Disclaimer: The works of JKR are in no way mine, nor do I have any illusions that they are. I am exceedingly grateful that she allows us to play in her universe.

Author's Note: The first thirteen chapters of this story take place bouncing between two different time frames that are fairly close together. It starts at the end of their fifth year and goes into the beginning of their sixth at Hogwarts. In the fourteenth chapter, the timelines merge.

A further note is that this story does have two halves – the second of which is Paradise Lost, which is not yet completed.

And my last note is just a heads up, as I have received some critiques to this end: My portrayal of Severus Snape in this story is relatively morally ambiguous. Although it is a romance, he is not a knight in white armour. I have been attempting to write a character enduring under the enormous pressures of spying in a war environment and some of the decisions he makes in this piece are not the kindest or, perhaps "best" possible. I'm not saying this to discourage reading, of course, but some of the reviews at the end expressed disappointment with the direction of the character, so I thought I would include some kind of warning at the beginning.

That being said, I sincerely hope that this is your cup of tea and you will enjoy reading it!

Two Attacks

September, 1996

'Will she survive?' Dumbledore lifted his eyes to the man standing over him as the old wizard crouched next to the body of Hermione Granger. She lay draped over smashed brick, her heart pumping blood out a severed artery to waterfall over the dusty red, staining it a darker hue.

'Headmaster…tell me,' Snape's voice was barely a whisper – a question of desolate desperation. Dumbledore raised his head and saw what answer he must give, regardless of the truth. He needed Severus Snape – whole, well and undistracted. The dead and the dying lay strewn about them – the young professor could not afford to worry about this girl now. His long hands were already reaching for her, and Dumbledore could see the crackling white-blue of the bond snapping at his Potions master's fingers, seething to jump the gap, to heal the badly wounded girl in front of them.

But he was too tired. He could not afford to heal her – especially if she was already beyond their reach. The older man stilled the younger's hands, feeling them tremor with Snape's effort to remain on his feet, shaking his head. 'No, Severus, you cannot.'

He sighed, his own wand going to her chest, murmuring spells to heal the hole blasted in her left lung. The blue-white light seemed all the brighter in the darkened alley, and they watched as her tissue began to knit back together, splintered ribs becoming whole.

He nodded, exhaustion extinguishing the light in his blue eyes. 'She will.'

Snape straightened, withdrawing his hands and closed his eyes for just a moment, the tension relaxing around his mouth. Nothing would ease the burning in his chest, the bond that linked him to the girl on the ground flooding her pain into his heart and lungs. He nodded slowly, ignoring it, the headmaster's reassurance assuaging a much greater fear. Then his eyes snapped open, and his customary cold brilliance echoed in them, the mind-numbing pain that Dumbledore had seen there disappeared, the tautness fleeing his shoulders. Without a second glance at Hermione, Snape strode away, growing fuzzy in the lingering smoke as he sought others.

Fires of all colors cast hell-shaded shadows on the remaining walls of Diagon Alley. Windows were shattered, gaping like open mouths of jagged teeth. Marble from Gringotts pillars had hurtled from the sky like a deadly rain to shatter glass and break holes in wood, brick and granite walls.

Diagon Alley… by the time he knew, it had been too late to divert the attack. Voldemort had wanted it to be a complete surprise. No one had been told. He had called all of his Death Eaters together and Apparated them, en masse, to the Alley. Snape had sent warning as fast as he could….

…but the Death Eaters were profoundly efficient. Even though they were as surprised as the witches and wizards they descended upon, they had instantly organized themselves by cell, coordinating under Avery and Lucius. All of Snape's assassins had Apparated onto roofs and fire escapes, picking their individual targets easily, blasting Muggle-borns, setting fire to stores and killing the Ministry members in the area. It had been all too easy to destroy the unprepared haven in a matter of minutes.

