Note/Disclaimer: I own nothing, these characters and universe belong to JK Rowling. I'm just playing with them a bit. This story is AU.

A blanket of darkness still lingered, there were still hours before it would be considered morning (by the others asleep in the house), she could easily sneak out. She peeled the black romper she'd slept in the night before off, put her black bikini bathing suit on and pulled on a fresh black jumper. She piled her luscious chestnut curls on top of her head into a messy bun. She didn't bother with socks or shoes, often times she didn't in the summer. She liked going barefoot, it meant she could feel the magic in the earth easier. She crept out of her room quietly without waking Ginny. She was thankful the girl was such a heavy sleeper.

Hermione crept out onto the landing as quiet like a stalking lioness, and made her way down the stairs. She knew that as soon as she could make it to the backyard she'd be safe from the rest of the house. Not everyone was as light of a sleeper as Ginny (one person she tried to stay ahead of in particular). She'd learned the backyard was the best way in and out of Grimmauld Place this summer. She'd studied the wards around the back door to the yard and the ones around the yard itself, until she'd learned how to make her way through them easily. She'd learned that within the first week of arriving for their summer vacation. She needed to know the wards 'like the back of her hand' before disapparating and apparating from the backyard of Grimmauld. She needed to be absolutely sure she would have no difficulties. The last thing she needed was to show up at Grimmauld or somewhere else splinched, she shuddered at the thought.

The hardest part of sneaking out before dawn would be making it past Severus' room, that's how she'd often been referring to him in her head. He'd been staying at Grimmauld since the beginning of the summer for all of the "constant Order Meetings," and to "keep an eye on Harry." She knew he'd actually been assigned to keep an eye on her, the headmaster had caught on to her secret. For whatever reason he now wanted Severus to know as well. She knew it was only a matter of time. She couldn't keep something like this a secret forever, and honestly at this point she wasn't sure she wanted to. At least not from him, they'd become "friends" so to speak over the summer. She'd spent quite a lot of time with him so far this summer, and she'd enjoyed it. He was a different person in his own atmosphere and away from so many 'dunderheads.' She imagined it must be nice to be away from Death Eater children's eyes constantly as well.

He'd invited her down to help make potions this summer in the makeshift lab in the basement. At first she'd been annoyed and slightly amused, because it was his way of keeping an eye on her. However, after a while things became more comfortable between them. They worked well around one another and moved seamlessly around the makeshift lab. Often times after they were done brewing for the day or while they were waiting for potions to simmer, they'd have discussions about a variety of topics. They'd discuss articles they'd both read in Potions Quarterly, Arithmancy and different types of literature. Severus was well read and his collection was vast, he had a number of wizarding and muggle books.

As she crept past the door to the room he was staying in, her heartbeat sped up. She could feel her pulse racing and her palms began to dampen. Just a few more calculated steps down to the next landing and she'd be free. As she made it safely past his doorway and down onto the next landing, she couldn't help the feeling of relief and slight suspicion. She'd never gotten caught before disapparating, but somehow she thought today would be the day. He'd been so close to catching her the day before. She was so sure that today he'd catch her and want to know where she'd been running off to this early in the morning. For the past week she'd stayed later to help deal with the stress of what she'd need to do today. He'd caught on to the fact that she'd been leaving, and she knew it. She sensed his presence and magic.

Nevertheless she'd made her way downstairs to the back door and turned the old brass knob slowly to let her outside. She stepped out onto the magically spelled grass barefoot, and closed the door silently behind her. She walked onto a nice clear space in the soft spongy grass and concentrated her thoughts on where she wanted to go. She thought about the Black Lake, the Giant Squid and her best friend Calla. She concentrated as hard as she could, on the feeling of diving into the lake for the first time and the coolness of the water. She could feel the dew from the grass, the moisture in the air and among the clouds in the sky. She felt a slight tickle in her mind, and then with a loud 'POP' she was gone. 'Too late again Severus, better luck next time.' She'd disapparated from the back yard at headquarters leaving Severus behind, or so she thought. She'd apparated to what she'd come to think of as her own little spot, at the Black Lake on the grounds of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

While she was in the back yard at headquarters, she never noticed the little bird sitting on one of the tree branches above waiting for her, to see what she was up to. She'd sensed him brushing against her mind, but she'd never seen the little bird waiting for her. Severus had been waiting for her this time, he'd been determined to catch where she'd been going this time.