By the time Albus Dumbledore made it to the transfiguration classroom to inform the seventh years that Minerva would not be in today and probably never again, Hermione Granger had already started teaching the lesson. He was a little surprised but merely waited for a pause in her lecture before he went up and whispered something in her ear and she paled a little but nodded bravely. He apologized for the interruption to the class and went back to his office where several Order members were waiting to assess the situation.

Hermione was the head girl in her last year of Hogwarts and no one was shocked about that either. A few of the Slytherin protested her taking over the class for the rest of term but the NEWTS were on the horizon and so even Draco Malfoy stopped his whining when she helped him improve his transfiguring in a way that would probably improve his scores by a whole letter. She understood that taking over transfiguration meant missing most of her other classes so Harry brought an enchanted quill to class with him – something that was usually prohibited – and she got notes from class, word for word. It wasn't as if she hadn't read all of the books anyway. Secretly, she thought her attendance in class was just a formality.

The Gryffindors missed McGonagall and her absence remained wholly unexplained except to a select few. Dumbledore had said something about a much needed sabbatical but had told Hermione that she'd been injured while on assignment for the Order and was actually in the castle, in her chambers recovering but still unable to speak well or walk. She slept most of the day while Poppy flooed in every few hours to check on her. Hermione had told Harry and Ron since they knew about the Order anyway.

It was fun teaching but she was tired most of the time from doing all her homework and giving it to Harry to turn in and from doing all the grading for the hundreds of essays she received from every year weekly. Professor McGonagall had her lessons all planned out and so Hermione just followed them with few altercations. Every so often Dumbledore came by to poke his head in but no one acted up and no one had fallen behind. Everyone, even those who did not particularly like Miss Granger, knew she was bloody brilliant and respected her head girl status and with NEWTS creeping ever forward and a war so close it was taking out their very professors, no one caused any problems.

Well – the only problem that did occur was when she was grading. In the library, in the great hall, in the common room, students were always coming up to her asking about their grades and if there was still room for improvement. Even when she retreated to her bedroom – a luxury that had always been afforded to the head boy and girl – there were students knocking on her door pretending to search for a lost pet or borrow a quill who really just wanted inside knowledge on the next test or quiz. Finally, she gathered up some candles and all her grading after dinner one night and trudged up several flights of stairs to an empty tower on the northwest side of the castle on a floor and in a wing she wasn't exactly supposed to be in. There was a small, stone room she'd found one night on patrol that she wanted to try. It was dusty – she'd have to ask the house elves to clean it next time she saw one – but it would do. She conjured a desk and a chair; rustic but satisfactory. She didn't want to be too comfortable and fall asleep. She lit all her candles and sat down to work for a few hours on the third years. It nearly killed her to do it, but she didn't falter in the grading. Professor McGonagall had always returned their essay within one week of handing them in and Hermione did the same – regardless of the sleepless nights it took it to do so. She couldn't even remember a weekend where she just hung out or overslept or went to town.

She wasn't sure how long he'd been watching her but she looked up briefly to push a few curls out of her eye and nearly fell off her chair.

"Professor!" she said, standing, feeling guilty for some reason. Maybe because she'd found some peace and quiet and it was hard to come by in a castle so filled with life. Maybe because she wasn't supposed to be in that part of the castle even though as head girl it wasn't much of an infraction. "You scared… I mean, you're very stealthy, sir." She said, not wanting to admit fear to a man who seemed to thrive on it.

"I didn't mean to startle you, Miss Granger. I didn't think anyone else knew about this tower." he admitted. "Even I need to get above ground once in a while." she smiled at the potions master slightly for he was notorious for lurking about the dungeons and only coming upstairs for meals and patrol.

"The students are relentless about wanting to know their grades." she explained. "I just needed a place where I could do it all in peace."

"Understandable." he said. He came fully into the room and went over to the long, narrow, arched window that looked over the lake. "It's a full moon tonight." he commented. She was a bit surprised he'd not left or asked her to leave and was no making generic conversation.

"It's beautiful on the water like that." she agreed. "I can't help but think about Professor Lupin, though, and our third year." she said feeling almost social after being cooped up for so long. He glanced at her briefly as if to say he wasn't in the mood for reminiscing.

