Story Disclaimer: This story is based off characters and locations owned and created by J. K. Rowling, Scholastic Books, Bloomsbury Publishing, Warner Brothers or any other company that own copyright to the Harry Potter series. The story may include characters and locations owned/created by other parties including but not limited to Joss Whedon, George Lucas, Lucasfilm, Fox, Paramount, Random House, Penguin Putnam, Inc., Ballantine Books, and a variety of other people. No money is being made and no copyright infringement is intended.

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Severus hates stories like this that start with such an insipid beginning, but it really is the only way to begin it.

It all started with the weekend they defeated Voldemort. It had taken several months of superhuman effort but he had devised a potion to finally locate the remaining Horcrux. It would have gone much faster, probably, if Hermione Granger hadn't insisted on being the one to help him devise it. They had spent days; weeks even, arguing over the cauldron pot. He had spent hours quarrelling with her, both of them sweaty-faced and livid as they hashed out the next theory. She had shouted him down a few times and he supposed that she had made a few worthwhile suggestions. Maybe even critical ones, once he thought about it.

So the potion was a success, the Horcrux found and destroyed, and Potter had fulfilled his destiny after all, cracking the Dark Lord into a million pieces, and thus ending a very painful chapter of Severus's life. Funny that it had all worked out. Severus hadn't thought he'd live to see it.

Anyway, just after old Voldie bit it, the Order members and other motley Hogwarts residents had collapsed practically wherever they had been standing for a good long sleep. They awoke hours later, ravenous and parched, ready for a bit of debauchery and fun. Trouble was, the rest of the Wizarding world had heard about the defeat by that time too.

That's how the Order had ended up in the bar of some awful Muggle establishment, the only place a Wizard could get a scrap served to him that day. If there was a scant drop of magical blood in you, you were out celebrating, dancing in the streets, certainly not worrying about serving firewhisky to a customer. So Granger named a Muggle place centrally located, and they, all ridiculous twenty-or-so of them, had tramped through the snow and into the shady bar.

Severus had not wanted to come. The quiet cajoling of bloody Remus Lupin, the gentle hand on his shoulder asking as old friend to old friend, to come and celebrate the day had finally made him mutter and acquiesce. However, Severus's idea of celebration obviously differed greatly from most others.

Kingsley Shacklebot had taken over a dreadful invention in front of the window, which Granger had referred to as a karaoke machine, and was warbling his deep baritone into it, accompanied by high-pitched arpeggios from Arthur Weasley. Longbottom was currently crawling on the floor by the pool table, being whipped with a cloth napkin by a hysterical Ginny Weasley. Cho Chang was shamelessly snogging Harry Potter in the darkened corner of the bar, his arms up to the elbows in her plaid skirt.

Remus had excused himself, probably to visit the toilet but too embarrassed to say, leaving Severus alone with Granger at their small table shoved off to the side.

"So…" said Granger, tracing the rim of her water glass.

"Spare me pleasantries, Granger." He spit out the words acidly and glared his very best professorial squint at her.

She had laughed then…bloody laughed. "Very well." She said it so nonchalantly, as if she didn't care a whit, and continued to smile at the mayhem surrounding her.

Words that once would have made her alternately cower or rage seemed to have no effect on her. Granger looked years younger, the crags of worry and hard work erased from her forehead. They were replaced by smooth skin and laugh lines that crinkled at the corner of her eyes as she watched Ron Weasley and Luna Lovegood trying hopelessly to link arms to drink their flutes of champagne.

"It's no good to stay unpleasant any longer though. You're cleared; a bona fide war hero. Voldemort's dead. His followers either are as well, or in Azkaban. We," She gestured here around the room, "all live merrily on now, you know." She paused, took a sip of her drink, and turned to look at him languidly. "You may have to attempt to be happy. There's nothing to stop you any longer."

Severus had shot out of his seat, bumped his bony knees into the table, and overturned his goblet of dark red wine. It spilt all over the ivory tablecloth and Granger. "Wha-" she had began confusedly, and dabbed her person with a napkin, whilst turning to look at Severus uncertainly.

