As he stood watching her from the doorway of his bedchambers, Snape decided that he liked Hermione best just as she was at that moment.
Over the years of their acquaintance, Severus Snape had seen Hermione Granger in dozens of different situations, encounters and clothing, each of which had a specific place and rank in his ordered collection of memories.
He knew how she looked as a frightened first year, pale and shaking after having dealt with a giant -- though he so rarely connected that child with this woman that he hardly included those remembrances in his recollection of her. Even the memories of her in floating periwinkle robes at the Yule Ball seemed disjointed from his thoughts when they were of the young woman whom his eyes now watched greedily, distracted and intrigued by the simple sweep of her hand to push the loose strands of her untended hair away from her eyes.
It still amazed him how fascinating something so mundane could become in the right light, whether that light was philosophical or literal.
Light, Snape reflected as he finally tied the sash on his dark dressing gown, could turn the simple workings on a pale throat into poetry or the fluid curve of an arched back into song.
He had witnessed such, just that evening under the glow of burning embers.
When Snape saw Hermione the woman and thought back to the first time he'd seen her, his memories went back no further than to her sixth year and that premier image was not a pleasant one. It was of her unmoving body being carried by a concerned Harry Potter, nothing but dead weight in the boy's shaking hands, nothing but a crumpled mass of dark robes and untamed hair.
That image bled into the next one, a snapshot forever imprinted in his mind of her ashen, slack face as she lay like death in the hospital wing, short curving lashes suddenly too dark against cheeks which had no color in them just as the brown hair was when compared to the ear which it curved around.
Years away from such events, Snape still could not suppress a shudder at what he'd felt then, of how irrationally wrong it had been to see this student of his in such a state. Luckily, that year had other, better moments for him to store away: the sight of her laughing with her friends in the near-empty Quidditch stands, stretched out on the bleachers with her elbows tucked behind her, still proper in her school uniform but with the loosened tie and pushed-back sleeves teasing of mischievous deeds and ways in which someone could help another achieve such happily rumpled states. When mixed with the slight hitch of her skirt hem, the combination had become downright dangerous.
Then had come the seventh year and gone was the temptation of that easy afternoon, replaced with disheveled robes and pinched looks of concentration. And then had come the echo of fear in a determined face, the stubborn set of a jaw as she shoved her wand into the front pocket of her Muggle jeans and the impatient hand tugging absently on the hem of a jumper as she'd refused to remain behind if Potter was in danger.
There had been more scenes of hospital wings -- at least, according to Lupin. But Snape had spent a great deal of his own time in his own bed and was unabashedly grateful that he'd not been given the chance to repeat the experience of silent night-time vigils.
And for a good number of years, Snape admitted, there had been nothing, no glimpses or traces of her to notice or ignore. Devoid of them his life had been until he'd been trudging across the school grounds one blistery afternoon -- Halloween, actually -- and he'd peered down toward the gates to see someone in tailored black -- a Muggle dress and dress coat, he knew later -- striding toward him, the only spots of color against the black of her attire being the long scarlet-and-gold scarf wound round her neck and the tidy fall of her autumn-colored braid.
That had been Fall.
And now it was Spring.
With the changes of the seasons had come dozens of another snippets of memory; but, Snape decided with a dangerous twitch to his mouth that someone might label a lascivious grin, none were as appealing as the picture Hermione Granger was currently making as she sat primly in his living quarters, a cup of tea in one hand and a letter in the other.
The seeming air of propriety in the scene was utterly ruined by the fact that she was wearing nothing other than one of his own starched white shirts, buttoned only as high as she thought necessary and the hem reaching only about mid-thigh. Legs, properly crossed, were tantalizingly bare and a great deal of that slender throat and collarbone were visible as she focused on the parchment she held in a hand hidden by the shirt's overlarge cuff.
The fact that her hair was also tellingly sleep-mussed and her lips bruised only added to his belief that she'd never looked so good.
Snape finally decided to alert her to his presence. Still leaning against the empty doorjamb, he cleared his throat softly.
Hermione's eyes darted up from her parchment to settle on him, the tiny frown of concentration quickly melting away as she smiled. "Good morning, Severus," she greeted him prosaically, as if there was nothing unusual about her current situation.
"Hermione," he returned, his voice dark and smooth, laced with dangerous undertones which made Hermione's toes curl. "May I ask what you're doing awake at this unseemly hour?"
"Reading," she answered, waving the parchment. "Drinking tea."