"Always getting into trouble." he murmured, not sounding angry, exactly.

"Always saving our lives." she countered, thinking of him standing in front of Harry, Ron, and herself, his arms outstretched to shield them with his own body. He'd grabbed on to her arm so tightly that night that in the morning she'd had bruises in the shape of his fingers but it was out of fear and not anger that he'd unintentionally hurt her and she felt a sort of longing when the marks disappeared from her skin. All trace of his heroics were gone and he was back to being bitter Professor Snape once again.

But here he was now, the moon reflecting on his white skin, looking forlorn and alone.

"You shouldn't have to come up here," he said, changing the subject. "to this dank, filthy room to continue to do everyone a favor."

"I don't mind…"

"Of course you don't, Gryffindor." he said. "But I can see you're exhausted. Gather your things. Follow me." he said. She had never argued with an order he gave her in that tone of voice so she blew out her candles and put everything in her bag that was beginning to fray on the shoulder strap from too much weight just as it did every year about this time. He walked beside her on the way down out of the tower, not in front of her and she appreciated that. They stopped at an unfamiliar portrait on the seventh floor and he said the password clearly so she could hear and remember it. "Poinsettia" The portrait of the two fishermen in a boat on a lake swung open and inside was a cozy room full of desks, tables, couches and a large, crackling fire place.

"What is it?" she asked.

"It's the staff room." he said. "You are a part-time member of our staff now and I see no reason why you shouldn't do your grading here." he said. She stepped in and he followed her, allowing the portrait to close. It was mostly empty except for the two of them and Professor Flitwick who'd fallen asleep on one of the sofas and was snoring softly. Snape rolled his eyes. "This is Minerva's desk." he said, pointing to an antique wooden roll top desk that Hermione immediately coveted. She touched it reverently and smile at Snape.

"Thank you." she said. "You're being very kind, tonight."

"Are you surprised I have a soul, Miss Granger?" he asked, snidely.

"Just surprised you're letting me see." she countered and he nodded as if approving.

"I'll let you get on with it, then." he said and left her alone with Flitwicks's snores.

Eventually, Professor McGonagall asked to see Hermione. Dumbledore let her through the portrait that lead into the wing of the castle that held the staff quarters and stopped at a picture of a tabby cat. The portrait opened without a password and that made sense to Hermione. The staff trusted each other enough not to have to lock their rooms from one another and Hermione immediately wished for that sort of implicit trust in her life.

"Minerva!" Dumbledore called merrily. "Are you decent?"

"Of course." she called from the bedroom but the voice sounded paper thin. They went down a narrow hallway into her bedroom and Hermione worked hard to keep her reaction off of her face. The only way to describe her once lively and stern professor was translucent. The strength was gone and all that remained was the body barely hanging on. Her skin was so thin and pale she could see the veins underneath. Her hair was straggly and completely gray and she had deep circles beneath her eyes and oh, she was desperately thin. Her breathing was ragged and audible.

"Hello, Professor McGonagall." she said, timidly stepping forward into the room.

"I know I look awful." she said, smiling at the girl. "But my mind is sharp as it ever was. Have a seat. Thank you, Albus. I'd like a word alone with our head girl." Dumbledore nodded and left the room.

"It's good to see you." Hermione said, sitting at the chair by her bed. "Can I get you anything?"

"Oh no, Poppy was just in." she said. "I heard that you've quite saved the day."

"Oh, I don't know about that." she said. "I hope you don't mind. I never intended to replace you in anyway. It's just that you were late and it was so uncharacteristic and I thought if I started the lesson, you wouldn't have to make up for lost time when you came back but…" she faltered here. "You will come back?" she asked.

"Oh, I don't know. Not before you graduate, I'm afraid. I've worked at Hogwarts a long time, now." she said. "Hermione, I never thought you were replacing me. I'm the most proud of you of any Gryffindor at this school." Hermione blushed but her eyes shined with gratitude.

"We miss you." she said, of her fellow house mates. "Professor Trewlany is the interim head of house so you can imagine it's not been going well between us." Hermione confessed.

