Disclaimer:- I neither own nor earn anything from this story. Harry Potter and his wonderful world are the intellectual property of JK Rowling and associates.

sSs

A/N:- Here we are with the next instalment of our story, thank you for the fabulous response to the last chapter, I appreciate every favourite, follow and review. Just a warning to those of a sensitive disposition, Severus and Phineas have a discussion in this chapter that alludes (but does not specifically mention) torture and attempted rape, however, there is nothing graphic. I hope you all enjoy this instalment.

hHh

Chapter Eight – More Puzzle Pieces and Kissing Tapestries

Hermione was certain that she was still red as a beetroot as she prepared for bed that night. It abruptly dawned on her as she was removing her clothes that her whole life had changed since that morning. It was almost wondrous to her as she contemplated the changes.

The last thing she did before she entered the shower was remove the clip from her hair. However, as she brought her hands back down from the back of her head she gasped. The clip in her hands was antique and finely wrought silver, it featured strands of flowers entwined with snakes and was heavily encrusted with emeralds. It was breathtakingly beautiful, and Hermione ran her fingers over it delicately.

It has to be a family heirloom, she was certain of it, and most definitely Slytherin, but where had it come from? Was it his? "Oh Severus, you are a mysterious man," she said quietly, and carefully placing it on the vanity, she got into the shower.

xox

As she did this Severus was leaning up against the wall opposite the tapestry. Why have I never looked at this couple, or noticed the resemblances? Were they always kissing? I think not, he pondered. Severus wanted to know what was going on here, and his only option for answers was meddling old man, so he sent a Patronus to Albus. asking him to join him.

As he watched the picture some more while he waited, his thoughts swirled. It was reflecting exactly what he was feeling, and he wondered, Was this showing him what Hermione wanted? After all it was her who had noticed it. He sighed deeply as he heard footsteps approaching.

"Ah Severus, taking my advise on the evening stroll?"

"Something like that, Albus," and he indicated the tapestry. "Albus, what do you see when you look at the picture on this tapestry?"

Albus looked at him puzzled. "That's an interesting question Severus, but hardly one that requires a Patronus summons."

"I beg to differ Albus, I am very curious about what the occupants of this scene are doing, as I believe I have not seen them doing this before."

Albus finally looked, and a snort of laughter broke from him. "Oh, I see what you mean," he cackled. "Miss Granger even seems to be having an effect on the castle decorations. That young woman is going to be a serious force to be reckoned with in years to come."

Snape smiled like a loon on the inside. So it's what Hermione wants, thank every deity that there is, but do I have to wait until Summer and I find a bloody cherry tree, surely not? However, he sniffed indignantly as he replied to Albus, "I agree, but that is not the point. We can't leave this here, can we?"

"No, imagine the student body's reaction to their evil Potions professor kissing their pretty Assistant Potions mistress." He looked again at Severus and his eyes softened. "It's really quite special Severus," he thought another moment, "and you make a beautiful couple."

"Bloody hell, Albus, be serious." Severus' eyes narrowed, "And that's enough with the evil Potions professor crap, as well," he snapped.

"I am being serious Severus; does the deed offend you in some way?"

"You never mind what the deed does to me, old man, just get rid of it," and he turned away, feeling warmth rising in his cheeks.

"Oh I see," Albus enthused suggestively. "You think it a pleasant deed then?"

"Albus," Severus seethed through his teeth.

"Very well, Severus, don't get your robes in a twist." Albus drew his wand and the tapestry shimmered and slowly changed to red and green, writhing snakes. Neither of the occupants of the first tapestry even noticed that they had been moved. "Better, dear boy?"

Severus nodded but only just managed to be civil. "Much. Where did you put the other one?"

"Somewhere more private, my boy, in fact it's somewhere right out of the public's eyes." he looked Severus up and down. "Who knows what the occupants of that tapestry will end up getting up to, anything else my boy?"

Severus seethed once more and Albus laughed heartily. "I'll thank you to keep your opinions to yourself, old man," and he glared at him in a way that made Albus laugh louder.

Then Severus remembered and his voice turned serious. "Oh yes, could you connect the floo between my quarters and Minerva's rooms please. I felt it prudent that Miss Granger remain with Minerva for a little time." Dumbledore looked at him quizzically. "Albus something very… unfortunate has befallen Miss Granger, and I think she needs another female fussing over her for a while before she moves down to my quarters." Albus gave him a harder look, and he answered it with, "I intend to get to the bottom of it. Phineas Nigellus alluded to some deed that involved her friends, and it upset her beyond words. I want to know what before I know how to proceed."

