Hi y'all! So I finally updated again, but updates still might be slow. I'm working on two other WIPs, a series that's unfinished, and my own novel (which I have to rewrite from the rough draft...this will take me a lot of time). I also had my hours bumped up at work and getting a second job, and now I'm an aunt! I'm so happy about that. 3 But I haven't had much time to write, honestly, other than in my other ongoing fic series (different Snape ship). I just have to be in a certain mood to write specific stories or pairings. I have been in a weird (and not really a good weird) state of mind lately, for a long time. It's just how it is, but I'm hoping to get at least a few more chapters up in March, because I'm in the mood and that's what I'm working on right now. Bear with me, please!

Fire scorched her innards as she sat on his bed, Severus following close behind, shrugging his robes off until he was only in a white shirt and black trousers. He nudged her on her back, and Hermione let him, sprawling on the sheets as he moved over her, basking in his body heat like a rose twisting to the sun. Hermione hadn't realized just how much she had wanted this, needed this, until he touched the side of her neck to brush back her bushy hair, and her skin ignited.

Her breath was coming out in short spurts. It was normal to be nervous, especially since the only person she'd ever slept with was Ron...she had no idea what to expect from Severus-but it was almost more thrilling, not knowing. Her heartbeat was erratic as he smoothed his hands down her sides, lifting up her loose shirt as his fingers crept closer to her breasts, as fluid as liquid boiling her insides.

Severus rubbed his thumbs on the underside of her breasts as Hermione squirmed. He was being gentle as if she were a filly to be tamed, and when he reached behind her to unclasp her bra, she let him. She lifted herself up to tug her shirt off as well, and Severus' large hands palmed her breasts, feeling the weight of them in his palms. She blushed. She didn't think she was well endowed, but he seemed to be enthralled with them, studying her as if she were a potion.

Suddenly he pinched her hard, and she squeaked as he plucked at her nipples, staring down at his hands as he moved to straddle her. She was still wearing her jeans, but she could feel the heat of his cock against her, even through their layers of clothing. She jerked up into him as he freed one nipple, letting his nail scrape over the sensitive flesh.

"Maybe we should undress," Hermione panted, and Severus quirked his lips and lifted his wand. Hermione's jeans melted away, and she could feel every fiber of his trousers, every woolen wrinkle as it scratched against her skin. "You too," she said, feeling breathless. And wanton, naked, pinned underneath a man-not just any man, a former teacher and Death Eater-as he was fully clothed, pressing his erection down on her as he leaned over her to clasp her wrists together in one hand.

"I don't need to be undressed," Severus murmured, and he leaned down to bury his face in her throat. She gasped as he bit her lightly, and the gasp turned into a breathless whimper as the bite became more demanding, his teeth pulling at her flesh until it was raised.

"Please," Hermione said. "I want to see you."

Severus lifted his head and stared down at her, his sliced pupils dilated as he scanned her face. Without a word, he leaned back and lifted his wand, and suddenly they were skin to skin, flesh rubbing together like silk braiding in on itself. Hermione lifted her head up to look at him, but she only had a brief glimpse of his chest and the scales running down his neck before he lightly grasped her throat and guided her back down. Her heart sped up and rose in her chest until she felt as if she were choking on it. He was controlling, unpredictable-it was intimidating.

But enticing.

She could feel the length of his cock-oh, it felt massive, she flushed as she imagined how it would feel inside of her, every vein rubbing in her depths...could imagine it pulsing in her mouth-as it dragged against her wetness to touch her trembling belly. She felt the tip rub her belly button, and a hot, wet droplet of moisture dripped onto her belly. Severus captured her wrists again, pushing her further down into the bed until she felt as if she was sinking into it as he stretched his body on top of hers. Coarse hair rubbed against her skin as his chest dragged against hers, and she wanted to touch him, but his grip on her wrists was strong.

He bit at her lips and she opened her mouth obediently as he thrust his tongue inside, much like how she imagined he would his cock, hot and damp, demanding all of her attention. There was a certain finesse, but no posturing-she knew his intent was to arouse, to devour. She let him, matching him as best as she could, but she felt dizzy and out of her element as he sucked on her tongue.