Remus had rushed over with a pile of napkins, and Fred and George Weasley had laughed heartily at the sight of Granger covered with wine all down the front of her.

But Severus hadn't spoken a word, had simply apparated to his home. In front of Muggles! Another stupid blunder. He was never clumsy, and was dismayed that anyone else might have seen his awkwardness. But they were all of them tipsy to pissed, and Voldemort was now dust swirling about in the atmosphere, so he could have been excused for his exuberance. Possibly.

Dung Fletcher, his cheeks pink as he alternately swigged a pint of dark ale and puffed on his pipe made a prophetic pronouncement from the corner of the room, though it was too garbled for anyone to understand. "I'm damned if she ain't got 'im. Be damned if the little bird ain't got 'im."

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Severus also hates stories that have such an obvious middle part as this, but here is the middle part all the same.

It was another ridiculous idea of the Ministry's to raise money. It was now late spring, several months after the defeat of Voldemort. The Ministry had been all but destroyed in that final battle, and was having a hard time finding the funds to rebuild the grandeur that Scrimgeour was imagining. So, in a vastly asinine plan, the Ministry had decided to auction off abandoned bits of cloth and weaponry left from the battle to the highest bidder. Of course there was no telling which splintered piece of wood was a harmless shard from Malfoy's cane and which was a portion of Voldemort's wand. So here was Severus, and several other Order members with money coming in shifts, prepared to once again save the ministry from itself.

The auction was held in a crusty old house in Hampstead. Between the two of them, Severus and Elphias Doge had managed to snap up any sort of suspect pieces in the 10 AM to 2 PM slot. Severus was just making his way down the rickety steps into the living room when he heard a familiar voice trickling up the stairwell to him.

For some unfathomable reason, his legs began to drift down the stairs more quickly. He even held the ends of his robes up. The last few steps he practically soared down until –

"Ow! Oooh…" Hermione Granger propped herself up by the elbows and held a hand to her head.

Severus registered what the stout wallop to his chest had been. He'd knocked over Granger.

"Hermione, are you okay?" Remus knelt beside her.

She smiled ruefully. "I'm fine, I think." Granger looked at Severus. So did Remus. So did the dozen or so people milling about.

Severus realised he was still clutching his robes up and about him awkwardly. He dropped them, and tried to smooth them down.

"Well? What is so fascinating? The chit obviously has no sense of balance."

Eyes that had been lingering on him spun around at once to stare importantly at the dingy wallpaper. Chatter commenced as Remus helped Granger stand up. She was wearing a set of Amber coloured robes that he had never seen her wear before.

"Really, it was you who pushed me," she said good-naturedly, as she dusted off her elbows and walked toward him.

"Hardly." Severus looked down at her. Her hair was loose, and she had spent time creating a lovely swirl of curls that framed her face and was caught at the crown of her head.

"Auction's all call, beginning in five," cried a voice from upstairs.

"I think we should get a spot straightaway. If you're all right, I'll do just that." Remus peered into her eyes as if to ascertain the truth.

"Yes, I'm fine." She smiled. A bright, shiny smile that reminded Severus of a toothpaste advertisement.

"You're sure," said Remus, as he headed for the stairs.

Severus did not know why his legs hadn't already left. He had clearly told them to go on minutes ago.

"Mm-hm." Granger nodded briskly, the curls that were pulled back from her face bobbing forward onto her breast as Remus walked up the steps behind her.

"You nearly mowed me over a minute ago back there. Whatever were you running away from, Severus?"

"Do not address me so informally. What is wrong with you?" He felt his face growing strangely warm. Blasted house must have poor ventilation.

Her eyes widened at the sight of her former professor blushing. "Nothing, but I rather think that question applies to you at the moment, doesn't it?"

Luckily before he had to answer, his mutinous legs remembered their master, and he stalked quickly out the door of the old house.

He had successfully avoided anyone he knew for the summer, especially any of the Order, who were still flying high as conquerors and champions for the public. He spent the summer just as he wanted to, left alone in a crumbling manor house in the Cotswolds that had belonged to some distant Severus from long ago. His only company was the market boy who delivered food and supplies once a week, and a distempered, fluffed-up calico cat that Severus had had to kick out of the kitchen thrice.

