A/N: This is my fourth HG/SS fanfic, so you could say I'm hopelessly addicted. It's definitely OOC and there's plenty of fluffy goodness. If you don't like fluff, HG/SS or professor/student relationships then please don't read on. If you do, happy reading and please review but don't flame me because I'll cry.

I of course don't own any of it except the paper-thin plot so please don't sue me!

One-shot, SS's perspective, so in the first person. Tricky one to write, so apologies if it isn't your cup of tea.


I was not surprised when there was a brief silence as she walked into the room, for she had changed much in the years since I had seen her last. Then, she had been barely eighteen, no longer a child but hardly a woman either. Now there was no doubting what she was - her figure had blossomed into gentle curves; her hair had settled into glossy ringlets that she had cut to shoulder-length which oddly suited her, fitting her new-found maturity perfectly. Her face, as I caught a glimpse of it, was serene and pretty, with colour high in her cheeks either from excitement or the heat of the room. She was beautiful, but not aware of it at all and I resisted the sudden urge to smile, feeling the old bitterness resurface. It had been a long time. She was looking around herself, smiling and laughing at those she recognised, friends of old. I was standing across the other side of the room when her eyes met mine. She held my gaze only briefly, but it was enough time for me to be aware of her all over again. She nodded to me then, inclining her head the tiniest of amounts to acknowledge me before turning away. I felt a sudden chill sweep through me, even though the room was far too hot. Potter and Weasley were by her side now, vying for her attention, competing as always for her affection.

There had been a time when the only person she had chosen to bestow affection on was me.

I was reluctant to revisit the memories, knowing how much they made me despise myself, but revisit them I knew I must. Her appearance in this room, at this place, and the fact that our worlds were once again within touching distance made it inevitable that I should. Leaning against the wall I closed my eyes as they swamped me, feeling almost as real as they had nearly five years ago, when we had only just begun, she and I.


She came to me at night, always under the cover of darkness, always past the appointed curfew time. Her recent elevation to Head Girl combined with a persistent disrespect for the rules she deemed unnecessary led her to my door with little regard for what her punishment might be should I deny her. Denying her was something I myself had offered little thought to. After all, what she was offering to me was something few men would turn down.

At the beginning it was about finding solace in another, about comfort and companionship in a time where nothing was certain. The feel of her lips on mine, the softness of her youthful body as it pressed against me in the dark, her whispered words of desire and passion helped me to face the next sunrise without fear. I did not know why she had chosen me, and it had not seemed important to ask why. She asked nothing of me in return, and outside of our illicit meetings I treated her as I would any other student. I was still harsh, still cold, still often going out of my way to display favouritism towards those who did not deserve it and give criticism where it was not warranted. I was determined that she would not change me in any way, and I often took perverse pleasure in dismissing her before she was ready to leave. I would refuse to hold her after I had taken what I wanted, would offer her nothing other than selfishness, and yet still she came back to me night after night.

As time passed by I began to see, here and there, flashes of something in her eyes that suggested that she was coming to me for more than I could give. She tried to hide it bravely and I could think of no reason why someone like her would love someone like me but the fact remained. It stayed unspoken between us for several months, hovering on the horizon like storm in the distance, and until she broke her silence on the matter I had not considered that, at some undefined point, our need for companionship had actually become a relationship. I had grown fonder of her than she would ever know, even managing to hide it from myself until it was too late, but when the words were spoken it changed everything between us.

"I love you." Those three little words were whispered against my back as we lay together on my bed in the early hours of one morning. I wasn't sure if she thought I was asleep as there seemed no other reason for this quite startling outburst, and I turned to face her sharply, studying her face in the hazy candlelight. She looked back at me calmly, and for a moment I was at a loss for words. She reached out a hand to touch my face, and her expression did not change when I flinched away from it.

"What reason have I given you to love me?" I asked her, refusing to let her statement be. She shrugged eloquently.

"No reason . . . I suppose." There was hesitation in her eyes and in her voice.

"Well then." I smirked in a way I knew she found irritating, only to be rewarded with a frown.

"It isn't as simple as that," she murmured, and suddenly wouldn't look me in the eye.

