A/N: This is my entry to the WIKTT Lemon Meringue challenge. Enjoy.
Standard disclaimer: Anything you recognize belongs to JK Rowling. I'm just playing with it.
The well was dry in the tear department, as Hermione Granger sat in the darkness waiting for her fate. She had seen Harry fall; seen Ron die at her feet, seen Neville go in a green flash. Professor Dumbledore was among the fallen; Hagrid lay in a crumpled heap at the doors of Hogwarts, last she knew. Frankly, if it wasn't for the occasional sound of screams, she would think that the fighting was ended and that Voldemort's army had forgotten about her.
Small chance, that. Lucius Malfoy would not forget the curse
that killed his son. Staring at her wand, she smirked. At least
she managed to kill Harry's and Ron's murderer before she had
been whisked here. But, of course, Dobby's magical interference
in the matter only prolonged the agony she felt. Better to have
been killed on the battlefield than be marooned in the prefect's
bath while the fighting continued outside. Dobby had appeared at her
side, grabbing her and whisking
her away with a pop to the girls' bath, whose location and
password was only known by a very few including Dobby, Winky, the
female prefects, and the senior staff. Apparently, though he'd
spoken not a word, his hope would be that she would be protected
there. Unfortunately, it seemed to have been a one-way trip.
She didn't believe for a second that made her safe, of course, and she had tried every way out she could think of. Dobby had locked her in with his house-elf magic, binding her to the room. Her quixotic quest to help house-elves that had earned her such loyalty with Dobby had also sealed her fate. She was marooned in the prefects' bath until someone came and found a way in to kill her.
Everyone she cared about in this world was gone, anyway, including her parents at the hands of Voldemort only a month prior. At first, she had hoped that Dobby would be spiriting more people into the bath to join her and wait out the battle. After two hours of tense waiting, no one came. At least when Dobby was killed, as he surely would eventually be, she could leave and take her place among what was left of the opposing forces; assuming there would be anyone left when she got out.
"Everyone I love is gone...and now let's dwell all the things I never got to do before I died," she said out loud to herself, resigned to her fate and feeling sorry for herself. "I didn't get to pass my N.E.W.T.S. I didn't get to go to university. I didn't get to drive a Lotus. I never learned how to Apparate."
She took a deep breath, feeling more miserable by the second. "I never ate caviar. I never went to America, Greece, or Australia. I never snogged a Weasley brother..." She allowed a small pause for that, as she wasn't certain there were any Weasley brothers left after the battle. Molly should never have sent her entire family in...the horror of the thought was too much for Hermione to bear, so she checked the door again. Locked and elf-bolted, still. She felt ridiculous talking to herself, but the portrait of the centaur had left the room and not returned while she'd been there and she had no one else to speak to, so she continued on with her list.
After twenty minutes of little things, she got to the Big Things she'd never be able to do in her lifetime. "A bottle of good whisky and a nice long seduction of my favorite professor ending with a fabulous, satisfying, shag." She laughed nervously. She was clearly losing her mind, but it had felt damn good to say those words out loud. "Yes, yes, a solidly satisfying fuck. I've had my moments with little boys, but I never got the real deal from a man - a certain one, of course..." She remembered fantasies, played out within these very walls with only her thoughts and her fingers, about seducing the most difficult man in the place. After all, she'd never met a challenge she couldn't mentally work out, so her masturbatory moments often revolved around a certain dark and nasty professor that hated her and her friends. It was insanity, of course, but that made it all the more satisfying when she reached her climax, and gave her an amount of levity to work with when dealing with him in class. Professor Snape never seemed quite so forbidding after you'd come with his name on your lips.
She'd made a deal with Harry; if they made it through school with their virginity intact, they'd hop into bed and put each other out of their misery. So far, so good on that score, though it seemed as if there was something rather incestuous about the pact. No matter. It wasn't going to happen after all.
"Miss Granger," a voice said raggedly from behind her, "if you're quite finished with your self-pity..."
Startled, Hermione wheeled around to face her Potions Master, standing on the marble floor of the entrance to the bath. He looked haggard, but certainly alive. For a moment, she forgot herself as she rushed to him, belatedly remembering her place as she nearly threw herself upon him. She settled for standing across from him on the edge of the large bath. She'd been afraid everyone had been dead, of course, and in her relief at seeing this particular man nearly betrayed her schoolgirl fantasies of seducing the teacher.
"How..." she said, but the words died on her lips. How long had he been sitting there listening to her tirade about all the things she would miss? She was talking about seducing him being on her To-Do List in Life, though she couldn't imagine that he could figure that out...could he? Embarrassment at her thoughts flooded her cheeks, but she plodded on as if the thoughts in her mind weren't pressing in on her as she faced him. "How did you get here?"
