Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter or any related character. That all belongs to JK Rowling. Making no money here.
Author's Notes: Much thanks to my beta! Also, the rating is more of a soft "R" based mostly on language rather than content. I hope everyone enjoys! (Additional Note 4/16): Um, this was written for '16's Interhouse Fest. So, yeah. I'm behind.


The Fact of Fiction

It was bad enough, in Hermione's humble opinion, that NEWTs were so stressful. It did not help that everyone—positively everyone—seemed to be staring at her. It had started one early morning, on the way to one of the final classes she would have—since returning, post-war, to complete her seventh year at Hogwarts—before the NEWTs themselves. She was making her way down the bleak and perpetually dank stone stairs that led to the dungeons to attend her Potions class—shared, this year, with the Ravenclaws, thank Merlin.

Eyes were on her, a few of them wide in shock while others seemed to be hiding grins that didn't seem too nice. It had been an entire year with little to no whispering following the end of Voldemort, and Hermione thought it seemed a bit odd to have made it so far just to have them start now. But she did as she had told herself at the beginning she would do, had they started then. She ignored it. She waited just outside the classroom door with Ginny and Luna, chatting idly with them about NEWTs, a subject that seem to cause both young women's eyes to roll back in their heads.

"What do you suppose everyone is on about?" Ginny finally asked, cutting Hermione off mid-sentence about the structures of an anti-venom potion.

Hermione blinked, taken slightly aback. She had apparently been doing an excellent job with her ignoring of the others, because it took just a moment for her to realize what Ginny was talking about. She cast an eye about the small crowd of students around her, and most giggled and turned away—and she could have sworn that she saw a blush on some of their cheeks. She shrugged, turning back to her friends.

"Haven't the foggiest."

The door to the classroom opened, and everyone filed inside, taking their usual seats. Normally, when taking such an important class, Hermione would have chosen a seat near the very front—the better to pay attention—but Potions was a different thing altogether.

Things had not gone the way everyone had expected them to in the war. Severus Snape had been one of those things. Harry himself had seen Snape murder Dumbledore. Students here had suffered here at Hogwarts with him as Headmaster, having Death Eaters as teachers. But, in the end, he had been playing Voldemort for a fool. He had been attacked by Voldemort's snake, Nagini—also a Horcrux—and Harry, Ron, and even Hermione herself had thought him dead.

So imagine everyone's surprise when the survivors had gone to retrieve his body—after Harry having done some explaining on his behalf—to find that he was not quite dead. A few weeks in the Infirmary, stuck with a few scars, and Severus Snape was back to his old, miserable self. After an investigation into his actions cleared him, McGonagall—now Headmistress of Hogwarts—invited him back to school, once again taking up his old mantle of potions master. Slughorn had properly retired, citing age and war-weariness.

Forced to take her final year of Potions with a teacher that was almost universally loathed, Hermione had since broken her front seat rule, and settled for somewhere in the middle, with Ginny and Luna seated on either side of her. A loud bang from the front of the room announced that Snape had arrived, exiting his office and coming to a sweeping stop only after he had reached the blackboard. Obscured from view, Snape wrote quickly, the chalk screeching unpleasantly from time to time. Hermione gritted her teeth, a visible grimace coming to her face as a result. A girl sitting across the aisle from her giggled, and Hermione watched her tap her friend rapidly on the arm and whisper into the other girl's ear. They both descended into giggles.

"Silence," Snape droned, not even bothering to turn.

The girls stared at Hermione, doing little to hide it, the laughter gone… but still a hint of amusement in their eyes. Hermione's brow furrowed. Okay, now this was getting out of hand. The girls looked away when Snape finally turned to address the class. He seemed to hesitate, taking in some of the unusual expressions on some of the students' faces—nobody ever laughed in his class. But he shook it, replacing the vaguely curious expression on his face with one that made everyone sure that he was the one in charge. He cast his black, bottomless-pit like eyes about the room. And a girl giggled. Hermione would have thought it impossible, but she was absolutely sure she had never heard the Potions classroom this quiet.