"Explain." I said shortly. She shook her head 'no'. "Explain or I will never let you in here again." The threat was a double edged one, I supposed. If she was lying to me it wouldn't matter to her anyway, but if she wasn't . . .

"I think I loved you even before this," she said quietly. "I know how much you've sacrificed for us . . . the school. I wanted to know you . . . maybe even to help you . . ."

"You don't know me!" I was surprised at my own vehemence. "You know nothing about me, save what we do here!" She flushed suddenly at my turn of phrase. "Did you honestly think that there could be more to this besides sex?" Her eyes filled with tears as my voice rose to a shout and too late I realised that I had hurt her. A pang of something I recognised as conscience made me offer her sympathy. "You do not love me, no matter what you think now. You are only a girl. This is not love. Please don't upset yourself with this." I felt another pang as she began to cry properly, but this time could not define what it was. Dismissing it, I gathered her gently into my arms to hold her against my chest. It was the first real tenderness I had ever shown her, and I was surprised to find that it was a pleasant sensation to comfort her.

She cried only briefly before lifting her face up to mine. It was tearstained and wrenched my heart in a way I had not believed possible. The feeling was unsettling and new, but I found it difficult to dismiss as I smoothed her tears away. She was trembling.

"I should go." Her voice was husky and she began to pull away. Her eyes were sad, distant.

"Yes." She was almost out of my reach when I felt a sudden compulsion to pull her back to me, wrapping her close in my arms and placing my lips over hers to kiss her with gentle longing. She responded, as she always did, and kissed me back, but something was different. Her declaration of love had changed the way I felt about her, softening the edges of my rough passion. I slid my tongue into her mouth and felt her moan softly. I pulled away and looked her in the eye.

"Stay." I whispered harshly, and it wasn't a request. It was her turn to kiss me, it was all the answer I needed.

"Always," she whispered.

We made love then, that night. It was the first time we had done something and it had been more than simple, no strings sex. She had cried afterwards and I had held her. It had been the first time. It would not be the last.


I had always known that it would eventually come to an end, and the night before her graduation was to be our last. I am still ashamed of my behaviour then, even though it was nearly five years ago. She had come to me full of such joy, excited to be entering the adult world at last and desperate to know what the future held for her.

We had made love, and it was as she was dressing afterward that the argument happened. I was already feeling her loss, knowing that as soon as she stepped outside of the boundaries of Hogwarts she would be lost to me. It was a feeling that I was at odds with because I had come to care for her deeply, beyond anything I would ever admit. My involvement with the Dark Lord and the Death Eaters was becoming steadily more demanding and I was required to take part in things that revolted me more and more often. In light of this, I had come to depend on the light of love in her eyes and her soft touches, the way she held me through the night until morning. I no longer asked her to leave before she was ready, and I was loath for her to leave at all.

But leave she must. The thought made me more frightened and angry than I knew how to communicate to her, and instead I chose to be angry and bitter, eventually forcing her away from me with all of the power I could muster.

"When will I see you again?" Her soft voice had cut through my melancholy musings. I watched as she buttoned up her shirt.

"How can I answer that?" I had not intended to be aggressive, but my anger was a shield for the raging insecurity I felt beneath. She looked at me oddly.

"By telling me when I can see you again." Her voice sharpened a little, and she moved over to the bed, where I was sitting. She took my hand and I resisted the childish urge to pull it away.

"I can't answer that." I sighed heavily.

"Why?" Her face hovered close to mine, bewildered.

"Because I'm not sure we should see each other again." I bit the words out, hating both them and myself.

"Why?" She repeated. I felt a sudden surge of temper, shortly followed by relief. The only way I could see this through was by being angry with her, and by making her angry with me.

"Because this is wrong!" I snatched my hand away from hers then, turning my body away. It was a lie, of course. I had never experienced something that felt more right, but it had to stop. Now. For her sake as well as mine.

"I don't understand," she said quietly, looking down at her hands as she folded them in her lap.

"There is nothing to understand! There never was!" I hissed at her. "Whatever this was it's *over*! It's time for you to go out into the world and live your life!"

She got to her feet, slowly. "Is that it? Do you want me to leave?"

"If you would be so kind." The contempt in my voice was cutting.