He stepped around blood, lifting bodies, checking pulses. Too many had none. He saw the Weasley clan gathered near the Leaky Cauldron. Mr. Weasley was supporting the dazed and bleeding owner of Flourish and Blotts, Molly was shaking visibly even from this distance, taking a head count as Bill, Charlie and Percy picked through the rubble. He could see the red hair of one of the twins, but he could see the tension in her craning neck: Molly was looking for Ron.

Good luck to her, he thought grimly. Weasley had been with Potter, the determined sidekick forever at his friend's side. And wherever Potter had been, that was where the fighting had been thickest. What had possessed the headmaster to bring them into this? To deliberately risk the boy he had struggled for more than five years now to keep safe and out of the Dark Lord's hands? And he knew, looking at the devastation around him that Dumbledore had brought all the fighters he could, in the hopes of keeping innocents safe.

But the fighters had included Hermione...

His robe caught, and he turned around. A small, slightly pudgy hand clutched the corner of his cloak.

'Professor…' Snape winced. Neville Longbottom. He gazed at the boy, closed his eyes at the sight of his mangled legs. Even with magic, Neville might be crippled for life.

'Help me?' Neville pleaded, a tongue darting nervously over dry lips.

Snape bent and removed the rubble from the boy's body. A broken arm twisted so grotesquely the bone glistened white through shredded skin, and blood streamed freely from his mouth and a wound near his temple. The powerful wizard's mouth dried instantly. Internal bleeding. If Neville didn't get to St. Mungo's now he would die.

He squatted, lifted the boy to Neville's staunched screams of pain-

-and nearly dropped him. His arm seared angrily, and he could feel that the Dark Lord was wondering where he was. He gasped. He had to go-

'Lupin!' he barked. Remus Lupin spun around in mid-stride. 'Get Longbottom to St. Mungo's. I…have business.'

Remus noticed the way his childhood enemy soothed his left arm when the werewolf took the bloodied bundle. 'Good luck, Severus.'

Snape nodded curtly, unable to sneer. As he Disapparated, his mind returned to the image of Hermione's body, broken open, her life's blood feeding the cobblestones. For the first time in many years, he had to master his breathing, and the rage of savage thoughts tearing through his mind as he appeared in the graveyard behind the Riddle House. As his wits returned in their cool, unbreakable fashion, another, more familiar emotion emerged. Revenge smoldered inside him.

He took a deep breath and counted to ten. He could afford no unseemly displays, even while his blood seemed to boil from pain, worry and fear. Personal fear. He swallowed the loathing that rose like vomit in his throat.

That had to wait for later. He ruthlessly turned off all the emotions that had roared to life inside him, feelings that would end his life shortly if Voldemort chanced on them while rooting through his thoughts.

In due time, he would discover and kill whoever had nearly murdered his Hermione.


Dumbledore felt, rather than saw, Severus Disapparate. He sighed as he cast a quick spell over Hermione. She would not die immediately- but he was too drained to save her himself, his power expended in the battle.

Limbs were strewn everywhere, and he could not look anywhere without seeing blood splattered on the normally cheerful walls or get the stinging smoke from his eyes.

He summoned a Healer from St. Mungo's. The Healer Apparated next to him, looked at Hermione's body and closed his eyes briefly.

'Keep her hospitalized as long as you think necessary,' Dumbledore instructed tiredly. 'She is a Muggle-born student, so it will not be necessary for you to alert her parents as long as she is healing.' The Healer nodded, gently transported Hermione to a stretcher and Disapparated with her.

Dumbledore started towards the middle of the alley. It was near the apothecary's shop that Harry had been ambushed with Ron and Hermione. And if that was the state of Hermione's body…

He saw Ron Weasley rise, pale, his freckles vivid on his sheet-white face, but at least he was walking, albeit cradling one arm. 'Mr. Weasley!' Dumbledore called. Or tried to. But smoke and screaming spells through over the din of battle caused his voice to crack. He had to hurry over to Ron instead.

'What happened to Harry?' Dumbledore asked urgently. 'Did you see? Is he alive?'

