WARNING: Before you read this story, there is a sexual scenario that some readers found disturbing concerning Severus and Hermione. Some claimed it was rape, others feel it was in line with the agreement they'd made. Personally, I think it worked within the boundaries set between the two, Hermione being given a choice whether or not to accept the terms of their agreement beforehand, then bound to it. That Severus exercised his right is no surprise, though the act was borderline nonconsensual because of Hermione's reluctance. Just wanted to give you all a heads up and not have you walk into this story blind. That being said, I hope you'll still give it a read. There will be 4 parts to this story. Thanks.

Walking the Gray Line Part 1

The Kingdom of Myrhh Year 865 AD

Alchemist Damius Altacare shuffled into his chamber arthritically, followed by his young apprentice Meyop. The hooded, ancient wizard slowly and painfully walked to the center table where a cauldron bubbled, a foul stench filling the air. Meyop swallowed down the bile that rose in his throat as he watched his master stir the elixir three times clockwise then seven times counterclockwise, his rheumy eyes staring intently at the simmering liquid.

The chamber was circular, stone-walled and bare except for the table, cauldron, and thirteen people manacled to the walls, men, women and children, unfortunate peons who had fallen out of favor given to the alchemist from the king's dungeons.

Damius had been ordered to develop a special kind of warrior/guard for his king, one that would strike fear into his enemies and dispatch them quickly and horribly. He wanted them to inspire fear on sight, and be next to invincible. Something never seen before.

Damius had worked on this elixir for the past ten years, invoking dark magic and making untoward agreements with the dark powers of the earth, giving up his own soul for their blessing. Now it was all coming to a head.

The thirteen prisoners watched in silent horror as the old wizard ladled the potion into a bowl, tightening their lips in expectation of him trying to force them to drink it. Not one intended to swallow a drop of the cursed liquid down. Meyop swallowed as he watched his master bring the bowl to his lips.

"Now I receive ultimate power," the wizard cackled, bringing the bowl to his cracked lips and swallowing the contents down. He lowered the bowl and stood there expectantly for a moment. Nothing happened. He scowled.

"No. No! Not after all my work! The elixir must work!" he said, throwing the bowl to the floor in a temper, then upsetting the cauldron, spilling a decade's worth of work to the stone floor. Meyop rushed forward but was too late to save any of it.

Suddenly, Damius let out a choked sound, flinging back his hood, his almost bald and age-spotted head visible as his face contorted. He clutched his throat and staggered about. Meyop stared in horror as did the prisoners as the old man's flesh began to bubble and gray, scabs forming all over his flesh, his eyes dropped from sight, leaving empty sockets, his nose melting away and mouth elongating vertically as he screamed horribly.

He thinned and lengthened, then to the terror of everyone he rose from the ground, drifting several feet in the air, hissing. His robes dangled, covering his lower limbs entirely, and large, gray-scabbed hands with long black nails dangled from his sleeves. Slowly he spun and looked at Meyop, who had backed against the wall in fear.

Damius drew his hood and looked like a floating specter of death. His breathing was hoarse and ragged. Damius drifted toward one of the prisoners…a woman whose blue eyes were wide with terror. He hovered in front of her for a moment, then flashed forward, locking his mouth to hers and inhaling, drawing out her delicious essence and gaining strength as the woman's eyes glazed. He pulled back from her, and she fell forward, still breathing, but empty.

The other prisoners began screaming as Damius moved from victim to victim, drawing out their life essences…their very souls. He had no soul of his own because he had given it to the dark powers…this was the only way he could be nourished in this form. But with each person he drained, his midsection bulged large and larger, and when he drained the thirteenth victim, he drifted back and began to gag, bucking forward horribly in mid-air, Meyop staring fascinated.

Presently he coughed up a black slimy ball that floated before him. It increased in size, then slowly unfolded, expanding, black robes falling downward, long scabbed hands dangling from the sleeves, the creature drifting and hooded. It turned toward Damius and hissed, drawing in a ragged breath, then drifted past all the stricken prisoners, keening at the lack of life force. It needed feeding.

Damius drifted toward Meyop and with one freezing hand grasped the apprentice by the arm and dragged him forward, showing him to the new one, who hissed and launched itself past the apprentice, drawing out a bit of essence as Meyop screamed. The apprentice felt a sense of loss, sadness and hopelessness fall on him as if it would never lift again. He steeled himself and called out to his former Master.

"No! Master, no! I have been loyal to you all these years!" he cried to the transformed Damius.

"You are needed," the creature hissed as the new one made another pass, Meyop crying out in agony as more happy essence was pulled from him, dropping him deeper into despair.

"Have mercy!" Meyop pleaded with Damius.

"They shall beg for mercy and there will be no mercy," Damius hissed as the new creature whipped over, locked on to Meyop's mouth and pulled out his soul, leaving the apprentice in a crumpled staring heap on the stone floor.

The creature hissed, strengthened.

"Let us go. We have a world to populate and conquer," Damius hissed, drifting slowly out of the chamber, followed by the firstborn. "Our king will provide what is needed…for now."

Damius and his creature began to drain prisoners and enemies of the king and bred. They were branded Dementors because of the state they left their victims in. Demented and completely out of touch with the world. It took a long time before people realized the Dementors were stealing souls, and the king to realize he created an army he couldn't control.

The Wizarding World, England 1998

The Dementors survived for the most part by giving service to humans, serving as soldiers and guards for monarchies and governments. In 1998 they were wooed away from service as Azkaban guards to join the Dark Lord, who promised them a great bounty of souls if they would help in the final battle.

The battle went badly for them, almost their entire ranks destroyed by Patronuses and other magical spells developed against them, though they took their toll from the side of Good. Harry Potter himself was the last victim, caught unaware as he stood above the fallen body of Voldemort. However, the Dementor kissing him was destroyed before he completed withdrawing the young wizard's soul, but the majority of Harry's essence was taken with it, and the wizard was left without much mind. He wasn't quite a vegetable, but could no longer speak or care for himself. But he could smile or cry. And he cried often in the years that passed…especially when his friend Hermione Granger came to see him at his seaside home.