"She wasn't even a Gryffindor when she was a student." McGonagall complained. "No wonder Albus wouldn't tell me who."

"Yes. Mostly I just try to resolve everything myself without involving her. The students have been very respectful." she said. "The staff, too." she blushed, slightly at this, thinking of Snape sitting in the moonlight in the tower window, how it'd made her heart skip a beat to look at him.

"That's good. You're keeping up with the grading?" she asked. "If not, I can help. I just lay here all day."

"You are resting and healing, not laying here." Hermione said. "I keep up. Professor Snape showed me the staff room so I've been using your desk."

"Severus?" she asked.

"He sort of caught me one night hiding out in the northwest tower and he thought that a place with light might be more appropriate." she said. "He was very sweet about it, actually." McGonagall didn't respond, just raised her eyebrow.

"I just wanted to make sure everything was going well. And to let you know you can ask anything of me." she said, reaching out to clasp Hermione's hand in her cold, frail one. Hermione squeezed her hand.

"Of course, thank you." she said. "Professor? Do you mind if I asked what happened?" she asked.

"Ah. There was a group of Death Eaters in Hogsmeade." she said. "Albus got a tip that they had a student and I went out to… well, they didn't." she said, turning away. "If Severus hadn't been there…" she closed her eyes and Hermione bowed her head. "I think students ought to know what the Crucio does to a person but…" she looked at Hermione with clear, sad eyes. "If only we could all fare as well as Severus when enduring the unthinkable curses." Hermione didn't know what to make of McGonagall's admittance of Snape's power.

"If you need me Professor… I guess we can just be there for each other." she said. "I'll let you rest now." she stood and kissed McGonagall's cheek and let herself out, leaving the older woman to deal with her pain. Hermione was surprised to hear that Snape was as involved as he was. He'd been present in Dumbledore's office when she'd heard that McGonagall had been injured during work for the Order and he'd said nothing. As she was walking back to the transfiguration classroom for her afternoon classes, she saw Snape in passing, on his way downstairs to the dungeons as she was walking up. Their eyes met briefly and her heart missed a beat in just the same way it had before in the tower.

"Professor." she murmured.

"Miss Granger." he said. She felt her hand brush his robes and she turned her head to watch him walk away over her shoulder. His hair was so much longer now, in her last year, and he'd taken to tying it back with a strip of black leather. It no longer hung in his eyes or got greasy from hanging over cauldrons all day. Instead he looked aristocratic and regal. Shaking off the feeling he left her with, she finished her trek to the classroom and forced her self to focus on the lessons. She didn't think about him again until she saw him come into the staff room well past curfew. She was the only on in there. She'd spent most part of her evening doing homework – including a two foot essay for him – and now she had about three hundred essays to grade before tomorrow in order to get them back within a week.

"Miss Granger, you ought to be in bed." he said, pouring him self a cup of tea and sipping it from the far side of the room. "You are still a student."

"I don't have very much more." she lied. He looked at the stack in front of her and sighed, pulling a chair to her side and sitting down with a flourish.

"Hermione, no one expects you to be both student and teacher without extending your deadlines some." he said in a gentle voice she'd never heard before. She liked the way her first name sounded, dripping out of his mouth like velvet. She'd always loved to listen to him lecture. His voice was enchanting. She'd listen to him read the phonebook, if she could. She almost laughed out right. He'd probably have no idea what a phonebook even was.

"I can do it." she said.

"Let me help you." he said. She looked at him, stared right into his dark eyes searching for ulterior motives and found none. She wanted to reach out and touch his face. Who was this man?

"All right." she said. "That pile is the seventh years. I always feel the most guilty grading those, especially Ron and Harry's." she said. "You'll like giving them low grades as I find it to be abysmal." he chuckled and took the spare quill she offered him. Occasionally their hands bumped when going for the inkbottle at the same time. She could feel the heat coming off of him, sitting so close to her at the same desk, sharing space. Sometimes he read her particularly awful lines and she snickered at his precise sarcasm and observations. Once, he stopped and looked at her questioningly.

"Hermione this essay is yours." he said. She glanced over at it and nodded, recognizing her neat, round handwriting.

