The tip of Snape's wand pressed lightly into Hermione's throat, his lips at her ear, his voice a dangerous growl. "Let me assure you, Krum, this would not be the first time your friends have used a female to humiliate me. It will, however, be the last."

"I'm... not... friends with them," Hermione gasped, struggling for breath. It was so hot in here, when did it get so hot in here? A lock of Snape's hair had escaped its tie, sliding against her jaw, and his breath against her earlobe was burning...

"While I'd love to believe you, it's been my experience that Lupin's... how shall we say... time of the month... is not a facet of his life he shares with just anyone."

How could she have screwed up so badly? Hermione's eyes darted around the room, looking for a weapon, looking for an exit, a distraction... but all she saw was a hundred reflections of her and Snape in a broken, grimy mirror...

Reflections...

"I'm related to Black," she panted.

"The Most Noble House of Black practically posts their family tree on billboards, Krum. I believe I'd have noticed you."

"I'm his half-sister," she whispered, her mind working frantically. "My mother was a Muggle... it would be a huge scandal..."

The pressure on her throat eased a fraction as Snape drew back, gazing into her face, his eyes roaming over her long black hair, her gray eyes...

His face relaxed a fraction, then hardened again. "That doesn't explain how you know about Lupin."

"I tried to find my father... I didn't know... Mom never t-told me, I-I found letters my mother had... I went to Grimmauld Place..."

She saw the correct name register in Snape's eyes.

"I talked to Kreacher..."

Point two.

"I-I overheard them talking in the kitchen... Potter and Black, talking about Lupin... and then Kreacher came back, said my father didn't want to see me... t-threw me out..."

The wand dropped away from her throat, and Hermione saw yet another unprecedented look in Snape's eyes...

Total sympathy.

"And now, of course, they want you wiped out," Snape spat, furious...

Furious... but not at her. "Can't have a blemish on The Most Noble House of Black... I suppose Sirius doesn't know you exist?"

He didn't wait for her answer, the disgust dripping from his voice. "Of course he wouldn't. Wouldn't want precious little Sirius knowing that his father was a Blood Traitor... never mind that Sirius shows every inclination of following in Daddy's footsteps..."

Snape was practically spitting nails, pacing the floor. Hermione watched him, stunned. She hadn't expected her story to have this effect on him...

"Krum, I..." Snape broke off, something that was almost a laugh escaping his throat. "I suppose that's not your real name, is it?"

Hermione shook her head, still dazed.

Snape shook his head. "I'm... I'm sorry."

That's it, Hermione thought. It's official, I've gone insane, I thought I just heard Snape apologize to me... the nice men from St. Mungo's should be here any minute with the pretty white coats...

"I'm sorry I yelled, I'm sorry I... did I hurt your shoulder badly?"

"N-no..."

He seemed to glide across the room. "Let me see it, Krum. I can't believe I..."

And his hands were at her throat, unbuttoning her cloak, his fingers as nimble on the serpentine clasp as hers had been clumsy.

Hermione forgot how to breathe, her knees buckling. He was so near, the scent of him rising around her, his face so close to hers...

He caught her with one arm, pulled her upright.

"Merlin, Krum... I really scared you, didn't I?" he murmured sorrowfully. "And after everything you've been through..."

Scared? Had she been scared? She couldn't remember, couldn't think, couldn't feel anything but the heat of him as he pushed her cloak down, the backs of his fingers gently brushing across her shoulder...

Their eyes met and held, and Hermione felt panic rising under a warm, heavy layer of... something else, her lips parting, her body leaning into his, a mind of its own...

Get yourself together, Granger! You're about to kiss a sadistic freak who had his wand at your throat a minute ago! Have some self-control, or at least some pride!

But it was Snape who looked away, Snape who briskly and efficiently reattached the clasp of her cloak, Snape who moved to the other corner of the room, leaving an aching, cold absence in his wake.

"Well, I certainly understand your situation better now, Krum," Snape was saying... how long had he been talking?...

Hermione realized that Snape was staring at her expectantly.

"I'm... I'm sorry," she whispered. "What did you say?"

"I asked if you were hungry," Snape said simply. "It's been a while since breakfast..."

No condescension, no impatience, no eye-rolling, no snarky comments...

In one frantic lie, she'd somehow managed to convince Snape that they were playing on the same team. But how? And why?

She'd wanted this all day, longed for it... and now she felt nothing but icy terror.

I could hurt him. Oh god, I could hurt him so badly now...

What the -- where had that come from? Hurt him? He'd been the one with the wand at her throat, the one with her backed against a wall, pinned with his body, threatening her, demanding the exact kind of answers she needed not to give!

Making her feel... weird!

So where was all this... guilt coming from? She'd lied to Snape a hundred times, broken into his office, Stunned him... and none of it, ever, had made her feel the way this did...

She looked into his eyes, and realized what the problem was.

He wants to trust me. And worse... I think he does.