Severus had time to post research to a few Wizarding Journals, to make headway on a book he was attempting to write, and to rudimentarily develop a few new potions. In all, it was a satisfying set of months in which he kept himself busy in an attempt at keeping his mind from lingering on...silly, ridiculous things like toothpaste advertisements.

It made it all the more difficult to return to Hogwarts to prepare for another school year, but he had promised McGonagall another year at the very least as Potions Master. Severus grumbled as he swished open the door to his rooms. Ah, the same craggy rock for ground. Same drafty window piece covered in aged green velvet. Severus nearly dropped the pile of boxes he was carrying when he heard a girlish, laughing voice floating down the staff corridor and into his room.

His shoulders tightened and he felt his fingers curl. Damn and deuce take it.

"See you've found your way back, old friend," said Remus Lupin as he clapped a hand on his shoulders. Remus slid a few boxes into his arms as he companionably helped Severus with his cargo.

Severus did not say a word as he set his boxes down. Remus was used to this, and continued talking anyway.

"There's a staff meeting in a few minutes in the Great Hall, we should be on our way."

McGonagall as headmistress was a much more brutal entity than Dumbledore had been, and to arrive late would be unspeakable.

The staff table was almost filled by the time he and Remus took a seat near the end of the table. Severus willed his eyes not to glaze over, as McGonagall started to read from the Hogwarts Staff Handbook. Dumbledore had usually skipped this horribly dull formality – another reason for him to only stay on another year. Severus let his mind wander as the words were intoned for the next 45 minutes.

"Ahem. Well then. Our next order of business – Ahem!" The headmistress all but croaked out this last exclamation.

"Here, Headmistress," said a soft voice to his right.

Hermione Granger held up a small glass of water to McGonagall, who eagerly sipped. Granger was wearing a brightly colored set of robes, this time it was a deep red trimmed with cream.

"Ah, thank you, my dear. And for those who do not know, Miss Granger will be interning with me for our first term as part of her University studies."

"And a very warm welcome to her," beamed Professor Sinistra.

"Here, here!" Hagrid clapped loudly.

"What are you studying that brings you here, Hermione?" Professor Sprout leaned forward and asked excitedly.

"Higher Education Dynamics and Protocols." Hermione smiled.

Flitwick giggled a little maniacally. "You want Minerva's job then?"

The table exploded with laughter as Granger and McGonagall looked at one another and smiled. Bloody disgusting. McGonagall already mooned over the girl, and now she'd be molding her in her own tartan reflection.

Granger just smiled again and said "Oh, perhaps someday. Certainly not anytime soon."

Severus snorted. All eyes in the room snapped to him. Most looked as if they were attempting not to laugh.

"What?" Severus snarled this as ferociously as he could muster.

McGonagall cleared her throat. "Moving on…"

After the meeting, Severus returned to his rooms. It had been her voice he had heard…she must be living in this corridor as well. Damn! As if seven years of her bossy know-it-all-ism in school and in the Order wasn't enough, he'd have to hear her voice chattering about him till Christmas now. And if she had her way, she'd one day be running the place. Severus seethed, and threw open his door with violent force. He would have words with McGonagall about this tonight.

However his door only opened halfway, and a loud crack sounded followed by a cry of pain.

Severus quickly shut his door to reveal Hermione Granger sitting on the cold cobblestone floor with her hands over her nose. Blood was pouring down from under her fingers and on to her robes.

"You gread big greasy gid! You broke my blurr nose!" Hermione screamed at him and kicked her legs in frustration.

"Hermione!" Remus Lupin rushed from father down the hall to kneel by her. "Are you all right?"

"NO!" Hermione began to try to stand. Severus made to offer her a hand up, but she shrank from him and the brown eyes above her hands looked at him accusingly.

"Don' tudge me! You find a way t'tear my head off!"

Remus helped her to her feet and looked at Severus as if he were insane. "Let me help you to Poppy's."

"No thang you! I will dake myself! Jus' keep him AWAY from me!"

