Hermione was sitting alone in the dining hall. It seemed like the only place she could really be alone to practice her Transfiguration spells in peace without Harry or Ron ducking in to beg for help on their homework. She exhaled with agitation as she tried yet again to transform an ordinary rock into a turtle, succeeding in only creating horrific half petrified animals.

It wasn't that she was a poor student; she was just having some issues with this particular Transfiguration, which surprised McGonagall about as much as it did anyone. It seemed to be slightly more art than science unlike Potions, where controlling your environment and picking the right ingredients and timing were everything. She was patient, exacting and intelligent, which made her a prime student for Potions; much to Professor Snape's chagrin.

Which was why it was such a surprise when he approached her in the dining hall. Head down on the table, thinking carefully through the steps she had taken and still not seeing what in the world she was doing wrong, she did not hear the Professor's approach at all.

"Miss Granger," Snape purred silkily, "Whatever should a student on Midwinter break be doing in the Dining Hall with a... Just what IS that?"

Hermione snapped her head up at Snape's voice and blushed furiously.

"I... I... I was working... on Transfigurations. I... um... don't seem to have the knack for this particular spell. I was hoping that while I was left here on break while my parents headed on ski holiday that I might try to figure out what this problem is."

Professor Snape picked up Hermione's notes and peered down at them. Then he picked up the rock-turtle and examined it.

"Miss Granger, were I you, I would try, perhaps, checking your intonation on this last syllable."

Hermione took back her notes, and then grabbed her spell book. She flipped two pages forward and immediately saw her flaw.

"Professor! That's it! Thank you so much!"

Proudly Hermione cast her spell and the turtle crawled about the dining hall table. With another flick of her wand the turtle was back to stone.

The corner of Professor Snape's mouth curled into as much of a smile as Hermione had ever seen. "I commend your efforts to perfect your learning, especially on break," while he wouldn't admit it in class or around anyone else, he was rather impressed with her will to learn even if at times it made her a churlish know-it-all that he had to tell off.

"Thank you so much for your help, Professor. Might I give you a couple of these Lodestones my parents sent me for Christmas in thanks? They're a beautiful red; I haven't quite found a good purpose for them yet. I was pondering testing out a 'good luck' spell for Gryffindor's next Quidditch match," said Hermione.

Professor Snape scowled at the idea of casting a spell for the rival house team, but was too curious about the lodestones Miss Granger had to pass up the opportunity to examine something new that might prove beneficial. "I would not mind a look at those stones at all, Miss Granger," Professor Snape said.

Hermione dug through her bag and pulled out a bag of golden velvet tied with a black velvet string. She put the bag on the table and carefully picked out a couple of the brilliantly red lodestones. She held them both in the palm of her hand and stretched her arm forward to allow the Professor to pick one out of her hand.

He plucked one out of her hand quickly. The Professor never seemed to be one for human contact. He was very standoffish in general, seemed a very private person, so Hermione didn't take it personally. He did, however, sit down next to her to examine the stone more carefully. "Miss Granger, I do not believe I have seen a lodestone quite so... brilliantly red. It's magnificent, very potent, I'm sure it will make for a fine spell when you figure out what they're good for."

Hermione was suddenly very aware of how close her Professor was to her. She was ecstatic that he seemed so impressed, as he was a particularly difficult Professor to impress. He smelled like thousands of ancient potions, almost medicinal and musty, and yet, she found this very endearing. She felt her hand holding the other lodestone moving towards her Professor's hand. Her hand drifted towards his and she felt miles away, out of body, as if in a dream. Soon her hand was touching his, and he didn't recoil, but seemed to be starting at his own hand as if it were acting on its own.

The two stones rolled together between Professor Snape and Hermione's outstretched hands. After staring for a moment in a weird shock to be touching her Professor at all, Hermione rolled both rocks into Snape's hand and withdrew her own hand back into her lap.

Snape also seemed to wake from his daze and chuckled, "These stones really are powerful! Remember, Miss Granger, that the lodestone's primary attribute is to attract... whether it is attracting luck or money or love, it serves as a magnet... and these two stones... seem... to have..." The Professor lost track of his sentence as he looked at his student who was staring at him extremely intently.

Miss Granger was in her final year at Hogwarts and had never really had time to consider attraction or relationships. She'd gone on a few dates, but her primary focus had always been on keeping her grades up so she could someday have at the Ministry of Magic where she might really make a difference. However, sitting there, she felt like perhaps she'd missed something valuable in her lessons learning.

Professor Snape watched with detached curiosity as his student leaned forward to him and patted back his flyaway hair. He couldn't imagine why he wasn't jumping up and giving her detention. In fact, expulsion completely left his mind when she ran her fingertips lightly along his jaw line and drew his chin forward and gently parted her lips and gave him a sweet kiss. He felt his own lips part as they moved closer together, embracing passionately, Hermione's fingers slid through his hair, her nails gently grazed the back of his neck.

All thoughts of losing his job, of grades, spells, potions disappeared. She thought of nothing but this, her first kiss... this sweet moment with someone she'd never even imagined herself even shaking hands with. He kissed her face and her neck softly and she leaned back enjoying the sensation when something tall, fuzzy and white caught her eye.

Professor Dumbledore cleared his throat, leaning across the table. Hermione and Snape looked up in utter shock. Dumbledore picked up the Lodestones and pulled them apart with an exaggeratedly demonstrative flair. Hermione was extremely startled to realize that she was in Snape's lap with her arms wrapped around him. Her hands flew to her mouth as her jaw dropped in shock. Professor Snape jumped up and back so quickly that he dumped the shaken girl onto the floor.

Both Hermione and Snape dashed back to their rooms leaving lodestones and books in the hall while Dumbledore simply clucked his tongue and chuckled. "Ah, perhaps Minerva would enjoy some fun with these," he said as he twinkled and pocketed the stones for later.