Ginny never went home for winter holidays after second year. She went home for the summers because Dumbledore made her (she had asked) but for Christmas and a week in the spring, she stayed at the castle while most everyone else piled on to the train to be with their families. She never quite felt the same after the incident with Tom and the diary. She still had scars on the bend of her arm where she cut herself to get the blood to write on the wall with. Enemies of the heir, beware! She often said this to herself, mockingly, to remind herself of what she was capable of. She remembered scrubbing the blood off of her fingers so vividly that... she just didn't feel like a real Weasley anymore.

So she sent Harry in her place. Harry wanted to go but knew he was just another mouth to feed in a poor family but if Ginny stayed then there was balance once again. They never said anything but it was the unspoken agreement that they shared. The first day after everyone had gone was the best. She liked to listen to her footsteps echo in the big, stone halls. She liked to take one of the school's brooms to the Quidditch pitch and let a snitch go and see how many times she could catch it in an hour. She liked to sleep with the window open and her drapes pulled back from her bed with the cold winter air refreshing her and turning her lips blue. The first day, she did not go to any meals.

The best thing about winter holiday was also that many of the more obnoxious school rules didn't really apply. Of course, the forbidden forest was still off limits but she didn't feel like being eaten alive by anything at the moment so she planned to stay away. She didn't really want to go outside at all at night so that rule suited her just fine. But rules like being out of bed after hours? She'd never seen anyone patrolling. All the prefects, except for herself, had gone home and even half the staff was gone. She had been surprised with the badge had arrived the year after Ron's. Surprised but pleased/ Now, she was one of 23 students to stay behind this year, the overwhelming majority Hufflepuffs. Only one other Gryffindor was staying in the tower and that was a fourth year boy whose name she didn't know. Now, it was past one in the morning and the growling of her stomach woke her. She hadn't eaten all day, of course, and this was her penalty. The air outside her bedclothes was freezing. She stepped into her slippers and wrapped her robe tightly around her before she closed the window and picked up her wand. She quietly walked down the stairs and out of the common room into the dark hallway.

"Lumos," she whispered and the tip of her wand started to glow brightly. She ignored the protests of passing portraits and found herself finally down by the kitchens. She ticked the pears on the portrait of fruit and it swung open. A house elf came out to greet her and she asked for left overs of dinner. While she was waiting, she saw another wand light bobbing towards her, growing brighter as it came closer. She recognized the shadowed features of professor Snape.

"Miss Weasley." He greeted. She thought he might chastize her for being out of bed but he didn't. "I see you skipped dinner as well."

"I skipped all the meals, actually." she said. She'd been scared of Professor Snape at one point but now she was a sixth year in his NEWT level potions class and she saw that he wasn't scary, just demanded perfection.

"Well I hope to see you at breakfast," he said as the house elf handed her a covered tray for her to take back to her common room. "We can't have you wasting away."

"Yes, sir." she said, a little confused. It seemed like a snide remark that one would expect from Snape but his tone sounded completely genuine.

In the morning, she dressed in corduroy pants and her white button down Gryffindor shirt and went to breakfast, her hair still wet from her bath. The five long tables in the great hall had been replace by three round tables situated in the middle of the room, professors mixed in with students. The heirarchal feeling of meal time was suspended during the holidays as well. Everyone had already started eating and she could see she was the last to arrive. There was one empty chair remaining and it was next to Professor Snape. She sat down, quietly, and her plate filled with food.

"There you are." he said, sipping a cup of hot tea and reading the Daily Prophet. "I was thinking of sending a search party."

"No need." she said, tucking in. She could feel him watching her out of the corner of his eyes while nibbling on his toast. "Look, Professor, if you aren't actually reading it, mind if I take a glance?" she asked. It was the boldest thing she'd ever said to him and expected the worst. Instead, he raised an eyebrow and handed her the news section which he had already finished.

"What are your plans for today, Miss Weasley?" He asked when most of the people started to stand and make their way out of the Great Hall. She set down the paper and tilted her head at him, as if thinking.

"I hadn't thought." she said. "Yours?"

"Going into town for supplies. Would you like to accompany me? I could use a spare hand and I wouldn't trust a Hufflepuff to hold an empty plastic bottle for me." he said, sneering.

"You would trust a Weasley? A Gryffindor?" she asked, shocked.

"I would trust you, Miss Weasley. You have proven yourself in my advanced potions class, you are nothing like your hotheaded brothers when it comes to the... qualities... of Gryffindors, and you have proven you can be trusted with secrets in regards to life outside Hogwarts." he said and she knew she was talking about the Order and their shared time at 12 Grimmauld place.