Ron had been killed by a Death Eater with the killing curse, and Minerva McGonagall was left a shell by the Dementor's kiss as well, and was sequestered in the psychiatric ward of St. Mungo's. Hermione felt their loss every day. She had so few people who were important in her life. The loss of both had been devastating.

Several Dementors managed to escape, taking refuge in the bowels of a ship heading for India. Once there, they took up refuge in the jungle, in an old ruined temple, terrifying the monkeys that inhabited it until the creatures finally fled the evil place. It was then the Dementors discovered there was a surplus of human beings in India, humans that were rarely missed or looked for.

The Untouchables.

They began to breed again.

Wizarding World, England 2006

Hermione sat on the porch facing the sea, looking out over the water and holding Harry's hand as he sat next to her, staring at her intently as he always did when she came to visit him, telling him about all that was happening in the wizarding world. The witch knew he didn't absorb it, but it gave her something to do and made her feel closer to the wizard.

Since Harry was rich, he had his own home and house elves to serve him. Dobby was his main caregiver as well as Head Elf, and took care of the wizard lovingly, feeding him, bathing him, dressing him and taking him down by the water every day, where Harry played in the sand. He wasn't allowed in the water. He would drown.

Hermione spent a lot of time combing old tomes to try and find out if there was a way to heal a broken soul, but the books she accessed were all books having to do with the light. Anyone who understood magic knew the most powerful spells were those involving Dark Magic. And Dark Magic came with a price.

She hated seeing Harry this way. He had suffered for eight long years, and so had she. Hermione was not one to give up…she had spent almost a decade looking for answers through the proper channels.

Maybe it was time to check the improper ones.

Books of Dark Magic were hard to find and even harder to get permission to use. They were restricted by the Ministry. In fact, there was only one wizard she knew whose independent library contained the rarest, darkest tomes.

And that wizard was Severus Snape.

Professor Snape was as cold and vicious as ever. He still taught Potions and still struck fear in the heart of his students. The death of Voldemort had done nothing to sweeten his disposition and he continued to lurk in the dungeons, alone and hated. It was the life he was used to. The life he preferred. Unless you were a student, a staff member or Albus himself, he had no words to waste. He certainly granted no access to his books. They were his private treasure trove and he guarded them with all the alacrity of a dragon. No amount of money could make him part with even one of his titles.

Hermione looked at Harry, and he gave her a sweet smile.

"I'm going to find a way to help you Harry," she said to the green-eyed wizard, smoothing her hand over his cheek, "Even if I have to dance with the devil himself."

Hermione stood before the huge double doors and knocked. She was dressed in blue dress robes and had brushed her hair to soft curls. She wanted to make a positive impression. The door slowly opened and at first she didn't see anyone.

"Can I helps you, Miss?" a squeaky voice asked.

Hermione looked down to see a house elf bobbing and looking up at her.

"Yes, I would like to see the Lord of the Manor," she replied.

The elf widened the opening and beckoned her in. He held up his hand so she wouldn't go any farther.

"I must asks the Master if he wishes company. Your name, Miss?" the elf asked, his ears wriggling back and forth.

"Hermione Granger," Hermione replied.

"Please waits here, Miss Granger," the elf said politely. Then it winked out.

Hermione idly looked around the Manor. The green and silver marble floors gleamed, and the wooden walls were smartly polished. Portraits lined the vast corridor, disappearing into the distance. They were almost all blonde-haired and snooty looking. The portraits that could see her looked at her distastefully. She could almost hear them whisper, "Mudblood."

The elf winked in.

"The Lord will see you. Please follows me," the elf said with a bow. He turned and began walking up the corridor, Hermione following him, feeling a bit self-conscious under the narrowed eyes of the paintings.

"Her like would have never been allowed on the premises, much less in the Manor itself in my day," one blonde woman with ice-blue eyes sniffed to the portrait next to her as Hermione passed.

"These are different times, Mildred. They all mingle now," the portrait next to her replied, his grey eyes following Hermione.

"Disgraceful," Mildred hissed.

The elf led Hermione to a large, ornate wooden door and pushed it open.

"You may goes in, Miss," he said, making a sweep with his scaly arm.

Hermione thanked the elf and entered a large library with a writing desk, several armchairs, a couch and a huge fireplace which contained a huge fire. But the room wasn't hot. It must have been an illusion. She looked around and didn't see anyone.

"Hello?" she ventured.

"Hello Hermione," a smooth voice replied. A wizard rose from one of the armchairs facing the fire. He wore a smoking jacket, loose-fitting black silk trousers and held a brandy glass in his hand. "Imagine you paying me a visit after all this time."

"Hello Draco," Hermione said, giving the handsome blonde wizard a small smile.

"Come and sit down," Draco said, gesturing at the armchair next to his. Hermione walked over, Draco's eyes washing over her attire as she did so. Hermione took a seat, as did Draco. He looked at her curiously.

"How have you been?" he asked the witch.

"Fine. Still working in the private sector," Hermione replied.

Draco shook his head.

"Such a shame. I wish you would have taken me up on my offer to be your patron. Your talents are wasted working the way you do. It will be years before you can afford your own labs to do your own research," the wizard purred. "I would have built you your own labs as a perk."

Hermione gave Draco another small smile.

"I might have been interested Draco, but after a little investigation and conversations with the other witches you so generously help, I decided I would rather work my own way to the top…rather than let you get on top, if you get my meaning," she said, arching an eyebrow at the wizard.

As a patron, it seemed Draco got his own perks from the witches he helped.

He grinned at Hermione lasciviously.

"Well, being a patron does have its benefits," he purred, "The witches are just showing me how grateful they are."

"Yes, I can only imagine," Hermione replied, scowling. "Reciprocal shags every now and then."