"And why exactly are you engaged in either of these activities?" he wanted to know, the customary edge still intact despite his current state of relaxation. "And why are you using my sideboard as a stool?"
She was balanced on the edge of the sturdy, French Provincial sideboard which lined one wall of his living quarters, silver goblets and candlesticks pushed to either side to make room for her to perch on its rose marble top, long legs dangling a half-foot off the ground, so much more provocative for the absent-minded movement in them.
"Not a fan of the chairs," she answered dryly, eyes once again on the letter. "And besides, it's not as if you use it to serve food."
Something about her off-hand statement -- and it secretly amused him how she missed the double entendre in her own words -- gave him some very delicious thoughts about how to satisfy a certain hungry craving, but he refrained from commenting on it as he watched her set aside her tea and frown more forcefully at her letter. "What are you reading?"
"An owl," she said absently, still reading. "It was delivered while I was making tea."
"So, it's an owl to me," Snape noted, his tone like ice.
"No," she snorted, glancing reprovingly at him over the edge of the paper. "It's for me. I'm offended, Severus, that you'd think that I'd read your mail."
"Because you've always remained so diligent about not doing so," Snape deadpanned, one eyebrow quirked as she had the good grace to look sheepish.
"It was an accident, you know," she defended, though weakly. "It wasn't my fault that Dumbledore sent that interesting little note to me by accident."
"Or by his own twisted design," Snape added before nodding toward her letter. "Is there a reason that this owl has so grabbed your attention that you are reading it when we should be...sleeping?"
It was Hermione's turn to quirk an eyebrow. "Yes, because we've slept so much this evening."
"Hermione..." It was clearly a warning.
"Actually, it's just from Harry. I haven't heard from him in almost a month," she admitted. "That's how I knew it was mine, you see -- it's not as if you've ever received mail from Hedwig."
"There are some reasons left to live," Snape said sarcastically.
"He's finally arrived in Patagonia," Hermione told him, skimming the letter. "Says it's lovely there."
"How fascinating," Snape muttered, obviously far from fascinated.
Hermione shot him a dark look but continued. "He sends everyone his regards. Except you, of course," she added, grinning as she refolded the note.
"I never expected otherwise."
"I'll have to write a reply directly," she told him. "It'll take Hedwig a great deal of time to make it to Patagonia."
Snape crossed his arms, face carefully neutral. "And do you plan to do so this moment? It will be difficult from your current position on top of the sideboard."
"No, I don't think I'll write him back right now," she answered thoughtfully, as if blissfully unaware of Snape's bristling. Hermione stretched languidly, arms curling above her head and the shirt she wore riding up even farther on her legs. "I plan on getting a bit more...sleep first."
"Oh, do you?" Snape asked archly, slowly moving closer to where she sat, bare feet silent on the rug-covered stone.
She nodded, comically serious; when he was within her reach, Hermione wrapped the trailing end of his dressing gown's sash around her hand and tugged him closer to her. "I was wondering, if perhaps..." she trailed off, leaning forward so that her lips were only a breath away from his. "...you'd like to join me?"
As her legs wrapped sinuously around his waist, Snape decided that he was glad that Minerva had persuaded him to purchase this particular sideboard from her niece. It was, as she'd stated, the perfect height.
Although he doubted that Minerva could hardly guess what he thought its height perfect for.
Mimicking the actions of her legs, Hermione's arms slid around his neck. "Well?" she asked impatiently, fingers idly sifting though the dark hair at his nape while her lips continued to ghost agonizingly close to the line of skin between his nose and the swell of his cheekbone.
"Your suggestion has...merit," he answered, voice rumbling and pitched low. He replied to her nonverbal suggestions by allowing his own hands to roam, sliding between them to pluck at the buttons of his shirt that she wore.
"You think so?" Hermione whispered as her lips hovered near his ear.
"Indeed, I do," he murmured, taking advantage of the situation by skimming lips over the exposed throat. There it was again, he noticed distantly as he pushed at the white fabric to expose more skin: the mute workings of her throat as her breath hitched.
"Good," she said, pressing even closer to him as the last of the buttons were undone and his hands found warm, pliant flesh. "Then perhaps we should take this discussion somewhere more appropriate?"
"Since you've already defiled the sideboard, I find here entirely appropriate," Snape reasoned, his pale hands splayed across the small of her back, putting an end to the teasing space she'd left between them pulling her tightly against him, leaving only the thin fabric of his dressing gown separating bare skin.