"I would be glad to accompany you, then." she said. "Let me fetch my cloak."

"I'll meet you out front." he said and she rose and quickly made her way to the tower. She pulled her heavy winter cloak out of her trunk as well as some gloves and her school scarf. Pausing for a moment, she thought about how odd it was that she was going to go to Hogsmeade with Snape. It was what students did for dates. But this, surely, was not a romantic invitation. One of practicality, or purely academic in nature. Perhaps only because she happened to be sitting next to him for the meal, not the one second year Slytherin boy who looked sallow and never spoke. He had given her almost complementary reasons which was unusual behavior for him. Shrugging, she went down and out the front doors where he was waiting, his fingers encased in black gloves and a heavier cloak over his shoulders but otherwise looking much the same.

"Hagrid has been so kind as to lend us a carriage for the ride." He said. Ginny saw the once horseless carriage awaiting them, now drawn by the scaley and very visible Thestral. He stepped aside to let her enter the carriage first, holding out his hand. She placed hers in his and hefted herself into the tall carriage. He came in after her and sat on the seat across from her, so he was riding backwards. He'd thought it would be less awkward then sitting next to her but now they had nothing to do but stare at one another and she was studying him studiously, looking for all the world like she had questions. "What?" he asked, finally, tiring of her quizzical expression.

"You don't look at all scary." she said. Damn brave Gryffindors.

"I shall have to try harder, then." he said, sarcastically. She smiled at this, surprising him. He elicited tears from students, not smiles.

"I think that if I work hard enough, you'll come to like me." she said in response. "I've been doing well in your potions class."

"Satisfactory." he mumbled, unable to give her any higher praise though she knew this was high praise coming from him.

"I need your friendship as much as you need mine, Professor." she continued. "I never realized that being smart meant being lonely. You are the smartest, loneliest man I've ever laid eyes on so I guess I should have figured."

"You're quite out of line, Miss Weasley." he said but then paused. "Though it doesn't mean you aren't correct in this assessment." She looked at him hopefully. "I don't have friends my own age nor any half that. I'm not nice, or pleasant in anyway to be around. If you still want to... befriend me after this time of working together is done, I will consider you a great friend as well." he promised and her face lit up with a smile.

"Working together?" she asked, confused.

"I intended to invite you on all my potions related outings." he admitted. "If this one went well, that is. I know that the castle is empty and somewhat boring at Christmas and I could use a good mind."

"All right." she agreed. He looked pleased. "Shake on it?" she asked, sticking out her gloved hand. Nodding, he shook her hand. They were quiet until the carriage stopped in front of the Apothecary and Snape tied up the Thestral which, she realized, he could obviously see, and held the door open for her to enter first. The store smelled rather like the potions classroom with out the underlying scent of mildew on old stone.

"Severus! Merry Christmas!" the shop keeper said, greeting them from behind the counter.

"Hello, Spencer." Snape said dryly. "Miss Weasley, this is Spencer Spagarus."

"Hullo, Sir." Ginny said politely.

"Oh, posh, I am not your professor, call me Spencer." he said too kindly. "On a detention, are we?" Snape glared at the shop keep.

"Miss Weasley is here of her own free will, I assure you." He said, through clenched teeth and surprising Ginny by putting his hand on the small of her back gently with just enough pressure to steer her away from the counter and towards the back of the store where the shelves of ingredients were kept. She realized that he was protecting her in a sort of instinctual way. He wanted to keep her safe from the obviously slimy Mr. Spagarus who had eyed her up and down when she walked in.

"I've never been in this shop before." she said, stepping away from the warmth his now bare hand provided through the layers of clothing on her back to inspect the huge jars of potions ingredients. "It's amazing."

"Indeed." he said.

"And Hogwarts foots the bill for whatever you buy?" Ginny asked. Her interest in money was a Weasley trait she could not shake. Money was interesting when you didn't have any.

"A perk of the job. Most of what I buy I use for the students but I also have my private research as well." He said. He reached into his pocket and pulled out two pieces of parchment. He handed one to her. "This is what I need for the students." he said.

"What's on your list?" she asked curiously before she could bite the question back. She regretted it, expecting him to snap at her but he didn't.

"My personal selections as well as the more temperamental ingredients." He looked at her expectantly. "Anymore questions, Miss Granger?"

"What?" she asked and then realized that he was teasing her! "Oh..." she scowled and stalked away but when her back was turned, she smiled. It took her about half an hour to locate each ingredient on the list and put in them in their separate glass containers and lay them carefully in a wicker basket the store provided. As she put the last container in the basket, he was already at the counter, watching her with an unreadable expression on his face. She handed him the basket and he waited impatiently while Spagarus calculated the total. Finally Snape paid and carried the packages to the carriage, placing them carefully and safely inside, placing a concealment charm on them so they would not be seen or stolen.

