The Potter series isn't mine,
which is why I make no money.
Reviews are all I really need
to fatten my plot bunny!

Hey, if I have to do this to keep from getting sued, why not have some fun with it?

A/N: About the posting lag… I've made some changes in what should have been just a side-plot (the nature of Severus and Bianca's relationship) and other more significant ones (the Draco/Severus dynamic) that made large sections of original chapters completely incompatible with the new story line. Which means *sigh* huge rewrite. It's great for the reader, but think of me, slaving over the keyboard to bring a new chapter to fruition! *dramatic gesture* I deserve some reviews, or maybe a cookie, for all my hard work. As always feedback is greatly appreciated.

Warning: Sexual situations (Those of you who wish to avoid such things, may skip the first two sections.)

Chapter 11: Digging for Information

Delicate, experienced hands caressed his chest and belly. The hands teased him, reaching just low enough to graze his highly-sensitive anatomy, and were followed by a tongue which traced the shivering trails the hands had created. If only…

A log in the fire had popped and brought him to the edge of wakefulness. Severus ignored his throbbing enough to relax his mind and pick up the dream again.

Impatient with the woman, he guided her, moaning with renewed pleasure, focusing on the embracing heat as he clutched at the sheets. The sensations built, bordering on pain, before bringing him to an explosive release. He looked appreciatively at the woman, expecting to see her obscured in shadows, but blue eyes hungrily met his.

With a gasp, Severus opened his eyes, and an unaccustomed moment of disorientation clung to him as he tried to sort out what was real and what was not. The bed was empty, but if he closed his eyes, he could still see…

"Damn it!" The realization of his partner's identity shattered the afterglow's feeling of well-being. It was almost as undesirable as having Granger featured in his nocturnal fantasies.

Hawkins isn't one of your students.

Grumbling under his breath, Severus groped under the pillow for his wand. With a wave, he was able to rid himself of the physical aftermath of the dream, but the unwelcome emotions remained. He didn't want her, couldn't have her if he did, and didn't trust her as far as he could throw the giant squid without magic.

Dark hair tickled the side of her face and a nose grazed her cheek as someone whispered in her ear. "Do you know how beautiful you are?"

Before she could reply, her partner was touching her, bringing her senses toward a rapid, heated climax.

Callista cried out and was suddenly very much awake and alone. According to the clock, it was an awkward hour—too early to rise but too late to go back to sleep. Not that she felt she could go back to sleep after such a vivid dream. Instead, she tried to recall each sensation from the intimate touches to the tickle of the dark hair. Dark hair? The feel of that nose? Oh, Merlin's beard, no! It was bad enough she had to deal with Severus Snape during her waking hours, and now he was invading her dreams! The type of dreams made in even more upsetting. She didn't want him back in her life—especially not in that capacity—not even if they were the last two people on the planet.

Flustered, Callista flopped to her other side, trying to figure out exactly what would cause her to dream about him of all people.

It shouldn't be too difficult to figure out; you're both in the same place, an annoying part of her brain insisted. Besides, he was your first; he knew you best.

She shook her head to dislodge the thought before it could take root. Facing a roomful of second-years first thing was going to be difficult enough without the added stress of a poor night's sleep. Callista smoothed a wrinkle out of the pillowcase and tried to settle into a restful state of mind.

That morning at breakfast, Severus slid into his preferred seat at the staff table and began filling his plate, mechanically consuming his morning meal. The remains of the dream began tugging at the edge of his thoughts, and to distract himself, he surveyed the assembled students and was thankful he no longer had to deal with the younger ones. Somehow each year they managed to look younger and more troublesome. Of course, considering the older ones he had to deal with, perhaps it wasn't such a wonderful trade off. The only positive was he knew exactly what degree of dunderheaded-ness he would be dealing with.

The rustle of robes halted further contemplation, and he glanced up to see Callista Hawkins taking the seat next to him. She didn't look at him, but he noticed the slight shaking of her hands and her tightly-composed demeanor barely concealed an aura of nervousness.

He almost opened his mouth to say something reassuring to her, but caught himself just in time. After all, Hawkins was a highly-educated, seasoned teacher, according to her American Wizarding degree. Surely such an elite creature had no need for reassurance from someone with a mere fifteen years experience and an ordinary apprenticeship?

"Are you reading that?" Callista asked, indicating a copy of the Daily Prophet between their place settings.

"Hoping to see another article about yourself?" He passed the newspaper to her. His fingers accidentally grazing hers in the process, and a sudden warmth flared where they had touched.