Severus swore he could hear her muttering all the way down the hall.

"Really, Severus, this has gone a little too far, don't you think?" Remus spoke pleasantly as he quickly spelled the droplets of blood on the floor clean before they entered Severus's rooms.

"It was an accident."

"I know. I know you'd never hurt the girl on purpose. That wasn't what I meant," said Remus.

"Then in that case I have no idea what you are blathering about," said Severus.

Remus chuckled. "I think you do."

Severus rolled his eyes. "I don't have time to play games. Speak plainly, if you must."

"You like the girl."

"I certainly do not." Severus sounded offended.

Remus was still smiling. "You certainly do."

"I marginally respect her abilities. This is not to be confused with admiration of the person who possesses them," said Severus.

"I'm afraid I see quite clearly just who possesses whom here. I have never seen you be clumsy, Severus. Likewise I have never seen you blush, my God, I hadn't thought it possible. But I have seen you do so thrice in the past six months, all whilst in the company of Miss Granger," said Remus.

Severus was silent, so shocked at the outrageous idea that he didn't know what to say.

"I can't say I blame you. She's a lovely girl, clever and talented, and you've been much thrown together with her for the past year with the Order." Remus said this whilst helping himself to a glass of Severus's fine sherry.

"The suggestion that I could…care for Granger is ridiculous."

"I'm sure you think it is. I'm quite sure you believe that you feel nothing for her. That does not change the fact that you are acting like an infatuated schoolboy around her," said Remus pleasantly.

"I am not," said Severus defensively.

"Admit that you want her." Remus spoke this with glee, thoroughly enjoying it.

"Excuse me, you are disgusting. She's a child."

"She's not, she's well on 19. Besides, she's only a few years younger than Tonks."

"Tonks is a child too, then. And you have only further proved my point that you are a lecher."

Remus chuckled again and headed for the door. 'Very well then, I leave you to your thoughts. I only offer to you that what you will not admit, everyone else already knows."

What?

"And we've all known for months," called Remus over his shoulder as he traipsed down the hall.

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Severus's least favorite part of stories like this is the last part, where all the strings tie up into a nice little parcel, saccharine enough to pucker the most sugary of sweet tooth's.

He had never much cared what people thought of him, but Severus by no means enjoyed being laughed at. So the idea that other staff members might also believe the ridiculous insinuation that Remus had repeated was quite perplexing. He couldn't very well make a school wide announcement that he was not in love with Hermione Granger. Perhaps the best course of action was to speak to Granger herself. Perhaps she knew where the rumor was coming from?

So he watched out of his window late Saturday afternoon. She had mentioned once that she always went for walks in the afternoon whilst at Hogwarts. There. A figure clad in French Blue made its way to the east path along the lake.

Severus made his way down the stairwells and out of the door. When he got within a few hundred yards of her, he slowed, and watched the girl bend and pick up a smooth white stone from the edge of the path. She bent over it, tracing her slim finger on the surface of it, watching the sun glint off its surface before she dropped it back to the side.

Several bees had decided that Severus's head was a prime place for pollination. He waved them away impatiently.

Seeing him out of the corner of her eyes, Granger turned. "Professor," she said pleasantly.

He walked to her slowly. "Poppy seems adept as ever at fixing broken noses."

She dusted her hands off on one another. "If that is a compliment, I will pass it along to her the next time you decide to attack me."

Severus scowled and folded his arms as they walked slowly by the lake. "It was an accident. Still…I apologise."

He felt, rather than saw, Granger smile. "Forgiven."

"I am surprised you would come back to Hogwarts," said Severus, after a long pause.

"Why? Some of my happiest memories are here," said Hermione. She politely ignored his flailing arms as he brushed away several bees from his face.

"Still, a change of venue is what most graduated students are looking for. And especially considering the asinine rumours about you…"

"Excuse me?" Hermione sounded testy.

"I've recently been made aware that there are several people who believe that…I am infatuated with you. Dratted insects." Severus turned to the side and took a few steps, hoping that the bees would stay in the air behind him and not follow.

He could not see her reaction, but she spoke slowly. "I see. Well, that is obviously…ridiculous."