"An elf told me where you could be located," he said simply. "I thought you...I thought you all were dead. Everyone has fled or been slain, Miss Granger, how is it that you ended up alive and here?"
"Dobby brought me here right after I killed Draco Malfoy. I suppose he believed that this would be a safe place. I have very diligently been trying to escape to rejoin the battle, but he's seemed to lock me in. Do you know a way out?" She moved toward the exit, hoping that as a senior staff member that he'd have some kind of magic that could release her.
"Miss Granger," Snape said very seriously and not unkindly, "sit down."
"I've been sitting for hours, Professor," she snarled, "I am ready to do battle. I feel as though I have failed..."
"For once in your life, shut up, girl," Snape said firmly. "There isn't a battle anymore. It's over. We've lost."
"Lost?" Even as she knew the battle had been going poorly, and she'd seen Harry fall, she had felt in her heart that good would prevail. They both sat down on the steps leading into the empty bath.
"Yes, lost. Evil sometimes wins; this isn't the Muggle cinema,
Miss Granger. Once Harry and Albus were gone, it was hopeless. I
directed everyone remaining to leave for safe cover, and returned
here to look for survivors. You're the only one I've found in the
castle. I...regret to inform you that nearly all of your
classmates are..." She was surprised at how his voice broke,
and then he covered his face with his hands. She had never seen the man
in a moment of weakness. The scene above must be unbelievable, she
"It's all right, Professor," she said, tenatively reaching out a hand to touch his shoulder, "I know. I was there. There's nothing you could have done."
"Too right," Snape said bleakly, "as Voldemort sent me on a wild goose chase and I wasn't even here. He'd said that he was going to attack Diagon Alley, so I was there gathering intelligence and quietly readying the locals. I returned to find parts of the castle demolished and many, many dead on the grounds. As I walked up, I found the elf alive, and asked for news. He told me to find you here, and then disappeared."
A few silent moments went by, as Hermione processed what she had been told. "What can we do, Professor?"
"Rest, Miss Granger, and stay here for a moment to gather our wits and supplies. Then, we go after Voldemort."
"We...go...Professor, he must know your loyalties if he sent you away for the battle! You will be first on his hit list! You must leave and hide, Professor, you must!" Righteous indignation flooded through her, obscuring the fact that he had included her in this suicidal errand.
"Perhaps so," he said, "but you'll be second on that list, so the danger is no less for you. You killed Draco, and what you couldn't have known is that Draco had been tapped to be the Dark Lord's successor by an extremely obscure and very Dark binding spell. I have strong reason to believe that part of the price of the spell - the Achilles' heel, if you will - was that if both of them were to die in battle in one day leaving no successors, those whom the evil ones vanquished in battle will be restored to life again. Together, you and I should be able to kill Voldemort and perhaps bring back some of those we care about."
She snorted. "That's too fantastical to believe. You'll pardon me if I cannot conceive of any spell that can bring back the dead in such a way,"
"Perhaps," he said, "but it's worth the risk, yes? As you said in your lengthy self-pitying tirade, we have no one left that we hold dear now. We might as well go out fighting."
She pondered this for a moment, blushing slightly at his inference that he indeed had heard her speech. "I would do anything to see that butcher destroyed. Even if there wasn't a chance that those who died in battle could return, I'd kill him, even if I died in the attempt," she said stonily. "But Voldemort did not die in today's battle, so the question is moot, yes?" Before he could speak, realization dawned on her. "The Time-Turner. It was never returned to the Ministry!"
A ghost of a smile played over his face. "You've grown up a great deal today, Miss Granger," Snape said, "I'm sorry to say. I wish you had not had to do so. But I have faith that you will live to drive your Lotus and take your N.E.W.T.s, and..." he trailed off.
"And have my first taste of liquor and my shag, Professor?" she said brazenly.
He raised an eyebrow. "So you say. I can help you with the first one of those, at any rate, and I think I could use a little myself." He pulled a bottle of Old Ogden's Firewhisky out of his cloak. "It's a 1944; old, mellow, definitely lives up to your wish for a good whisky. We need to keep our wits about us for our task, but a nip wouldn't go wrong in this instance. Shall we?"
She looked at him blankly. "Who are you and what have you done with Professor Severus Snape, Potions Master and Head of Slytherin at Hogwarts? You are acquainted with the man, yes? Billowing robes, trademark sneer, cutting remarks and biting sarcasm? Would never be caught dead fraternizing with a student under any circumstances, least of all one of his least favorite Gryffindors?"
