A bit late, but the ending was just a-r-g-h, because I'm not used to writing so short for this pair.

Innocent Shadows is poking at me again, so I wanted this done and not a epic mass :D


How they left the sprawling Malfoy home, Hermione had no idea. Severus had a firm grip of her elbow and with a forced-march over the winding paths to the edge of the wards, he apparated them into his softly lit, book-cluttered front room.

Hermione staggered, wrenching her arm from his hard hold. She yanked the lamassu feather form the bodice of her gown and flung it to the low table. The bloody thing swished and floated, giving her no satisfaction at all.

"There. You can hand it over to Peabody." Her heart hammered and she fixed her gaze on the smooth rug set before the hearth. The embers there were glowing brighter in the blackened fireplace, warming into flames as his magic reacted to its master's return. "I—"

"Hermione…"

His hand moved into her vision and she jerked back. "Don't touch me!" Her hand snapped to cover her mouth and a sob broke from her. Tears threatened, but she willed them back. Breathe. She had to breathe. One kiss, one incredible kiss from a wizard she'd always wanted, did not a relationship make. But still… She'd thought it meant something to him. It did –had— to her.

Severus sank into his chair before the fire and raked long fingers through his hair. His head fell back against the padding. He let out a long sigh. "Lucius Malfoy has always…desired me."

Hermione blinked. Was he bragging?

Dark eyes, heated by flecks of gold fixed on her. Her heart jolted. He couldn't look at her that way. Not now. Not ever again. "Sit, Hermione." He waved a hand to the chair opposite and her mouth thinned. "I will explain. Or you can leave. Your choice."

Just a week. They'd been a…something for only seven days and only one kiss to mark it. And work had been a bitch with the insane Malfoy job. She glared at the long feather, so precious, as it came from an extinct race of magical creatures. An ingredient in the darkest of potions. But still, a feather? She'd risked her sanity and heart for a fucking feather? Severus had assured her-

Her thoughts bounded back to the man in the chair and the images, the sounds from Malfoy's study crashed over her again. Her nerves were straining tight with the horror that she'd misunderstood Severus. The polished, so-very-practised ease with which he'd seduced Lucius Malfoy stabbed every doubt through her. Her thoughts, her emotions were caroming and she couldn't balance herself. The loss of control terrified her.

She dragged her fingers through escaping curls, something rhythmic, soothing. Her chin jerked up. "What is there to explain? You were –are— lovers."

"I am no longer his lover."

Fuck, she didn't want that statement to ease the panic bubbling in her chest. But it shrank the terror, the hard pain under her ribs, the tightness that made it so hard to breathe, to think. Yet…spikes of anger still lurked. He was supposed to be hers. "Then why—?"

"Nothing else would've distracted Lucius, not enough for you to make your escape. You know this, Hermione. My role, as your guardian, demands that I do everything necessary to keep you safe." Severus sat forward and his long fingers curled in hard, forming a bloodless line across his knuckles. Anger cut under his words, hot and bitter. "And if that means grabbing Lucius Malfoy's dick, then that is what I must do."

Hermione dropped into the chair. "It didn't mean anything?"

"An act."

"All of it?"

Severus held her gaze, his harsh face tight, this lips thinned, pinched. For a long moment, he closed his eyes. Then he was staring at her again. Obsidian eyes bright and fierce. His voice was hard. Sure. "I am with you."

Her breath caught and her hand found her mouth again to deny the pained half-sob that wanted to break free. The four bitten-out words stabbed at her. She hadn't trusted him. Hadn't believed in him. Had thought the worst of him.

She closed her eyes. Stupid. She was so stupid—

"Hermione…" She jumped at the light brush of his fingers across her knee. "A long time ago, I was flattered by Lucius' attention." He lifted an eyebrow. "Even you must admit he's a very beautiful wizard."

She huffed a disgruntled breath and Severus' lips quirked upwards. But his attempt at humour had smoothed over another ragged nerve.

"I…used his infatuation. Through both wars and the waiting. He was aware that what we shared was a…a grasping for pleasure in a time of horrors. He knew I never wanted more."

"Though he did. Does."

Severus' lips pressed together and he gave her a slow nod.

"He loves you."

Severus winced. "It's possible." His eyes held hers, endless and with something edging them. Straining them. Something she had to label…fear.

Fear. In a wizard such as Severus Snape. Impossible. And he was letting her see it. What…? Could it be a fear of her not believing him? Why would he…?

Severus' fingers curled away from her knee and he eased back into the flickering shadows of his chair. "I found pleasure with him, but nothing more. He is in my past." His smooth voice was little more than a whisper. "Lucius Malfoy does not hold my heart."