He broke away, a string of saliva connecting their mouths as he moved lower. She lifted her head up again as his hands slipped from her wrists in favor of petting her breasts, and then he captured one nipple between his crooked teeth.

Hermione let out another squeak. It hurt, but it wasn't...it wasn't like any pain she had ever felt before. No pain had ever made pleasure blossom in the pit of her stomach and spread through her blood like this, and she drew in little gasping breaths as he made his way down to her mons. He buried his face between her legs and inhaled deeply. Hermione resisted the urge to clasp her thighs together-he was smelling her, how embarrassing-but when the lush feeling of wet tongue licked the length of her pussy, she let out a high pitched whine she didn't know she was capable of making. He puckered his thin lips around her clit and sucked, stroking the shaft with his tongue before biting down harder than he had even on her nipple.

She jerked, slamming her crotch into his face as he soothed her with his tongue, swirling down until he was suckling at her entrance. She could hear the sounds of wet flesh smacking against his lips, his rumbling moans as he tasted her, and she shuddered as he pushed a single finger inside of her. She clenched around him, but as soon as he tapped against the tender spot inside of her that made her cry out again, he drew out and sat up until he was straddling her hips again.

"What-" Hermione started, but she didn't have time to gather her bearings. He flipped her over on her stomach and raised her hips until her arse was raised in the air, and he dipped his finger in her pussy once more, rubbing his fingers in the wetness and drifting to her arse. She drew in a harsh breath. She'd never done that before, and she had no idea what to expect-and he was larger than Ron-much larger, from what she had felt, and she wanted to see it for herself...but she wanted to feel it too, oh God, just the thought of it made a needy, aching pulse clench her stomach. His fingers lowered again, and now he was thrusting two inside of her, using his other hand to pinch her clit as she spread her thighs further apart.

Hermione rocked back into his hand, grinding into his palm as he rested his palm against her quim. "Patience is a virtue, Granger," Severus growled, and she hadn't realized that he was so close to her until his breath curled around her ear, hot, airy heat caressing the shell of her ear and ruffling curling wisps of hair. She moved her head to the side, laying it on the pillow as he stretched over her back, his sweat-slick skin sliding against her flushed body, making her tingle and spark.

"I can't-" Hermione croaked, as the aching hunger in her belly expanded through her body, liquid fire rushing in her pussy and soaking his fingers. She could hear them squelch inside of her, and she blushed at the sound. Only a little more-just a little more and she would-

But then he withdrew completely, and the loss of his warmth almost made her angry. "You-"

His cock prodded her winking entrance, still pulsing from his ministrations, and all she wanted was to come, please, let me come, make me come…

He thrust in without preamble, and she had to bite the pillow to keep from crying out. It burned, and he stretched her as he pushed into her in one long stroke, holding her middle to keep her hips upright as she trembled in his arms. He let her go and reached around to rub her slick flesh as he started to thrust in earnest, the heat of his cock seeming to brand her as his. The once painful burn was now welcome wildfire, burning her insides as he pounded into her, his hand slipping from her clit to grasp her arse and knead it.

Hermione bucked back into him, barely aware of the gasps and little mewls spilling from her lips. Her throat felt dry, but everything else was wet and heat and hard, and she couldn't concentrate on anything but the hot cock inside of her. Severus' balls were slapping against her, and she wanted the chance to kiss them, too...roll them in her mouth and make him gasp the way she was.