"I'm afraid we've missed lunch. Would you like to eat something before returning to the castle?" Snape offered. She tilted her head as if thinking about it.

"I'm sure I could stand an hour more." she said, teasing him back. He rolled his eyes and stalked off towards the Three Broomsticks. Chuckling to herself, she followed him into the warm, friendly pub. She slid into a booth and let him order what he would. When he came back, he brought two sandwiches and two mugs of butterbeer. "Thank you, Professor."

"You're welcome. I've been thinking about your proposal." he said.

"Of friendship?"

"Yes. I think that for the duration of the holiday, that you should call me Severus." Her eyes widened.

"An experiment of sorts." she said. She thought that looking at it from a scientific point of view would ease what was obviously a very uncomfortable situation for him.

"Yes. When the new term starts, it will be Professor Snape and I still demand the same respect as always but when we're alone, Severus should be fine." he said.

"Then you should definitely call me Ginny." she said. He nodded. They were quiet as they ate. "Severus?" she said, testing the new name. It came out easier then she thought it would.

"Yes?" he said.

"Did you really mean... I mean, you always hated Hermione. You don't..." she didn't know how to articulate her question. "When you said Miss Granger..."

"Ginny, I never hated Hermione. She is possibly the smartest student I have ever taught. She just needs to learn the art of timing." he said, gracefully.

"She needs to learn how to shut up sometimes?" Ginny clarified and he actually smiled for a second.

"Exactly." he said.

"Hermione really likes you, Professor." Ginny said.


"I'm serious. She's going to go bloody mad when she hears that I get to spend the whole holiday with you." Ginny said.

"Ginny, no one likes me." Snape said.

"Rubbish." she said, throwing his word back at him. "Hermione wants nothing more then to get to know you. She knows you have so much to teach her. I like you, and I think many more students would like you if you showed your softer side during class time."

"Death eaters and spies aren't equipped with softer sides." Snape said softly. Ginny didn't have a response and without thinking reached out and put her hand on top of his. He yanked it away as if her skin burned. "Are you ready?"

"Yes." she said, hurt by his response. They left the pub and rode in silence back to the castle. When they arrived, he took the packages and went into the castle without a word. Ginny watched him go with a horrible feeling in the pit of her stomach. Had she ruined it already? She went into the castle, but he was already out of her sight. She stood and watched the big hour glasses that counted the house points. The gemstones inside were usually always in motion but now they were still, Ravenclaw uncharacteristically in the lead. She felt helpless. Realizing that she was cold and that the bottom of her cloak and pants were wet from the snow. She walked slowly towards the Gryffindor tower. Inside, she stood at the portrait that led to the prefect's bathroom.

"Cannons Dominate." she mumbled sadly. It had been Ron's turn to pick the password. The Portrait opened and she entered the bathroom tiredly, pulling off her clothes and turning on all the taps. When the bath was filled, she sunk into the hot water and slowly felt the water warm her. She washed her hair and body and floated lazily for awhile and then finally she drained the tub and padded up to her room in her Gryffindor bathrobe that had been her gift when she'd been sorted. Her hair was long now and had turned curly when she hit puberty. She immediately learned a charm to straighten it but now she was exhausted and so she just let it dry and it was wild when later she went to dinner and Severus wasn't there. She was early for once and Dumbledore waved her over to him and she sat down and he gazed at her.

"Well?" he asked. "How was your outing?"

"Oh... it was... good I guess." she said, uncertain as to how he always knew everything. "Except that I think I did something wrong at the end."

"Wrong?" he asked.

"I upset him somehow." she said.

"How?" Dumbledore asked.

"I touched his hand." Ginny admitted, embarrassed now that she was saying out loud. Dumbledore laughed heartily.

"That's wonderful! Don't let him get away with this, Miss Weasley. You keep at him." he said, laughing still. Severus didn't come to dinner. She thought it was strange that she wanted to go down to the dungeons to find him so badly but she thought that she would give it a night and then maybe try to talk to him again. She was determined to win him over.

She slept very restlessly and had nightmares as she did many nights of the chamber of secrets. Waking up in puddles of water with Harry next to her dead and the sinking feeling of knowing that no one was coming to save her. That she couldn't save herself.

He came to lunch but they sat at different tables. She left first and was leaning against his locked office door when he came back down.

"Harry and I have something in common." she said and his sour look told her that Harry Potter was probably not the best subject to start off with.