Snape stalked over to the girl, who—to her credit—seemed to be immediately regretting her lack of control. He leaned over her desk, getting just the barest bit in her face. Her lips were quivering.

"Is something funny, Miss Jules, about NEWT level potions?" he asked.

Miss Jules—a Ravenclaw—parted her lips, as if to respond. But when nothing but a slight squeak issued, she settled for shaking her head. She was quivering from head to toe, and the way that the girl was nibbling now on her bottom lip made Hermione question whether it was actually fear making her act this way. Even Snape seemed to notice it. He left her to her seat, returning to the blackboard, and began to give out their assignment. They had an hour and a half to compose two of the potions listed. This was an opportunity, he stated, for them to work on their most difficult potions before the actual NEWTs. After that, he sat at his desk, at the head of the classroom, and class continued as usual.

The hour and a half seemed to creep by, but after Snape inspected everyone's two potions—making snide comments on most if not all—class was dismissed. Everyone seemed to run out of the room, and while this was not unusual, the staring back at Snape, the leering at Hermione, and the interspersed giggling was.

"Okay, what the bloody hell?" Hermione finally said to Ginny. "What's the deal? I mean, is it my imagination, or is most of this directed at me… and some at Snape?"

They had paused, along with a few others, to linger in the hall just a few feet down from the classroom they had just left. Ginny shrugged.

"No, it's not just you. I just don't have a better answer than that."

"So you don't know what this is about either?" Hermione asked.

It brought her a small measure of relief to hear that. She had been so afraid that she had spent so much time with her head stuck in a book that she had missed something monumental. This was something she was trying to avoid, as she was afraid of it being a negative reaction to what had happened during the war.

"I have an idea," Luna said, causing Hermione and Ginny to turn their attention to the blonde. "Why don't we ask?"

Before they could grab her, she was gone, approaching a nearby group of giggling girls. Hermione pressed closer to Ginny, eyes wide. "Why do I get the feeling that that was a bad idea?"

"Because, as much as I love her, it was Luna's idea."

They watched from a safe distance while Luna conversed with the two other students, nodding along with what they were saying before finally being hand a rolled parchment. On her short walk back, Luna unraveled it just a bit, and already her eyes were wide. She rolled it back, handing it to Hermione.

"You're not going to like this."

##

Severus Snape sat alone in his chilly dungeon-level office, his eyes crossing as he attempted to grade the First Years' Potions essays. When he was almost positive he'd read the same paragraph twice, he decided to set the current essay down and just take a moment. Upon picking it back up a few minutes later, he found that it wasn't that he'd read the same paragraph twice, it was that two paragraphs said the exact same damn thing, only in slightly different ways. Slightly.

"This was not worth it," he muttered to himself.

It was a depressing mantra, considering most would be grateful that they had survived a war. But Snape had never expected to live, and he had made his peace with that. After all, living meant living with a certain stigma attached to his character for the rest of his natural born days. And here he was now, living that exact scenario. Potter had vouched for him, which had cleared him of any time in Azkaban, but as every adult knows, a jury's opinion means little when compared to that of the larger public.

A knock on his door jarred him out of his thoughts—and that boring essay—and he had to clear his throat just a bit, exercising his voice, before he called, "Enter."

McGonagall entered, her lips pursed shut in annoyance. Snape arched a brow. Angry even before she could announce why she was here? That couldn't be good.

"Headmistress," he drawled. "How can I help you?"

She seemed to unclenched her lips as she thrust a roll of parchment at him. "Have you seen this, Severus?"

He took it from her hands, already shaking his head. "Unless it's a Potions essay, I assure you, I haven't."

"Please. Take a moment and… and read," she said.

She made no move to sit, choosing to loom over her colleague. It make Snape nervous and edgy, but he did his best to ignore the feeling as he unrolled the parchment and began to read.

Immediately, his eyes caught some choice words. All erotic and having no place in a school. He read through the opening descriptive paragraph containing a man and a young (er) woman engaging in a very long instance of foreplay. He made it down two more paragraphs before names were mentioned. His jaw dropped.