Ron studied his shoes before nerving himself to look into his Headmaster's blue eyes. 'They captured him,' he whispered hoarsely. It was then that Dumbledore noticed the filthy streaks that ran through the dirt and smoke caking Ron's cheeks. 'He was alive, sir, when Walden McNair Disapparated with him.'

Dumbledore swayed on his feet, fatigue flowing from him almost tangibly at this latest news. The Dark Lord had captured Harry. Again. And this time, Voldemort would simply kill him. He did not tend to repeat past mistakes. To bring the boy here...what had possessed him to bring the boy here?

'Albus, you should return to the school,' Minerva was suddenly at his side, her hands steadying him. 'You're too tired to be here.'

Dumbledore shook his head. 'There are many who died here today, and more in the hospital. I need to stay- to help, to know…I am the leader of the Order. I can't leave just because I am also an old man.'

And his age showed in all of him now, the ancient, sorrow-filled eyes, the dust that painted every line of his face in sharp relief, the vein-lined calves exposed where his robe had been ripped.

Minerva bowed her head and hurried to help others, moving rubble. Families found one another- or did not. She felt tears filled her eyelids as she watched a girl of eight reach for a trembling boy of five, both of them clasping hands as they stared at the slashed face of their dead mother.

'Come with me,' she murmured, placing warm hands on their young shoulders. 'I am a Hogwarts teacher. Please, come with me.' The girl gave Minerva a look too sharp for an eight-year-old, and took a long moment to tuck her hand into the professor's and follow, still holding her younger brother.

Those who had lost family members were gathering near the exit of the Alley, where Ministry officials were beginning to take over. Magic was clearing the street of the heaps of rock and brick, and those Order members still capable were Apparating back to Grimmauld Place.

'Diagon Alley is clear of the living,' Minerva told Albus grimly, wiping dirt away from her mouth.

'I know. The death count is still coming in. And Harry…Harry who I love like a son…'

'Did he die?' Minerva asked suddenly, fear flooding her like ice. 'Albus, quickly, tell me, was he killed?'

'No. At least, not yet. But Voldemort has him. I have failed.'

'As long as he is living, you have not failed,' she told him resolutely. She looked around for the other professor that completed their trio. She did not see him.


'Summoned to Riddle,' Dumbledore said shortly. He shook his head, his eyes darkening. 'He may be getting to be a danger to himself.'

'What? Why?'

'Did you see Hermione Granger?'

'No. Don't tell me she-'

'Her condition was critical when the Healer from St. Mungo's arrived,' Dumbledore told her quietly, his eyes unfocused. 'He looked agonized, Minerva. I have never, in the twenty-five years I have known him, seen him look that way. He has begged me for death, and I did not see such an expression. He would not- could not- work until I promised him she would live.'

'Will she?'

'I think so. I hope so.' Dumbledore took her arm, needing the support it gave him and prepared to Disapparate.

'If she dies...' McGonagall let the question hang.

'I don't know. I don't know whether he can survive without her. We shall have to hope we don't ever find out.'

Not the first time, the headmaster considered the myriad consequences that had resulted from this unexpected alliance. Perhaps he should have discouraged it instead of simply concealing it and allowing the two to take their course. Perhaps he should have forbidden it.

But he had not. And now there was nothing he could do.


Dumbledore remembered the first faint stirrings of this peculiar relationship, beginning in the spring last year. Being a Headmaster of Hogwarts, he was tied to the stones of the castle so deeply that he could feel the pulse of the lives of everyone within them.

For privacy reasons, he usually ignored them. But Severus and Hermione had unwittingly provoked his interest, and he had kept an unobtrusive eye on them long before either of them had been aware of it themselves…

But there had been interest long before that, he reflected wryly as the walls of his office solidified around him and his Transfiguration professor. In fact, the girl had unknowingly caught both his friendly blue eyes and his Potions master's daunting black that very first year…


June, 1992…

'You said "cool logic in the face of fire,"' Snape said slowly, turning the words over as he questioned the Headmaster after the Leaving Feast.

'I did,' Dumbledore's eyes sparkled with their maddening delight. 'What of it?'

