Rain. It fell incessantly from a dark sky, dampening the thick stone of the castle walls, filling the lake and soaking the grounds. It had been raining for days - always from a grey sky, always with the same steady downpour. Quidditch practises and matches had been cancelled and postponed, the students were restless. The rain changed the landscape of the school and its grounds, turning it the castle into a forbidding fortress and the grounds into a soggy mess. If it rained any more, Severus Snape thought darkly, the lake would empty itself into the Dark Forest and Merlin only knew the trouble *that* would cause. He sighed, dark eyes staring out across said lake impassively. Truth be told, Severus secretly enjoyed the bad weather. More often than not he found that it suited his mood.

One of the main reasons for that mood chose that moment to make an appearance, and Severus blinked. The rain, combined with the half-light that passed for dusk, made it difficult to properly see the figure that was running swiftly along the edge of the lake, but Severus knew instantly who it was. Only Hermione Granger was mad enough to run in abysmal weather like this.

Eyes narrowing, he watched as her trim figure successfully navigated the borders of the lake and turned in sharply towards the castle outbuildings. She ran with an uninhibited grace, seemingly oblivious to the rain and cold. Severus envied her apparent freedom whilst at the same time finding himself contemptuous of it. She was closer to him now, close enough so that he could clearly see that she was only wearing tiny blue running shorts and a matching vest. He was briefly alarmed, assuming that she must be freezing cold, but then he looked at her face and saw that she was *glowing*. She must have spotted him standing in the entranceway to the West tower courtyard because she ran straight over to him, pulling up a few metres in front of him and leaning over to rest her hands on her knees. Her unruly hair, unusually confined in a long plait, swung over her shoulder and prevented Severus from seeing her face. He watched in silence as she panted for a few minutes before straightening up again. Her cinnamon eyes were steady as they met his.

"Good evening, Professor," she panted slightly, lifting her eyebrows.

"Good evening Professor Granger," Severus nodded to her, only placing the tiniest of emphases on the 'professor' and enjoying the look of annoyance that flickered across her features. He was not yet ready to welcome Hogwarts newest youngest professor into the fold completely, and decided to needle her further. "This is hardly the weather for *running*, Professor," he intoned silkily. Hermione Granger's eyes widened.

"What I choose to do with my free time is none of your concern, Severus," she replied archly. Her use of his first name was not lost on him. She had her own methods of annoying him, and this was the one she employed most often.

"Of course not," he said smoothly. "But I would hate for your . . . safety to become a concern of mine." He offered her a smirk, knowing it was certain to infuriate her further. These little exchanges took place between them quite seldom as they often chose to avoid each other, but when they did take place Severus took perverse pleasure in enjoying them immensely. What Miss Granger lacked in age she more than made up for in intelligence and wit, and he was often surprised when she gained the upper hand in their little sparring matches.

"I think we both know that my safety is not an issue whilst I run in the school grounds," she titled her head to one side and smiled at him warmly. Too warmly. He knew she didn't mean it. "But of course if it's a *personal* concern of yours then maybe you'd like to run with me Professor?"

She goaded him quite shamelessly, and he watched her from beneath a scowl as she gave a little laugh, no doubt imagining what he might look like in an outfit similar to hers. He was surprised to see that when she laughed her face became quite animated and almost . . . beautiful. He pushed that thought off to one side before it could worry him.

"Not necessary, Hermione," he adopted a thoughtful expression and took several seconds to look over her slim figure encased in small amounts of stretchy blue material. She had always been thin, he knew, but her running had added some muscle to her delicate frame, filling her out most attractively. Her legs were long and tanned from running all-year round, and today they were covered in a fine coating of rain which gave them an almost silky appearance. "I really don't have the legs for it."

What should have been an openly humours comment was made suggestively awkward by the way Severus chose to slowly look her up and down. He was not expecting the sudden pang of awareness that accompanied it. She was slightly bedraggled and mud-splattered, but it did little to detract from her lithe appeal. She was looking at him steadily, not unsettled as he wished her to be.

"Maybe not," she pursed her lips a little as if considering the point. "No."

He watched as she gathered herself a little, placing her hands on her hips and suddenly becoming aware of the rain falling steadily around her.

"You're soaking." It was an obvious thing to say, but it was a small criticism and therefore worthwhile saying.

"I know." Her smile was impish. "I should go and shower."

The image of her naked and under a hot shower jumped unbidden into his mind. He tried to dismiss it and failed spectacularly. His eyes glazed a little.

"Quite," he nodded and stepped to one side so that she might gain entrance to the school. She looked at him strangely.

"Is something wrong, Severus?" She took several steps towards him, reaching out to place a hand on his arm. Whatever had gone before, her concern was at least genuine. He so wanted to shake her hand off his arm, but it was spreading a distracting warmth through his upper body. He looked into her warm brown eyes, wondering why now of all times she was making him feel this way.

"Severus?" She was frowning now, and shook a hand briskly in front of his face. He caught it effortlessly and then held it in his own. Her hand was small, he observed, and it fitted easily into his.

"I . . . sorry . . ." He took another long look at her and then shook his head, finally managing to dislodge his thoughts of her. He dropped her hand quickly, not familiar with the way it left him feeling. He was unbalanced and she knew it. It gave her an advantage he considered dangerous. "I'm fine, Professor." Slowly, painfully, he put his barriers back up, moving away from her at the same time. She frowned and he wondered if she would question him then, but she appeared to think better of it.

"Okay." She enunciated the word carefully, looking sideways at him. Something had changed. They were not fighting, he realised, not even bickering.

"Good." The conversation had dwindled into an uncomfortable series of monosyllables. He was embarrassed, she was embarrassed. It was time to leave, he decided, and walk away before it became excruciating. "Well . . ." he gave a vague gesture in the direction of the castle and looked up to see her already striding away, the plait of her hair flicking from side to side as she walked.

"Good evening, Professor," she called back to him quietly.

"Good evening . . . Hermione," he murmured.

She walked on a few more steps, leaving him reasonably confident that she hadn't heard him, but suddenly looked back. She was smiling, her eyes were dancing. She lifted a hand, grinned and then dropped it in order to break into a jog.

Within a few seconds she had slipped through one of the castle doors and disappeared from sight. Severus stared after her thoughtfully for a minute, then sighed and followed her path back into the castle.

Behind him, the rain had stopped falling. He did not notice. His thoughts were elsewhere. His mood had changed.


A/N: Thanks for reading, hopefully I'll be able to post more soon. Your ideas on how to proceed with this would be much appreciated! I don't have a plot bunny yet, and I'd like this one to be a little longer than my other stuff.

See that little button down there? The one that says 'review'? Please do so. It'll make my day.