"Yes." she said, finally having reached the fourth year essays.

"You mean to tell me that you also complete the assignments that you assign?"

"It seems only fair." she said.

"No, Hermione, it's ridiculous." he said sounding suddenly angry. "You're driving yourself into the ground with this and I'm tired of watching you drag yourself around. I'm going to talk to Albus in the morning."

"No, Professor, please, I can handle it." she said.

"I can't believe that you do homework for your own class." he muttered, looking at the essay. "It's very good."

"I know." she whispered. "Professor, I…" but she didn't know what to say. She reached out for the essay and took it from his hands, shakily. "I don't want to let anyone down."

"Oh, dear girl." he said and did something that both comforted and frightened her. He gathered her up into his arms and let her rest her head on his shoulder, soothing her. She was a little rigid at first but the very smell of him – like Christmas spices – soothed her and she finally relaxed into embrace, completely drained. She didn't worry about anyone seeing them for it was nearly two in the morning now. She let him rub small circles on her back and she thought she felt – though she was nearly asleep at this point – she thought she felt him drop a kiss on the crown of her head.

Snape knew that he never should have touched her. He'd been so good at being mean to her for so long. The war, his position as a spy demanded it. He had to play favorites with his house and hate the Gryffindors, especially a show off mudblood like Hermione Granger. Truthfully, he was constantly impressed by her intelligence and now, as a seventh year, he saw her as a woman, not a child. Her position within the Order and now as a member of the staff, he felt that he didn't have to be quite so cruel to her, that he could give her the praise, attention, and affection the wondrous girl deserved. But now, with her in his arms, he found that he never wanted to let go. Her hair tickled his nose, the smell a little dizzying and he found himself smelling it and pressing his lips against the top of her head. She was sleeping now, exhausted, her breathing deep and even. They couldn't stay like this forever. He picked her up and she curled up in his arms. He expected her to wake up and leap out of his greasy, bitter embrace but instead she breathed deeply and stayed asleep. The poor thing. Why did Albus agree to let her take on the dual roles of full-time student and full-time professor? He would have to figure out some way to ease the pressure. But for the moment, he had an armful of Hermione and he had to figure out what to do with her. It was late enough that even the prefects had gone to bed and so he decided to carry her to the head girl's chambers. He didn't bother to light his wand. He knew the entire castle backward and forward and only called for light when he was in front of her portrait. It was a young girl – a dancer and she looked at him sleepily.

"Password?" she asked, yawning.

"I haven't a clue. But this is the head girl." he said.

"I can't let you in." she said. He sighed.

"Hermione." he said. She moaned a bit. "Hermione, love, what is your password?" he asked, startling himself as the endearment slipped past his lips. Hopefully, she would remember none of this.

"Alchemy." she muttered. The young dancer shrugged as if to say it was good enough for her and the portrait opened. He stepped in and the sitting room was tidy. There was a bathroom to the left and what must be her bedroom to the right. He went in to see the four poster bed made up in lavender bedding. He set her on the mattress and pulled a throw blanket over her. She curled up and remained fast asleep.

"Goodnight." he whispered and made his way out of her chambers.

"Goodnight, Severus." she whispered, after he'd gone.

This seemed to be a pattern with Professor Snape. He would be mostly out of her life for weeks at a time – she only saw him at meals and now she didn't even have him in classes anymore. But then he would appear to help her out just add a touch of kindness. She never thought that she'd use a phrase like 'touch of kindness' to describe the intimidating potions master but he was always so gentle with her. Not long after Snape had carried her to her room, Headmaster Dumbledore had approached Hermione and gave her a small, discreet box.

"I was instructed to return this to you. It seems you have need of it again." he said. "Open it when you are alone and don't overwork yourself, my dear." he said. She nodded, and made her way to her rooms. Inside the box was the small golden time turner from her third year. Suddenly everything seemed easy and she wasn't so tired. Now she could finish everything and still get a full night's sleep. Sure she'd have to be careful not to run into herself but she'd gotten quite proficient at it that third year of Hogwarts. After they'd saved Buckbeak, she'd returned it to the headmaster and now she held it once again. She knew that Snape had, in fact, gone to the headmaster and worked out a way to lighten her load. She felt like finding him, wherever he was in the castle and nestling herself in his arms once more.

