Severus looked over the graduating seventh years and their parents with a sense of pride and relief. The pride was largely directed at Hermione's grades, which were impressive; the relief was at not getting caught having an affair with a student. Not to mention administering highly illegal substances to a student during class, and conniving at the illicit liaison of other students under the influence of other illegal substances.

He didn't think he'd broken half as many rules when he'd been a deatheater. Or had as much fun.

In a couple of week's time they would be meeting up in Diagon Alley, and it would all be out in the open. He was immensely looking forward to Minerva's reaction to the news that he was knocking off one of her favourite students.

He nearly jumped out of his skin when the esteemed Headmistress appeared beside him and said, "It's good to see them all bright and happy, preparing to go out into the world."

He simply nodded. Now was not the time to share his usual opinion of good riddance, and at least now he would be able to get some peace and quiet. He cast a jaundiced eye over Draco and Neville who were saying their goodbyes, silently, and at great length in the middle of the hall in the centre of a large crowd who appeared to be placing bets on how long they could snog without drawing breath.

Why they felt the need to flaunt their farewells in this was when Neville had been invited to Malfoy Manor – by Narcissa no less – for the holidays, was a mystery. Unless Draco had had the sense to place a side bet with someone.

He wouldn't be able to see Hermione for at least a week, and he wasn't behaving in such a grossly sentimental way. It was more than his job was worth it was true, but even if he had been free to behave like that, he took the view that he would have been more discreet. Largely because discretion would allow the goodbyes to be much more affectionate.

"I'm surprised you aren't deducting points for that Severus," teased Minerva. "You could get a head start on next year."

"I'm surprised at you, Minerva; surely you should be making some comment about Slytherins corrupting your tender little Gryffindors. Although, bearing in mind the public nature of the display, it seems to me that your Gryffindors are corrupting my delicate little Slytherins."

She merely smirked at him. "Do you think it will last?" she asked.

"I think so. Zabini made some disparaging remark about Neville last night in the common room...," he said no more. There was no need to. Zabini was presently ensconced in the infirmary having his nose re-attached.

"Shocking, Severus, allowing the students to duel in the common room."

He shrugged. He'd been doing better things at the time, and couldn't be bothered getting out of bed to sort it out. Draco had better sense than to do something drastic, and now Zabini would have better sense than to annoy a Malfoy. His lack of intervention was in the way of a life lesson, rather than failing to live up to his responsibilities. Even Hermione had come round to his point of view when she realised that intervention would have meant stopping what they were doing. Strict discipline had its place, and that place was in the bedroom; the children could go hang as far as he was concerned.

"Who'd have thought it," continued Minerva, "a Gryffindor and a Slytherin, and yet they seem so happy together. Perhaps they'll set a trend."

Severus was pleased that all his years of training as a spy meant that he didn't flinch. Minerva was hinting at something, and he had a feeling he knew what it was. He hoped that she wasn't intending to follow in Albus's footsteps and become omniscient. It was very annoying.

"Perhaps," he said noncommittally.

"Because if you hurt that poor girl's feelings, there will be more trouble than you know what to do with."

"I don't know what you mean Minerva." Which was nothing more than the truth. Did Minerva know about their affair or was she hinting at something else.

"I've seen you two, casting longing looks at each other. Now, I want you to promise that you're going to do something about it. I don't want you to throw away a chance at happiness out of some silly idea that you shouldn't have a relationship with a student."

He choked a little at that. She was looking at him expectantly, so he had to reply. "I can assure you Minerva that I have no intention of letting something like that stand in our way. I rather suspect we might bump into each other very casually in Diagon Alley next week."

Minerva gave him a very odd look, and then her eyes flicked to Hermione. "You already have done something about it, haven't you?" Severus opened his mouth to answer, but Minerva put up a hand to stop him. "No, don't tell me. If I knew for sure I'd have to do something about it."

Severus just smiled at her, one of his best I-know-something-you-don't smiles, usually reserved for Order meetings when he wanted to get under the skin of Lupin. It had worked very well for him at Deatheater meetings as well. For a hard, ruthless predator Lucius was amazingly gullible; paranoia made him very easy to manipulate.