'The riddle I used to secure the Stone involved fire.'


'Did that first-year Gryffindor child defeat my ward?' Nothing short of incredulity echoed in Snape's voice.

'Indeed she did. She solved the riddle, and sent Harry forward while getting herself back safely.'

'At twelve…' the wonder in the Potion Master's tone caused the Headmaster's mouth to twitch uncontrollably. The professor had never expressed any interest of any kind in any student…perhaps this child would be the first, a brain he could mentor, tutor and admire…


September, 1996

But that had been almost four and half years ago. And Severus Snape had done nothing of the kind. Hermione Granger's friendship with Harry Potter and status as a Gryffindor were irreconcilable barriers to any admiration or willingness to teach that Snape possessed. Instead of the warm, inspirational- he'd even dared hope for a father-daughter feeling- relationship he had imagined developing between their minds, only antipathy grew and overshadowed all they might have shared in common. Severus had derided her where all others heaped praise, causing many an argument in the staff room between himself and Minerva on the subject of Hogwarts' most intelligent mind in a decade.

And then, last spring had simply…happened. From a solid mutual dislike to a bond that transcended time. Dumbledore rubbed his sooty temples with an equally dirty hand.

Sometimes, he hated magic.


March, 1996

'Detention, Miss Granger,' Snape hissed furiously. 'How many times do I have to tell you that Longbottom is to make his own potions? I don't believe you are qualified to teach this class.' He surveyed her furious eyes with a smirk.

Hermione bit back the retort that she had simply been trying to save him another melted cauldron disaster and simply glowered at him.

'Ten points from Gryffindor for your expression, Miss Granger. Now, get back to work. And if I see you so much as give Longbottom the time, you will have another night's detention. Have I made myself clear?'

'Perfectly, Professor,' she could not keep herself from spitting the title.

'Insufferable git,' Ron hissed.

'I guess now that he doesn't get to mess you around in Occlumency he's missing his quota of petty bullying,' she snapped in Harry's direction, slamming her books into her bag, her words so out-of-character for the girl who had spent many nights defending the man she was now villanizing that both boys stared at her.

Ron recovered first. 'That's probably true. But its blatantly obvious that you were just trying to help.' The burnished copper head threw a dirty look at the back of Snape's head. 'It's not like he's going to be happy if another potion burns a hole in the floor.'

'But then Neville would have the detention,' Harry pointed out.

'Better me than him. You know how Neville is with Professor Snape. He's terrified of him,' Hermione replied. 'It'll be fine. I'll do whatever he tells me and leave as fast as I can.'


Hermione knocked on his dungeon door at six o'clock that evening.

'Enter,' came the sharp voice. Snape sat at his desk, grading papers. 'These potions,' he flicked open a cabinet, 'need sorting and labeling. Get to work. Put the ingredients for the advanced potions on the top shelves. Assuming that's not to difficult for your fifth-year brain to handle.'

Hermione nodded, and started. They worked in deadly silence, a stillness that promised to explode if either spoke.

Neither did.


But Hermione could not refuse helping Neville. All Snape had to do was enter the room and he would give her a panic-stricken look, and she couldn't leave him out- especially when he had been doing so well with the DA before Dumbledore's memorable departure only two weeks ago. Snape be hanged, she thought, and she continued to quietly mutter the instructions out of the side of her mouth.

He was mostly done, the potion the correct turquoise color, when Snape turned to catch Hermione giving him the last instruction. He could not help but admire her loyalty, her ability and her total willingness to risk her neck breaking rules. Then again, her stunt with the group named Dumbledore's Army had thoroughly impressed him - her only illegal activity in the past half-decade to do so. From Mundungus' report all those months ago, there was no doubt that she was the one behind establishing the Defense group - one he would have been glad to teach himself had appearances not so grossly conflicted. She was neat, and Neville, striving desperately to take after her, had similarly ordered his potions on his desk. But, organization, talent and guts aside-

'I thought I told you not to help him, Miss Granger?' he said icily. 'Or did you enjoy detention so much you want another?' He glared at her and she narrowed her eyes at him.

