A/N: Mild SPOILERS for Half Blood Prince. JK Rowling owns Harry Potter. This is my first attempt at something darker, so constructive criticism will be much appreciated.

What Could Have Been

Severus waited for Hermione in the bedroom. She came out of the bathroom in the negligee he had handed her, its silky green fabric and black lace hugging her hips, the neckline plunging just so that he had a glimpse of the promise underneath. Her hair was let down, he had ordered her to release it from its bun, and the frizzy brown curls framed her face. She looked so innocent, and frightened.

"Don't," she pleaded, tears streaming down her face. Her voice was small and strangled. She looked smaller and more vulnerable than he had ever seen her. A spike of sympathy pierced his heart, but it was quickly replaced with anger.

"Is the idea of my touching you so repulsive?" he spat.

No. I—I…" she stuttered, her cheeks flushing red. He wondered how far that blush extended. He would be finding out soon enough, whether she liked it or not.

"Not like this. I didn't want it to be like this," he heard her mutter under her breath. Did that mean…? He grabbed her chin, forcing her to meet his eyes.

'Legilimens,' he thought. He saw and felt many things. He never would have thought that Granger's brain would be so disorganized. He wouldn't have been surprised to find that she had taught herself Occlumency, but the stress of her defeat, of being branded a slave, of being awarded to him—the traitor, her hated professor—it was wearing her down. The strong-minded girl he had begrudgingly admired in class had transformed into the quivering wreck in front of him.

But in all the mess, he recognized a lingering attraction and respect for him. She had defended him against the accusations of Potter again and again. And yet, it had been more. She had been devastated by his betrayal not only because she believed he had been on their side, but because a small inkling of desire had crept in. He felt her disgust at herself, but with a tiny flicker of hope that still burned for him.

This would be better and easier than he thought. He would have her, and not just in the physical sense. He could easily make her believe that she loved him. All of her ideas about love saving the day, saving him, would break her completely. He would be interested in watching where the pieces would fall. It was a pity Potter had died, he would have loved flaunting this victory in his face. But there was still Ron Weasley. If he wasn't wrong, the red-headed brat had feelings for the girl. It would be too much fun to parade her affection in front of him, before Severus discarded her.

"I don't understand," he said, releasing her. "You want this too."

"Not like this, please, not like this," she said, taking a step back. He moved forward to close the distance she had placed between them. Reaching out, he put one arm around her, his hand on the small of her back. The other rested on her arm. She stiffened in his embrace, but he didn't release her.

"And just how did you imagine it, Miss Granger?" he breathed silkily into her ear. Silent tears slipped down her cheeks from clenched shut eyes. She bit at her lip, not answering his question.

"Potter would have defeated the Dark Lord," he said softly, his hand moving from her arm to her cheek. With his thumb, he gently brushed away her tears.

"There would have been multitudes of celebrations. Maybe a Ministry ball to honor the Order members." She nodded ever so slightly. "Perhaps you convinced me to dance."

"I don't dance," she whispered, her eyes still closed. She trembled still, and he pulled her closer, his hand at her back tracing small circles in an effort to calm her.

"Of course not, and neither do I," he murmured against her brow, his lips brushing against her skin. "We would have stayed in a corner and traded disparaging remarks about the inefficiencies of the Ministry. I would have invited you back to my house."

"No," she said softly, shaking her head.

"No?" He pulled back slightly to look at her. Her eyes had opened, but embarrassed, she avoided his gaze. He moved his hand that cupped her face down along her neck, tracing her delicate collarbone. It would be so easy, with his hands at her neck like this, to snap it, but he didn't. "You're right. I wouldn't have had the courage. We would have gone our separate ways. But I think days, weeks, perhaps months later we would have seen each other at the apothecary."

"The bookstore."

"Yes, the bookstore. You would have asked me my opinion on a book you were buying. I would have invited you to discuss it over a butterbeer at the Leaky Cauldron. Enjoying that, other meetings would have been arranged. At one point, you would have insisted that I call you Hermione. I would have granted you permission to address me as Severus."