"Don't be impertinent. The school hardly exists right now, with more than half the castle destroyed and no faculty to speak of, so I'm not a professor or head of anything, and you're certainly absolved of all responsibilities of being a student at this juncture." He handed her the bottle. She uncapped it, sniffed delicately, and took a good-sized swig. An smile played across her lips, to his amusement. "Well? How was your first whisky moment?"
"Delicious," she said, warmth spreading throughout her body. "I never thought I'd smile again, but there it is."
He took a swig, and set the bottle down. "I'm glad you can check one item off your list, Miss Granger."
"You're certainly full of surprises, Professor. I wish Harry and Ron were here to see it."
"Don't be maudlin," he snapped, " we may only have a few hours left before we die. I don't want to spend them reminiscing about Potter and Weasley."
"Oh, so Professor Snape is here. I was worried."
He shook his head, and silence fell between them. She picked up the bottle again for another small sip.
"You'll want to be very careful with Old Ogden's," Snape said, "It's not just plain Muggle alcohol. It has magical properties, and if consumed in large enough amounts, can be dangerous."
"Dangerous how, exactly?"
"Your Things I Never Got To Do List might get shorter." He put a hand over his mouth, shaking his head; then grabbed the bottle, swigged a little more, and stashed it in his cloak. "We need to have our wits about us, in any case, as I said."
She gazed down at the hands clasped in her lap, thinking of her oft-recreated fantasies. Did he imply what she thought? And was it sacriligious to think about it when lives were on the line, including their own? This stuff must have gone to her head already. She looked up at his face, only to see the same frank stare reflected.
"Are we talking about learning how to Apparate, then?" she said, hoping her tone was light.
"No, Miss Granger, we are not. As I'm certain you are capable of ascertaining." He turned away abruptly, but she swore she saw a hint of color in his cheeks as he did so. Dare she press her luck?
And was she really considering acting on these long-held, forbidden fantasies? Was it the whisky, the man, or the desperate circumstances? "You're thinking too much, Miss Granger," he whispered. "I fear I know you all too well."
"Indeed, Professor Snape. Indeed. But in some ways, not well enough, I think."
Abruptly, he turned around to face her. "We'll need to get ready - talk strategy, plan our attack. I have some items I believe may be valuable down in my chambers, including the errant Time-Turner you once possessed. As much as it pains me to be saddled with a Gryffindor for this task, I have reason to believe I have no choice in the matter, and you're at least fairly familiar with its uses and limitations. We'd best get on with it."
Ignoring his slight, she queried, "Is it safe to venture down to your rooms, Professor? Are they still..."
"Yes, that part of the castle is directly below this one. My rooms should still be there judging from what I could see outside, though I can't vouch for them being undisturbed. Still, the enchantments I use to hide the room are much like what hides the Room of Requirement, so no one should have been able to find them unless they were specifically looking for me while I was there. Since I haven't been in the castle since last night, I assume that what we will need is still there."
"Lead on, Professor," she said, momentarily forgetting the delicious tension of earlier moments as they exited into the distressed battleground that was the remnants of Hogwarts.
She found herself perched on a settee with a cold glass of water and a map of the area around Hogwarts spread out before her. Snape sat opposite her on a green brocade chair, one long finger lightly tracing the route they would take to Voldemort after going back in time.
"I have an Invisibility Cloak that I took from Potter's trunk...sorry, sorry, I know his death is still fresh on your mind, but I had to do it."
"He would want it to be of use to us," she said tonelessly. "Go on."
"They will, of course, not be expecting our attack, since you had disappeared and I was off in London during the battle. We should be able to get close enough to him under the cloak. Once we get to Voldemort, we kill him. I'll cast the Unforgivable, of course. I don't want you implicated."
"Implicated?" she said incredulously. "We stand together, you and I. I will happily take credit for the destruction of Lord Voldemort. They can hardly send us to Azkaban for that."
He raised an eyebrow, before saying softly, "Stranger things have happened, Hermione."
A spark of pleasure came out of nowhere and traveled up her spine. He had used her given name, in a voice that sounded silkily intimate. She had to forcibly beat down feelings that were utterly inappropriate to the seriousness of the situation. "What purpose do I have in this scheme? It sounds as if you are planning on doing everything."
"Oh, no," he said, "You have the dramatic role. You must distract his guards while I sneak in under the cloak. I would like to spare you the indignity, but I believe we stand the best chance if there is no likelihood of a guard bumping into us - he keeps himself surrounded in battle at all times by his most loyal servants, to prevent an attack by stealth as we are attempting. One of his guards has a magical eye like Moody's - he's the one in particular you must engage if we are to be successful. I'm certain that you have much practice being a friend of Potter and Weasley in this type of subterfuge."