Draco shrugged.

"It's a fair exchange. Plus the lion's share of residuals. It works for me," he smirked. "Now, would you like a drink? A cold pumpkin juice perhaps?"

"No…no thank you Draco. I came here to see if I could get your help," she replied

Draco looked delighted.

"Help? From me? Now this could be interesting," he said arching an eyebrow at Hermione speculatively.

"Yes, it's about Harry," Hermione said.

Draco sobered. In his last year of Hogwarts, Draco turned from the beliefs of his father having decided for himself that Voldemort should never be in power. He had received the mark and gone through the horrible, emasculating ritual at the age of seventeen, having to suffer through penetration by the Dark Lord. It was considered an act of submission, considered proof that a Death Eater was a true servant. In the early days of Voldemort's reign, this act of sexual dominance wasn't required. Severus and Lucius had both escaped this fate. It was only after Tom Riddle became Lord Voldemort that this ritual was instituted as a prerequisite to receiving the mark. Draco went through it because it was expected of him and he would have been deemed unfit and killed if he had protested. Given the choice of death or being buggered by the Dark Lord, Draco chose the buggering. Then he could live to seek his revenge.

Since he was the son of a most trusted servant, Draco was privy to witness the horrors the despot inflicted on others, including his own deatheaters. Like Severus Snape, he went to Dumbledore, and like Severus…he became a spy. He and Harry had come to terms, and while they weren't best friends, they developed a respect for each other. It was Draco who had blasted the Dementor that attacked the boy-who-lived to bits, but he was too late to stop the entire process. He'd always felt rather guilty about that, though others felt he had done all he could.

"What about Harry? Is he all right?" Draco asked the witch, worry creasing his forehead.

"He is the same," Hermione said, "Child-like. He can't really do much for himself. Yet he laughs and cries so he does have rudimentary reactions. I've been trying to find a way to restore him for years, Draco…"

Draco nodded.

"I know," he said quietly, studying the witch. She certainly was loyal to Harry.

"And I've exhausted every book searching for an answer…every book allowed by the Ministry, at least. I've come up empty. There were a few spells that looked promising but after doing calculations I found they weren't powerful enough or didn't work directly on the soul. I need something more," she said, looking at the wizard intensely. "I need to access your godfather's library."

Draco's eyes widened in disbelief.

"You want to access WHAT?" he asked her, blanching a little.

"I need to study Professor Snape's books of Dark Magic," Hermione said, "One of them might hold the answer to restoring Harry's shattered soul."

Draco stood up, swallowed down the rest of his brandy in one gulp, put the glass on the small table between the armchairs and began pacing. After a moment, he stopped and looked at Hermione.

"Have you gone mad? He'd never allow that. He doesn't let anyone near his books. Even asking about them is a good way to get hexed," he said to her.

Severus might have been Draco's godfather, but he didn't give the wizard any special treatment. He was treated just as coldly and rudely as the next person. Draco was glad he had never had to go to the dark wizard for guardianship. He couldn't imagine how horrible his life would have been, lurking in the dungeons until he reached adulthood. Draco hadn't paid the snarky Potions Master a visit in over two years, and hadn't missed him at all.

"Draco…Draco, I'm desperate…I just need you to get him to agree to see me…that's all. You wouldn't have to ask about the books or anything," Hermione pleaded with the wizard. "It's for Harry, Draco. For Harry."

Dear gods. She was asking him to walk into the bowels of hell itself and face the devil in black.

"Hermione…" he began, shaking his head.

Hermione reached out and caught his hand.

"For Harry, Draco. If you won't do it for me, do it for him," she said, her amber eyes glistening with tears. "You're my only way in."

The tears began to roll down Hermione's cheeks though she tried her best to contain them

Draco sighed. She'd done it. Turned on the waterworks. Draco wasn't completely heartless. He hated seeing witches cry and folded like many wizards before him.

"All right. I'll do it, Hermione…but you have to give me a couple of weeks to figure this out. My godfather would throw me out just as quickly as anyone else if he felt I was wasting his time. I have to figure out a way to make him amicable to meeting with you," the blonde wizard said, looking thoughtful.

Hermione smiled through her tears and wiped at her eyes with her robes sleeve.

"Oh, thank you Draco, thank you so much," the witch said, then she launched herself at the startled wizard and embraced him. Draco was tall and Hermione's head rested on his chest as she squeezed him tightly.

"So, taking a walk on the dark side is the way to get a bit of bodily contact from you?" he purred, wrapping his arms around the witch and pulling her closer, grinning.

Hermione immediately began to struggle and Draco let her go, smiling broadly now.

"You're very curvy," he said to the witch, arching an eyebrow as he exaggeratedly let his eyes sweep over her.

He was teasing the witch of course. Not that he'd be adverse to a little tryst with Hermione, but he knew she just didn't feel attracted to him in that way. Anyway, he valued her friendship and how she accepted him after all those years of torment. She had a generous heart. He didn't want to risk losing her as a friend.

"And you're very lecherous," Hermione spat back at him, straightening her robes a bit angrily.

"I think it's in my blood," Draco responded.

His father had been a very lecherous man, and brutal as well. After Lucius' death at the Final Battle, the first thing Draco had done was have his "playroom" dismantled and all his instruments of torture destroyed. His mother Narcissa was very disappointed in Draco for turning on the beliefs of his family and moved to a chateau in France when he took over the Manor, telling her son she couldn't stand the sight of him.

Draco put money in his mother's account every month and took care of the brunt of her bills in the hopes that one day she would see the error of her ways and they could reconcile.

Hermione bit back a comment about how easily blood could be spilled. He was going to help her after all. She looked at the wizard and saw the mirth in his eyes, realizing he was only teasing her. She smiled at him.

"Well, I've got to be going. I only have an hour for lunch," the witch said.

Draco walked her to the study door, then down the corridor to the Manor's entrance, where he opened the front door and Hermione stepped outside.