One of Severus' hands slipped from her bum, and she didn't have a chance to do anything but scream hoarsely as it connected with a harsh slap on her arse, the thrusts speeding up, pounding deeper until she felt as if she could taste him in her mouth. He clenched her in both hands again, spreading her cheeks as her face burned. Sibilant whispering rolled over her skin and tingled her spine as he ground into the spot that made her see stars behind her eyelids, his pubic bone crushing against her until she could feel the coarse hairs brush up against her tender flesh. The hisses whispered in her head and they only seemed to stoke the fire that was building up inside of her. His voice was silky and low as his tongue slipped over breathy sshhs, the sounds like music drifting through her ears. He lifted his hand again to gently stroke her pearl, and she cried out as she exploded, melting like sugar against the sheets as she milked around him...and Merlin, she didn't know how much she needed this before. Severus stilled, and he let out a long, drawn-out groan as his cock pulsed inside of her, shooting heat like a lightning strike inside of her depths, filling her up as he crammed himself in further. He pressed his body closer to hers, his breath ghosting over her ear. He was speaking now, his voice low and gasping, but she couldn't comprehend what he was saying anyway. His words were still just a hiss, soft and strung-together, almost as if he hadn't realized that he wasn't speaking in a normal tongue anymore. Her belly fluttered as the barely cooled lust in her gut warmed again. Parseltongue. It sounded so erotic like this, brushing against her body and sending a warm thrill through her womanhood, and she relaxed in the bed as he continued to hiss against her throat, a dull murmur in her ears. She could easily come again just listening to his deep purrs and soft hisses as he smoothed his hands down her slender body.

He rested his head on the back of her shoulder as his cock still jerked inside her, his body spasming as he let out shaking breaths and short, sporadic sssss whistling between his crooked teeth.

"Shaseer ahsha shee," Severus whispered, his breath ghosting over her neck as he pulled out of Hermione, rolling off of her to rest on his side. Hermione flipped her body over to face him.

"What did you say?" she asked, stroking her hand down his sallow face. A patchy flush spread across his face and he averted his eyes.

"I-" He paused. "Sometimes I slip."

He was avoiding her. He must have known that she wouldn't be able to understand what he was saying. But silence filled the room, and Hermione sighed and cuddled her head into the pillow. She wanted to curl into his body and feel his heat as her flesh pebbled from the sudden chill of loss, but she didn't want to be presumptuous. But you just had sex with him…

"I want to give you my blood," Hermione murmured, twirling a lock of her own hair. She wanted to run her fingers through his hair, which was still greasy, strings of sweat-soaked strands clinging to his face. But she didn't, as he stared into her eyes. His black eyes were more of a deep, impossibly dark espresso, the slitted pupils dilated into thick slices. He averted his eyes and stared at the pillow instead.

"I have someone who is helping me," Severus answered. "You don't have to feel the need to do this."

"I want to," Hermione said. "It couldn't hurt to have one more person helping you."

Severus shifted on the bed, and Hermione could tell he was uncomfortable. "Who is helping you?" She knew enough now that she felt fine asking questions, but he lifted himself up to sit on the side of the bed, turning from her to regard the window.

She would bet every galleon in her bank vault that it was the Malfoy's who were giving him their blood, but how much longer could they do it? Did they plan to keep Severus a secret forever? Well, it had taken this long for someone to find out about him, so she supposed that they were doing just fine. But still...she wanted to be closer to him. She didn't feel a real need to give him anything. It was what she wanted though.

"If you insist on helping me," Severus said, his voice distant, "which I don't need, as you know...you can…" He broke off, raising his hand to look at his nails. "You don't want to do this."

"But I do!" Hermione exclaimed, shuffling closer to him. She brushed back a hank of greasy hair that had fallen in his face, and he shuddered under her fingers. "I want to."

"Think more about what you want," Severus said stiffly. "Until then, you know where I'll be."

Hermione knew when to leave well enough alone, so she quieted, staring at the white column that was the back of his neck. His skin seemed thin, almost translucent in how pale he was. She could see his pulse thrum, and the scales that adorned the right side of his throat were creeping over his back too, glimmering in the dim candlelight.

"Are you human?" Hermione asked softly before she could stop herself. Severus jerked away from her.

"I don't know," he admitted, and Hermione was nearly shocked at how quickly he responded.

"I'll help you find a cure," Hermione soothed and trailed her fingers down the scales that drifted on the back of his neck and down between his shoulder blades. She hadn't noticed how far they went down before when she was clawing at his back.