She nodded, tight-lipped. "What exactly did you have in mind?"
"Act furious, walk up, and demand to see Lucius Malfoy. Tell him you have something for him. They will know who you are, of course, and you'll need to simply act vengeful and deranged until I can move into position to cast the killing curse. Just a second or two."
"Not a problem."
"So Gryffindor of you," he said, betraying no small amount of astonishment mixed with a sneer. "But then, I suppose you and your comrades have pulled it off plenty of times...starting off from that time you claimed that Potter and Weasley had come to rescue you from the troll when you lied that you had gone looking for it on your own."
She laughed. "Was a bit stupid, wasn't it?"
He said nothing, but reached for her empty water glass. As his hand brushed hers, she felt the undeniable, surprising electricity between them. Before she could convince herself she was imagining it, she saw his face betray his feelings for one moment. She had not been mistaken.
"Your role is more dangerous than mine, Hermione. Without success in your diversion, we are truly lost."
"Severus," she tested, "I would suggest a toast."
"Miss Granger, you forget yourself. I don't recall giving my permission for you to use my first name." He looked past her at a spot on the wall, studying it carefully.
"You said yourself that you were no longer a professor and I was no longer a student."
"Metaphorically speaking," he said, looking a trifle uncomfortable.
"A toast?" she pressed.
The Old Ogden's came out of the cloak, and two cocktail glasses appeared. "Make your toast," he challenged.
"To friendships and fate," she said. "I believe in both that we are forging tonight."
"Friends, Miss Granger?" he choked. "We are hardly friends. I've detested you since the moment you set foot in my class."
"You detest everyone. And my friends and I certainly haven't been worshiping at your altar. We are potentially the sole survivors for the last chance at peace in our society. You need me, I need you, the wizarding world desperately needs us to succeed. On that common ground, Doesn't that count for something, Professor?"
"This is such a nauseatingly Gryffindor conversation. Well over the top. You remind me of Albus." Suddenly, he looked wistful. "To Albus," he raised his glass, "may our success be the beginning of the end for the bastards that thought they could defeat him."
The two drank deeply. After a moment's silent contemplation, he looked at her again, and she had the distinct impression his attitude had changed towards her. To test the theory, she said, "Do you think I'll ever get to take my N.E.W.T.S.? Live my life again?"
"Miss Granger, you'd pass any and all exams right now. Even Potions. Relax," he said.
"I'm relaxed. Far, far too relaxed for a woman facing death. You were right about the power of this Old Ogden's."
"Are you worried about your list?" he said casually. "I'd teach you to Apparate, but I fear it would be a bad idea to use magic right now. It's traceable."
"I had non-magic things on my list," she shot back. "I wanted to learn croquet and taste caviar, remember?"
"Yes, and visit Greece, which isn't practical right now either. And snog a Weasley? Dear Circe in Salem, why did I have to hear that? And since we're such comrades now, Miss Granger, I have a little list too."
"You have me at a disadvantage then, Severus. I haven't heard yours. And you've granted me one of my requests...so far."
He smirked, ignoring her innuendo. "I always wanted to try lemon meringue pie, but the house-elves won't make it. Can you help me with that one?" He was being downright snarky, she thought, skirting the obvious unspoken issue now between them like a bastard.
"Not right now, but certainly very soon. Try again."
"Miss Granger, I cannot think of anything you can grant on my list tonight, sorry. No more than I can grant any more of your requests, I'm afraid, unless we are fortunate enough to find a Weasley."
She sat silently, staring at the cold hearth, wondering if she'd misread the situation earlier entirely. "For the love of Merlin, Professor. These might be our last moments on earth, potentially, if anything goes wrong with our plan. I can surely spend it in the kitchens making you a lemon meringue, if you like. I owe you one." She rose to go, but was stopped by a firm hand on her shoulder.
"I'm sorry," he whispered in her ear, making a shiver go down her spine. "Don't think for a minute I don't understand the dance we are both participating in. But I am unable to be the one-night affair you seemed to be hinting at earlier, even if tonight might be our last. It's against my very nature, Hermione. I'd give you the fabulous shag, as you so hormonally put it, that we both so very clearly need and want from each other right now, but I couldn't let you go tomorrow if our plan was successful. It would only lead to hurt feelings and grief because we are fundamentally unsuited for one another - nothing good can come out of that. I'm simply not wired that way. I've denied myself that pleasure long enough to know that if I participate in this dance, it is for very strong reasons, not just a tumble in bed."