By Saturday, she had the first morning free in… she wasn't sure how long. She had plans to visit Professor McGonagall in the afternoon but for now, she wasn't doing anything related to homework or teaching. She took a bath and put on some comfortable jeans and dug around in her trunk for a long-sleeved black shirt she knew she had somewhere. She didn't own very many dark colors but she felt like paying homage to Snape in the only way she could. She pulled on her warm cloak. It was early, still before breakfast, but she knew the library would be open and so she thought she might go read for leisure for awhile and then decide if she even wanted to eat breakfast. The time-turner was warm around her neck. No matter how cold it got, the gold never cooled – it was always humming against her skin.

She'd barely gotten to the library when she saw Snape walking towards her. He was the first person she'd seen as most everyone was still asleep on their Saturday morning. Even breakfast was served two hours later on the weekend. She should have figured Snape to be a morning person like her.

"Professor Snape." she said. "Good morning."

"Good morning, Miss Granger." he said. "You're up rather early."

"Morning person." she said. He smiled and she turned to continue to the library. She'd taken about six steps when he called after her.

"Miss Granger, I was just going to go for a morning walk." he said. She turned to face him and he looked almost hopeful. "Would you like to accompany me?" All thoughts of the library immediately disappeared from her head.

"I would love to." she said, turning back and together they left the castle. They stood, later, at the edge of the lake after a fairly silent but companionable walk. The water rippled just out of reach of their shoes. It was getting warmer now and the NEWTs were barely a month away.

"What will you do when you graduate?" Snape asked, breaking the silence and looking down at her. He was so tall and this morning his hair was loose around his shoulders. She'd charmed hers into a long French braid down her back, a few curls escaping around her face.

"I haven't a clue." she said. "I feel like I've not seen my parents in years and so I'll probably spend some time with them but…" she shrugged. "We're from different worlds now."

"You could stay." he said.

"Stay?" she asked, a little confused.

"Transfiguration. We've both seen Minerva. It will be years before she comes back if she does at all." he said.

"I suppose it depends on how I score on my NEWTs." she said. "I do all my homework and review all my notes but I've not been to a class in ages." she said. "I don't even know what any of my grades are right now." she said. "I feel like I'm floundering, a bit." She reached out and placed her hand on his black clothed forearm. "Thank you for the turner, though." He neither confirmed nor denied his involvement.

"You're still the top of the class." he said. "I think if you took your NEWTs now you'd be fine." He turned to look at her again. "In fact, that could probably be arranged."

"What?" she asked, staring at him. "I couldn't possibly. Why… it's not even fair."

"I'll talk to Albus. You could go to Ministry one weekend and take them there. I'd take you myself." he offered. "Don't decide now, besides, we've been out here nearly an hour and I think a cup of tea could do us some good." He offered her his elbow and she slipped her hand through and they started the trek back to the castle.

"If I did, then I wouldn't be a student? I wouldn't have to keep up with my classes any longer?" she asked.

"It would seem redundant after you'd already passed the tests." he said.

"Mmm." she said, noncommittally but he could tell she was thinking about it. She expected him to lead her to the kitchens or to the staff room but instead they went down to the dungeons, through his classroom and into his private chambers. "You don't live upstairs with the other staff?" she asked, thinking of the row of portraits that held McGonagall's room.

"No." he said. "They always pop in on one another. It's too much like the dormitories themselves. I much prefer the solitude the dungeons provide. Have a seat." he said, motioning to a small table situated near the fire that was well roaring. She did and soon a full tea service as well as a few pieces of fruit and a platter of pastries appeared. He sat down with her, after removing their cloaks. He'd taken her cloak from her shoulders like a gentleman. He served her first and soon they were eating and drinking companionably. The walk had made her hungry.

"I like transfiguration." she said, causing him to look up at her. "But out of all the subjects I could teach, it's probably not the one I would choose."

"What would you choose?" he asked.

"Potions." she said immediately and he looked pleased. "Charms, perhaps. But I like the science of potions."

"I as well." he said. She set down her now empty tea cup.