He shrugged her off. "There is no known cure. That snake was...as I gathered from what Potter had said after I had...well, met my demise. I heard it from another source, of course, but...a Horcrux. No spell or potion can stave this curse. The antidote you saw...that was for a dark creature, but not one with a piece of a soul of a deranged, bloodthirsty Dark Lord."

Hermione dropped her hand. She hadn't thought much about that. Nagini had been a Horcrux, which meant that all of Severus' efforts to regain his humanity might be in vain. That must be why the curse has progressed more, even with potions and spells.

"How long has it taken to get like this?"

Severus was shielding his body from her, and she realized she hadn't seen much of it when they made love. Well, made love might not be the proper term for it. He had fucked her, almost brutally, and she had loved every second of it. She wondered what it would be like if she pinned him, forcing his wrists together and showing him that she could match his passion as well as he did. She shook the thought from her head. Though...he said there were so many things he could teach her...what did that mean, exactly?

"Let me see you," Hermione whispered. Severus shied away from her touch as she tapped her fingers against the scales. He let out a long sigh.

"If you insist," Severus said darkly, and stood up, turning around to face her.

She couldn't help it. She gasped openly.

His torso was dotted with random scales, some patches thicker than others. His chest wasn't as furred as she thought it had been-there was some hair spattering his chest, but it was mostly scaled, pieces of fish-belly white skin showing through cracks and spaces in between the scales. There weren't as many around his nipples-small, pinkish brown discs that were slightly peaked, but underneath, lower on his abdomen, the scales were thicker and more prominent. They ended at his belly button, where swirls of wiry hair trailed down into a thicker thatch of his groin. His balls were plump and large, black hairs curling around them that Hermione could almost feel tickle her nose as she imagined playing with them. But she regarded the cock that fucked her earlier, thick and long, dangling soft and sated against his thigh...a thigh dotted with scales. They weren't as grouped together on his legs, but shining plates ran down parts of his upper leg randomly, and she could see why he was always wearing his stuffy black clothes, even in his house. She hadn't seen them when he was wearing his nightshirt, but the scales stopped above his bony knees.

"It's gradually getting worse," Severus said. "I won't be shocked when they spread on my face in the next year or so."

"We have to do something!" Hermione cried. Severus hissed in annoyance.

"Haven't you listened to a word I said? There is nothing you, nor I can do. This is my penance," Severus said, his voice chilly, and he turned to grab his wand. He whispered a spell and his clothes furled around his body, obscuring the scales once more. "You should go," he said, his voice milder. "But you can come back, of course."

Hermione felt a rush of indignance. She just had sex with him-the second person she'd ever been with-and he was kicking her out! She wouldn't even be able to spend the night. She shook her head and sighed, conjuring clothes for herself in the process. "Fine," she said abruptly. "But I don't know when I'll be back."

Severus' eyebrow raised, but Hermione turned away and Disapparated before either could say anything else.


"Books predating the potions book I sold you?"

Hermione nodded emphatically as Aceline's brow furrowed.

"I'm not sure if I can get my hands on anything that ancient," Aceline said, her voice slightly morose, as if she wanted the books too. "The oldest I had found was the Egyptian Arithmancy."

"I'll give you extra if you can do a little digging for me," Hermione said, and Aceline nodded.

"I'll see what I can do. What in specific were you looking for?"

Hermione stopped short. She couldn't very well mention Horcruxes to Aceline, even if she knew what they were. Voldemort took a risk making an animal into a Horcrux, and he may have been the first to do it. Hermione drew in a deep breath.

"I'd be interested in dark wizards, as early as you can find."

"A research project?" Aceline muttered, scribbling on a sheet of parchment.

"Something like that," Hermione said quickly. "Thank you so much."

She had to meet her friends today, this time it was Ginny, Katie, Leanne, and Angelina who wanted to go to Diagon Alley and shop-which would probably mean spending most of their time at The Leaky Cauldron. She had little patience for it with all that was on her mind, but she did want to see them. It had been a while since they all had been out.

