It Starts With A Dance

disclaimer: nope, don't own Harry Potter, don't make any money off of the series, and even if I did, would I tell you?

Chapter 1: Whence It All Began. . .

back in the Golden Trio's 4th year

"But Hermione, you can study later. We've got to get down to the bloody practice now, or McGonagall will have your head, favorite student or not," Ron wheedled his best friend and secret crush to get her away from the library and down to the ballroom where they were supposed to be practicing for the Yule Ball they would be attending along with the students of Durmstrang and Beaubatons wizarding academies.

"Harry, will you please explain to Ronald that I do have some experience on the dance floor and I need to study more than I need to dance. Besides, I could just stand on my date's feet if I really perform so badly," Hermione said coldly, trying to concentrate on her books.

"Hermione, he has a point. If you don't show up, McGonagall would go after us, too; you wouldn't want to subject us to that, would you?" Harry cajoled, but Hermione wouldn't budge.

"Not the best way to put it to me, mate. Being your best friend got me petrified in my second year, remember? Consider this dancing lesson to be part of your apology and reparation," Hermione said dismissively.

Harry and Ron shared a look before they left their bushy-haired best friend so they wouldn't be too late for the dancing lesson. Once they left, Hermione settled down to study and it wasn't until hours had passed that she finally slammed her books shut and looked around to see what time it was. Her stomach told her she'd missed supper, but she booked it to McGonagall's office to see how she could make up the missed lesson.

When she finally arrived in the Assistant Headmistress's office, Hermione was breathing hard and panting. She knocked and the door flew open.

"Miss Granger, I assume you have an excuse for not attending the dancing lesson I held earlier?" Minerva McGonagall's voice boomed at Hermione; Minerva's voice never boomed unless she was truly annoyed. "I think you take your position as favored student for granted. You made me look a fool, Miss Granger. What have you to say for yourself."

Hermione braced herself as she spoke. "I'm sorry, Ma'am; I was studying and lost track of time."

Minerva's hand cracked down on her desk. "Do not make the mistake of lying to me and assuming I will believe it, Hermione! Harry and Ron spent the better part of an hour trying to wrest you from the library and were late themselves. And before you blame them, I pressed the information from them. Mr. Weasley especially tried to save you from my wrath."

Hermione squirmed under her favorite professor's glare. "I assume you won't allow me to use my time-turner to go back and not miss the lesson?"

"No. Get your arse down to the ballroom and take your lesson with whichever House is down there now. I'll speak with you later," McGonagall said, pointing to the door. Hermione ran out and Minerva turned to a figure emerging from the shadows. "It is done, Albus. Are you happy now, even though your plan won't take hold for years?"

"Minerva, knowing that this has taken hold will comfort me as I take my final actions," Albus Dumbledore said, leaning down to hold his lover. "They will help you in the times to come."

Hermione ran from McGonagall's office down to the grand ballroom, where she heard many voices and feet. Music was blaring and Hermione grimaced before she plastered a smile on her face and strode into the room, thoroughly expecting Hufflepuffs or Ravenclaws. What met her gaze was neither.

"Professor Snape," Hermione said, her heart falling to her feet. One of the other heads of House she could have charmed, but not the heartless Severus Snape.

"Ah, yes, Granger. McGonagall told me to expect you. Find a partner," he growled at her, barely sparing her a glance as he counted paces for his students. Hermione had never seen him as she did then, hair tied back with a leather strap, outer robes removed in deference to the overheated room. His trousers and shirt were black as his typical robes, yet fitted to his form. Hermione swallowed the heat rising in her throat as she looked around to find someone to dance with.

As the room was full of Slytherins, and she was a Gryffindor, Hermione knew she'd have no luck. Add to that the fact that she was muggle-born, and she was completely out of luck. Dancing couples gave Hermione broad way, until Draco Malfoy danced up with the human slug, Pansy Parkinson.

"Granger, not even your own House would dance with you? How did you manage to get a date, anyway he must be deaf, dumb, and blind. Not to mention without feeling in his feet," Draco sneered at Hermione, who felt her throat tighten and her face heat in embarrassment.

Snape trotted over and grabbed Hermione's upper arms from behind.

"You needn't speak like that to someone who doesn't have to charm her dancing shoes, Draco. Continue this dance, then return to your room. Both of you," Snape said to Draco and Pansy, who were flabbergasted into silence.

"Th thank you, Professor," Hermione whispered, still in Snape's grasp. "I'll leave and speak with Professor McGonagall about this. I think I'd rather have detention than this."

"Nonsense. We can't have Viktor disappointed, can we?" Snape said, twirling Hermione around and taking her into his arms for a waltz.

"You know Viktor asked me to the dance?" Hermione said, letting Snape lead her around the floor.

"Of course, Granger. It is my duty to know these things. You're graceful, for a muggle," Snape said, counting the beat for her only.

Hermione glared at him and lost the beat as she opened her mouth to berate him when he silenced her with a look.