"What's that?" he asked, dryly.

"The sorting hat told us both we ought to be in Slytherin and we both begged for Gryffindor." she said, honestly. He looked interested at this. "I don't know about Harry but after six brothers in Gryffindor... well." she didn't finish the thought.

"Do you think that it would be easier if you were in my house?" he asked.

"I think it might be easier if I weren't in your school."

"You'd be right." She finally realized he was waiting to get into his office and she stepped aside. He waved his wand and the door opened before them and he breezed inside calling over his shoulder, "Come in, if you will." His office looked much like his classroom – dark and imposing full of shelves and bottles and one big, dark, desk. He sat behind it and she was already at the wall, running her fingers over the bindings of books. "Ginny."

"I'm sorry I touched your hand, Professor. It won't happen again."

"Severus." he said.

"Severus." she repeated mostly to herself.

"Ginny, sit down." he said and she moved to the hard, wooden chair that he provided for students. It was not meant for comfort but she didn't complain. "I can't remember the last time someone touched me. I may have over reacted."

"I read a book once, a muggle book, that talked about human psychology and interpersonal communications. It said that people get sick without communication from others and that includes the physical. So perhaps that should be our next step. Touch." she said.

"I'm not your project." he said, with no trace of humor. "I will not be allowed to be some charity case that you giggle over later with Miss Granger."

"Oh for Merlin's sake, Severus, can you just trust me, maybe?" she said, losing patience. "You're only a charity case if you let yourself be one. Any poor Weasley child knows that."

"A very Slytherin sentiment. I... don't have any siblings." he offered. He rarely spoke of any sort of personal life and she didn't want to scare him off with a bunch of questions so she gave a light hearted response.

"You can have some of mine." she retorted.

"I'd rather not," he said chuckling. The afternoon passed swiftly in his office and finally, Ginny commented that they'd missed dinner and perhaps she should call it a night. "I'll walk you to your portrait." he said and she smiled.

"All right." They walked slowly up the stairs and waited very patiently for them to swing around and stop moving. Ginny was so immersed in their conversation that she completely forgot to hop the trick step. "Bugger." she said. "Neville told me he was trapped here for an hour before someone came by to pull him out."

"So you don't want me to just leave you here, then?" Snape asked, looking devious.

"Definitely not."

"And tickling you or hexing you or having all the ghosts line up to float through you is out of the question as well?"

"Severus Snape you are awful. Help me out, please?" she asked and so he obliged. He was tall and hand to bend over rather far to grab hold of both her legs and give a good pull. He had just gotten her loose when they heard a throat clear behind them. He righted himself quickly and accidently flung her over his shoulder where she hung there like a rag doll, Minerva McGonagall staring at her with a horrified expression and then gone in a whirl as Snape turned around.

"Put her down!" McGonagall demanded and he let her slide down until her feet touched the ground. Ginny thought it was rather nice feeling their fronts pressed so close but quickly pushed the thought away for another time in the face of her head of house's wrath. "What on earth is going on?" she demanded.

"I was just escorting Miss Weasley to her dormitory as it is past curfew." he said smoothly.

"With her over your shoulder?" McGonagall asked, skeptically.

"He was just helping me. Trick step." she said.

"You're a sixth year, Miss Weasley, you don't know there's a trick step there? I find that hard to believe."

"I assure you she is telling the truth, Minerva." Snape said, as if daring her to fling anymore accusations.

"Well, I think that Miss Weasley can find her way back to the tower from here." McGonagall said shortly. "Severus, if I could have a word?"

"Of course, Minerva. Goodnight, Ginny." he said.

"Goodnight, Professor." she stressed and slowly walked away from them. She could her McGonagall's shrill voice behind her.

"Sixteen years old... not in your house... be bloody careful..." In bed she allowed her thoughts to stay to the feeling of her body sliding down against his. She berated herself for thinking he might feel anything for her. But he asked you to Hogsmeade! Her inner voice told her and she had to admit he'd started this little courtship. He would have asked anyone who'd sat next to him. Her mind argued back. Liar!

"Shut up!" she said out loud and put a pillow under head. She'd thought that being friends with a man like Severus Snape would be interesting but now she wondered if she could ever come to love him; if she was already on the way. The next day was Christmas Eve and she didn't see him at all. McGonagall shot her questioning, chastising looks all day and she decided to spend the day in her room readying Christmas packages to owl home. In the bottom of her truck was something she thought that Severus might like but was unsure if giving him a gift was at all appropriate. Finally, she wrapped it up and left it on her bed while she went to the owlry to send off her packages to her family and one to Hermione who was at home with her parents.