She had stopped crying, though she still wouldn't look at him. Her cheek rested against his, baring her neck to his appraisal. He continued to caress her neck, and then he moved his hand back into her hair, his fingers scratching at her scalp.

"Say it, Hermione," he whispered, his mouth at her ear. "Say my name."

"S—Severus," she choked out.

"One day I would have gathered the courage to kiss you," he continued, pressing his lips alongside her jaw. "Nothing too forward to start, allow you to pull away if you wished. Perhaps first here," he kissed her on the forehead. "Then the next time here." He kissed her cheek. "And finally here." His lips moved against hers. She was passive and unmoving at first, but he teased and coaxed a response from her. He pulled back from her reluctantly, but he felt the pleasure of success when he saw her swollen lips and half-lidded eyes.

"We would have spent more and more time together. What do we do, Hermione? What do we discuss?" He kissed her again.

"You teach me Potions," she whispered when he released her mouth.

"What else?" he prompted, his hand moving from the back of her head, down her arm, and up her side.

"We talk about politics, books, and oh, fashion," she murmured as his hand cupped her breast.

"Fashion?" he asked with a smirk. She couldn't think properly and that was exactly how he wanted her.

"You wear too much black." She leaned into him, and his lips found hers again.

"We're both wearing too much at the moment," he said, grabbing her hands and placing them at his collar. She hadn't moved to touch him yet, and it was time she started. She obeyed his prompting, her fingers fumbling with his buttons. He pushed aside the thin straps of her nightgown. The gauzy fabric slid down, catching on her hips, and he didn't waste time pressing light kisses to the newly exposed expanse of skin.

There was little talking in the next few minutes as she undressed him and he led her to the bed. He explored her body with both his hands and mouth, her squeaks and moans urging him on, his blood beginning to boil.

When he could wait no longer, he hovered over her and asked, "When, Hermione?"

"The night you asked me to marry you," she said, breathless in her anticipation. Her answer gave him a moment's pause. She would have married him?

But he drove away the traitorous thought as he pushed into her. He never would have sullied himself by marrying a Mudblood. His mother had done the unthinkable by marrying a Muggle, and he had vowed never to make the same mistake. His anger at her impertinence, her belief that he would ever see her like that spurred him on, and he no longer cared what she thought. He would use her for his own pleasure, and when he was through, he would rid himself of her.

She cried out from underneath him. He didn't know if it was in pain or in ecstasy, but it didn't matter. He carried on until he felt himself at the brink. A few moments of heaven were all he received before he descended again. Rolling away from her, he suddenly felt sick.

"It never would have happened like that," he sneered.

"I know," she whispered. He sat up and looked back at her. Her eyes glistened but she held back the tears this time.

"You're mine."

Never.

He could see the thought flash across her eyes, unaided by Legilimency.

"What do you want from me?" she asked, her hands gripping the bedclothes tightly. He considered her question for a moment. He didn't need her for anything. He had house elves to do the cleaning. He had women more willing and much more appropriate than her. Her being here with him was meant more as a punishment for her than a reward for him. She never should have taunted the Dark Lord.

"There are worse things than death," she had said. And so he decided to prove her right.

"Nothing," he spat. "Go to sleep." He laid back down, pulling up the covers. He decided to abandon his original plan. Convincing her that she loved him, and then casting her aside was too dangerous. Severus might be loyal to the Dark Lord, but he had spent considerable time with Albus Dumbledore. The old fool had gone on and on about the power of love. He didn't like to think that the older wizard could have been right, but he wasn't willing to tempt fate.

An hour later, he was still awake. He could sense that Hermione too hadn't yet fallen asleep. So he wasn't surprised when she sat up and looked down at him. Forcing himself to regulate his breathing, he let her believe that he slept.

"I would have loved you. I could have loved you," she whispered, caressing his face.

When she laid back down, he knew he had made the right decision. Tomorrow, he would either kill her himself or give her to Bellatrix to practice her Cruciatus Curse on. But she was much too dangerous to keep.