That admission smacked into her. What…? Who could…?

She blinked. Her mind spun and she had to grab at the arms of the chair. Her nails dug into the thick linen. No. Yes? Merlin's little green apples. Hermione's heart thudded and the wavering rush of panic surged back through her blood with tidal force. She lashed every ounce of her Gryffindor courage and threw it around her next question. She wet parched lips. Offering up a silent prayer to every god she could think of, she asked, "Do…do I, Severus?"

Her fingers twitched in her lap. He was simply staring at her. With an inch of a smile on his face. Oh, gods. She did. He…oh, she did. And before he could say anything, her wild whip of adrenaline snapped any form of control and ran away with her mouth.

"Gods, Severus. I do? Me? Do you…do you love me? Because that would be," a peal of laughter broke from her and her hands flapped, "that would be brilliant, because I, well, I love you. Have loved you. For ages. Since we started this insane partnership. Before, actually." She frowned. "Should I mention that crush I had on you in Second Year? Or Third Year? Oh and Fourth Year, when you showed Fudge… Actually, it didn't stop. The crushing, that is. Well, it did for a bit. Sorry. But, after the war, even with the day-and-a-half that saw me with Ron. Ron? What was I thinking—?"

"Hermione!"

She jerked back into the moment. What? What the hell had that been?

Severus was kneeling before her. He caught her hands and held them to her knees. His shoulders drew up, his chest swelling with air before he released it. "Breathe."

Hermione snapped her teeth together. She followed his slow, sure example. Three times. Her face burned. The wizard she had wanted for almost half of her life had all but said he loved her and she, she reacted as if she'd been hit with a Babbling Curse. She shut her eyes. Fuck. Fuck. "I just made a total arse of myself."

"I happen to like your arse." She heard the smile wrapped around his words. "Very much."

Hermione groaned and her head dropped.

"You saw the wizard you love," he tipped her chin up and his mouth had twitched into one of those delicious and distracting little smirks, "with someone else. A former lover. And he dismissed you." Severus sighed. "I'm sorry." His thumb stroked over her lips and the touch tingled. "I should be glad you're not hexing me."

"I should hex you."

"Not tonight."

The promise in those two words wrapped a calming warmth around her flesh and the last of her wild panic and fear ebbed away. Her shoulders slumped. Weariness sat on her. Gods, being in love was exhausting.

Severus lips brushed hers, a light touch, a whisper that still heated her blood. She licked her lips and it was relief that she tasted only him.

"There's no trace of Lucius on me. I promise."

Hermione pinched at her eyes before she let out a long breath. She huffed a laugh. "I was so scared, Severus. You were mine. At least I thought you were and then…"

Severus rose, smooth, with elegance and offered her his hand. He pulled her to her feet and wrapped his arms around her. She pressed herself willingly to his chest. The familiar hints of sandalwood and hickory warmed her senses, the silk of his frockcoat smooth under her cheek. She let out a slow, blissful sigh.

"I should have made myself clear last week, but Weasley and then Potter," there was still that cut of derision. Three years of peace had hardly smoothed its edge, "interrupted us." He rested his chin on her wildness of her hair. "I put your strain down to having to attend a party at Malfoy Manor."

"Also that."

"Hermione, look at me." His voice was low and soft and tingled under her skin. She lifted her head and rested her chin on his chest. A line formed between his brows. "Such insolence." But a spark of humour lit his dark eyes. He brushed a curl from her temple. "I am making my intentions known now. I am yours. Completely."

Her chest bloomed and a smile broke from her, even as her eyes burned. She pressed her lips together to deny her tears. Her fingers stretched against the broadness of his back, reluctant to fist the fine silk of his coat and squeeze the bloody man till he squeaked. "You're only interested in my backside."

Severus snorted a laugh. "Also that." He stroked a slow line down her cheek and dipped his mouth to hers in a slow, almost chaste kiss. "I have put on so many masks for so many people, Hermione, but I swear you will have only my honesty." The corner of his mouth twitched upwards. "Always."

"Bed."

Severus lifted an eyebrow at her sudden declaration.

She wrinkled her nose. "I'm tired. You, you deliciously insufferable man, have mentally and emotionally exhausted me. Now, I would like to get out of this fright of a frock, find your bed and go to sleep." She let her fingers find the sliver of exposed skin above his collar in a slow caress. His hiss of pleasure, dropped familiar heat low in her belly. "With you, Severus."

His smile was slow and hot and Hermione was certain that with the first light of morning, sleep would be the very last thing on either of their minds.

And it was.


Bit of an odd ficlet this, so let me know what you think! :)