'Since a single night seemed not to teach you not to interfere, perhaps a whole week of detentions? You will start tonight, and your detention times include Saturday and Sunday.'

Hermione set her jaw as she stared at him and said clearly, 'Yes sir.' Anger boiled in her so viciously she wanted to slap him. It was his fault that she felt the need to help Neville - if he could condescend once or twice to explain a few things, the otherwise capable wizard wouldn't continue to be terrified. She recalled with violent clarity punching Draco Malfoy, and experienced the savage wish that she dared treat her professor the same way.


Saturday marked the third night of detention. Each night had contained a different task, including disemboweling fire salamanders- a thoroughly awful task. She shivered at what he might make her do tonight.

'Come,' he answered as usual.

She entered, her wand stored in her pocket. 'Come with me, Miss Granger,' he ordered. She clenched her teeth and obeyed.

He took her out of his classroom and two doors down to another room, which was bolted. Hermione tensed. Where were they going? Combined with her recent uncharitable thoughts about the Head of Slytherin, all of Moody's, Harry's and Ron's fears about Snape's loyalty rushed to her mind. Was he about to place her in the arms of the Death Eaters?

No. She breathed an audible sigh of relief. It was another dungeon room, with cauldrons simmering over more than a dozen fires. Smoke of six different colors wafted through the room.

Snape stopped to check each potion, and as he looked at them in turn, Hermione caught a look on his face that she had never seen before, or even imagined seeing. He poked, stirred, added ingredients, all with an expression of finally seeing a favorite child whom he had not met in years. There was a quiet alteration of his demeanor, a focused quality. This is what he loves and truly wants to do, she thought with something akin to surprise. Somehow, she had never imagined Snape having passions, even for the cold, sure comforts of the academic world. He always seemed to hate his subject- or at least, the students he taught it to.

'Errr…Professor? What are we doing here?' she asked quietly.

'You are going to assist me,' Snape snapped, the look vanishing instantly, the professor back at work, replacing the academician. 'Since I have been saddled with your punishment at the same time that I save for research and brewing my own potions, I will use your help.'

Hermione felt a ridiculous urge to smile at this sudden windfall. It's Snape, she reminded herself. But still…I get to help one of the top professionals brewing his own potions. I can't pretend that's not exciting.

'What do you want me to do?' Her eagerness threaded through her voice, and he gave her a look of complete disdain.

'You are going to copy down what I tell you. If you touch a single cauldron, the word 'detention' does not begin to describe what you will suffer. Have I made myself clear, Miss Granger?'

Hermione bowed her head, the faint euphoria of discovery and excitement plunging instead into disappointment.


'Sit. I will dictate to you what I am doing.' He strode to the biggest cauldron, which was surrounded by smaller ones. Hermione sat at the desk, quill and parchment out.

Why is he bothering? she wondered. He could just bewitch the quill to do it for him…but since this is my detention he probably knew I would rather be working with the potion than writing, so he's punishing me. She focused on the quill and allowed herself to smile at the parchment. Even if she wasn't allowed to play, she was still going to be learning, and that could not be construed as cruelty.

'Potion 437, Curse Removal Draught, day twenty-four. Control Cauldron: light blue in color, no odor, no smoke, opaque liquid. Variant One: dark blue in color, steam rising, no odor. Additional ingredient- three centiliters of Mandrake juice containing two milligrams of crushed garnet. Variant Two…'

Hermione kept writing, her head down, not nearly as bored as she had thought she would be. It was midnight before her eyelids started to droop, and she pushed herself to continue through to three o'clock, when suddenly, Snape stopped and stared at her.

'Miss Granger,' he said slowly, amazement outweighing the habitual disgust in his voice. 'You have been here for nine hours.'

'Yes, sir,' she said, sighing. It was better when he just talked about the potions. Then she could forget it was Snape and just drink the information.

'Aren't you tired?'