Hermione made her way to the Floo to arrive at The Leaky Cauldron. It was as if she was in the Gryffindor Common Room again, and Hermione snorted as she saw her friends sitting around a large table. It would have been nice if Luna was there as well, but she was studying animals abroad.

Ginny waved at her first. "Come on, 'Mione! Join us for a drink!"

"Or five," Angelina snorted, as Katie downed a shot of something green and steaming.

Hermione sat down. "What's been on your mind?" Ginny asked, peering at Hermione. "Is something wrong?"

"No, nothing," Hermione answered. Except that you killed a man, and you're involved with Professor Snape, who is turning into something inhuman…

Katie called for another drink, and Tom rolled his eyes as he slid another shot to her. Ginny turned her attention to Katie. "What's up with you, anyway? Why is everyone acting so strangely?"

Leanne elbowed Ginny, and Hermione could hear their muted whispers. "It's the anniversary of the Battle of Hogwarts, you know," she muttered. "With Fred and all…"

Angelina nodded slightly and glanced side-eyed at Katie, who appeared to be oblivious to their conversation. It was well known that Katie had dated Fred for a year and a half after he left Hogwarts-going off to Diagon Alley to see him on weekends and Christmas hols-and every year, Angelina and George usually took her out with them to distract her from the pain and loss. Hermione felt a pang of sorrow shoot through her heart like an arrow. She was lucky she hadn't lost Harry, or Ron...and while she lost others she loved dearly, too, she had learned to heal from the pain. Harry lost more than she had, and while the pain of loss really never went away, after time, it became easier to deal with.

And now she was lucky that she hadn't lost Severus. While she didn't love him, not in a romantic sense, at least-she cared about him. And the feeling was blossoming into something warm, now that she knew more about him. She wanted to help him. She would help him.

"I just...I know I couldn't have done anything," Katie said morosely, staring into her drink. "It still hurts, you know?"

Ginny's eyes glimmered as she patted Katie's shoulder. Hermione's pity for Katie twisted into something almost poisonous as she stared at Ginny and her distant eyes. Katie may have lost a boyfriend, but Ginny had lost a brother.

Hermione shook her head and ordered a beer from Tom instead, trying to quell the myriad of emotions that seemed to choke her.

"Maybe you should try dating," Leanne suggested, and Hermione's sudden frustration with Katie melted away.

"You date a new bloke every two weeks," Katie laughed, and Hermione felt a grin stretch the corners of her lips. "I'm not taking advice from you."

Leanne shrugged as Tom arrived with Hermione's drink. "So I heard you did great on that kelpie case, Hermione," Angelina said. "How in the name of Merlin did you manage to detain a Death Eater by yourself?" Hermione's heart stalled.

"Yeah," she laughed weakly. "It just...I just did what I had to do."

Ginny nodded. "I was pretty impressed," she said loudly. "Now let's stop talking about boring stuff like work. Drink! Be merry!"

Hermione let out a small sigh of relief and took a large swig from her glass. She wouldn't be able to avoid questions forever. Only Metlock, Ernie, and Persimmon knew that the Death Eater was dead, maybe a few more Ministry officials. She was frankly shocked that Harry hadn't found out. But only Severus knew how she had managed to survive.

She shook her head and took another drink. Severus, Severus, Severus! That man was infuriating. Not wanting to give her the full story, even when she had offered her own blood to help him. She felt a bit churlish for being angry at not spending the night in Spinner's End, but she cast that thought aside. She would help him, no matter how much work she had to put into it.

Then she remembered what he had said before. 'This is my penance.' He felt remorse for what he had done as a Death Eater. For what happened to Lily Potter...Lily Evans. Her irritation dissipated and she suddenly felt guilty for feeling angry in the first place.

She'd help him regain his humanity, and maybe he could come out of hiding and still live a peaceful life. But if he did emerge, after all of these years…

What kind of chaos would come out of that? How would he explain it to the rest of the Wizarding world? The man was a recluse, and he most likely didn't want to be seen, even if he hadn't been cursed.

And what would her friends think, if they ever found out?