"Forgive me. For now, I am your dancing partner, and I must ask you to stand on my feet. Surely your father did this for you when he was first teaching you to dance?" Snape said, waiting a moment for Hermione to position herself.

As a result of the new position, Hermione was pressed more firmly against the potions master, more aware of his body in the clothing she'd noticed before. What she hadn't noticed was that the tightly fitted clothing was silk, black silk that Hermione stroked without thought. Snape froze for a moment, then relaxed as he held her in the dance. Hermione blushed and realized what she'd been doing. She stopped and instead placed her hands more firmly in a less area.

The song finished and Snape left Hermione by the side of the room while he escorted Draco and Pansy back to their House. Hermione removed her outer robes and rearranged her clothing, a stretchy crimson top and knee-length black skirt. She bent over to sort her robes and books out when her shoulder was tapped. Hermione whipped around, wand at the ready, to find Blaise Zabini standing before her. All of his dark-haired, black-haired glory, garbed in blue and black and staring down at her.

"May I have this dance?" he said, holding his hand out to her. Hermione put her hand in his and let him lead her out onto the dance floor. A faster tune came up and Blaise held Hermione closer than she preferred.

"Thank you, but I find I'm a wee bit warm. Perhaps you could relax your hold on me?" Hermione suggested, alarmed at his closeness and looking around for someone to help her.

Zabini pulled Hermione even closer, against her wishes, putting his lips against her ear. "I can see and feel why Potter and Weasley keep you around, Granger. Perhaps you can share with me as well?"

Disgusted, Hermione pushed against Zabini harder, trying to get away from him when a cool hand was placed around her waist while another pushed Zabini away as if he were no more than a gnat.

"Go to your room, Zabini. I'll deal with you tomorrow," Snape hissed. Zabini ran from the room while Hermione shook in her fright.

"I he wanted to dance I didn't and Ron and Harry" Hermione said, her teeth chattering. Snape looked at her and tugged her in close for a hug, something neither one was expecting. Hermione felt him react to her but she was oddly comforted by it.

"Hush, Hermione. Go back to your rooms and let me know if Zabini tries anything else. I'll speak to McGonagall," Snape said in a tired voice. He patted her back awkwardly.

"But the lesson"

"You are graceful enough that any boy or man should be lucky to have you grace him with your company. Now off to bed, before Zabini sneaks out to get you," Snape said in a husky voice. She was his student; he wasn't supposed to feel this way about a student. Protective, seduced neither was appropriate.

Hermione stiffened. "D'you think Zabini would try that?"

She grasped Snape even harder, which made his situation . . . harder. . . to say the least. "I'll walk you to your common room, and leave you in the capable care of Masters Potter and Weasley."

Hermione nodded and let Snape lead her away from the ballroom, her small hand in his larger one. They walked in silence, taking the long way around so as not to be chanced upon by anyone who would use it against them.

Upon arriving at the Fat Lady's portrait, Snape and Hermione stood silently for a long minute, thinking and reflecting. Hermione spoke first.

"Thank you, Professor," Hermione said, looking up at her potions professor in a new light.

"You're welcome. And thanks to you too, as well, Hermione, for letting me share a dance with you, and rescue you from Zabini. After one has been the enemy for so long, one forgets what it is like to be the hero," Snape said, impulsively pressing a kiss onto the back of Hermione's hand before he left he stunned.

"Chivalry isn't dead, then," Hermione said before she spoke the password and let herself into the common room.

That was five years ago. Hermione was once again standing outside the Gryffindor common room, but this time she was all alone, having said good-bye to her best friends just hours ago, outside on the Hogwart's grounds.

"Hermione, I can't let Harry go off on his own," Ron had said, stroking Hermione's wavy hair.

"But Ginny is going, too. They're married can't that be enough? Why must you leave as well?" Hermione had cried, raging inside at the irony. Harry had defeated Voldemort, married Ginny, but now he was leaving for a while and was taking not only Hermione's best girlfriend but her lover as well. She didn't even have her other favorite companion, Neville, who was dead as a casualty of war.

Ginny looked to Hermione from Harry and spoke softly. "Hermione, you can come, too. You said no."

"I can't understand why Harry needs to leave," Hermione said, pulling away from Ron.

"I need some time to heal, Hermione. We all do. We've lost so many; a change of scenery is what we all need. We don't need to spend our time here, especially with him," Harry said, tightening his grip on his wife.

"Minerva, Hagrid and Severus all need some help. When Minerva offered the positions to Tonks and me, we couldn't turn them down," Hermione said, ignoring Harry's jibe at their former potions master. "Besides, it is not his fault Albus died, Harry."

Without another word, Hermione held Ginny and apparated away. Ron sighed and hung his head.

"Hermione, to bring that up that isn't you. Harry is under a lot of stress, and Ginny is busy trying to help him. They need me for protection, especially when Ginny gives birth. It would be better if you were to come with us," Ron tried once more, but Hermione shook her head.

"Good-bye, Ron," Hermione said, her hands at her sides.

"Later, Hermione," Ron said, apparating away and leaving Hermione all alone.

"No, Ron; good-bye."