Disclaimer: Characters belong to JK Rowling. No profit is being made.

A/N: Thank you to the wonderful Banglabou for being the beta for this story. Any mistakes are from my own fiddling! This is a story geared towards mature readers. It is, in some moments, explicit and there is some strong language.

This is already complete – there are five chapters. I'll do my best to post daily, or more if you're all very good ;-)


Animalia

Chapter One

"Do you yield?"

"Against my will!"

"Pish. You shouldn't have bet against me, then."

"You should have named the price!"

"You didn't name yours, so don't get all high and mighty on me, young man!"

Severus blew out a noisy breath and flopped into the chair on the other side of the Headmistress' desk. Of all the things that he could have agreed to…

"You have… taken advantage of me!" he exclaimed, already groaning as he sensed the defeat, and he added on emphatically, "The both of you!"

"Bollocks." Minerva tossed back the last of her whiskey and shook her head. "You lost. You start on Friday evening."

.

.

Severus approached the Room of Requirement with an unfamiliar sense of trepidation. It wasn't that he was unwilling to share his knowledge – all right, he was somewhat reluctant – but the secretive setting was not helping his suspicion that the woman on the other side of the door had made a pawn out of him. And what a pawn he would be!

The process of learning to become an Animagus was nigh on exhaustive; forcing one's body, even with the assistance of magic, to change to an entirely different species took effort, time and patience. His own experience had been filled with mistakes that he had no intention of divulging, and only after the development of a spell that he was particularly proud had he managed to change his form successfully.

He had never taught anyone else; not a student, not an associate and most certainly not a woman twenty years his junior who was lovely at the worst of times, and beautiful at the best. Already his palms were damp, and the bank of insults to mask those palms was accumulating to a point of overflowing. If she used his spell in front of him…

No. He would not think on it.

After walking past the door and thinking about the reasons he needed it, it appeared and Severus curled his fingers around the handle before throwing it open to a very startled looking Hermione Granger.

"Professor Granger," he said stiffly, closing the door behind him with a formal nod. She stood on the other side of the room, her hands held together in front of her body. With her hesitant smile and unassuming stance, one could be forgiven for thinking that she was still the awkward bookworm she'd been during her student years, and for the first years of her teaching career as well.

It'd been painful to watch her navigate her new role; bossing two teenage boys around was nothing compared to managing a raucous class of twenty at a bare minimum. He hadn't spared any pity for her – not when she ran herself thin trying to be every student's friend. Perhaps understandably, she had not come to him for any advice, though he did happen upon her one afternoon in the staff room as she stared dejectedly out of one of the larger windows. Severus had watched her for a moment, knowing all too well how it felt to be the youngest teacher of the group, and when she'd turned and found him there, her mouth had parted in a becoming, soft little gasp. Unsure of what on earth he was doing but finding himself doing it anyway, he strode towards her and stopped mere inches from her body.

Lowering his voice and linking his hands behind his back, he'd bent closer to her ear to purr, "Give them hell, Madam Weasley," before sweeping out of the room.

Low and behold, within the next six months, not only was she as commanding as Minerva herself, but she had kicked the unsuited man that was her husband to the proverbial kerb.

It was an apt assessment to say that Professor Granger was certainly not the slip of a girl that she had been. Divorce became her. While he had never again sought her out in particular after that moment in the staff room, his eyes had followed her as she walked with her head held high, her fleshier, enticing curves enveloped now in robes that hinted at her figure, not betrayed it. The mane of hair that had become strangely endearing to him had been chopped off, and now wisps of curls framed her pixie-like face, coming to rest just above her shoulders. Before, he had often experienced a decidedly odd sensation of wishing to wind one of her long, haphazard curls around his wrist; now, his teeth often itched to sink into the newly revealed smooth-as-pearl skin that was the column of her neck.

Unnerving, indeed.

Severus found himself faced with a conundrum; not only did he found her beautiful, but with every hint of a smile that was sent his way, he gravitated toward her even more. She was his match in all but age, though of course her beauty ran laps around the dusting of grey hairs that he liked to think softened his appearance somewhat. And at fifty five, he was still as awkward around the opposite sex as if he were a teenager; his hands could map a woman's body confidently, to be sure, and he ached to put himself to the test with the canvas that were her smooth, round curves, but the art of wooing a woman was utterly lost on him. And he wanted to woo her – he wanted her for his own, to claim her, to be claimed.

Hopeless – it was absolutely hopeless. Severus Snape did not receive such things, and he should have nipped it in the bud long ago.

Simply put, he was a love-struck ruddy fool.

Hermione looked up and grinned. She wore some interesting looking Muggle pants that were more stockings than trousers and it was a Herculean struggle to tear his gaze away. It was almost his undoing when he saw that the top of her was only covered by a thin black t-shirt that must have quite literally been through wars.

She tilted her head to the side and cleared her throat, piercing him with her stare. "Oh. I thought that with all of the fuss you made, you'd come dipped in gold and on a little platter ready for my… perusal."

