a Romantic."

"Remus?" Harry asked, raising his eyebrows quizzically.

Just as Hermione was about to answer the tapestry was flung aside and Remus came barreling out. He practically knocked Hermione down when he pushed past and wrapped his arms around Harry in a great bear hug of affection.

"Harry!" he exclaimed, pulling back so that he could look at the younger man. "Oh, Harry it's so wonderful to see you!"

"It's wonderful to see you too Remus," Harry said, squeezing the man's shoulder. They both laughed, then reached over and hugged again.

"What are you doing here? How are Ginny and Lily? You must tell me everything," Remus said, pulling on Harry's arm and ushering him toward the door.

"I'll just leave you two alone," Hermione said, grinning as the two men finally remembered that she was there. They grinned guiltily at her, both of them blushing to the roots of their hair. "It's alright. I have some things to do, anyway."

"You really don't mind?" Harry asked.

"Not at all," she said. "I'm sure you two have a lot of catching up to do, and I'll see you at dinner."

"Thanks Mione."

Hermione waved the two into Remus's rooms, then turned and walked slowly down the halls. It was wonderful to see Harry again, even if he didn't really want to spend his time with her. She had someone to spend time with now, anyway. Someone that Harry might not approve of. She frowned, shoving her hands deep in the pockets of her robes. Should she tell him? Surely she shouldn't be ashamed of Severus. She stopped and looked out the window, down at Hagrid's hut. No, she wasn't ashamed. Hagrid knew how she felt. Albus and Minerva knew how she felt. Why shouldn't Harry know? She started walking again, smiling lightly to herself as she remembered last night. He had been everything she dreamed of and more. Tender, loving, passionate, holding onto her as if she would fade away if he let go for an instant. Everything. He was an enigma, impervious to complete discovery even after they had shared the most intimate of experiences. But she loved him for his mystery, as well as his other qualities. It was so refreshing knowing that he had depths yet undiscovered. She wondered if he felt the same way about her. He certainly loved her. After last night there was no doubt in her mind the he loved her. Loved her as he had probably never loved another.

She stopped again, leaning her head against the cool stone wall of the entrance to the dungeons. The dungeons? Her head snapped up, then she looked around wonderingly. How had she gotten here? She had been so wrapped up in her thoughts of Severus that she had unconsciously led herself to his domain. It felt familiar here, like him. She closed her eyes and breathed deeply, taking a few slow steps down the hall. Torchlight flickered on the walls, making her shadow leap and dance to some unheard music, her footsteps echoing loudly as she walked. She reached out and ran her fingers over a painting of the Slytherin crest, her fingers raising slightly over the bumps and ridges of the paint on canvas.

She turned away to head down to his rooms when she felt a strong pair of arms wrap around her waist and pull her into a dark alcove. She whirled around to see who her captor was, wand raised in self-defense. A pair of glittering black eyes came into focus, then a grinning mouth. Severus.

"Jesus Severus," she said, putting her hand over her heart and taking deep breaths in and out. "You scared me half to death."

"I couldn't resist, you looked so lovely staring at that painting," he said, reaching up to smooth her hair away from her face. He smiled down at her, tenderly stroking her soft cheek.

"You shouldn't look at me like that," Hermione said, running her fingers down the row of buttons on his shirt.

"Why not?"

"Because you render me powerless," she answered, reaching up to run her fingers through his hair. "I can't move or think. All I see and feel is you."

She threaded her fingers through his hair and pulled his head down, their lips meeting hungrily. He wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her closer, lifting until her feet left the ground. He guided her legs to wrap around his waist, then turned and pressed her back against the wall. His hands left her legs and made their way up her robes, pushing the collar aside to make room for his searching lips and tongue. She threw her head back against the wall, a moan of pleasure escaping between her lips. She could feel his hardness pressing between her legs and knew they had to take this elsewhere. A student could pass at any moment.

"Severus," she breathed, pulling at his head so that he looked into her eyes. His eyes were so clouded with pleasure and an intense fire for her that she almost couldn't continue. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. "We can't do this here. A student could come by at any moment."

He leaned his forehead against hers and sighed.

"You're right," he whispered, leaning in and kissing her lightly on the end of her nose. He let her slide down his body until her feet touched the floor, grinning mischievously at her the entire time. He knew what he was doing to her. Beast. "Shall we continue this elsewhere?"

Hermione ran her tongue over her lips slowly, feigning deep thought and consideration. His eyes watched her tongue intently, sparking with desire. Vixen.

"Absolutely," she said, taking his hand and leading him away from the alcove.

She had meant to tell him about Harry. She looked up at the man beside her and shivered in anticipation. Harry could wait.