"Well, thank you for breakfast. I had a nice morning." she said.

"You don't have to go." he said, eyeing her fidget in her chair. "You can, of course, but you don't have to." she stilled and looked at him.

"I'm sorry, but who are you? I don't understand what's happening. You hate me! You hate my friends! I'm a know-it-all in a house that you despise and yet here we are having breakfast in your personal chambers and you're asking me to stay and you're so kind and helpful and when we hugged the other night I never wanted to let go and I don't know what that means." she said, her voice rising and falling in between yelling and whispering at him. She put her hand on her forehead and sighed. "I don't know what's happening anymore."

"You're right. Your reaction is wholly fair." he said, looking right into her eyes which were glistening with confusion and tears – an expression that he rarely saw on her intelligent face. "I'm so sorry I ever had to make you believe that I hated you. How could I play favorites with a house like yours when I was under the watch of the Dark Lord so intensely? I couldn't like you but I have always, since the first day when you answered every question correctly and have yet to stop. You're a breath of fresh air to this school, Hermione, and you've just recently risen to a position where I don't have to lie anymore." he explained, leaning across the table and taking her cold hand into his own.

"Is that true?" she asked. "You don't… you never hated me?"

"Merlin, no. I like you too much as it is." he said. He looked away from her at this and sat back guiltily. She understood what he meant. He was attracted to her as well. She couldn't complain about that as she felt the same about him and now he was treating her as an equal and even speeding up her graduation to make her a peer instead of a subordinate. Selfish, perhaps, but she wanted it too.

"I like you, too." she whispered, reattaching her hand to his. "I'll stay," He cleared his throat but looked pleased.

"Excellent." he said. "What does the head girl usually do on her Saturdays?" he asked.

"Well, this is the first free Saturday I've had in… months." Hermione admitted. "I was going to go to the library and then I was going to visit Professor McGonagall in the afternoon." She said. "Other then that, nothing specific. Harry and Ron are usually in Qudditch practice all weekend."

"Yes, their victories over the Slytherin team are becoming quite a nuisance." he growled. "Regardless… Would you like to see my personal library?"

"Yes." she said, immediately. "Yes, I would." she said and he stood and she followed him through a previously closed door. She tried not to blush when they entered his bedroom. He had a four poster bed – she just assumed at this point all the beds in the castle were basically the same – with a thick black comforter that looked feather soft and green sheets that glistened like satin in the candle light from the sconces. She'd not been awake long but suddenly all she wanted to do was to crawl into that bed with her potions professor and sleep curled into the shape of his body. Steeling herself she tore her gaze away from the bed and looked around the rest of the room. It was tidy – of course it would be – and held no pictures or knickknacks. He was perusing the row of bookshelves and she was immediately at home in the room. The library was filled with old, rare books on any and every subject and she reached out to run her fingertips over their spines lightly. He pulled a tome out and handed it to her.

"You'll find this interesting." he commented and started to undo the several buttons on his outer frock coat. Soon he was in just his black slacks and white shirt, his hair hanging in his face as he chose a book for himself. He looked so comfortable here in his own space and so attractive and youthful without his stern expression and stern outfit. She regretted having to wait seven years to see this side of him and now the year was almost over and she would probably have to leave before she got to know him as well as she wanted to.

"If you were serious about taking the NEWTs early and staying on... I'd like to try." she said, and he looked up from the book he had pulled out.

"I'll talk to Albus." he assured her and stood up with the book. "What do you think of that?" he asked, motioning to the book she hadn't yet glanced at. She perched on the edge of his mattress, rather boldly she thought, and looked at it. It was an ancient potions text full of recipes that were probably not even in the restricted section. She felt the mattress shift as he sat next to her, nearly touching her.

"It's great." she said. "I'd probably never get the chance to read it any other way." She could smell the tea on his breath, the way his skin smelled, his hair and all of it was making her a little dizzy. They should have never admitted they had feelings for one another. It wasn't like he confessed that he loved her or anything yet she couldn't look up and she couldn't move.

"Hermione." he said, softly. "What's wrong?"

"I can't look at you." she said with a tone of practicality. "If I look at you, I think I might kiss you."