"This is what I said. Blast! Blasted bees!" Severus jerked his arms back and swung at the bees furiously.

This worked quite well at dispelling the bees. Unfortunately on one of his more determined swings, Severus smacked Hermione in the face with his elbow.

"Ow!" She cried loudly, and clutched her fingers to her eye.

"I'm sorry!" Severus's eyes were widened. He'd done it again.

"I can't believe you did it again! Are you mad?" Hermione screeched at him.

Severus pulled at her arm. "Let me see if I can fix it."

"Sod off!" Tears were leaking from under Hermione's hand. "I can take care of it myself! You'll just drown me in the lake or something if you try to help."

"Now that is ridiculous. Move your hand, Hermione, and let me see it," commanded Severus.

To his surprise, she complied.

There was a red mark just to the side of her eye. He held her head steady with his left hand and placed his wand gently to the injured area with his right. "Nocusablo."

The spot disappeared. "There."

His hand was still holding her head. One small tear trickled out of her eye, and he brushed it away with his thumb.

"Thank you," she said softly.

He paused. "You're welcome."

"You said my name," she whispered.

He moved his gaze from the previously injured spot to the eyes that were already steadily gazing at him.

His father had been of the old school when it came to corporal punishment. And Severus had certainly been knocked around as a teen at Hogwarts. Voldemort too had had a penchant for pain when someone got out of line.

But until he looked into those large eyes, those amber coloured eyes mere inches from his face, Severus had never known what a punch to the gut had felt like.

His hands dropped like her skin was made of fire. "I, ah, apologise. Better be getting back," he said, as he began to the castle.

"Wait!" He could hear footsteps running lightly. His mutinous legs obeyed her voice rather than his own command to keep moving.

"Wait…" This was all she said as she walked to face him.

She put her hands on his wrists. Slowly, slowly, she slid her hands up past his elbows and took a step closer to him.

His arms joined his legs in their refusal to listen to him. They rose up, winding themselves lightly around her waist.

She sighed and took a step closer, slipping her arms up around his shoulders. She tried to wrap them around his neck, and chuckled a little when she realised he was too tall for her to do it.

"Severus," she whispered. It wasn't what she said, but how she said it that made him pull her body up against his, made him slide a hand through her hair to gently hold the back of her head as he kissed her.

He didn't try to impress her with technique; he was so rattled that he didn't even think of it. He merely brushed his mouth against her own, murmuring against her lips some word that sounded like her name.

She pulled her head away from his a few inches. "I thought you didn't like me..."

Her lips were soft and full when they returned, and after she slipped her little pink tongue into his mouth he felt rocked to the very core of his soul. It was amazing, the chaos this young woman was lighting in his body.

"You said you didn't like me…"

He kissed her again, held her tighter than before. Madness, madness, madness. He thought he hadn't liked her either, but clearly…

Clearly Remus had been right.

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The only good part about the epilogue is that it means the story is, thankfully, at an end. Other than that, Severus thinks that they are merely a second helping of already over sentimental tripe.

The students of Hogwarts saw two miracles performed during the first semester at Hogwarts. The first was a winning Hufflepuff Quidditch Team. The second was Professor Snape.

Professor Snape was still unpleasant, intimidating, and moody. It was still all but impossible to eke praise or good marks from the man. But at dinner in the Great Hall, he was more apt to converse with the other professors. He gave up his extra duties of Hall Patrol, and the comments in the margins of First Year papers were no longer tear inducing.

No one ever saw them kiss or hold hands, but it was common knowledge that the Potions Professor was seeing Miss Granger, McGonagall's helper, the war hero, Harry Potter's friend. She moved into Snape's quarters a few weeks after school started, as rumour had it.

The glittering amber stone on her left hand that appeared a few months later baffled all of the students. The smallest Gryffindor, Alice Boswell, swore she saw Professor Snape holding Miss Granger in the hallway one night after curfew, both of them looking out one of the windows. Alice also said that Miss Granger had 'looked like she was the happiest girl in the whole world.'

No one believed Alice. After all, who could be happy with Professor Snape?