"Oh, go on with you," she said. "Go and find your girlfriend and say your goodbyes – and not in public like those two."

"That sounds like a very good idea," he said blandly, and headed off to do just that.

Hermione was busy chatting to Professor Flitwick about a reference, but excused herself to head off to the quiet corner indicated by Severus with a peremptory jerk of his head. Behind him Minerva pursed her lips thoughtfully, and then headed in the direction of Hermione's parents. It would never do if they caught their daughter snogging a Professor, so someone needed to make sure they stayed where they were, and someone needed to put in a good word for Severus Snape.

Just call her Minerva 'Matchmaker' McGonagall.

It was fortunate that the two matches, comfortably placed behind a screening pillar, were unaware of Minerva's efforts on their behalf. It would have done nothing for their peace of mind. As it was they were able to say their farewells – and in the same way as Draco and Neville, despite Severus's previous sneering – relatively undisturbed.

It was several minutes before Severus thought to mention his conversation with Minerva, and several minutes more before what he was saying penetrated Hermione's foggy mind. When it did, she just shrugged. "I presume she took the news well; you're unhexed and you're not being escorted off the premises by Hagrid."

Severus winced; he didn't want to think about how close to disaster they had come.

He took her hand, planted a kiss on the palm, and said, "We'd better head back." She smiled warmly; who would ever have expected Severus Snape to be a closet romantic? They emerged from behind their pillar, and moved to a socially acceptable distance; as most people considered that fifteen feet was the minimum socially acceptable distance between them and Severus Snape, and preferably more, Hermione was still standing far too close to him.

What she saw made her clutch at his arm in shock.

Minerva was talking to her parents.

"It's all right," he hissed, "they're still smiling."

"Good point."

"I expect she's trying to be helpful."

Hermione looked at Professor McGonagall in amazement. "How?"

"You know, telling them how wonderful I am; what a brave, heroic figure I cut in the war; that sort of thing."

"I bloody hope not; they don't know there was one," said Hermione.

"What... how... did you just forget to mention it?" Severus said in amazement. "Or did it just not come up in conversation? Your parents asked you how your term went, and you said fine, and forgot to mention that you'd been petrified by a basilisk."

"Basically, yes," snapped Hermione. "Do you really think that they'd have let me stay here if they had any idea of the danger I was in?"

"So you lied to them." There was a brief pause whilst Severus assimilated this. "Well done. I think that makes you an honorary Slytherin, and that makes me feel a lot better about the fact that I'm in a relationship with a Gryffindor. At least you're a sneaky Gryffindor."

Hermione smirked. "I can always wear green underwear, if it makes you feel better about it."

"On the whole, I think not. I much prefer you without underwear at all," Severus replied loftily as they threaded their way through the crowd to head Minerva off before she could put her foot in it entirely.

"Cheapskate."

They reached her parents before Severus could think of a reply. Hermione flinched when Minerva said, "Ah there you are Severus, I've just been tell Mr and Mrs Granger all about you."

The awkward moment passed, and Severus prepared to be civil to his future- in-laws. Neither they nor Hermione knew this as yet; but there was no need to worry them about trivialities like that until closer to the time. Whatever Minerva had been saying, she obviously hadn't mentioned his role as spy, because her parents were still smiling broadly and weren't dragging their daughter away to give her a flea in her ear.

They chatted amiably for a while – something he was aware was causing immense amusement to Harry and Ron – and then the time came for them to leave. He shook Hermione's hand, and wished her all the best, and then watched her and her parents head off to the Hogwarts Express for Hermione's last journey.

"Don't worry," Minerva said, "next week isn't all that far away."

"I suppose not," he replied grumpily.

"And her parents seemed to like you."

He just grunted in reply.

"And I expect it will be a whirlwind romance," added Minerva.

He brightened at that. "That's true."

"And you'll never have to teach Neville Longbottom potions again. So let's go and have a drink in Hogsmeade and celebrate your good fortune."

"Alright."

"And you're paying."

"Bugger."

The End