"I thought all men were wired that way," she said, hoping to sound nonchalant. "It's no matter, even if I reserve the right to disagree with your characterization of our future suitability. I need to believe in what we are doing right now. I need to believe I'll drive that Lotus and get to the rest of my list someday, and I'll make you the best lemon meringue pie you've ever tasted at the end of it all. Let me have that much, and we'll call this even."
He nodded. "Go into my bedchamber and lie down for a few minutes while I get everything together. I'll call you when it's time."
She awoke from an uneasy dream to see him seated by her side on the bed. For a moment, her fantasy liasons with him flashed in her mind. How had it been possible that she'd become so fixated on and attached to the teacher that her friends so truthfully called "that greasy git"? He wasn't really the least bit physically attractive, certainly wasn't nice to anyone, and had been rude and condescending to her on far too many occasions. It made no sense. But, of course, she wasn't the class beauty either, so she wasn't entirely sure why there was such obvious chemistry.
"I liberated Harry's Firebolt for you," Snape said. "I know flying is not your favorite thing to do, but his broom is excellent and you shouldn't have as much trouble as you would with a school broom. I've charmed it to fit in your pocket - if you get in trouble, you can touch it on the twig end firmly, and it will become the correct size and take you out as fast as possible."
"Thank you," she said.
"If my plan fails to work, you're to get out. Clear?"
"You'll make it, Severus. I won't let this fail."
"Listen to me, Hermione. Stick to the plan. Get out if anything happens to me. We'll need someone alive to carry on this fight."
"Oh, you can count on me," she lied, knowing she'd fight to the death to protect this man rather than flee. After all, she had a Things to Do List to work on, and he was a part of it.
"Professor?" she said in a serious tone.
"Yes?" he turned to her warily.
"If this works, will you do one thing for me?"
"Will you ask the Headmaster to grant me an early graduation? I believe I've done enough extra credit in all my courses to merit it."
"I'll do you one better, Miss Granger. I'll recommend that you receive extra credit towards your N.E.W.T. standings as well, which I know you'll be keen to take even though you don't need to."
She blushed, and whispered, "I think I'd formally like to not be your student any more, so whatever works. No offense."
"None taken, Miss Granger," he said, more sternly than necessary.
It was very strange to witness the final battle again from behind the Invisibility Cloak, especially the part where Dobby appeared out of thin air next to her and whisked her away. She could see the angry face of Lucius Malfoy, who had been on the verge of cursing her from behind.
"Always so sporting, that bastard," Snape muttered under his breath.
As they advanced on Voldemort's position, Hermione nearly stumbled over the lifeless body of Ron Weasley. It was all she could do to stop from screaming as he rolled. Fortunately, no one seemed to notice the movement of the body in all the commotion.
Snape pointed towards a Death Eater with bottle green robes. "He's the one with the magical eye. His back is to us now, but I'll need you to go and distract him now. Hurry. Good luck."
She looked at him, fearing this would be the last time she would see him alive. "To us both." Then, before she could think better of it, she kissed him. Startled, he stepped back, but held his ground and touched her lips with the tips of his fingers as she backed out of the safety of the cloak.
All at once, her eyes were blazing and she was righteous Gryffindor fury and noise. "I demand to see Lucius Malfoy this instant!" she screamed. "HE KILLED MY BOYFRIEND HARRY! Bring me his head, by God, I will hex his balls off right now!" She continued on her tirade, as Voldemort's guards looked at her, thunderstruck and unsure what to do.
"Do you know who you are fucking with?" the man in the bottle green robes and the magical eye said. "Little girl, you are dead already."
"Fine! My life means nothing to me without Harry Potter. HE KILLED HARRY POTTER! Bring him here! I'll kill him now, by all that is holy..." A guard had moved to hold her now, though he had not taken her wand.
"Miss Granger," said the threatening tones of Lucius Malfoy, "it just so happens that I was looking for you as well. I believe you've taken something that belonged to me, my dear." He put his face within inches of hers. "How dare you kill my son and flee the scene? Where is that Gryffindor courage we've heard so much about?"
All of the guards were gaping now at the scene unfolding; it appeared that Lucius Malfoy and the famous little Mudblood that had killed Draco moments before were about to get into a duel. For the first time, she saw Voldemort standing next to the man with the green robes, and shuddered. He didn't even look human anymore, but he was puffed up with an eerie power that was oozing from his pores. She felt almost magnetically drawn towards him before she could shake it off.
"Lucius," Voldemort was saying, "you allowed a woman...this Mudblood woman...to beat you? I'm surprised..."
"IT WAS THE BLOODY HOUSE ELF!!" Lucius bellowed to no one in particular, "I would have killed this little bitch..."