"Very well Severus, would you like me to make some enquiries as well?"

"I would appreciate that Albus, thank you. Good night."

"Good night Severus, pleasant dreams, my boy," he finished off, and left before Severus could retaliate.

xox

When he arrived back at his rooms he saw exactly where Dumbledore had moved the tapestry. It hung on the wall opposite Basil the Banal, who was busy watching the action. "Oh fucking hell, bloody Albus Dumbledore and his ruddy sense of humour. I'll kill the old bastard."

"What?" exclaimed Phineas trying to see what was going on. "Do you wish me to tell him that?"

"Yes!" Severus roared, but then abruptly, "No! I want to talk to you first."

The Potions master spent some time speaking with Phineas, however it didn't gain him an all encompassing knowledge as to what had actually happened as he hoped it would.

Phineas told him she had been badly injured in some way, and a few days after this, Miss Granger had had a heated argument, first with Weasley and a couple of days later with Potter. He went on to say, "I do know the first disagreement centred on advances made by Weasley towards her, I witnessed the incident in the very room my portrait hangs, but I don't know if it was the only one." Phineas continued, "Weasley," and he sneered, "was none too subtle with his advances, he felt that she should allow him to, well putting it politely, have his way with her and he used some very unsavoury language to describe the process."

"I can imagine Phineas, go on," Severus nodded, a similar sneer on his lips.

"Well he had pinned her to the bed with the view of doing this. Severus it all but amounted to attempted rape." He looked at the scowl on Severus' face and continued, "Miss Granger retaliated, and on this occasion managed to get her knee up, and she used it most effectively, then once up she was on her feet she was very inventive with her hexes." Phineas chuckled, "Weasley will be very lucky if he is ever sexually active again. She's quite a fire-ball when roused, impressive to watch," he said.

Severus snorted, "Do you know what happened before the incident with Weasley?"

"I know that Potter and Weasley brought her back from somewhere, and I remember thinking at the time that they should have been being more careful with her. She was in a terrible mess, but I am unaware of exactly what had happened."

"What kind of mess?"

"She was injured, very bloodied and sore, only seemed to be wearing a heavy cloak. She was also showing the aftershocks of what I suspect was a Cruciatus curse."

"And it was a few days after this that Weasley made his advances?" Severus asked, finding his temper quickly fraying. Phineas nodded. "Fucking little troll, had he no thought for what the sweet woman may have suffered?" Phineas' eyebrows shot up at the slip, but Severus was now pacing agitatedly, and was far too disturbed to even notice his slipped term of endearment. "He'll not want to say anything to her near me, or I'll rip him limb from limb," the Potions master seethed. "How could he, little ginger prick."

Phineas was deep in thought as he listened to Severus' tirade, and finally he said, "You know, now I come to think of it, she looked as bad as you used to after some of the Dark Lord's punishments," he said, now vainly trying to follow Severus' progress as he paced up and down the hall.

Severus abruptly stilled. "It is all starting to sound like she was captured, isn't it?"

"Yes I'm afraid so, Severus."

Severus shook his head sadly. "Those bastards... I'm glad that woman's dead, her and her cronies were monsters."

Even though Phineas knew Severus was talking about his great-niece, he nodded in agreement.

Seeming to force himself to calm a bit, Severus asked, "What about the boy-who-annoys, what happened there?" His voice was softer, almost like he was too revolted to even contemplate anymore.

Phineas was less sure about this. "They seemed to be alone before Miss Granger had finally left. Weasley had gone by this time, probably home to mummy to cry about what had happened to him." The old headmaster chuckled as he said, "I wonder if he showed her the damage, she shrunk his balls to the size of..."

Severus cut him off. "That is hardly relevant, Phineas, and I don't want to talk about the little shit."

"I know, but he deserved every hex, Severus."

Severus let out a hollow laugh. "Yes, I agree he deserved every hex, but please Phineas you were telling me about Potter."

"Oh yes, something had happened to upset Miss Granger further, I heard a distant argument I just don't know what it was about. Walburga doesn't allow anyone to pass through her portrait, so I couldn't get any closer."