'A little, sir,' she admitted, shrugging.

'Go to bed, Miss Granger.' Amazement evaporated. 'If you think serving an extra long detention tonight relieves you of tomorrow, you're mistaken. Get out.'

She put down the quill and parchment, disappointed that he was going to continue without her, but disobedience was not an option, so she left speedily, his back to her as he tested something new.

He looked after her as the door latched. The eagerness on her face, in her voice when she had looked at his potions, the naked desire to learn…he had not seen someone so quick to love potions in years.

But she had always loved them. Always. From the time her hand shot into the air on the very first day, bushy hair flying in all directions as she practically leaped to her feet to tell him the answer. Always. Enough to solve a riddle as a first year…almost still a baby.

He shook his head and turned back to the solution, dribbling in the powder still in his hand. Wasted. One of Minerva's cubs, and as impossible to mentor in the current political climate as a mermaid. That he would have paid the fates to place one such as her in his own House was irrelevant.


Sunday, she approached his dungeon with some trepidation and a little excitement. Hopefully, they would work in his potions lab again…

'Those barrels,' he told her, not looking up from his papers, 'the ingredients need to be put in those bottles,' he flicked his wand and hundreds of small bottles appeared before her, 'and added to the potions storeroom.'

She swallowed her displeasure and muttered, 'Yes, Professor Snape,' before starting to work.

'The storeroom is three doors down, Miss Granger,' he handed her the key absentmindedly. 'Put it all in there. Do not think to use magic to carry it,' he warned her. Hermione seethed silently. It would take at least an hour to put all of the little bottles away- and it was already midnight!

'That answer is wrong, sir,' she said involuntarily, catching sight of Malfoy's paper as she took the keys. Their hands brushed, and her comment caused him to look down, their fingers still touching, the key in both hands.

'So it is, Miss Granger. But I don't recall,' he let go of the key as his black eyes bored into her, 'allowing students to help me with my grading? Twenty points from Gryffindor. Go finish your job.'p

'Insufferable git indeed,' she fumed, carrying the glass bottles several at a time to the storeroom and filing them on the shelves. 'Just because he wanted to cheat and give Malfoy a better grade…what kind of teacher does that?' And he always found the smallest errors in her essays to snip at…

'Have you considered, Miss Granger, that it might have been an honest mistake?' Snape's quiet voice stopped her cold as he arched an eyebrow and handed her several bottles to put on the shelf.

'No, sir. I have never seen you mistakenly grade a paper,' she answered, trying and failing to fight the embarrassment at being caught criticizing him.

'Ah. Well- you may want to watch your tongue when the person in question might hear you. Another twenty points from Gryffindor. Hurry up with the last of these, I'm done babysitting for the evening.'

Hermione left in a terrible temper.


'He really is an arse,' Ron said wonderingly as Hermione was finishing dinner in preparation for the fifth night's detention. He seemed to think that Snape had reached an all-time low, even for him. 'Giving Malfoy a higher grade than he deserves? That lousy, stinking-'

'I can't wait to be done. Wednesday is my last one.'

'Yeah, but we have potions tomorrow. Are you going to leave poor Neville out in the rain?'

'No. We'll think of something else,' she told them hurriedly. She saw Snape getting ready to go at the head table and stood. 'I think I'd better get going, though.'


Hermione had to put more crushed plants, stones, vials of blood and packets of fur away that evening.

Halfway through the third-year's essays, Snape heard a horrific crash from the storeroom. He shot to his feet and sped down to the door, his strides rather longer, his reaction faster than he might have thought.

Hermione had overbalanced and fallen, that much was clear. She lay at an odd angle, one of her arms broken such that her elbow twisted the wrong way. Broken glass and bits of plant littered the floor around her, a stark contrast to the rest of the ingredients, neatly rowed with their labels facing outwards- the girl had been scrupulous with her organization of his stores.

But her head…Snape's breath stopped as he looked at the amount of blood flowing from her dark, bushy hair, soaking the strands a deep crimson.