"Ah, I see." he said. "I often feel that way when you are around."

"I am a student and you're a professor and I shouldn't even be here." she whispered. "When did this happen?" He didn't answer and she wouldn't look up. When she felt his fingers on the bottom of her chin, she closed her eyes and let him tilt her face towards his. Slowly, his mouth descended and his lips grazed her. Not a kiss, per se, but contact all the same. He pulled back and she opened her eyes. He was watching her expectantly. As if to say, 'See? The world did not end.' The world was just waking up above them. She knew now that the bathrooms would be filled with students showering and brushing their teeth. The great hall was slowly filling with staff and children. The first years had finally gotten the hang of things just in time for exams and Harry and Ron were probably already on their brooms chasing bewitched balls and clapping each other on the backs. And where was she now? In the depths of the castle with a man that most people thought had cloven hooves instead of feet. There she was, on her knees with her hands pushing his shoulders back against the mattress. There she was, with her knees on either side of his waist and her mouth pressed hotly to his. There they were with their tongues in each other's mouth and she was pulling her black sweater over her head and he was undoing the buttons to his shirt manually because he'd left his wand in the other room. There she was, underneath her potions professor writhing and moaning with him deep inside of her, panting and undulating. He was gasping her name and she was digging her nails into the skin of his pale, smooth back. There they were, the only people in the dungeons on a Saturday, screaming out their climaxes and collapsing, spent.

She woke up on satin sheets with a man wrapped around her, completely disoriented. Where the hell was she? And then she remembered and rolled over to face him. He was still asleep, his hair fanned out around him. She wondered if he would wake up and be disgusted. Her hair had come out of its braid and was now wild and everywhere. The curls mingled with his black tresses on the pillow. She slid out of the bed and padded silently, naked, to the bathroom and shut the door. Her thighs were sticky and she avoided looking into the mirror as she tore of a strip of toilet paper to wipe herself clean. She'd lost her virginity to a muggle boy who'd lived down the street when home last summer. She hadn't wanted to come to her last year still a virgin. It was a silly notion but she was tired of Lavender knowing more about something then she did. But he'd been a muggle and so they'd used a condom and it was much less of a mess. Professor Snape – Severus now – had whispered a contraceptive charm before hand (after she had summoned his wand with her own, too embarrassed at the moment to learn the charm herself) and the feeling of his skin right inside hers was so much better than the chaffing of latex, mess or none. She relieved herself and went to the sink to wash her hands. She glanced up into the mirror and was surprised at her reflection. Her hair was the same but her eyes looked heavy and her cheeks were still rosy from the exertion. She could see love bites forming on her neck and chest and she seemed to remember one on the inside of her thigh. The memory of it made her blush even more fiercely. The muggle boy certainly hadn't done that to her. She looked like a woman, even to herself now. She was eighteen and that was well over the legal age in the wizarding world. She hoped he wouldn't regret what they had done.

He was awake when she came out of the loo.

"Everything okay?" he asked, looking just as worried as she felt.

"Yes, I was just a bit sticky." she said, shyly. She was still completely nude and he was watching her unabashedly. She leaned over to slip her panties back on and then noticed the rip down the side. He'd literally torn them off of her. She held them up to him and he laughed. It made him look all the more handsome and she abandoned the panties and the idea of leaving and crawled back into bed and into his arms.

"Sorry about your knickers, love." he said, pressing his lips into her neck and nipping at the skin.

"Don't you dare bite down, I have enough of those marks and I was never very good at casting glamours." she admonished. He stopped biting and licked at the spot instead, soothing the light red mark with his tongue. She tried to concentrate. "Professor,"

"Honestly, Hermione if you can't assume that you can call me Severus after I've thoroughly shagged you then when can you?" She shivered a bit.

"Severus, what do we do now?" she asked.

"Well, I suppose I could go again," he said, flipping her over so that she was on her back and attacking her left breast with renewed vigor. It was some time before she could explain that another go wasn't what she meant. She lay lazily against him while he ran his fingers through her tangled hair, kissing her every so often. "What did you really mean?" he asked, pulling her more tightly against him.