"No," Callista replied, paging through the paper. "I was just checking on the Gringotts exchange rates." She ran her finger down the financial column. "Looks like I made that transfer just in time."

Unable to come up with a worthwhile retort, he turned his attention to the sea of students. His dark eyes rested on Draco Malfoy, flanked as usual by his over-sized lackeys. Severus was almost certain there was a pressing mission from the Dark Lord on the boy, but he only had a general idea of what it was. Dumbledore wanted specifics. Draco's avoidance of Severus after his presentation to the Dark Lord shortly after the close of term and Bellatrix's smug demeanor suggested the witch had been instructing her nephew not to trust him. Her interference would make dealing with Draco far more difficult.

Severus barely had time to finish his toast before a stack of time tables appeared in front of him. Picking them up, he had a surge of inspiration and shuffled through the stack until he found Malfoy's. Surprisingly enough Draco had achieved Outstandings in both Defense Against the Dark Arts and Potions—two classes that would prove indispensable for someone wishing to rise in the ranks of the Dark Lord's service. No doubt the boy would have been advised or even ordered to take at least one of those classes. He carefully tucked Malfoy's to the bottom of the stack before circulating among his students. When the last Slytherin had been sent off to the first class, Severus turned to a very agitated Malfoy.

"Your timetable, Mr. Malfoy."

The blond-haired young man turned to face him. "Thanks, Professor."

The disdain in Malfoy's tone was unmistakable, yet there was a definite undercurrent of anxiety. Severus immediately knew it would take very pains-taking prying to get any useful information. "I was pleased to see you earned an Outstanding on your Potions and Defense Against the Dark Arts O.W.L.s. I hope you will be continuing with both?"

Draco stiffened. "Yes. Also Transfiguration, Charms, Runes and Arithmancy."

"Very good," Severus replied, tapping the squares on the parchment as he tried to discern whether or not Draco's classes could give him any insight to the young man's task from the Dark Lord. "One more—"

"Transfiguration starts in ten minutes. Can't be late." Draco shouldered his bag and joined the noisy throng of students.

Severus stared after him, frustrated that his attempt to discover anything useful had failed. A pair of passing Ravenclaws, engrossed in a conversation about Quidditch, barely avoided running into him. In his irritation, Severus considered giving them each a detention. Then a brilliant idea made him change his mind.

"Good morning and welcome to year two of Defense Against the Dark Arts," Callista willed herself to greet the assembled second-years, but the words stubbornly refused to leave her lips. So she stood there, mutely staring at them, wishing she was once again teaching the basics of biology to a group of young adults, who, in their opinions, already knew everything.

For crying out loud, say something... anything... before a riot breaks out and Dumbledore throws you out on your ear! a voice demanded as the curious looks of her students became more and more disconcerting. Prodded into action by the thought of how ridiculous she would look being magically ejected from the castle, Callista cleared her throat and took roll to break the horrible silence. When all students from Boyle, Marius to Zeller, Rose were declared present and accounted for, she launched into her opening comments.

"Good morning and welcome to second year Defense Against the Dark Arts," she said, cringing at how bright and forced her voice sounded to her ears. For God's sake, they're twelve, not two! "This year you will be introduced to the most common Dark creatures and how to identify, catch, and deal them safely and humanely. Keep in mind I'm using the term Dark rather loosely because in most cases, the creatures on our list for this term are little more than household pests. However, some of them can and do bite, and the bites can sometimes cause problems. Is there anyone who can think of a creature that could potentially be on our study list?"

A few tentative hands went up, and Callista felt a little more encouraged. She was half-tempted to smile at the groans of disappointment when she informed them that dragons weren't going to among the fantastic beasts they would actually see during the course of the year, but if they had time, perhaps they would touch on them after they were finished with werewolves.

At the end of the class, she assigned them a brief assignment and sent them on their way, plopping in her chair and feeling relieved. Overall, things had gone way better than she had anticipated, but all the same, she was glad the first ordeal… no, class, was behind her. Callista closed her eyes and sighed, "One class down for the day; three to go."

After the morning break, Severus opened the door to the Potions classroom, and the class of sixth-years trooped quietly in and took their seats. Striding to the front of the classroom, he turned to glare at them until all attention was focused on him.

"As you will soon discover, N.E.W.T. Potions is a highly demanding course, which is why I normally only take students who obtained an Outstanding at the OWL level. However, this year I was told to accept some students who fall below that exacting standard." Severus' gaze traveled over the students resting on the various faces that wouldn't have been there under normal circumstances. Most of them glanced away or allowed their own gazes to falter, except for Potter, who glared back defiantly. "While entry standards may have been lowered, course standards have not. Let it be known that any student who consistently fails to meet my expectations will be dismissed… permanently. Due to the nature and complexity of the potions we will be studying, I cannot tolerate shoddy methods that pose a danger to the class."