'Miss Granger!' He dropped to his knees next to her, hastily casting a healing spell on her head. The blood stopped flowing.

'Scourgify!' he whispered, and it vanished. He lifted her head softly to check the floor, to touch the back of her skull. His fingers encountered no gaping holes. She was fine. Whatever the wound, he had closed it with his hasty bit of magic.

'Ennervate,' he commanded.

She blinked, tried to lift her head, and dropped it, looking about dizzily. Hesitantly, he reached out, brushing her temples as if fearing her reaction before reluctantly continuing, barely noticing the side effects of a lingering healing magic, twirling blue-white like hot flame from his fingers to twine with the strands of her hair, seeping into her skull.

Hermione returned to consciousness slowly the second time, shutting her eyes. Someone was stroking her hair. It was so peaceful, so nice, just to be held, just to let them continue...

She trembled faintly as the hands on her head sent shivers down her body, not of fear or pain, but pleasure, a gentle, promising touch. They went down to her arm, where she suddenly felt shooting pain…and then warmth that spread through her deliciously, wiping it away.

'Miss Granger?' The voice attached to those hands sounded vaguely worried. She opened her eyes to assure the owner that he didn't need to be. She was all right. It just felt wonderful to lie there and let him-

'Professor!' she cried, sitting up abruptly and ignoring the spinning protest from her newly-healed head. She blushed a deep red as she realized it was his lap her head had been resting so gently in. 'I…I…' she stammered. She put her hand down in broken glass and yelped in surprise.

'I'm so sorry that I broke those bottles!' she managed to say. It sounded inane even as the words left her mouth. But hopefully he would think that was the reason for her sudden, flaming embarrassment.

Her swift recovery, the irrelevant stupidity of her words, were all he needed to recover himself and step back into his despised role. The worry previously lurking in their depths vanished into the cold vacuum he maintained and he was rising, gazing down at the girl kneeling on the stones, chilliness blazing from every fiber of his long body.

'The ingredients you have wasted with your carelessness are expensive, Miss Granger. Are you often this lackadaisical with another's things? I doubt you are so foolish with something as valuable as Potter's Invisibility Cloak.' She did not reply. Mortification was already draining to be replaced by fury, and the fear that he was going to force her to pay for all of it.

'Clean it up and then your detention is over. And be more careful in the future with things that are not yours, Miss Granger.'

Hermione stiffened. But that was all Snape said. He not add detentions or subtract more points. She cleaned it up quickly and left, still burning brightly enough she decided she couldn't go back to the Gryffindor common room. Harry and Ron would notice.

Instead, she walked to the library and started reading- only to discover that for the first time in her life she couldn't concentrate on her book.

Her mind kept running over the feeling of his hands on her head, running through her hair, delicately touching her forehead and temples…no matter his nastiness, the cold reproof in his voice…

He's a teacher. He's Snape, her rational mind snarled. But her body would not rid itself of the physical memory, so strong it nearly felt as if he were doing it again, nor would it stop sending chills running through her.

No crush like her fancy for Gilderoy Lockhart, this. The small, gentle movements of his hand on her head seemed to have burrowed into her blood.

Throwing open a book so passionately it nearly skittered from the table, Hermione immersed herself in words, drowning the clamor of her thoughts.


Snape slowly seated himself at his desk, absently casting a cleaning charm on the cuffs of his sleeves where they had dragged through her blood. He could still feel his abdomen quivering, the shaking similar to that which always plagued him during an unexpected summons to either of his masters...a combination of nerves and fear that even his strongest Occlumency couldn't keep from taking up residence in his stomach.

But why now? Disaster had been quickly averted, the girl would be more cautious in the future and probably have a healthier respect for ladders. He wasn't writing an accidental death report or even enduring Madam Pomfrey's scolding for assigning a dangerous task to a student in detention.

Ascribing his peculiar reaction this evening to the fact that it had been many years since he had seen so much blood pouring from someone so young, Snape dipped his quill back into his inkwell to continue grading essays.