At dinner, Severus wasn't there and she ate very little before claiming a headache and going to bed. It was barely six am when the portrait that hung near her bed woke her.

"Pssst! Wake up!" said that young maiden in the painting, waving her bouquet of flowers around madly.

"What?" she moaned.

"The fat lady says there is someone waiting for you in the hallway. A man!" she squealed obnoxiously.

"Rubbish." Ginny said, rolling over to go back to sleep, Christmas morning or not.

"All in black though, not at all my type." the portrait continued. Ginny opened one eye.

"All in black?" she asked, scrambling for her robe and a hairbrush. Finally she gave up, knowing there was nothing to do about her curly hair when she couldn't find her wand. She went through the common room tying her robe and opened the portrait.

"Ginny!" Snape said, looking startled. "Did I wake you?" She stared at him with her bleary eyes.

"No of course not." she lied. "Merry Christmas. Come in." He peered into the common room and stepped in carefully like it would explode, like it was the lion's den its self, so to speak.

"I just wanted to give you your gift before breakfast." he said.

"I have something for you as well." she said, moving towards the stairs. He started to follow her but as soon as he set foot on the first step, a loud alarm sounded and the stairs smoothed out to form a slide and Ginny stumbled back down to his feet.

"What happened?" he asked.

"Boys... ah... Men aren't allowed up to the female dormitory." she said, picking herself up. "Why don't you wait down here?" she said, as the stairs righted themselves. Smiling at his faux pas – it was rare that she knew something that Snape didn't about the castle – she hurried up to her room. Once there she stripped off her clothing and pulled on some jeans and a sweater and threw her belongings around until she spotted her wand. Pointing at her head, she muttered a spell that didn't straighten her hair (it had to be wet to do that) but at least made her curls smooth and sleek. Finally, she grabbed the wrapped gift and ran downstairs where he was standing at the hearth, staring into the fire philosophically.

"There you are." he said. "You look different."

"My hair. It's completely unruly." she said. "I usually keep it straight but... well... Merry Christmas Professor."

"Ah, back to the formalities again?" he said.

"By habit, Severus." she amended. "This is for you." she said. "It involves some explanation." He took the box wrapped in dark red and green stripped paper. Most wizarding paper moved or sang or was charmed in someway but it was muggle paper, reused from a previous gift from her father. Slowly, apprehensively, he unwrapped the paper and open the lid to the cardboard box. Inside, on a bed of tissue paper was a small, silver ring. Engraved in it was a band of lions and serpents that seemed to wiggle and roar when you looked closely. They weren't fighting, however. It was a harmonious sort of design. "Put it on." He did, slid it onto his ring finger on his right hand and a peaceful, warm feeling enveloped him.

"Ginny, this is... it's really quite thoughtful." he said. She rarely saw him at a loss for words.

"My great-great-grandparents on my father's side... both went to Hogwarts. She was a Gryffindor and he was a Slytherin. When they got married, they had the set made to prove that the two could set aside their differences... for the right reasons." she said. "I got them when I became of age... most girls get some sort of family heirloom and I got the wedding set. I thought that you might actually appreciate it." He looked at her silently, then his hand, and then her. "I understand if it is too presumptuous a gift. It's charmed to move as well as calm... you don't particularly like the Weasley's... I was wrong in thinking you'd like it. I'm so sorry." she said, and realized that he was smiling softly at her now, witnessing her spiral in confidence.

"It is, without question, the finest gift I've ever received, Ginny. I'm beyond touched." He said. "Can I see your version?"

"Oh, I hadn't thought." she said. She fished out her wand and closed her eyes, thinking of the box in the open, disheveled trunk upstairs, concentrating hard. "Accio ring!" she ordered and sure enough the box flew down the stairs and into her lap.

"Very good." he commended. She opened the box and pulled the ring out. It was the same basic design, just with a small, emerald diamond as well. Much more feminine. She slid it on and the peaceful feeling slid over her. Though, this time, it didn't subside. It grew and mounted until her skin felt hot and flushed and she was super aware of the potions master sitting across from her. She could hear each inhale and exhale, the rustle of his robes, his gaze on her.

"What?" she asked, confused, her thinking muddled from what was definitely turning into an acute case of arousal.

"Try to take it off." he ordered, his voice just as strained as hers. They both tried to pull the rings off but to no avail. "What else do you know about these rings?" he demanded.