"I'll send you an owl when I've managed to get the old bastard to grant you an audience," he said to Hermione, "But it might take a while."

Hermione looked up at Draco.

"That's fine, Draco. I know if anyone can do it, you can," she said, standing on tiptoe and kissing his cheek. "Bye for now."

"Goodbye, Hermione. Hopefully this won't be a permanent goodbye and I'll return in one piece from this quest you're sending me on," he replied.

"You'll be fine," she said over her shoulder as she walked down the staircase. At the bottom she disapparated.

Draco closed the door and walked up the corridor.

"I must be mad," he said, shaking his head, "Stark raving mad."

The wizard walked back to the study, poured himself another brandy and sat down in the armchair, staring into the fire.

Now how in the world was he going to approach Severus after two years of no contact? He doubted highly he was missed by the wizard, but more than likely Severus would use his absence as a reason not to grant him any favors. Besides, neither Hermione nor Harry were ever his favorite people. He had been tortured by Voldemort on many occasions because of their antics. And if there was one other thing Severus Snape was good at besides brewing, it was holding a grudge.

Draco sighed.

This was going to be a hard dragon's egg to crack. But Draco was a Slytherin, and Slytherins were cunning, resourceful and rather underhanded when necessary.

He'd figure something out.

He had to.

Both Hermione and Harry were counting on him.

It didn't take Draco long to sketch out a plan to get his snarky godfather to grant Hermione an audience. Yet, implementing the plan took a bit more time. He visited several Potions Masters for consultations, and several apocathery shops as well.

Apocathery Andreas Mbutu listened carefully to what the blonde wizard wanted, then directed him to an individual who was guaranteed to be what the Potions Master ordered, but the scarred, roughened wizard didn't come cheap. His name was Hunter…just Hunter. Draco met him at the Hog's Head inn, the wizard's lower face wrapped in a bandana. He had the hardest blue eyes Draco had ever seen.

"Give me two months and I'll deliver what you need," the wizard growled.

Draco paid him a small fortune in advance. Hunter would receive the other half when he delivered. A month and a half later Draco was contacted by owl and told to come to the Hog's head inn at nine o'clock on Wednesday with the final payment. Business there was slow mid-week.

Draco arrived there, his wand clamped tightly in his pocket. He was ready to blast anyone who came too close. It could have been a setup. But it wasn't. He found Hunter seated at the back of the inn. The wizard looked very sick.

"You don't look too good, Hunter," Draco observed as he sat down at the table.

"Getting this blasted ingredient took a bit of doing. I got nicked by a tooth. I had a bit of phoenix tear with me…if I hadn't…well…that would have been it," Hunter replied tiredly. "But I'm getting old…don't heal up as fast as I used to."

Hunter slid a burlap bag over to Draco.

"Don't take it out," he said as Draco looked into the bag and paled, swallowing down the bile that threatened to explode from him.

"Pretty, isn't it? Got a stasis spell on it," the wizard said, smirking beneath his bandana at the wizard's face.

Draco took the sack of galleons out of his robes pocket and passed it under the table to Hunter, who hefted it in his hands for a moment.

"Feels about right," he said, putting the galleons in his pocket. "Good doing business with you my Lord, but next time you need something like that…find some other bloke."

Hunter rose and left the Hog's Head inn, leaving Draco with the contents of the burlap sack. He looked in it again and shook his head.

"Damn Hermione, what I don't do for you and Harry," he breathed. He exited the inn and disapparated for the Manor.

He'd go visit his godfather tomorrow evening. Maybe he'd be in a good mood after supper.

Draco walked down the dungeon corridor a bit apprehensively, patting his pocket for reassurance as he did so. Several seventh year Slytherin witches on their way up the dungeon hallway looked at him appreciatively, and the blonde wizard smirked at them, nodding as he passed. They all began to giggle and whisper.

"The trim of tomorrow," Draco thought as he approached the door to the Potions Office. He stood there a moment, then knocked.

"I'm all in for it now," he thought as he waited for a response.

When there wasn't any, he knocked again.

"I have no appointments. Go away or face a week's detention," an angry yet smooth voice called out. "How many times do I have to tell you dunderheads to follow protocol? Now get away from my door!"

Draco shook his head. His godfather was as welcoming as ever.

"Godfather, it's me. Draco," he called through the door.

There was silence for a moment.

Then, "And that means what? You haven't made an appointment either," Severus called back, scowling blackly as he sat at his desk with a pile of parchments in front of him. He had been grading his fifth year Potions class' work, and so far the marks were as deplorable as usual.

"Oh come now, Godfather…you haven't seen me in over two years," Draco cajoled him from the other side of the door. He tried the knob but it was locked. "Let me in."

"And that is my fortune," Severus snapped, "Now go away and come back when you've made an appointment. I have an opening for non-student visitors next month. Send an owl and I will give you the details."

Draco frowned at the door.

"Very well then…I'll take my gift and go," Draco said evenly.

"Bribery doesn't work on me Draco," Severus said, but he rose from his desk and approached the door. If Draco had a gift for him, it wouldn't be a cheap one, particularly if he were trying to make up for not visiting in two years. Severus cracked the door.

"Not that your gift is probably of any value," he said, peering out at his godson.

Draco could only see darkness through the crack.

"Well, not to your everyday wizard, but a Potions Master would find it quite valuable," Draco replied. "But you can wait until next month. I just hope it is as fresh by then."

The blonde wizard turned and made as if to go.

Fresh? It must be some kind of potion ingredient. Freshness mattered. Draco had said the magic word.

Severus opened the door wider.

"Come in then," he said bad-temperedly, "And close and lock the door behind you. I don't need any other unwanted visitors disturbing me."

The wizard walked back to his desk and sat down frowning as Draco entered his office, closed the door and locked it. The blonde wizard looked at the rickety, uncomfortable seat the Potions Master kept for his visitors.

"You've had this chair for ages. Don't you think its time to spring for a new one?" he asked the Potions Master, whose eyes narrowed.