"That's enough, Malfoy," Voldemort said, sounding very disappointed. "This puts us at a supreme disadvantage. Delivering Potter to me was nice, but Draco was not supposed to die. You know why," he said darkly. "Someone will have to pay."
"YES!" Lucius screamed with fear clearly evident in his voice, "Potter's little whore can pay for what she's done! Make her pay!"
"Of course," Voldemort whispered in electric tones, raising his wand. "But you will pay as well, Lucius. I can brook no more disappointment. Crucio." Lucius began to scream and Hermione looked away in horror, knowing she was next, but refusing to use the broom in her pocket. Where in the bloody hell was Severus?
"And now, young girl. You will join your little friend, who was not
so powerful after all, in eternal
slumber. Good-bye," Voldemort was saying, as he trained his
wand on her. Hermione closed her eyes. She had to assume that
Severus had been captured or killed, because the operation should
only have taken another minute and it had been several. She had
Suddenly, she opened her eyes in astonishment. Without knowing exactly how it got there, her wand was in her hand and she opened her mouth to utter a curse.
From two different places including her own throat, Hermione heard the killing curse uttered and saw the flashes of green light. She opened her eyes slowly to see Voldemort on the ground, apparently dead. Death Eaters were backing away in horror. She looked around, watching people rise from the battlefield and shake off their slumber of death. She saw Harry immediately to her left, his wand in his hand and his trademark grin breaking out. "You didn't think Lucius Malfoy could actually kill me, did you?" he said. "I was pretending until the moment was right. When I saw them kill Snape and get you, I knew the time was right, and we did it together...but how is this happening?" he said, looking around at the formerly dead Albus Dumbledore rising from the ground.
"Snape...killed...where?" she said, choking back sudden tears of apprehension. "Where did he fall?"
"Over..." Harry said, then looked at her, puzzled. "He's not there now. He fell right next to Voldemort. Voldemort killed him before turning his attention to you and Lucius."
"Harry, he might still be alive then. We have to find him. Ooof...you big oaf..." she said as the formerly deceased Ron Weasley grabbed her from behind. "I'll explain more in a moment, but thank God you two are alive...well, actually, you can thank Snape..." Before another word left her mouth, Ron kissed her rather unexpectedly and more thoroughly than she was prepared for. Harry rolled his eyes as Hermione gently pushed him away with a sheepish grin, both of them laughing in embarrassed glee. Shouts of joy raised from the forest, as people found one another and celebrated a total victory over Voldemort that was clutched from the jaws of defeat.
Hermione participated briefly in the excitement, but growing alarm over the whereabouts of Professor Snape sent her into the dungeons to wait until time caught up with them. She saw the two of them leaving his quarters, and knew that they had now caught up to real time. She sat in the shadows, waiting for him to arrive.
After a few moments, she saw the door open and close swiftly, but no one was there. The Invisibility Cloak, of course. But why didn't he want to be seen?
She knocked, but there was no answer. "Open up, damn you!" she yelled. "I had to hear about your death and it nearly killed me. I want to see you alive. Open the goddamn bloody door!" No response.
"I'm not leaving! I know you're in there. I can wait forever if I have to, you old insufferable bat." She leaned against the cool of the door, fighting back tears of exhaustion and emotional pain. After some time, she realized that he simply wasn't going to let her in.
"Fine. Have it your way. But thanks to you, I got two items off my list. That's right. I snogged a Weasley. I'm now twice in your debt, so you won't be rid of me this easily." She walked off, head held high, plan forming with every step.
"Dobby, I never thanked you for saving me," Hermione said, perched on a stool in the kitchens a few days after the War had ended. She'd had to endure endless rounds of questioning and congratulations and heartfelt thanks, but had caught no more than a fleeting glimpse of Snape. True to his word, he had made it possible for her to graduate early and prepare for N.E.W.T.s full-time, but Dumbledore and McGonagall were tight-lipped on the specifics of her benefactor's whereabouts and his role in her transition from student to graduate.
"'Twas nothing, Miss Hermione. Harry Potter saved Dobby. Miss Hermione is Harry Potter's best friend. And you loves house elves and tries to help us."
"I thank you all the same, Dobby. Can I ask you to do me one more favor, even though I'm in your debt?"
"You has no debts, Miss Hermione. Dobby can never repay Miss Hermione and Harry Potter for all you have done. You is great wizards, you is." Dobby hopped around happily. "What can Dobby do for miss?"
"This pie I'm baking. Can you give it to Professor Snape?"