"I would have stayed," her voice was husky with unshed tears. "If you asked me to I would have stayed." For a second my heart stopped beating as I contemplated what she was saying. But it was too much. I could not condemn her to a life with me, hiding away in the dungeons, wondering if I was going to come home from the next Dark Revel, and the next, and the next . . . No, I would have to hide her away from the world, and where was the fairness in that? That was no life for her, none at all.

"Child, you were never in the least danger of that," I scorned her softly, feeling my heart twist and then break. Her face was stricken, but she did not challenge me as I thought she might.

"I love you," she whispered, and I could not resist the opportunity. Pulling her to me I kissed her once, savagely, and then looked closely into her eyes. She was frightened.

"Then you are a fool!" She scrambled to her feet and moved towards the door, shrugging on her robes as she went. Her shoulders were shaking. I thought that she would leave without another word, and her hand was on the door before she turned back to me.

"If I didn't believe you loved me, I wouldn't have kept coming back," she said quietly.

"Leave. Now." I couldn't decide if I was angrier with her for telling me or with myself for lying.

"And I won't be here when you admit it!" She shouted suddenly, whirling in a cloud of hair and anger. The door slammed behind her and she was gone.

I held my head in my hands. In that instant I wondered if I would ever see her again. I had avoided the graduation ceremony the next day, claiming illness. She had left Hogwarts, according to reports, without a single look back.


And now here we were again. In the same room after years when we might not have been on the same planet for all the other knew. Much had changed, the Dark Lord was gone, my allegiance to him over. My world was basking in the light of a new dawn, but I felt as though I was lost in the dark still. I had been able to admit my love for her as soon as she had been out of my life, but that was never going to be enough to bring her back. Years had passed and I had buried my feelings beneath work and obligation and a hundred other things that stopped me from confronting them.

I stared across the room at her, now dancing with Potter in her robes of periwinkle blue, and I longed to touch her again. She never looked my way the whole time, not once, and I thought I understood why. If this was painful for me then Merlin only knew how she would feel, with the man who had so cruelly rejected her staring openly at her across the room. I had wondered if she had moved on, but knowing that I had not clouded my judgement. I had given her enough pain in her young life. She deserved no more.

I moved quickly but not obviously then, skirting the room and exiting via the main doors without very many people noticing me at all. It was no loss, I reasoned. It was not as if I would be missed. My mind was preoccupied as I stalked back to my rooms in the dungeons, and I knew that in order to sleep tonight I would be requiring a dreamless sleep potion. I would need to visit my office for one of those. Cursing softly I flung open the door to my rooms and then. . .and then. . .

She was standing in the hallway, right outside, close enough for me to see the cinnamon of her eyes and the dilation of her pupils. For an instant I couldn't breathe and then my head was spinning. If it were possible, at this distance she was more beautiful than I had previously thought.

"Hermione. . ." I breathed. She caught her lower lip between her teeth.

"Severus," she spoke my voice softly, opened her mouth as if to say something else, hesitated and then stopped, looking at the floor. "I. . .sorry," she turned away and had walked two steps before I could stop her.

"Wait. Please," I reached out a hand to her and caught her elbow. She turned to me, wordless. It had been years, it felt like yesterday. "Don't go."

"I can't stay." She looked at me, her eyes were so clear. "I can't make you love me, even now, and I can't stay."

"I've changed," I told her sadly.

"I don't believe you," she shook her head.

"I love you." The words tumbled out faster than my head could process them. "I'm sorry. I was wrong. I love you and I need you to forgive me."

"I said I wouldn't be here when you admitted this," she reminded him quietly.

"You weren't. I've carried this with me for years."

"Why didn't you tell me?" Sudden tears brimmed in her eyes. "What would you have done if I had fallen in love with someone else? Married someone else?" I was horrified, and didn't bother to hide it.

"Potter?" I asked her. She shook her head.

"No one. I've been waiting for you."

"Oh!" This was too much. I turned away. I loved her and she had waited for me, all this time. What had I done?

"Don't turn away from me. Not again." She turned me gently back to face her, and then her hands were on my face, smoothing away my worry. "I will stay," she whispered, echoing her words of five years previously. "If you ask me to I will stay."

I put my arms around her, and stared down into her hopeful eyes. Everything was going to be all right. I leaned down and whispered into her ear.

"Hermione. Will you please stay?"