"You can stand for all I care," he snapped, "Now what about this gift you say you have for me?"

Draco looked at his godfather. Severus had a single torch burning in his office, and the atmosphere was dark and unwelcoming. He was still very pale, and his hair as greasy-looking as ever. He didn't seem to have aged much, though his black eyes held more malice than Draco remembered. They only held disdain for all living before. His nose looked bigger too…but that could just be because Draco hadn't seen him for a while. The wizard sat down in the chair, his buttocks protesting as the uneven wood dug in unevenly.

"As far as the gift goes, Godfather…there is a condition upon you receiving it," Draco said, meeting the Professor's eyes, which went dark with anger.

"Condition? Draco…do you wear trousers under your robes?" the Potions Master asked him, his face contorted.

"Of course I do," Draco replied, wondering why in the world his godfather would ask such a question.

"It's a wonder they fit with the pair of balls you have," the wizard said, his lips forming a thin line as he looked at Draco.

He was a good-looking wizard…silver wand in his mouth and all that. Almost his polar opposite…blonde-haired, gray-eyed, tanned, good teeth, all around attractive. Well, he supposed there had to be people in the world like Draco if only to annoy him.

Draco smirked at Severus' comment. He was a Slytherin. Having big balls was an asset.

"How do I know this gift of yours is worth any kind of concession? You have some nerve appearing here after more than two years absence attempting to blackmail a favor out of me. I could have died and you wouldn't even have known," Severus said, attempting to lay a bit of guilt on the wizard.

"If you had died, I certainly would have known because of all the celebrating that would follow your demise, Godfather. You really are an onerous bastard," Draco replied with a slight grin. He really did like Severus despite his disposition.

"I work hard at it," Severus said. "Now what is the condition…and I want to see the gift before I give you an answer."

Draco leaned forward, and the chair creaked dangerously.

"I want you to give Hermione Granger an audience," he said.

"WHAT?" Severus roared, "No way am I going to let that idiot witch in my presence! She's a wastrel!"

"What do you mean, 'idiot witch' and 'wastrel?'" Draco asked, defending Hermione, "She's the brightest witch of the age!"

Severus snorted.

"She is an idiot, Draco. She had all that potential and instead of getting herself a patron and setting herself up to do private research, she goes to the…the 'Private Sector' where her talents are wasted on creating fad spells and potions for a fickle public. She has a double degree in both Spells Making and Potions, and she just…just threw them away. All that hard work and brilliance wasted. I certainly will not see anyone as dunderheaded as that witch," Severus said, his eyes glittering. "She has nothing to say that I want to hear."

Draco was surprised to see the anger and disappointment in the wizard's eyes.

"Well, she wasn't willing to fulfill the duties of a witch under patronage," Draco said evenly.

"What's giving up a little pussy for the sake of advancement?" Severus spat. "It's not like it's going to go anywhere. The little fool could have come to me for patronage."

Draco's eyes widened.

"You, Godfather?" he asked, stunned.

Severus scowled.

"Yes me. Then she wouldn't have had to worry about being constantly shagged. I'd only need her once in a while to meet my needs. I would have been more interested in her research and development than her spread thighs in any case," the wizard snarked.

It seemed that reciprocal sex with sponsored witches was an accepted practice in the wizarding world. Possibly it extended to wizards sponsored by witches as well, or any willing combination.

"But Godfather…Hermione Granger is a Gryffindor witch. If she had been in Slytherin most likely she would have been more open to the idea," Draco said, trying to make Severus understand. "Besides, the way you treated her, she would have never dreamed you would be willing to be her patron."

Severus ignored the last part of Draco's comment. It was true after all…but so what?

"She's supposed to be logical, Draco. It would be logical to get a patron if she was interested in advancing her fields. Sex is meaningless…just a simple physical activity the results of which that can be scourgified away. What she could have accomplished would have been lasting and worthwhile. But no, she reports to the blood-sucking private sector. The thought of what she's done just disgusts me. I will not give her an audience. I might end up hexing her for her stupidity," the Potions Master said.

"It is very important to her that she sees you," Draco said.

"Like I give a damn about that. I cannot suffer fools, Draco. You know that. I spent years grooming her talents and suffering through her chatter, endless sucking up and bout after bout of over-achieving. I spent hours going over her extra credit essays, some five feet long. Then she does NOTHING. I will not see her and that is final!" Severus snarled, slamming his fist on the desk for emphasis. "No gift will change my mind either."

"I thought you said you'd make your decision after you've seen the gift?" Draco said smoothly, drawing the burlap sack out of his robes pocket and scooting the rickety chair forward so he was right against the Potions Master's desk.

"Considering what you asked of me, I felt compelled to give my answer in advance," Severus replied, looking at the burlap sack. It was pulsing. "Now what is it? Not that I'll want it. The price is too high. Hermione Granger. You must be mad."

In answer, Draco turned the sack so the opening faced Severus.

"Go ahead and look," he said, smirking a bit.

Severus lifted up the sack and looked in. His eyebrows rose for a moment, then a look of abject lust settled on his face. He looked up at Draco.

"Where did you get this?" he hissed, "They are so rare as to be next to impossible to find…especially in this condition."

"I commissioned someone to harvest one for me. It has a stasis spell around it," Draco said. He could see his godfather was clearly impressed.

Carefully, Severus reached his hand into the sack and pulled out a plastic bag. Inside it was what looked like a slimy black hunk of meat, and it was pumping.

"A basilisk heart," the wizard breathed, "A viable basilisk heart. The best that can be provided when found is a dried heart. This actually has the blood as well. Living blood. This ingredient can be used to make some of the most powerful elixirs known to Potions."

Draco sat back.

"Yes, so I was told. But put it back in the sack, Godfather. I guess I will go sell it to the highest bidder. It cost me a small fortune to get it for you. At least I will be able to recoup what I spent," Draco said.