If Dobby found the request strange, he had learned through years of servitude that a shut mouth invited no flies. "Leave it with Dobby, Miss."
She pulled it out of the oven. "It needs to cool a few more minutes, then please deliver it. If he asks, you can tell him I'm in the prefect's bath."
Naturally, she didn't expect to hear from him at all, but it occurred to her that since all she would see of him before she had her early graduation was her fantasies in the bath, so be it. She'd make up her Things to Do list some other way, though it looked increasingly unlikely she would bed her professor after all.
Even though she was no longer technically a student, she still had access to the prefects' bath. She would be staying until after her N.E.W.T.s, but was unsure of how to proceed at that point. Dumbledore had given her the opportunity to stay until the end of the year and assist Minerva with her first and second year Transfiguration classes, which she would likely accept, if only because she had nowhere else to turn until the universities began sending out acceptances; her parents were dead, and she was not prepared to go off into the world just yet. She sighed as she entered the large room and began the process of filling the tub with her favorite lemon and vanilla scented water that reminded her so much of the pie she had just prepared for Snape. The centaur portrait winked, and left his frame to go off to visit the Mermaid in the boys' bath.
Sinking gratefully into the water, she pondered her dilemma.
He couldn't go on avoiding her forever, could he? She would need
to at least track him down for a review before taking her Potions
N.E.W.T. That was businesslike enough. It stung that he had not
sought her out before now. She knew, without a shadow of a doubt,
that there had been an undeniable attraction between them. When
she had kissed him under the cloak, her knees literally turned to
jelly - she had thought that was a bad romance novel line until
she'd experienced it for herself. The times she had snogged
Viktor - and they had definitely had some long, deep, and heated
sessions - were not even remotely in the same league as the brief
meeting of the lips on the battlefield. And the pain and fear she had
felt when she had believed him to be dead were definitely emotions she
did not want to experience again, but she had to admit they had spoken
to the truth of the situation. Her feelings for her former professor
ran deeper than she could have ever anticipated.
If she was going to cross off that item on her list with another man, he would certainly pale in comparison to what she imagined in her fantasy realm. But the one she wanted clearly wasn't interested in her list item.
"But," she murmured aloud to no one in particular, "he's interested in more than what I wanted. I shouldn't be surprised."
"Indeed, Miss Granger," a low voice said. "Much more, I'm afraid."
She was covered from head to toe with bubbles, but they couldn't hide the blush creeping over her face. "How dare you come in here while I'm taking a bath, Professor Snape!" As indignant as she tried to sound, her entire body was secretly singing an aria.
"Oh, I certainly will leave here shortly. I simply wanted to thank you for the pie. It was an experience I won't forget." She could see his eyes in the dimness.
She inclined her head. "You're welcome, Professor, but you didn't come here to tell me that, did you?"
He hesitated. "No, I suppose I came here to apologize. I've been...coping...with some things, and felt it was best if I didn't see you. When I fell dead on the battlefield, I went through an experience that...I cannot explain properly, but I had some stock to take of my life when I was given it back."
"Are you feeling quite all right, Professor Snape?" she said softly. "You don't need to apologize to me. I was the one who came on strong. I'm a silly little girl with a crush, and I did not intend to put you on the spot when we were thrown together. I still want to think of you as my friend, but I understand if that's a line you can't cross."
He ran his hand through his hair. "There are no lines left, Hermione. I am no longer your teacher and you are no longer a student at this school."
"Yes, technically, but I regret ever making you uncomfortable."
"Miss Granger," he said slowly as if he'd finally come to a decision, "you still owe me. You've gotten two items from your list by my intervention...the whisky and the Weasley snog, as disgusting as that was to behold. Yes, I was there, I saw it. I was two seconds away from putting a hand on your shoulder, but when I saw Weasley kiss you I retreated under the cloak. I suppose...I was somewhat jealous."
A flicker of hope was born again. "Jealous? And what, pray tell, is on your list that I can provide? Something even better than the pie?"
He cleared his throat nervously. "A bath. Here, now, with you."
Her eyes flew open wide. He flicked his wand to disrobe, and suddenly was at the opposite end of the large pool, looking at her apprehensively, as if to decide whether or not this move was the smartest thing he could have done.
"I don't bite, Severus," she said. "I won't put any cheap moves on you. Let's just talk and enjoy the bath, and what happens after that...we'll get there."