He looked up, seeing a satisfied look on McGonagall's face. Apparently, she had needed justification for her outrage. Snape stood now, waving the parchment at her.

"What is this?" he demanded.

"This is precisely what I've come to ask you."

His eyes doubled in size. "You think I had something to do with this… this… drivel?"

"Your name is present, is it not?"

"So is Miss Granger's!"

McGonagall crossed her arms and sighed. "Yes, I know. I fully intend to question her about this too. But the fact remains. There is a fictional—" she paused, apparently awaiting confirmation, in which Snape provided in abundance, "—work of an erotic nature, starring a student and a professor circling the school. Of course I intend to question the, ahem, stars of the work. Do I honestly believe either of you would write this? No. But then again, you both went through it during the war, so I had to ask."

Snape was moments away from telling the Headmistress where she could get off when he paused.

"It's… circling the school?" he asked.

McGonagall frowned, now nothing but sympathetic. "Yes. I'm afraid so."

While a part of him was vaguely amused—knowing that this would drive Granger up the wall, and so close to NEWTs—the rest of him simply felt like he'd answered a riddle. It certainly explained the behavior in most of his classes today. Both he and McGonagall stood in relative silence for a moment, before finally, the Headmistress sighed.

"I'll leave you. I intend to question Miss Granger in the morning. Good evening, Severus," she said.

He merely nodded as she showed herself out. His eyes were back to being glued to the parchment in front of him. If he put aside the fact that it was Granger and himself being described, it was otherwise—and he would deny this vehemently if ever asked—a very well written piece. And it was well varied, something that was not often found in amateur erotica. Oddly, it balanced the plot with the sensual very well.

It wasn't until Snape was halfway through his second reading of the piece when he looked up, realizing how he'd just spend the last thirty or so minutes of his time. Could a student have possibly written this? It didn't seem likely to him. After all, he was falling asleep just earlier reading students' writings. Granted, an essay detailing the practical applications of a potion versus reading about—his eyes skimmed the parchment—how he lightly trailed his fingers up her milky-white thighs was very different.

"I should put this away and focus on finding the person responsible," he said to no one but himself.

He took a couple of quick glances about his office. Potter hadn't returned this year, and Snape was about ninety-eight percent certain that he hadn't loaned the Cloak to any of his compatriots that had returned. Pursing his lips, and knowing he was going to hate himself in the morning, Snape kept reading.

##

"You are bloody joking!" Hermione shrieked, standing in the middle of the Great Hall.

She brandished the parchment at Ginny and Luna—the only other two occupants of the room at the moment. Ginny's eyes were wide, slightly alarmed, which Hermione attributed to having not read this new piece of fiction.

To that end, Ginny said, "It can't be all that bad, can it?"

Luna was already nodded along with Hermione while the older Gryffindor tried to work out the best way to make Ginny understand. Clearing her throat as mockingly as possible, she said, "Let's take from the work itself.'He slid his tongue down the same trail his fingers had taken moments earlier. It trailed down, down, almost reaching her knee before it began to rise once more. In moments, he had found her core, and she rewarded him with an audible gasp of 'Severus!'. Not all that bad, Ginny?"

Ginny squirmed. "Um. Okay. I get your point."

"I thought it was quite well written," Luna said.

Hermione was sure her gaze alone was enough to set the Ravenclaw ablaze. But, as usual, Luna looked unaffected. Sighing deeply, Hermione let out a low whine.

"What am I going to do about this? What if… what if McGonagall sees this? What if she already has? Right before NEWTs?"

Ginny and Luna exchanged a glance.

"Hermione, how is this going to affect your NEWTs?" Luna asked in her gentle way.

"How can it not? What if they expel me, thinking I wrote this trash? And you saw how everyone was today in class! All that giggling and staring!"

"And that's never bothered you before. You were Harry Potter's friend. The three of you got a fair share of stares and whispering. You ignored it before. Why not now?" Ginny inquired.