Severus looked at him, going a bit paler.

"Put it back?" he said in a hollow voice, staring at the pulsing heart covetously.

"Yes. You refuse to see Hermione so…" Draco began.

"Fine. I'll see the foolish little twit then. An hour's aggravation is worth this," the wizard conceded. Then he looked at Draco with a glint in his eyes. "I won't promise you it will be a pleasant meeting. Most likely she will charge out of here in tears when I'm done with her."

"That's not my concern," Draco said, "She only asked me to make the appointment with you. What happens is between you and her."

Severus grunted and put the heart back in the sack carefully. He looked up at Draco with a scowl.

"All right. You've accomplished what you came here to do, blackmail me into meeting someone I do not want to see. Now get out," Severus said evenly.

"Don't I even get a thank you for the heart?" Draco asked, rising. He was picking at the Potions Master. Severus would never thank him, particularly since he was forced to see Hermione in order to procure the precious ingredient.

Severus scowled at him.

"A thank you? You're lucky I don't hex those big balls of yours right off of you," the wizard seethed. "Tell the witch to send me an owl and I will give her an appointment. Now get out of my sight Draco. Another two years without seeing you will suit me just fine, you blackguard."

"And a hearty good-bye to you too, Godfather," Draco said, bowing smartly to the wizard and turning, a bit apprehensively then letting himself out of the office. He wasn't sure his godfather would keep his temper and not hex him. But he exited unscathed. Once outside the office, Draco let out a long breath. What an audience that had been.

One thing was for sure though…he didn't envy Hermione a bit.

Harry sat on the porch staring out at the water, the incoming breeze rifling his dark hair as he sat belted in the wooden rocking chair. Dobby did this so Harry wouldn't wander down to the beach while he and the other elves took care of house business inside, not that Harry ever tried to leave his seat on his own. He had to be led.

The wizard's green eyes took in his surroundings almost blankly as he sat expressionless, with no reason to either laugh or cry. He just was. Everything in the world went on around him…he was like the calm at the center of existence's storm.

Suddenly the wizard stretched out, his arms and legs spasming then locking, and his consciousness was drawn away from him, flying across the water at an impossible speed, passing over continents and islands until he came to a place full of people with cupped hands, begging, thousands of people, homeless, poverty-stricken, then he was in cool jungles, flying through the bush, to a vine-covered stone ruin, then in blackness, hissing all around him, flying into dark hoods and seeing images of people screaming and banging on invisible walls, trapped in some dark place, crying for release, floating in blackness, and Harry jumping from dark robed figure to figure seeing more screaming people trapped within them. There was one thin-lipped woman who looked familiar. Her eyes widened when she saw him.

"Harry!" she cried through her invisible prison with a familiar Scottish accent banging on the air and watching him pass. "Harry get Albus! Get Albus!"

But Harry didn't know who she was as he flew past, bouncing from creature to creature, then stopping, and being dragged along with them in the middle of the night, through the jungle, to a small village built of odds and ends, and there were people sleeping outside, brown-skinned and covered in thin blankets…a woman, a man and a child. He was aware of such hunger and the people, he could see what made them human…a glow, a tasty glow…then the child sat up and wrapped her arms around herself, shivering and complaining. Harry could see her breath. Then her parents roused and sat up as well, looking about then staring up at Harry and screaming, their mouths becoming large holes he fell into…and he too was screaming as he felt them or what was the life of them rush by him, the little girl screaming and banging on an invisible wall and becoming smaller, and smaller, immersed in blackness. Then the world lightened and lightened until Harry was back on the porch looking over the water. He still hadn't moved.

But he was crying.

Hermione returned home to her flat after work to find a beautiful snowy owl wearing a collar with the Malfoy crest patiently waiting for her…its beautiful wide eyes whirling as she approached and stepping from side to side.

"Hello Winston," she said to the owl who flew to her shoulder and preened her hair as Hermione let herself in. She had a small, two bedroom flat. She could afford something larger but she was quite thrifty and saving as many galleons as possible toward the day she could afford to set herself up for private research. She had been saving for years, but was still a long way off from her goal.

Winston flew from Hermione's shoulder to the table in the middle of her living room which was stacked with books and parchments. He perched on the top of a pile and watched as Hermione shrugged off her robes and kicked off her shoes. Then she walked into the kitchen and retrieved a piece of sliced ham, which she gave to the bird.

Winston wolfed it down gratefully then stuck out his leg. Hermione removed Draco's letter, her belly tight with apprehension. Had he been successful? Had he failed? She opened the parchment, her amber eyes shifting from left to right as she read his message.

Dear Hermione,

You're in. Send an owl to Professor Snape asking for an appointment and he will give you one. I must warn you however, my godfather is very displeased with your life choices and used the terms "idiot witch" and "wastrel" to describe you. It appears he does not approve of you working in the private sector and believed you should have taken on a patron so you would have been free to pursue private research and advance the fields of Spells Making and Potions. He considers you a failure and is not happy about meeting with you. I would have been remiss if I let you walk into the Serpent's den without knowing the bite that was waiting for you. Surprisingly enough, my godfather went as far to say that he would have become your patron if you had asked him. Maybe you can use this information to acquire what you need of him…but then again…you are a Gryffindor and sadly lacking in cunning, so I won't hold out much hope.

Here Hermione scowled. Draco thought all Gryffindors were goody two shoes. That really wasn't the case. She'd done some pretty Slytherinish acts in her time when necessary without the slightest bit of guilt about it. The wizard didn't know just how desperate or determined she was to gain access to those books. She finished reading the missive.

If you manage the impossible and get access to his books, be sure to find out the safety measures required to actually use them. Some are quite dangerous, and I don't trust my godfather to give you the proper warnings on his own. You will have to ask him. He would most likely love to see you get bitten, sucked into or swallowed down by a tome. You can't be sure he will bother to rescue you if this happens. He is a snarky bastard and would probably consider it your just desserts for choosing to work as you do.