Good grief. She was in fine form already. Severus shrugged his shoulders and scowled, ignoring the way her eyes gleamed with what seemed suspiciously like wickedness. "You are here to learn, Professor Granger. If you are intending on wasting my time…"

The witch had the nerve to roll her eyes, and she spread her hands out with an innocent smile before saying, "Not at all! I'm glad that you've offered –"

"I was forced!" he cut in.

She steamrolled on, "I'm glad that you offered to assist me! I've always wanted to master this, and unfortunately Minerva does not have the time for me. Well, she did try but-"

"Wait." He held up a hand. "This is news to me. Minerva already tried?"

Hermione features crumbled into a shame-faced expression, a look Severus decided suited her very much with her wide doe eyes and flushed cheeks. "I have, ah, attempted this on numerous occasions."

"Bloody hell." You're in the shit, lad.

"I need help, all right!" She huffed and crossed her arms. He looked down at the floor while pinching the bridge of his nose.

"Why have you persisted? This is a very advanced form of magic."

She grumbled an unintelligible answer, and scuffed one of her –

"Professor Granger, where are your shoes?"

Christ – her feet were dainty, so pink and clean that he caught his knees just before they bent to take him close enough to suck a toe into his mouth. With eyes fit to bust, he opted instead to groan and in another smooth movement, his hand covered his eyes.

"I thought it would be easier," she defended herself, cheeks tinged red. "Minerva kept saying that I'm just too uptight for this sort of thing –"

"Pot, kettle," he drawled.

"Would you stop interrupting me? I could say the same about you, after all!"

His answer came in the form of a growled, "Indeed."

Granger held up her hands in a show of acquiescence before she waved them over to a set of chairs that appeared before the fire. He followed her, eyes locked firmly on the back of her head to avoid even the possibility of looking lower. She sat primly on the edge of one of the chairs, while he folded his body down comfortably, smoothing the rich fabric of his frock coat over his knees. After crossing his legs, he tilted his head in an unspoken gesture.

She looked at him in a beseeching, pleading way that would have made better men feel guilty, but instead only enflamed the desire that he held for her, the longing, the want that was not helped by her proximity.

"I'm sorry," she said flatly. "I know you've got a lot going on –"

"Not really," he admitted, and though her eyes flashed at the millionth disruption, she gave a short laugh and ducked her head.

"– but I want to learn. It's… important."

With a thumb stroking his chin, he leaned forward in the chair. "Why?"

Like frost seeping in to the room, her welcoming, hesitant expression morphed into something that seemed foreign on her face. As closed off as the locked door to their very room, she scowled down at her lap.

In an attempt to head off any morose conversation, he said stiffly, "Your reason may be providing the conflict between your magic and the spell." When she perked up slightly, he continued with a careful, "You need not tell me what it is, but the intention for magic such as this is vitally important. You must become the spell, so to speak. It is not like Transfiguration, nor is it anything to do with your equations. The intuition required is not unlike that which is needed for those skilled with defensive magic, and perhaps Potion makers. You are a…" he paused and cleared his throat, unsure in the face of her now riveted attention. Automatically, he slipped into the lower, quieter tone he preferred to use for lectures. "You are still quite a methodical, analytical witch – not necessarily a bad thing, but you lack the flexibility required to really bend your mind in order to change your form. I trust that Minerva has touched on this already?"

"In a way," she mumbled, "but perhaps not so astutely."

"Ah." Severus' fingers locked into a steeple under his chin. In truth, he was almost enjoying himself – he would have offered to help long ago if she had but approached him directly. As it was… "And so you thought it suitable to let Minerva take on my bet about a simple Quidditch match? I was hankering for rooms on a higher floor, I'll have you know. This better be worth it."

Her head snapped up, and the firelight glinted off her chestnut hair, casting it in a golden light that prompted him to swallow and look away.

"You're saying yes!" she exclaimed, her hands coming together in a few joyous little claps. "Truly? You'll teach me?"

Needing to save face somehow, Severus muttered, "I keep my promises, Granger. I am not without honour."

"No, no, of course not!" Hermione agreed enthusiastically, nodding her head. "When shall we start? Oh, this is simply fantastic!"

Bemused, his mouth twitched at the corner. "I was under the impression that we would begin now."

She jumped up and grinned. "Absolutely! I can't thank you enough, Pr- hmm. Can we do away with formalities? Call me Hermione."

"Very well." He nodded slowly, his composed expression barely even hinting at the way his heart was thrumming. Like a hummingbird's wings, it had taken flight at using her first name – there really had been next to no interaction between the Arithmancy Mistress and the Professor of DADA, and so he spoke without thinking, instinctively savouring the twists and turns of a name that he had always found enchanting. "Hermione."

He had intended to return the invitation, but he found that any attempt at suave, composed behaviour was lost when her mouth formed an 'o' before she bit her lip. "Yes," she said breathlessly, though he had no idea at all what on earth she was referring to.

He stood quickly, jerking his chin towards the centre of the room. "Let us begin."