"I don't... I don't know! Mum never said anything like... I knew they were charmed to feel peaceful when wearing them but I've never worn mine with someone in the matching!" she said. "Severus..." she said, her glazed eyes finding him irresistible. Suddenly, they were both standing and inches apart. She was so much shorter then him but it didn't seem to matter because his hand was touching her cheek and sliding down her neck and over her collarbone to where the fabric of her grey sweater started. It was like dragging a lit match along her pale skin, the way it burned. "Severus." she said again but really, it was more of a whimper. She wanted to leap into his arms; to crawl into him so fully that she couldn't tell where he ended and she began. It was so hot in the common room, there in front of the fire and he was wearing so many layers that it seemed natural to reach up to his neck and start undoing buttons and it seemed natural that his hands should be grasping the hem of her sweater and tugging up and – why was he stopping.

"Ginny... Miss Weasley... this is a spell and we need to get help." he sounded sick saying it but through the haze of her need she knew that he was probably right."I have to leave... Dumbledore... you have too... floo your mother and ask her." he said. "We can do this." He took a step back. There they were, standing in her common room where anyone could walk in and see. She in jeans and a black bra and him with his robes and shirt open to reveal his pale, lean chest. When had she undone all those buttons and how she wanted to just taste his skin, just dart out her tongue to see if he was salty or sweet.

"Dumbledore." she agreed and put on her sweater inside out. She didn't notice and he did up enough buttons just to be decent and they stumbled out of the portrait trying not to let their hands bump. But then her hand did touch him – an accident! – and he pushed her up against the wall and crushed his lips to hers right there in the corridor of the sixth floor where anyone could see. His tongue was insistent on entering her mouth and she parted her lips gladly. He was kissing her so hard and she swore she heard someone groaning but was it him or her? She could feel the length of him pressed into her front even though all the layers of stiff, starched cloth. She ground her hips into him and this time it was most certainly his moan. He lifted her, sliding her back against the polished stone so that she was more his height and it seemed right to just wrap her legs around his narrow hips and she barely, just barely head the deep voice behind them saying "Stupefy!"

She came to in the hospital ward feeling groggy and not remembering how she'd ended up there in the first place. She tried to sit up but there was a hand on her shoulder, gently but firmly keeping her in bed. Her vision swam and then slowly began to clear and there he was, the headmaster, looking somewhere between relieved and angry.

"What happened?" she asked.

"I was just coming out of my office to go to breakfast when I saw you and Professor Snape in a compromising position." he said sternly, no trace of twinkle in his blue eyes. "When I encouraged you to befriend Professor Snape I in no way intended a physical relationship."

"I don't..." but then she did remember and sat up this time before he could stop her. "The rings!"

"Rings?" he asked but she looked at her right hand and it was gone. It glistened from her left ring finger now.

"I put it on the other hand, I thought." she muttered. Maybe she just remembered wrong. "They belonged to my great-great-grandparents. They are a matching set. I gave Severus... Professor Snape I mean, the matching one for Christmas." she said. "As a token of friendship, I swear it."

"Were they just a set of rings or were they a wedding set?" he asked, his face relaxing as he began to comprehend the situation.

"Wedding set. I thought it was symbolic of our two houses getting along, though, I didn't intend it romantically. I almost didn't give it to him lest he take it the wrong way." she pleaded. "Then, he wanted to see the match and so I put it on and usually they just calm you but this time the feeling didn't... didn't stop." she said, slowing her explanation to a halt, embarrassed. "We were coming to get you but didn't quite make it."

"I think I understand what's happened. I think I'll go floo-talk to your mother, Miss Weasley, and get the history on those rings. Poppy, can you go inform Severus that she's awake?" he asked the healer.

"He knows I'm awake." she said, suddenly. "He's on his way." she wasn't sure how she knew, she just did. She could feel the heat start up again the closer he got to where she was. He'd been in the dungeons and she on the top floor but now as they moved closer together, that awareness started anew. Dumbledore didn't look surprised and nodded grimly and stayed. When Snape entered, they all stared at him.

"I think I know what's happened." he said, through clenched teeth. His control was amazing, she wanted nothing more than to leap at him from across the room, her need of him so overwhelming.

"I do too but lets go talk to Molly first." Dumbledore said. "Miss Weasley, do you think you can handle a conversation with your mother with Professor Snape present in my office?" he asked. She wasn't sure at all but she nodded and climbed out of the bed. Dumbledore walked between them but she was still utterly distracted. She looked at Snape's hands and the ring was still there, this time on his left hand.

"Look, yours changed hands too." she said and he looked at her, the fire in his eyes almost more then she could endure.

"Yes." was his strangled, but unsurprised response. In the office the stood by the large fireplace while Dumbledore tossed in a bit of floo powder and said "Molly Weasley." Her mother's head appeared in the fireplace and she saw the three standing there and automatically looked angry.