Good luck, Hermione. You are certainly going to need it.


Lord Draco Malfoy

Hermione read over the letter several times. Were the books really that dangerous? She was glad Draco had told her this. Most likely she would have just read the spine, grabbed a book and opened it. In fact, the way he described the books reminded her of Hagrid's "Monster Book of Monsters" he had assigned when he first became a teacher years ago. It was a very vicious tome that had to have its spine tenderly stroked if you wanted to read it while retaining all your fingers.

Despite the warning Draco gave her about the Professor's feelings about her, Hermione felt enthusiastic just because she managed to get an audience with the wizard. Even the Minister of Magic had been snubbed by the Potions Master on several occasions, including his own awards ceremony. Hermione looked at Winston.

"Winston, would you mind delivering a message to Hogwarts for me? I don't have my own owl and would have to go down to the owl post tomorrow morning when I would really like to send this tonight," she said to the owl, which bobbed his head.

"Oh thank you, Winston. I will get you a bit more ham in a bit," Hermione smiled at the bird as she pulled out a clean bit of parchment and a muggle pen and cleared a little space on the cluttered table. She sat down and looked thoughtful. Short and sweet was the way to go.

Dear Professor Snape,

Draco has informed me you have graciously granted me an audience. I am most appreciative. Please send me a date and time which is convenient for you as soon as possible. What I wish to discuss with you is of the utmost importance. Thank you for your time.

Hermione Granger, SM, PM

Hermione read the letter over and thought it was polite and still gave an air of importance. She folded it over and magically sealed it with her wand and tied it to Winston's leg. She then walked back in the kitchen and retrieved another bit of ham out of the cooler and fed it to the owl. Winston smacked his beak in appreciation. He wouldn't have to hunt tonight.

"This is going to Professor Snape," Hermione said to Winston, who suddenly blanched.

The owl looked as if it wished it had known who the letter was to be delivered to before he agreed. Unfortunately, these were bird expressions, and as a human, Hermione had no idea the bird was reacting badly to the news. She opened the front door.

"Off you go, Winston…and thank you," Hermione said.

Winston sighed and shrugged his feathered shoulders. He had agreed to deliver the letter. Most likely the dark wizard would be at supper if he hurried. It was safer to deliver parchments to Potions Master when there were witnesses present. For some reason Winston didn't believe Severus would be averse to trying roast owl.

He gave Hermione a parting hoot and took off out the front door, flying strongly for Hogwarts, hoping to catch the wizard in the Great Hall.

Severus was in the Great Hall when Winston arrived at Hogwarts. The owl circled overhead and untied the parchment with his beak, letting it fall neatly into the Potions Master's mashed potatoes. The owl beat a hasty retreat as the wizard scowled after him, his pale hand reaching for his wand reflexively. But Severus wouldn't have hexed the bird in front of staff. Particularly Hagrid, who was ridiculously sensitive about such things. Most likely Severus would have to hex him too. But the Potions Master couldn't care less about the student body witnessing such an act. It would make him more terrifying to them. Ah well, the bloody bird was gone so the whole issue was moot.

Severus scraped off the mashed potatoes and opened the letter. Hell, it was from Miss Granger. The witch hadn't wasted any time. He read it over.

Hmph. Graciously agreed to grant her an audience? Hell, she had no idea how much he wanted to say no. Appreciative? He bet she was, getting a license to waste his time. Send her a time which was convenient? Convenient? This entire situation was as inconvenient as possible. As far as "utmost importance" went, that was on her. Nothing she could say would be of the slightest interest to him. If not for the basilisk heart, Severus wouldn't ever allow Hermione in his presence. The little twit even had the nerve to sign her name using her degree initials. Hell, she wasn't either a Spells Mistress or a Potions Mistress as far as Severus was concerned. She was a low level factory worker on a magical assembly line churning out garbage.

The wizard sighed with aggravation. When he went back to his rooms, he'd send her the blasted appointment. He'd make it as soon as possible too, so he didn't have to agonize over the approaching meeting for too long.

He finished his meal in an even worse temper than normal, then rose from the table in a billow of robes and stalked out of the Great Hall. The volume of chatter increased dramatically when he left, as if a dampener had been lifted.

And it had.

Severus returned to his office, sat down behind his desk and took out his schedule. He had a meeting every weekday evening for the next two weeks. Damned parent conferences. He wasn't allowed to dispatch them quickly with statements such as "Your son is a blooming idiot," or "Your daughter should look into the "male entertainment" sector. Dumbledore frowned on that greatly. Instead he had to go into detail, careful not to hurt the parents' feelings…not that the little buggers ever improved. As far as Severus was concerned, these parent/teacher conferences were a waste of time. The students were more likely to improve with a bit of caning. But of course, that couldn't be allowed.

Severus' black eyes moved over his schedule and kept drifting to the open weekend hours he had. But that was his time, spent brewing his own elixirs and getting shitfaced on firewhiskey while listening or playing along to the classics. Severus was quite an accomplished violinist, though he never played for any other reason than his own pleasure, and certainly never played for another human being. Not even Voldemort had been aware of his talents.

Severus sighed and penned Hermione in for seven o'clock Saturday evening, just after supper and before his night of music and libation. Hopefully he'd drive her away within twenty minutes or so. Then he took out a piece of parchment and wrote the appointment down with no greeting, or attempt at being pleasant. It simply read:

Be in my presence this coming Saturday evening at seven o'clock sharp. If you are late, the appointment will be closed and not rescheduled.

There, that said it all. He'd send the appointment by Raucous, his familiar early tomorrow morning.


He couldn't wait for Saturday to come and go.

The next morning the Professor went through his morning ablutions, dressed and summoned his familiar Raucous, who came soaring through the floo to land on his Master's shoulder and preen his greasy hair. Severus gruffly brushed the raven away, and the bird flew to his writing desk expectantly, a gleam in his black eyes.