"And McGonagall knows you're smarter than that. She won't expel you for this," Luna reasoned.

Hermione hated it when her friends made so much sense. It did nothing to ease her suffering. Because, no matter how true that all was, it didn't help the fact that this story still existed, that it was circulating the school, being read by students and teachers alike…

She gasped, pressing a hand to her lips as the most horrifying thought finally struck her.

"What if Snape's read this?" she whispered.

##

NEWTs were due to take place later that day. Granger had made it a whole week with this erotic piece hanging over her head. Snape had to admit, he was impressed. In the beginning of the week, he was wondering if she had even seen it. But when he had caught her eye in class, a deep blush betrayed the truth.

More horrifyingly to the point, he had found himself wondering if she had been recalling the places his fictional tongue had spent on her fictional body, or rather it was more of the ways he used his fictional dick on her. (A bit generously described in the work, but not too far off base in reality, which had again put Snape in a worrisome mind of Invisibility Cloaks.) It was unsettling to him, how much he had spent that week thinking about that stupid story. In the work, the whole affair takes place the night before Granger is to leave Hogwarts for good. A good idea on the part of the mysterious author, since that would technically be allowable, given she would no longer be his student.

He had also spent a lot of time this week shaking his head. It had been a while. That had been his new mantra. He was only envisioning what he had read because it had been such a long damn time. Besides, she may be of age, but she was still his student. At least, until the NEWTs were over. Once the results were owled back, the school year was practically over. And NEWTs were almost here, just a few more hours.

He found himself shaking his head again. He stalked the halls, passing by students that had long since learned to ignore whatever they might be thinking about around him, especially in regards to that particular work. It was almost written on some of the younger ones' faces how much they were trying not to think about it. And truth be told, they were probably doing a better job than he was. He couldn't stop picturing it, try as he might. The way her hair had been described, splayed across a pillow. The way her legs were spread, the way she moaned his name…

Both he and Hermione nearly jumped out of their skins when they rounded the corner and almost collided.

"P-professor!" Granger gasped.

Oh, Merlin, would it sound like that? He really had to get ahold of himself.

"Do watch where you're walking, Miss Granger!" he snapped.

"S-sorry, Professor," she said.

He noticed that she kept her eyes ducked, refusing to look at him. Her arms were laden with quills and ink. She was on her way to the Great Hall for the tests, surely. He chewed the inside of his bottom lip, knowing that it was especially nasty of him to do what he was considering, given the tests. But he just had to do something. This was too good an opportunity to pass up. He affixed his best smirk and stared down the Gryffindor.

"Miss Granger," he said, too pointedly for her to misunderstand. He wanted her to look up at him.

As if trained, she glanced up at him from underneath a curtain of her bushy brown hair. It caused something in him to seize, but he held his composure.

"Are you on your way to your tests?"

She nodded.

"That's not a proper response to your professor, Miss Granger."

Now she stared at him full on, wide-eyed. "Um. Yes, sir. I'm on the way to my tests."

"Better. You should hurry along." He paused. Now it was time to see if she had really read the piece or if she just vaguely knew what it was about. He was going to reference a particular passage. "You mustn't be late. Otherwise, I shall have to punish you. In my office. During detention. At midnight. If you're late, of course."

It looked like the girl's heart had stopped. So, she had read at least the light BDSM scene. The fact that she was turning as red as a radish was the only indication that there was still life in her. Snape leaned forward so that they were face to face.

"Go," he whispered.

Granger was not one of the students that was easily scared, especially by him. But she looked quite frightened as she scurried around him to the tests. He grinned after her. A moment later, he realized that a couple of third year Hufflepuffs were gaping at him.

"Go!" he yelled.

They didn't need to be told twice. Satisfaction really did come in many forms.

##

Hermione hunched over the Potions section of her NEWTs, beads of sweat forming just at her hairline and rolling down her face and the back of her neck. What the hell had that bit in the hall been about? Severus Snape was always a teacher that clearly enjoyed intimidating his students, but there had just been something… off. It was like he had been… testing her. Maybe she was just imagining it.