"What's she done? Ginny, I told you to come on vacation with us and you're lucky we've rented a cottage with floo connections and what if I had been out?" she said, yelling. "Hello Albus, Severus." Her voice normal and sweet.

"Molly, Ginny's done nothing wrong." Albus said. "It's about Arthur's Great-Grandparent's rings." he said.

"The wedding set, we gave it to Ginny when she turned sixteen." Molly said, now confused.

"You should have told me more about the rings, Mum." Ginny said, speaking at last.

"Ginny gave me the male ring for Christmas." Snape said. "I..."

"You? Whatever for?" Molly asked. Severus sneered.

"Regardless of reasons that can be examined later, the rings aren't coming off and there seems to be some sort of side effect." Dumbledore said. "Severus and I have concluded that there is most likely a honeymoon charm on them, is it not?" Dumbledore said. The honeymoon charm ensure a productive wedding night after the ceremony. It was mostly used for arranged marriages which happened frequently in the wizarding community. If the bride and groom didn't like one another much, it was one way of ensuring that an heir would be produced. The heat would rage on until consummation.

"Honeymoon charm? Heavens no, it wasn't an arranged marriage! Between a Gryffindor and Slytherin? If anything, there's a True Love Charm..." As she was saying this she looked back at forth at Severus and her daughter. "What kind of side effect?" she said, comprehension dawning.

"Thank you, Molly. I'll be owling you shortly." Albus said. "No need to worry, enjoy your vacation!" With a wave of his wand, he ended the call with a still very upset Molly Weasley.

"True Love charm?" Ginny asked, suddenly tired.

"It's rather the opposite of the Honeymoon Charm, in an ironic sort of way." Snape said, rubbing his forehead. "This ensures that the couples feelings are true. Arranges marriages would definitely fail with a True Love wedding set. Only wearers who were..." he couldn't finish. Ginny didn't need him to.

"You're saying that the reason the rings are reacting is because what we're feeling is... real?"

"I'm afraid so." Dumbledore said, piping into the conversation from behind his big desk. "A powerful spell it seems to be if your... candor in the hallway has anything to say." Snape glared at Dumbledore, certain that he was enjoying this.

"What can we do, then?" Ginny demanded. "How do we get them off? I'm a student!"

"I don't think we can, Ginny." Snape said, softly.

"Oh Severus. I just wanted to give you something... something real. I never meant-"

"I know." he said. "I - Albus I cannot be in this room with her." he said, standing. "Please inform me when you have a decision." he said and left the office in a hurry. The burn she felt died down but was replaced by hurt as he abandoned her. She felt completely overwhelmed.

"If we... give in," she said, blushing fiercely, "then it will be over, the one time?" she asked.

"Yes and no." Dumbledore said. "The urgency will abide but you will seal the bond. You and Severus will not be able to be apart." he said. "You think that it is uncomfortable now with him in a different part of the castle?" he asked. She nodded. "You won't be able to be in different towns. The distance will literally kill you." he said. "This is a very powerful, precise spell, Ginny. This is magic and its most distilled." She put her face in her hands.

"So we have no choice? I'll be expelled and he'll lose his job."

"I don't think that should be necessary." The headmaster said. "We just have to agree on a plan." She looked at the ring snugly on her finger. It had always been a little big but now it fit perfectly.

"Why did the rings change hands?" she asked.

"A sign of the spell being successful, I imagine. A sort of binding of you two – like marriage made legal by magic not by law." he said.

"Marriage? Like Snape and I..."

"For all intents and purposes are married." he finished. "Ginny, we will work this out." he promised.

"How can it be true love? I don't even know what love is, what it feels like... I've never been in love!" she whined, her maturity crumbling.

"It's the name of the spell when really it is more about compatibility. You and Severus are simply very compatible. You have the same interests, the same intellect, close proximity..."

"He's twice my age." but it was a desperate argument – one that she herself cared very little about. In a life span of over 150 years, what was the odd 20 in difference?

"You are both from pureblood families with litter intermarriage. You probably know how hard it is to keep blood pure." he said. "When it matters to people." She did know. Practically everyone in Slytherin was related somehow.

"Well, what is there to do... about..." she blushed. "The ah... burning I feel around Professor Snape?"

"I suppose, under the circumstances, that's up to you and Severus." he said. "It is against school rules, naturally, but what are we to do except break them in this instance?" he smiled wanly at her. "I was telling the truth when I told you to keep at him. I thought and still think that you'd be good for him."

"Thank you, sir."