"Do you know where she went after she left?" Severus asked, fairly sure he knew that answer he would get.

Philius shook his head, "No I'm sorry, I don't. I did hear Potter let fly with his famous temper after she had gone though, I heard the breaking crockery and listened to Kreacher going on about it after. One thing that did puzzle me was something Kreacher said in his usual verbal ramblings, you know how his head is filled with pure-blood doctrine," Severus nodded, "Well I heard him say, you would think Potter scum would be grateful kind Master Malfoy saved the mudblood."

Severus' eyes narrowed. "Of course we're speaking here about Draco, surely not his father?"

"Yes, I believe he was referring to Draco, we both know that Lucius would have been part of her problem."

Severus nodded, "There's no doubt there Phineas." He nodded, "Thank you for your time."

"Severus, I didn't mean to upset her so much, do you think she will be all right?"

"I hope so, I truly hope so Phineas. Good night."

xox

Severus found himself thinking hard that night as he brewed Skelegro for Poppy, everything went through his head over and over until he was so completely confused and didn't know what to think. After reflecting for most of the night, the only two things he knew for certain were, one he had a raging headache, and two, he wished he knew what had happened to her.

When he finally made it to bed what kept him awake most of the rest of the night was wondering how to approach her about it. Today he had felt so comfortable with her it just seemed to happen, and he hoped she felt the same way. Even if he couldn't help thinking it had happened so quickly, he was glad that it had.

It filled him with rage wondering what had actually happened to her in hands unknown. Rescued from whom… Death Eaters, he couldn't shift that thought, it all seemed to point to that. Oh Merlin, if that was the case it could have been so much worse, but what had they actually done to her? He knew the kind of things that happened and he shivered, but he couldn't think the worst until he actually knew for sure.

She had brought out his protective side, he hadn't ever been able to protect someone he cared about successfully, and he desperately wanted to be able to protect her. He also knew he wanted to have her, hold her, oh how he wanted to... He never finished this thought because his nether regions twitched and sprang into life. He closed his eyes, No I will not give into carnal fantasy; I am a grown man, he chanted in his head.

Dear Merlin, it has been a long time since a woman has put me into this state. Think of Trelawney, bloody hell man, think of her leering at you, pawing you, there that should do the trick. He flinched at the images in his head and felt his desire subside, and he tried to relax.

Shit man, try to sleep before you get yourself into serious trouble. There's no point in worrying about things you have no control over, all I can do is support her and take it very slowly with her. Imagine me, allowed to do that, hoping she'll tell me things as she's ready. Then of course the hard part will be trying to keep my hands to myself until she shows me she is happy to accept my attentions. He yawned and turned over and eventually he managed to nod off.

xox

The next morning found Severus in his lab downing a headache potion and then brewing himself a morning coffee so strong you could have striped paint with it.

When Hermione arrived he was pleased to see she had transfigured another set of robes into the style he had used the previous day, only these ones were burgundy with black trim and a cream blouse, which had lace to the neck instead of ruffles. She had obviously asked Minerva's house elf to help her with her hair as it was swept up in the same style, but she had a most becoming halo of wispy ringlets around her face. His stomach clenched as he watched her approach, she looked very sweet.

She smiled, but on looking him up and down she commented, "I hope you got the number of the bus, sir. Are you feeling unwell?"

All he could muster was a smirk. "Very funny, I'm fine; I merely had a very late night." He was sitting at his desk cradling the coffee in his hands. "Did you put a protective spell on those robes?"

"I'm sorry, sir, I'm not sure which one would be best."

Now she looked confused again. "Come here," he said kindly, and when she was standing next to him, he tapped her coat and then her skirt with his wand, murmuring words as he did so.

Hermione instantly felt his magic flow around her. "Thank you, sir." She watched him a moment, before she stepped back and asked, "Sir, may I ask you something?"

He looked up at her and trying to sound more encouraging than he currently felt, he said, "Certainly, little lioness, ask away," and he absently flourished a hand.

She touched the clip in her hair. "This beautiful clip, umm... where did it come from?" He looked at her; obviously he wasn't expecting that question, and Hermione hurried to explain further. "It's just that I didn't realise how beautiful it was until I removed it last night."