Stares met his dark penetrating eyes, and an odd mixture of trepidation, confidence, and defiance radiated from the class.

"The potions we will deal with this term will be poisons. Can anyone in here name the main classifications of poisons?" Inwardly he groaned as the only hand that was raised was attached to Hermione Granger, and he paused, hoping that someone else would volunteer. When no one did, he was forced to listen to the girl parrot back the answer from the text.

He spent the class asking questions and listening to Granger answer them. Twenty minutes in he resigned himself to the fact that, with the exception of the Gryffindor swot, no one had been curious enough to read the opening chapter. Towards the end of the class period, he assigned them an essay listing the main classifications of poisons with descriptions of the indicators for each. The idea of limiting it to exactly one thousand words crossed his mind just to see Granger's reaction.

As the class was packing up, Severus passed the table where Draco sat with Theodore Nott and Blaise Zambini, he paused and muttered, "I need to speak with you after class, Mr. Malfoy, regarding the Quidditch captaincy."

Nott and Zambini glanced at each other and then Malfoy, exchanging knowing grins. As the rest of the class filed out, Malfoy asked the other Slytherins to wait for him outside the classroom.

The moment the door closed, Severus asked, "I gather you know Worthington did not to return to school?"

Malfoy nodded. "Something about his father had an opportunity to go to India for a year."

"Which means Slytherin is in need of a new Quidditch captain. Urqhart may be a seventh-year, but you have been on the team longer." When the young man didn't reply, Severus gritted his teeth and decided to state his intentions bluntly. "I would like to offer the position to you first."

"I think I'll decline, sir." He grabbed his school bag and moved toward the door.

Severus pointed his wand at the door, and it sealed with a squelching noise. "I didn't dismiss you, Mr. Malfoy."

Draco faced him; indignation radiated from him like an over-heated cauldron.

"Frankly, I'm surprised you would turn down such an opportunity to keep on equal status as Potter." Severus hoped such a comment would goad the boy into accepting the offer. If Malfoy was captain of the team, he would have to speak with him between now and the start of the Quidditch season, making it impossible for Draco to avoid him. "You are still planning to remain on the team, aren't you?"

"Since it's my first N.E.W.T. year, I was going to decide that after I've been to all of my classes. Extras may need to go, depending on how much work I have for classes."

"Is that why you're no longer a prefect?" Severus asked, keeping his tone bland.

Draco shrugged. "Maybe."

"Were you required to step aside by the headmaster or was it voluntary?" He had a flash of insight. "Or did Auntie Bellatrix make the suggestion?"

At the mention of her name, a slight sneer tugged at the corner of the young man's mouth. "Out of the loop are you?"

"Answer the question, Draco," he demanded impatiently.

"Does it matter?"

Severus couldn't believe even Bellatrix could overlook something so glaringly obvious. "Yes, it does."

"I gave it up on my own," he said, scowling. "No point in being part of something that won't matter come the end of the year."

"Never the less," Severus began, lowering his voice to a conspiratorial whisper, "dropping too many of your normal activities will only draw undesired attention. People will begin wondering what you're doing with your newly acquired free time. Unless you were commanded by the Dark Lord, doing so was tantamount to declaring your alliance to—"

"That happened when Potter got my father arrested!"

"I understand you're—"

"No," snarled the young man, swinging his bag to his shoulder and storming towards the door. "You don't understand anything. Now open the damn door!"

"Sir," Severus snapped, not willing to let the boy get away with such a gross display of impertinence.

"FINE! Open the damn door, sir!"

Grudgingly, the Potions master complied. He unsealed the door, and Draco Malfoy made a hasty exit before Severus could change his mind and detain him for more questioning. The door was nearly closed when a rather bemused Callista Hawkins pushed it open and entered the classroom.

"Isn't it a bit early in the term to cause your N.E.W.T. students to have mental breakdowns, Severus?" she asked sarcastically. "And one from your own house at that."

He stood his ground and resisted the urge to curse her. "Mind your own students, Miss Hawkins, and I'll mind mine."

Before she could open her mouth to reply, he turned on his heel, swept out of the classroom and into the sanctuary of his office.

A/N: Draco, I love you, my dear boy, but you were such an uncooperative little brat during the writing of this chapter. Don't be surprised if I decide to kill you off in a bizarre Quidditch accident.

There have been complaints about the lack of lemony goodness in this romance fic. I hope people are slightly more satisfied.