"Now, I best owl your mother before the howlers start to come." Nodding, she left the office. She stood uncertainly at the base of the Gargoyle. Did she go to the dungeons like she so desperately wanted to or did she return to her tower? It was still Christmas morning after all – breakfast would be starting soon and she still had all her gifts from her family. She never did open the gift from Severus, either. She was very curious and decided to go to the tower.

It was where they'd left it; the remnants of her gift to him and his small, gold package still unwrapped. She tossed the used paper into the fire place and picked up his gift. She didn't think that unwrapping it with him would be a very good idea when she couldn't bloody keep her hands off him. She could feel that he was pacing in his office and she assumed he probably knew she was standing in the center of her common room. Would she always know just where he was? When he was on the grounds or teaching class or in the loo? She felt extremely vulnerable, all of a sudden. Distinctly without privacy. Returning her thoughts to the matter at hand, she tore off the gold paper and inside was an antique cloak clasp. It had what appeared to be the Hogwarts crest on it and was a beautiful, shining brass color. She could tell it was very old. He must have noticed her clasp was broken, she was always holding on to her cloak so it didn't fall into the snow. It was thoughtful and practical, just like him. She carried it upstairs and removed the broken, plain clasp from her cloak and fastened on the new one. It looked quite nice. There were other gifts that she had received. The obligatory Weasley sweater with the 'G' on it, this time in a cheery aqua color that would look good with her hair and bring out her eyes. Hermione had sent a book on underwater magical creatures and Harry had sent loads of candy from Honeydukes. She'd never seen him laugh as hard as when she'd popped a chocolate in her mouth and spent the next five minutes croaking like a frog. There were the things from her brothers, a rather big box from Bill but it was time for breakfast and so she put on proper clothing – all right-side out - and went to breakfast.

Dumbledore gave an encouraging wink when she came in and she knew Severus wouldn't be there. He'd not stopped pacing. At least it would be very easy to avoid one another when they were this aware of the other's location. The Christmas breakfast was buffet style and so she loaded her plate and left the great hall to go eat on the stone steps in the front hall, alone with her thoughts. She was sure to get a letter from her mother any moment now and if it were a howler, she didn't need everyone to hear it. When Errol came, however, it had normal parchment tied to his leg. She donated him her breakfast as he looked far worse then she felt. He was really too old to be flying to Hogwarts and back all the time. She unrolled the parchment.


I've spoken with the headmaster and he explain the situation more clearly. You're truly a woman now and have to deal with this situation as such. I didn't know that you were so close with Severus to give him your grandfather's ring but I'm glad that you see in him what so many students lack. I'm not angry but perhaps a little disappointed that you've had to grow up so fast. Whatever your decision, I support. Though I've not told Harry and Ron and don't fancy to. See you at Easter,


She felt relieved that her mother wasn't angry. She decided that she better get this cleared up before the students started to come back on Monday. Steeling her resolve, she started down the stairs to Snape.

He unlocked his doors for her, knowing she was on her way. Oh, it was hard to look at him without the heat consuming her. She wanted to collapse into his arms and snog him senseless. In reality, he was at his desk and she'd froze at the door.

"Thank you for the clasp." she said. "It's lovely."

"It was mine, as a student here." he said, slowly and evenly. "I noticed that you needed a replacement."

"Yes, it was very thoughtful of you, and appropriate." She had the same even, clipped tone. "I didn't think that the rings were cursed." she said and he actually smiled a bit at this which made her knees turn to jelly.

"Ginny, the True Love spell is hardly a curse. In fact, it's a very difficult and celebrated part of magic. Not many people can do it properly and even fewer are recipients of it." he said in that silky, gentle voice that few students ever heard. "Usually, this is a gift. We just happen to be in very awkward positions."

"You aren't furious with me?" she asked.

"No. I'm surprised, of course, and embarrassed for you..."

"Embarrassed for me? Whatever for?" she asked.

"I never thought that I would find a partner of any sort, let alone be part of a spell such as this. You are indescribably beautiful and have your whole life ahead of you. Until we find some sort of counter spell, you're trapped with a sour, lonely man twice your age." he said, bitterness seeping into his words.

"I wouldn't call myself trapped, Severus. I quite enjoy your company and I don't find you sour. Lonely, maybe, but... I just... wanted to be with you." she finished, somewhat lamely. "It's so hard to think." He understood perfectly. Sometime during the conversation, they had started moving toward one another and now he was right in front of her, burying his hands in her hair and she was twisting to get closer to him. She could see the moment he gave in and lowered his mouth to hers.

Afterwards, they were both asleep in his bed. Neither woke when the rings glowed brightly, and then slowly dimmed, finished the spell. They were now bound to one another for the rest of time.