"I mean that we can't exactly tell anyone about this. And even if I do graduate early…" she trailed off, not wanting to imply that there would be a time after this or a relationship later on. She wasn't so naïve that she had no concept of a fling. She wanted more with him, of course but if he didn't then she could accept that.

"We won't tell a soul for now." he said. "As much as I hate children, I don't intend to lose my job and the last thing I want is for you to be in trouble."

"For now?" she asked. "You want to see me again?"

"Hermione, love, I never want to let you out of my sight again." he said. She kissed his cheek.

"I've got to go see Professor McGonagall. She's expecting me in 20 minutes and I'm never late." she said, crawling over him and out of the bed, pulling on her jeans without underwear and fastening her bra while searching for her shirt. She charmed her hair back into its braid with her wand but it didn't look quite so sleek. All in all, she looked rumpled. "Hopefully she isn't wearing her glasses." she muttered and gathered her things and bid him goodbye.

Something made her avoid him for the next week. She assumed he was avoiding her as well because she kept catching glances of his robes whipping around corners in the hallways. She kept smelling his unique scent – as if he'd been in the room just moments before she arrived. It wasn't that she didn't want to see him. She found herself aching for his calming presence (the irony!) but there was just no legitimate way to go see him. She didn't have him in class and they rarely occupied the same parts of the castle at the same time. When she did see him it was in the staff room. McGonagall's desk was situated on the other side of the room from Snape's and with the exams coming, there was more homework assigned and with more homework came more to grade which made the staff room a very popular place when before it'd had usually been empty. The staff welcomed her for the most part – they at least left her alone; too busy with their own work to be bothered by a student. Hermione was studious as she ever was but found herself watching him. More often than not, their eyes met and he smiled quickly to let her know that he was thinking about her, too. Just the sight of him set her body aflame. She hoped no one saw her blushing.

One Friday evening during dinner, the headmaster walked merrily down to the Gryffindor table and tapped Hermione's shoulder. She looked at him with a calm exterior but inside she could feel the slow churn of panic upsetting her recently consumed dinner. Did Snape tell? Did he know? Did the smell of sex overpower the many showers she'd had in the last week? Was it that obvious? She'd always been a bad liar… She realized that he was speaking to her, asking her to step outside with him. He was moving her away from the crowd so no one would see if she caused a scene. Oh God, oh God, she was going to be expelled from a school she didn't even really attend. She would lose her precious and precarious position as teacher before she'd left her teen years. She looked at him, the fear evident on her face and it slowly dawned on her that he didn't look angry.

"I've arranged it all, Miss Granger. Tomorrow morning you will leave Hogwarts with professor Snape and go to the Ministry of Magic." Her mouth fell open. He did know. This was it. She was expelled and he was fired and they had to go stand trial at the ministry and in 24 hours she'd be in a cell in Azkaban, never too see the light of day again. She opened her mouth to… what? Apologize? Protest? Admit her sins? Was Dumbledore still talking? She should have been listening, she admonished herself; these last words might be her salvation from the worst prison in Great Britain. "…I didn't want you to over study. Exhaustion is the worst thing one can bring to exams."

"Excuse me?" She said her voice uncharacteristically high. "Exams?"

"Your NEWTs tomorrow. Severus told me you would prefer to just get them out of the way, was he mistaken?" Dumbledore asked looking slightly put out now.

"You want me to take my NEWTs tomorrow." she sighed. "Yes of course… TOMORROW?" she screeched. "I have to study!" She left the headmaster in her wake as she bolted to the library. He looked after her, shaking his head.

"She didn't listen to a word I said." he said. Severus who'd left the staff table to stand in a shadow and eavesdrop on the situation now stepped into the light (ever the Slytherin) and shrugged his shoulders.

"Even if she had, wild horses couldn't drag her away from those precious books." he commented, dryly.

"I expected too much of her." Dumbledore said wistfully. "We should have done this months ago." Snape let his silence act as agreement. "Take care of her. You'll probably be watched."

"I would never let anything happen to her." he said. "Trust me."

"I do. Implicitly." Albus said, and went back in to finish his dessert. Snape ignored the pang of guilt the headmaster's trust induced and went to prepare for their weekend outing.