"Defiled?" Hermione pulled back, a little dazed but nonetheless coherent -- much to Snape's disappointment. He was suddenly unsettled by the gleam of mischief he noticed in her eyes. "Severus, really. I sat on the damn thing. It's not as if I--"
Whatever she'd planned to say, Snape had little doubt that it would have been colorful and imaginative. However, Snape was in no mood for talk and took the proactive measure of sealing his lips over hers before the remainder of her sentence could be spoken. She made a noise of defiance at his action, but it was merely a token protest because she quickly opened her mouth to his questing tongue, tightening her hold on his hair as she tried to pull him closer, despite the fact that he could get be little closer than he was.
Air soon became a problem and only for it did they part. Snape was pleased to see that Hermione now looked suitably dazed, though he had to wonder how such sensations were translating into expression on his own face. She loosened her hands' grip on his hair as well as her legs' grip on his hips.
"As I was saying...I think we need to adjourn to a more suitable location. I refused to be shagged on my favorite teacher's niece's old sideboard."
One of Snape's hands had made a lingering trek from her back to her cheek where it now gently brushed away the hair matted back her face. "And I would have thought that I was your favorite professor," he teased, amusement apparent in his voice.
"Only in my wildest dreams -- and I mean that very literally," she assured him. Her color was high and the flush only made her eyes burn brighter in the dim light.
"Should I ask?"
Even though she was busy untying the careless knot on the dressing gown, Hermione paused to consider the question. "Not tonight," she decided. "I'm going to be sore enough tomorrow without any extra -- props -- being involved. But maybe..."
"Props?" The tone was incredulous, vacillating somewhere between humor and horror.
"We'll talk about it another time," she veritably purred against his lips as she landed a quick kiss. "But for now...I have plans which emphatically do not involve discussion."
"And what do they involve?"
Instead of answering, she pushed against the smooth skin of his now-bare chest until there was just enough room between them for her to slide off the cold marble. Snape had to bite back a groan at the delicious friction it created.
Once her feet were firmly on the ground, Hermione shimmied until she was no longer wedged between the sideboard and Snape's body, padding silently on bare feet. She tucked the edges of the shirt's open front close around her body as she paused in the opened doorway, leaning against the frame just as Snape had done.
Such a challenge in that word -- Snape could not ignore it. In third long strides, he was upon her in another tangle of limbs and tongues and bruising mouths. By the time Hermione managed to -- reluctantly -- extract herself from Snape's embrace, she was decidedly dizzy on her feet. The waver in her stance lost her valuable ground and she was being kissed again.
Not that she minded so much.
Once her mouth was freed by Snape's renewal interest in tracing patterns with his tongue across her collarbone, Hermione managed to gasp out, "I don't -- think --- ooooooooooooooh, my -- that I'm all that interest in any more...sleep tonight."
Snape pulled his lips away from her skin, breathing harshly. "You, Miss Granger, are what some people might call a tease."
She smiled wickedly at him, dancing out of his hold and moving farther into the darkness of his bedroom where the only light came from the red-hot glow of banked embers in the hearth. "Language, Professor," she tsked. "It's your own fault, you know. Accusing me of defiling something. Now I feel very very...unclean."
"I hope you haven't been seized by the need to say your prayers."
Hermione's smile widened, revealing a dimple hiding in one cheek. It was in that moment that Snape decided that she was a completely evil, though thoroughly desirable, creature.
"Actually, no. That will wait for Sunday. What I had in mind was more along the lines of...a bath?" She turned to glance at him over her shoulder as she headed toward the door hidden by the darkness which led to his marble-lined bathroom.
She paused again to shrug his shirt from her shoulders, letting the material pool at her feet as the fire light flickered across her bare skin. "You are, of course, welcome to join me."
With that, she disappeared into the bathroom after leaving him with more glimpse of that wicked smile, shutting the door softly behind her.
As Snape heard the muffled sounds of the water running from behind the closed door of his bathroom, he decided that as much as he liked Hermione in his shirt, he much preferred her without it.
There was, after all, something to be said about such dishabille.
Author's notes: The title is from French, "déshabillé" from "déshabiller," to undress and it's the root for the English word "dishabille." I find that anything lime I write begs for French titles.
This short one-shot came into being mostly through a fun way to relieve exam stress and a personal challenge issued to me by a friend to write something racy because she knew my mind worked in such "naughty" ways. While I doubt this is racy in terms of what can be found in other stories, it's very avant garde for me. I do hope you enjoyed it.
A big thanks to my LJ friends who gave this such a nice reception that I decided to post it elsewhere!