He was just sitting there watching her, and she was starting to wonder if she had done something wrong by asking. As she became uncertain, Severus saw her head drop and she started to back further away, an apology no doubt already forming on her lips. He looked away momentarily, and scolded himself. Get your mouth to work, man, tell her something, anything just don't let her think she's done something wrong. Eventually he settled on the truth. "It was my mother's," he finally admitted, looking at her as she gasped in shock. "I just thought it should be used. It will do her no more good, I considered that you might like it," and then he added quickly, "if you would like to, of course."

"Sir... I'm speechless. Are you certain?"

What he wanted to say was, 'Hermione, my love, I've never been more certain of anything in my life'. But he couldn't say that. What he eventually settled on was, "Yes, little lioness, I am certain," and he forced his rusty smile muscles to move his mouth into a passable smile.

Hermione felt herself tingle with pleasure, and she dropped her head again to hide the pleased flush that was creeping up her neck. "Thank you, sir, I will guard it with my life," and glancing up, she smiled coyly in returned at him from under her lashes.

"I know you will, little lioness, and you're entirely welcome." His stomach was suddenly alive with tingles as he looked at her coy expression. He smirked and cleared his throat, and then getting up said, "Come, we better get this day under way."

Severus ushered her out the door for her first full day of teaching, with him still clutching his coffee like she had seen him enter the Great Hall countless times before over the years. She had always wondered what he drank in the mornings, and now she knew. She also couldn't help thinking that it smelled divine.

On their way out the door Severus commented, "I've had Dumbledore move that tapestry, the wall covering you need to look for now has red and green snakes moving around on it." Then he gave a huff of displeasure. "Look where the sly old coot put it."

"Oh," said Hermione, her eyes following his rapid hand movement to indicate the wall as they passed.

"Does it offend you, Miss Granger?"

"No, sir, I think it's a very pleasant tapestry," she said wistfully, "but I'm extremely pleased it is no longer on public display."

He noted her tone and nodded, "I must say it would have caused a riot if left on the first floor."

"So you think its trouble, sir?" she blurted out sadly. Oh shit, engaged mouth and not brain again, you stupid woman what if he says yes.

Severus glanced across at her. "No, Miss Granger, not necessarily, I was merely thinking of the reactions of dunderheads to it, it is a very personal depiction."

"Oh," Hermione murmured hazily and started up the steps, realising too late that she had forgotten the seventh step. "Oh!" She repeated her exclamation in a very different tone this time as her foot sank into the step.

One step behind her Severus realised what had happened and instinctively grabbed her around the waist with his free arm to support her while she pulled her foot free of the step. He hadn't even given any consideration to how intimately attached that would leave them, as of course they ended up body to body and both very flustered. Severus gently placed her down on the step next to him and she turned within his arm to gaze up at him, her hands coming to rest on his chest.

Hermione felt her face going red and was fairly certain that she was literally glowing in the dark stairway.

While Severus was fighting not to give in the urge that was suddenly overwhelming him, as their eyes watched each other. Through her partially open lips he heard Hermione murmur "I'm very sorry, sir... I've always been extremely forgetful of steps and their activities."

His eyes were now watching her mouth as she licked her lips nervously. "Mmm, yes, Miss Granger you really should be more careful," he managed as if in a dream. He suddenly realised that his trousers were way too tight, and that if he didn't let her go immediately he was going to kiss the lips that the tip of her pink tongue were moistening.

His arm left her waist like she had burnt him, and only two thoughts were stinging his brain. You bloody fool, how could you have just grabbed her like that, and thank Merlin for loose fitting teaching robes.

Severus thought she looked intensely disappointed as he recoiled from her, and when she realised her hands were touching him she made a little whimpering noise that sounded intensely sweet to him, and he too became disappointed when she then removed them.

He cleared his throat loudly. "Come," he said, sounding intensely irritated to her, and he took off at break-neck speed through the tapestry, and started towards the Great Hall.

xox

Severus overheard a great many comments on the assets of the young lady trailing after him as they walked towards the head table, all of which irritated him further. He seated Hermione, but before he sat down he went to bid Albus and Minerva good morning.

However, as he walked back to his seat he heard stupid Sinistra seated next to Hooch further up the table say, "Apparently that really is Hermione Granger, I still can't believe it, she was always such an unattractive lump of a bookworm." With this comment the vulture on her hat mysteriously fell into her eggs and Severus merely sniffed, Bitch, he thought. Only Albus noticed his palmed wand coupled with the sly expression on his face and he had to stifle a chuckle.