"Hermione," he whispered, sending those pesky shivers down her spine, "when I died, I was forced to confront that which I had never expected to deal with. Over the past months since this term started, I've been watching you. Thinking about you; seeing how you have changed into a woman from the obnoxious little girl that I resented because of her know-it-all attitude. I began dreaming about you; listened too closely when someone mentioned your name in a staff meeting; found myself looking at you in the Great Hall. I been quite appalled with myself, naturally. Here is this young girl - a student, no less - and worse than all, a Gryffindor friend of Harry bloody Potter's. That silly girl who has been dogging me with her hand in the air since she was eleven years old. It was highly offensive for me to think of you in that way, especially knowing that you'd find it incredibly disgusting to have such a gruesome old man interested in you. You're surrounded by much more attractive, if young and stupid, boys your age. You'd never look at me twice. I've never had a fantasy about any student, so I kept this one closely guarded and prayed that the school year would end quickly so that I could be rid of the menace and never see you again."
Hermione was too shocked to say anything to this confession, so she motioned him to go on.
"When your parents died at Voldemort's hand, I became singleminded in my quest to find out what the Dark Lord's next move would be. I was certain he would be coming after you, and Hermione, I couldn't let it happen. I was ready to risk everything, even blowing my cover, to keep safe a woman who undoubtedly thought me the vilest, most horrible teacher and man.
"When I found out about the attack, and Dobby told me you were alive, I rushed here intending to confess my sins to you...but then I found you, speaking alone in this room so frankly in the face of death about all the things you wish you had done. I realized, in the moment I spoke to you, that I was not the only one harboring feelings that were shameful, and so blessedly delicious. Heady as that knowledge was, I had to be stronger than that."
"We both did," she said, "we both had to keep our wits about us, as you said."
"When you kissed me, I could see possibilities that I had denied for months. But then...well, with little warning, I found myself on the wrong end of the killing curse." He shifted closer to her under the heady bubbles.
"And you were forced to review your choices when you were resurrected?"
"At the risk of sounding utterly clichéd like some simpering Hufflepuff, we only are on this rock once. You saved my life, but it appears you may have assisted in speaking to my soul, as well."
Sliding close to him, she put her hands on his shoulders and began to knead, loosening the tension she found there. "You said you would refuse to make love to me because you would not be able to let me go in the morning. What if I don't want you to let me go?"
"I'd say you were utterly insane, Miss Granger. And I do believe your friends would agree with me for a change. I'm not much of a prize; an old, hideous, snarky and cruel man who used to work for the Devil himself. I'm not right for you. I believe there are far better men in your future. I simply want to grab my one moment with you so that we'd be even, love, and then I'll let you go."
She raised an eyebrow. "Let's take it one step at a time, Severus Snape, and I'll thank you not to make my decisions for me."
He turned to face her, and was met with her soft lips on his. She smiled at the taste of lemons lingering on his tongue as he deepened the kiss. Breaking away, he smirked. "With the bath, we're even; if we go on, you'll be in my debt again and I'll have to revisit my list with you."
"I can live with that," she breathed, "sight unseen."
"Then, Miss Granger," he said, "kiss me again."
"What if someone comes in here?" she said. "Don't tell me your list includes the fantasy of being caught by Padma Patil or Pansy Parkinson."
"Hardly," Snape said, "but I've asked the portrait guarding this room to leave for a few hours, as is my prerogative. That should be adequate, Miss Granger."
"Barely adequate," she said, kissing his neck, "but I suppose it will have to do. For now."
Allowing himself to abandon to the unfamiliar sensations of a
woman in his arms, Severus Snape became aware of every part of
her pressed against him as she lightly kissed and nibbled his
neck, shoulders, chest, nipples. All of the months of fantasy now
made flesh before him was almost too much to bear. It had been
years since he had made love to a woman, and he was in danger of
falling very hard for this particular one. As he returned her
kisses, finding parts of her body with his lips and teeth that
made her moan with pleasure, he suddenly became aware that this
must be her first time.
"Hermione," he murmured, disentangling himself gently. "I have to know that you are sure of this. Believe me, I was not lying when I told you that I cannot participate in this casually. And I cannot take the gift you wish to give - your first time - very lightly. I want..."
"It's not about what you want this time," she murmured wickedly, "I believe we're working on my list, not yours."
For once, he had no rejoinder, and finally let things unfold as they
should. By the time the guardian of the bath had returned to an
angry Pansy Parkinson standing in the hall in bathrobe, towel,
and slippers, they had long since escaped to his bedchamber, and
she had long since fulfilled the most important item on her list
- multiply. As they sat finishing the last pieces of the lemon
meringue pie, she hoped that this man would be a part of every
other single item on her To Do list for eternity. "Severus?"
"Hmm?" he said, idly caressing a stray bit of meringue off her lips.
"How do you feel about English racing cars?"
A/N: the end! If you liked my
little piece of fluff, feel free to review.