They pulled apart.

She strained for breath as he silently collected his own. Both were spent and covered in sweat, she also in tears. It had been her first time. To him, it was the only time that mattered. He had always wanted her. Not, perhaps, like he had her now. He knew her when she was just a young child, barely a sprite. He had been entertained by her, and that amusement had turned into respect, and respect turned into desire as she aged. Even in the shadows, while he played a dangerous game of spy for his masters he had let his thoughts wander to her. His desire turned to fierce protection over what he imagined to be his.

When they fought in the final battle he had tried to protect her, both from her enemies and from herself. She had foolishly run out and tried to protect her friends while risking her own neck in the process. At that he became corrupted with an overbearing jealousy. Even now, though she lay in his bed, that snake had licked at his nerves, making him want to hurt her and consume her at once.

"Miss Granger," his voice was silk, caressing her where his hands wouldn't. "Was I a fair replacement for Weasley? I imagine not. That boy would have been all slobber and violence, like a dog. His family couples like animals; it's why there's so many of them." When she didn't respond, didn't look at him, he continued in almost a whisper.

"Or was it Potter you were so desperate for? Did you see him when you closed your eyes, Miss Granger? Did you imagine his hands on your body? I wonder, did that add to the excitement? To think of the-boy-who-lived-once inside you, even as he rots six feet down?"

Fresh tears sprung in her eyes. How dare he mention Ron, who loved her even though she had made it clear they were only friends. Or, even worse, to mention Harry, who had died with the Dark Lord. That stupid prophesy. Neither can live while the other survives. But they could die together, Dark Lord and Boy-Hero.

She had always thought him cruel and unfair, her cantankerous potions professor though she had never hated him. Now, however, it burned in her, causing fresh tears to wet her cheeks. She rolled away, shivering with wrath, giving him a view of the expanse of her pale backside.

"You don't know anything," she whispered.

"No?" he whispered, lifting a hand to slowly trace, and memorize, her spine. Her backbone clenched away from him but he didn't lift his hand. He wanted to touch her courage, even if it was so very Gryffindor, because he at once admired and loathed that about her. Her courage was so different from his own. She had approached the final battle against Lord Voldemort like the sun. Her arms raised over her head, her curled hair spraying wildly about just as he had twisted in the shadows, each fighting on the same side. Severus Snape at that moment imagined ripping out her spine and putting it in himself. To become like her.

He couldn't. He knew he couldn't. How disappointing.

"No, Hermione?" It was the first time he used her name. Even when they made love he was all formality and politeness. Even when he released himself in her. Now that he used her name her tears dried and left only a burning sensation. The anger was doubled. He had dared to remind her of who she was.

"Not one damn thing."

He chuckled and wrapped an arm around her. Possessing her. She allowed it, even when he pulled her flat against him and laid his head above hers.

"Do you remember what you said to me, Hermione? When I found you over Bellatrix Lestrange's body?"

She knew.

"You'll remind me, I imagine."

"Quite right. You said that you regretted it. How curious. Do you know, Hermione, that that woman you so regrettably slew was a beastly creature? Of course you did. Bellatrix Lestrange was born so purely lacking in compassion that she was free. Free to kill, free to maim and rape and pillage and plunder as is her will. And you said you regretted it but really, you did not. How satisfying it must have been to bring down Gryffindor justice on her head. Righting the wrongs, becoming a murderess yourself."

"It was war," though she said it without any conviction.

"Justification is a man-made concept," sibilance in her ears now. "You received an O in Arithmancy, did you not? That is what it really comes down to," he was whispering in her ear now. "Numbers, Hermione. You take one from one side, cross off another on the other side. Balance the equation. Litter the ground with bodies but balance the equation until it's at an absolute zero. The perfect number."

Hermione slowly turned and faced him, her eyes were blank but searching. She looked into his black eyes, looking for the coldness she heard in his voice. His eyes, however, were not cold, but bright, intense.

"That's Slytherin logic. There's no humanity in it," she said quietly. He reached his arm to brush a few of her locks out of her face before trailing his hand over her chin and lips. He pressed his forehead against her own.

"I have often thought there is little humanity in humans," he said against her. She closed her eyes and lifted her hand to trace his shoulder where a scar had almost finished forming. A gift from Dolohov who was one of the last to know that Severus had switched sides. One of the last, but, considering his parting gift, probably one of the ones who took the news the worst.

"Severus, for someone who has spent his entire life watching others it is a wonder that you have managed to see the bare minimum."


Hermione tilted her head upwards and kissed him on the mouth. He responded in kind, slowly allowing his tongue to dance over hers.

"You're not a replacement for Ron or Harry. I slept with you because I wanted to," she said quietly, as they pulled apart once more. Severus kept his expression neutral. He hadn't been expecting that.

"Why?" he asked.

"Because you weren't free to do so. You would never have taken me if I hadn't consented."

He was bitter now.

"Are you in the habit of giving yourself away as a consolation prize?"

"That's not what this is," she said as she sat up. Snape followed her example, keeping his eyes at the same level with hers. She stared at him, unafraid. Her courage staring back at him even as his own shied away from her. How he had wanted her, he thought sardonically. And now that he had had her, how much more he desired.

"Please, Miss Granger, do express that acumen you are so legendary for."

Words uttered just as much as his eyes begged for her to want him as he wanted her.

"When I killed Bellatrix Lestrange I stopped being the Hermione Granger that Ron and... and Harry knew. I can't sit around knitting socks and scarves for the good of liberating house elves anymore. You know how long it took me to realize they didn't want to be freed? Years. And yet, in a single flash when Bellatrix died I realized something. I was just like her. Like you said. Justified or not. I've taken life. Harry, he... he took life too, but only Voldemorts. But he got to die. It was an even exchange. I'm still alive though," she looked at him then, a small smile gracing her face.

"Hermione," Snape began, but she put up a hand to stop him.

"I do regret it, but I'd do it again. That's not real regret then, is it? It's self-pity. I'm pitying myself because I feel empty, just like I always imagined you must have felt."

"I wasn't empty, Hermione. I had you, even without ever touching you. Near the end I only kept going to protect you. I wanted to keep you safe," he admitted without looking at her. She raised her hand and touched his cheek, bringing his head to face hers.

"That's why, Severus. You've always been full, and I've been emptied out. I want you to fill me, Severus. I want to be whole again."

"I love you," he whispered suddenly, the words had been echoing in his head.

She chose not to respond with words but with her lips.

When she had killed Bellatrix she had felt so numb, so cold. When Severus had found her, the look in his eyes had been so painful and so relieved and so, so... alive, that she felt her heart beat. And she had fallen to her knees thanked every divinity she knew because she wasn't going to be empty and cold forever. No, not when Snape, hated man that he was, still could see her and have that look in his eyes.

They came together again. This time, she didn't cry but whispered his words back to him.