Disclaimer: JK Rowling and Co. own it all.

He turned the vial of potion around in his hands. 'Damn it Hermione, why can't I find one imperfection?' Severus Snape thought to himself as he was grading the Know It All's potion. Aggravating, annoying and every other terrible word he could use though she was, he could not keep his mind off the blasted girl. Her intelligence kept him on edge at all times, while he drove himself to insanity trying to find something that she did not know. Each day in class, he tried belittling her so he could keep his emotions under control, yet she showed unwavering self-determination against his verbal assaults. Was there anything she could not do?

She was leaving in one week, if he did not choose to hire her as an apprentice -- and quick. He wondered sadly how many schools must want a brilliant witch like her. Her NEWT scores had been the highest since his own, and they were only separated by a fifth of a percent. He shook his head, to clear it of the thoughts that left him reeling and confused. Thoughts about her that only a foolish schoolboy should have.

A few days later, during supper, Severus had another memory flash. It was during the final battle against Voldemort, about eight months ago, just after the school year had begun. Hermione was not fighting on the front lines, but preparing potions to heal the injured. Being the Potions Master, he was there also. Both of them were flurrying around the makeshift lab in the Hospital Wing, not saying a word between them. Countless hours went by, as more and more vials disappeared as soon as the potion was complete. He could smell blood and burnt flesh, and he heard the groans and pleas for death coming from behind their curtain. He glanced at the young woman beside him, her teeth were clenched and she was clearly trying to block out her surroundings. If she became the great success at healing that she should be, he mused to himself, she had better get used to scenes like this.

They carried on in this manner for days, performing energizing spells on themselves to stay awake. Hermione used a spell that sped up the heating and freezing processes, which took hours with some potions. Severus wondered if he could have thought of that. It had been nearly four days when the cry finally went out "The Death Eaters have retreated! They surrendered!" Hermione froze mid-stir and screeched. She proceeded to attack Severus, wrapping herself around him and shouting "Can you believe it Professor? We've done it!" As shocked as he was, he felt his own arms wrap around her as he murmured, "Yes Miss Granger, we really have done it."

Was this the point where he began to see her as something different than "Miss Hermione Granger, Gryffindor Golden Genius"?

It was the summer. Severus had asked Hermione to stay on as his apprentice, purely platonically he told himself at the time. Yet every morning he awoke telling himself 'You are not going to screw this over today Severus.' This being what he would call an extremely fragile friendship with Hermione. They had graduated to a first-name basis, and often carried on with intellectually stimulating conversations over their brewing. This had been the best summer he could remember having in quite some time. Every time her hand brushed his as they reached for ingredients, a shiver of joy ran through his body. Damn it once, twice, three times. He was falling for Hermione Granger.

A local Hogsmeade dance that she had convinced him to go to. Why was he here? He watched as over a hundred couples shimmied, grinded ('oh Merlin that's wrong') and had a good time in general on the dance floor, formerly known as the Three Broomsticks. Hermione came back to him, two drinks in her hand. "A Firewhiskey for the gentleman," she grinned at him. She looked beautiful tonight, stunning in a black off-the-shoulder shirt and tight Muggle pants that accented everything perfectly. Severus could see the others staring at this glorious sight. The music, which had been playing those nauseating contemporary songs that were so popular with the 18 to 25 year old group, that made up the majority here, changed to a slow ballad with a slightly classic undertone. It was now or never. But she beat him to it. "Let's dance," she ordered, grabbing his hand and leading him to the floor.

If the feel of her hand brushing him sent shivers through him, wrapping his arms around her petite body nearly killed Severus. It felt so regrettably right to him, as though they should stay this way, unmoving forever.Little did he know, something changed inside of Hermione that night. When she least expected it, the feel of his arms at the small of her back sent her pulse racing, and she found herself fighting the strong urge to kiss him. Kiss him? Where had that come from? It must have been the alcohol she assured herself. Somehow, her resistance slipped – she couldn't pinpoint when – sometime between the slow, sweet music pouring in her ears and the dark mysterious eyes she was staring into. It did not matter, as those eyes were coming closer and closer...

To him, it was perfect. Sweet, warm, not wet or toothy. As simple as that kiss was, it lit him on fire, begging for more.

She felt that mouth that she had thought could only sneer, press to fit her own perfectly. It was the kind of kiss you wish would never end.

Neither of them deepened it, yet neither broke it off for quite a while. Finally, Severus opened his mouth slightly, and to his surprise and joy, Hermione responded with her own open mouth. His tongue ventured cautiously into her mouth, ready to pull out at the first sign of resistance, and he tasted the alcohol and the cherries she had eaten before they came here. Her tongue returned the favour, by probing the inside of his hot mouth, burning with passion and Firewhiskey.

That night changed everything for them, in so many ways. They would never be "Severus and Hermione – Colleagues" again.