After settling a little, Hermione started looking around, walking to the head table still felt fairly foreign to her, but when she saw Neville and Hagrid waving frantically at the other end of the table, she smiled broadly waving back. Just as she was about to pick up her tea Severus discretely leant close as he sat down. "Watch Dumbledore and Flitwick," his voice was so low and he'd raised that gorgeous eyebrow.

Hermione gazed hopelessly at him a moment until he looked away uncomfortable in public, and she then remembered what he'd said and discretely leant back to watch as the Charms professor and the Headmaster. Said Headmaster's hand came out him and Flitwick glared slightly then waved his wand. Galleons appeared and dropped into Dumbledore's hand.

Hermione gasped and leaning forward again her eyes met Severus' and his mouth curled up just a fraction. "Told you," he said quietly, inclining his head to her.

"I just can't believe it," Hermione replied, shaking her head.

As she sat at breakfast, Hermione somehow knew that this day was the start of something amazing, this man had changed so much towards her, although she knew his outward facade was still intact. Even now his black gaze was continuously scanning the hall for anticipated deeds of mischief or mayhem, but she felt very privileged that in private he was starting to trust her enough to let his guard down.

She found herself even more honoured when Madam Hooch came past and made a suggestive comment about the two of them. Snape instantly leap down the woman's throat, leaving her so singed that she must have felt she'd had an encounter with a Norwegian Ridgeback.

Then he sat there fuming until Hermione had finished her breakfast. Once this had happened, he abruptly said, "Come," through his teeth and stalked off out of the hall with her almost running to keep up with him. He then proceeded up the stairs to the Arithmancy classroom at the same pace.

Breathlessly Hermione finally stuttered, "P-professor, where's the fire?"

By this time they were on the second floor and he abruptly stopped. "Hopefully in that witch's broom at one hundred feet," he fumed through clenched teeth.

Hermione smiled at him, she was surprised he was being so gallant and she felt the need to say that Hooch hadn't offended her. "It's okay, sir, I'm not upset," she said timidly.

He looked down at her, his gaze instantly softening, "There is no need for crude comments such as that, little lioness."

"No I agree, but they are inevitable," she looked at him playfully. "Maybe she fancies you, sir." She couldn't actually believe she had just said that to Professor Snape, then if she thought she was surprised by her own words, his reply floored her.

He actually rolled his eyes and said, "Please, Miss Granger, I've just eaten, that thought's almost as bad as that banshee Trelawney touching me up at the last Yule Ball." He shivered and Hermione laughed joyfully, and then the only thing Severus thought was, Yes, I definitely need to make her laugh like that more often… I want to feel that laugh against my lips as I kiss her… oh Merlin help me. His next thought was, I shouldn't think things like that, as he felt the opinion in his trousers agree wholeheartedly. Discretely trying to adjust his stance without her noticing, he thought, Better get back to business, and clearing his throat he tapped his wand on the door lifting the wards and he ushered her through.

Hermione suddenly spoke. "The wards on the Potions lab, how will I know which wards you have used?"

Severus replied, "Don't worry; I'll copy the wards I use to your wand." Hermione handed him her wand without him asking this time, he put the tips together and cast, "Effingo incantatem," effectively copying his usual wards so she could use them as well.

"I've never used that spell, would Finite incantatem work?"

"That only works when you know what spell you're ending," he explained seriously.

Hermione nodded, thinking, You idiot you know that, and listened as he continued.

"I wouldn't concern yourself, I have a feeling that after a while we will fall into sync and cast the same wards without knowing what the other has cast."

"Really?" Now if she thought her previous comment was banal this one was truly stupid. Honestly was that the best answer you could come up with, she mused and rolled her eyes, groaning.

He just raised that eyebrow, making her quiver and said, "Really," and the corner of his mouth curled up significantly.

"I'm sorry, sir, that was a dumb thing to say."

"Indeed," and he watched Hermione flush as he went on, "We shall no doubt cross paths in the hallway between here and there next lesson, until then, little lioness." He nodded his head and she choked unable to think of a reply, her mind was too caught on the elegance of his gesture. By the time she had thought what to say his footsteps were echoing far down the corridor.

Of course she couldn't see that his mouth was also firmly set with a smile as he walked, at managing to fluster her completely without her becoming overwhelmed by it.