Like she was imagining his hands on her hips as he… Her eyes widened. Now was not the time nor the place! That stupid damn story! She had to focus now. She had to get through these tests. This was her future on the line. She could fantasize later.

Not that that meant…

Oh Merlin…

##

A couple of weeks later, NEWTs had come back. There had been many tears and whoops of celebration in the Great Hall that afternoon as everyone shared their results with their friends. Snape had seen it for several years now, and had even experienced it himself, once upon a time. But now, night had fallen. And the next day, the students would be leaving Hogwarts—some never to return. In years past, Snape had taken a night cap in his rooms and prepared to depart for Spinner's End with a kind of relief on his shoulders. No more stupid First Years! No more essays! But this year was different. He felt listless. This was how he found himself in the entrance hall at nearly midnight. And it was how he spotted the familiar figure of a young woman standing at the castle's open doors, silhouetted by the moon.

He didn't announced his presence. He merely came to a stop at her side, staring out at the sloping lawns of the school. After a silent moment, she glanced over at him.

"Are you going to take points for me being out of bed so late?" she asked.

"No point in it now, if you'll pardon the pun. Gryffindor has claimed the House Cup for the year, and you are, of this evening, no longer a student at this school. You've officially been deemed an adult witch. So, if you wish to be out and about so late, I've no authority to tell you otherwise," he said.

She seemed surprised at his words. And she should be. It took very little retrospect to realize that this was probably the longest he had spoken to her outside of a class. After a moment, she smiled at him then turned her attention back out to the lawns.

"For what it's worth, I'm glad you didn't die," she said.

He blinked. He would've never suspected that, not in a million years.

"Oh?"

"After Harry told Ron and me about… about everything, the sacrifices you'd made, why you'd made them, I was so sad. So broken about your death. It wasn't fair. You'd been hurt so much. But when you were found alive… now that had seemed right."

Silence fell once again. This was a lot of heavy talk for what was supposed to be a happy moment for this young woman. After all, she had done it. Head Girl, top of her class, and already had had countless job offers. And heavy moods was not what Snape was looking for, of that much he was sure.

"So, did you read that story in which you and I had starring roles?" he asked.

Hermione made a hissing noise, like she had touched something hot. "Yes. Did you?"

Snape grinned. "I did."

"Did they ever find out who wrote it?"

He shook his head. "Did McGonagall ever ask you about it?"

"No. Why? Did she… did she ask you?"

He scoffed. "Well, that tracks."

She chuckled. Another silence, during which Snape caught the sadness in her eyes. She was going to miss this damn school. Of all the places in the world… And it was then that he had the craziest idea.

"Miss Granger, would like to join me in my office for a night cap?"

She turned, blinking at him. After a moment, she grinned.

"On one condition."

He waited.

"Call me Hermione."

"Very well. Hermione. Shall we?" he asked.

And together they strode off into the dimly lit castle. It was amazing the ideas that a piece of fiction could place in one's head.

##

Ginny gaped as Hermione and Snape walked off together.

"You don't think?" she asked, turning to Luna.

Luna shrugged. "I think they'd be good for one another."

Ginny pursed her lips and said nothing more on the matter. Better to keep it out of her mind. Instead, she touched on another, closely related subject.

"I wonder who wrote that story."

"Oh, I know. I found out last week," Luna said.

Ginny blinked. "What? Who?"

"Do you remember Mary Schmult? The Hufflepuff? She might have graduated top of the class had Hermione not returned. So, she decided to try and throw her off a bit, maybe even try to get her in trouble."

"And how did you find that out, Luna? And why not share this information?"

"I asked. In a persuasive way. Also, there was no harm done by it, so I didn't think it necessary."

Ginny crossed her arms. "In a persuasive way?"

Luna shrugged. "Well, we had to learn veritaserum for NEWTs, so I just nicked some before Snape cleared our potions that day."

"Huh."

fin