Raucous and Severus were the perfect match, the raven having been shuffled from household to household because of his horrible behavior and habit of shitting on whoever he felt needed a bit of decoration. As a familiar, he was highly intelligent and could think, plan and plot with the best of them.

The way the Potions Master acquired Raucous was that he happened to be passing by the Magical Menagerie while out in search of ingredients when he heard yelling and crashing from within the shop. Normally he wouldn't pay attention to such things but the proprietor was screaming, "You winged demon! This time you're dead. They won't be returning you here again!"

Another crash followed, then a scream of pain from the wizard.

Winged demon? Severus could relate to such a creature so he stood in the doorway and watched as a black raven dodged a wand blast, soared in, shit on and pecked the proprietor then swooped away, hiding behind a beam on the high rafter, cawing raucously at the red-faced, rotund wizard.

The owner of the shop wheeled around to get better aim, splintering the rafter as the bird leaped to the next, then the next. As the wizard caught his breath, the bird soared down to an open jar of very stinky salamander eggs, grabbed one and flew over the wizard, letting go and hitting him square in the face with the disgusting orb, which broke, the runny green yolk flowing down his face. The wizard roared and wiped at his face as the bird cawed in mirth from the rafters.

Severus couldn't help smirking. This had to be the rudest animal he had ever seen. Unfortunately for the bird, he was so caught up in birdie laughter that he rolled to his back and the owner got a bead on him. By the look on the wizard's face, he intended on killing the creature. He was about to blast the raven when Severus pulled out his own wand.

"Accio wand," he said, the wizard's wand flying out of his hand into the Potions Master's outstretched one.

Stunned, the owner whirled, frowning.

"Just what the hell do you think you're doing?" he snarled at Severus, who looked at him with gleaming black eyes. He billowed into the shop and stood over the wizard, scowling down at him until the man blanched.

"I am interested in that bird," Severus said, looking up at the rafters where Raucous was standing now. The raven was smart enough to know that this pale, rather evil-looking wizard had saved his tail feathers.

The owner stepped back.

"That bird's the Devil's own," the man said, frowning up at Raucous. "He'd make a better set of quills than a familiar. He's been with seven different Masters and has been returned every single time. He's not worth taking."

Severus looked up at Raucous then down at the shop owner.

"I'll decide that," he said. Then he looked up at Raucous.

"Come down here, bird," he commanded.

Raucous looked at the dark wizard, then flew down to the counter and promptly pecked the proprietor in the back, hard. The wizard turned around.

"Why you little…" he snarled going to grab for the bird when Severus caught him by the shoulder and flung him away. He walked up to the counter and frowned down at the raven.

"I take it you're in need of a Master, bird," Severus said to it, "And I am in need of a familiar. I haven't taken any because they did not have the…proper disposition to serve me. However, you appear to."

Raucous looked up at the Potions Master. No one had ever approved of his behavior before. Maybe this was the Master he was looking for.

"I am in need of a bird to deliver my messages…a bird that will effectively relate how I feel about a matter in an unmistakable manner. Most of my missives are aggravating to send since they take up my time. I often wish I could leave the recipients something…extra to show my displeasure without actually expressing it myself. In other words, you would not be required to be the 'friendliest' of messengers. I would only send you to deliver messages when I'd like a little havoc to accompany them. Otherwise I will use school owls. Do you think you could render me such a service?" Severus asked the bird, one aristocratic eyebrow raised.

As a familiar, Raucous understood the Potions Master perfectly. Deliver messages and be allowed to be as rude as he'd like without repercussions? That sounded like heaven to the raven. He cocked his head at the Potions Master, who scowled at him.

"I want to make one thing clear however. I will not hesitate to kill you and use your innards in a number of ways for brews that call for raven entrails if you so much as breathe on a single hair of my person in a disrespectful manner. This is your first and last warning as far as this goes. Serve me well and you will have a long life. Fuck with me, bird…and there won't be enough left of you to make a quill," the wizard said in a quiet, deadly voice.

Raucous blinked up at him, then hopped on Severus' shoulder, glaring at the shopkeeper who was standing open-mouthed. Raucous clipped his black beak at him nastily.

"I take that to be a 'yes,'" Severus said to the bird on his shoulder, who cawed assent. Severus looked at the shopkeeper.

"I will not pay you for him, since you were about to kill him. However, if he does not serve me well, you do not have to worry about my returning him. I will be his last Master," the Potions Master said.

The shopkeeper nodded and Raucous swallowed. This was not a wizard to fuck with, and seemed borderline evil if not completely so. The raven could live with that. He was sick of goody-two shoes wizards and witches who fawned over him until he was nauseous. He had a feeling he would be given plenty of space by his new Master as well as the freedom to be as nasty to people as he liked.

Severus stalked out the door with the raven clinging to his shoulder as if he always belonged there. Once back at Hogwarts, the Potions Master set him up in the owl tower with his own tiny floo that he could use to enter the study whenever summoned. This suited Raucous just fine. And whenever Severus sent him to deliver a message, the raven did the Potions Master proud, his visits usually followed by an irate message from the recipient complaining about the bird's actions, for which Raucous was petted and rewarded with juicy tidbits from the Potions Master.

"Raucous, I want you to deliver this letter to one Hermione Granger…and you do not have to be overly polite about it," the wizard said with a mean-spirited smirk as he tied the parchment to the raven's outstretched leg. Raucous cawed he understood.

"Go," Severus said, and Raucous winged through the floo, into the owl tower and out over the horizon, heading toward Little Hangelton and Hermione's flat. It was early enough that he could make it there before she left for work.

Hermione had just pulled on her work robes and sat down to coffee, toast and jam when there was a loud tapping on the living room window. She stood up, walked into the living room and saw a raven standing on the sill, blinking in at her. It looked rather…surly. It had a parchment tied to its leg.

"One moment," she said to the bird, walking to the front door and opening it. Raucous flew in and landed on the back of the sofa, eyeing Hermione and lifting his leg.

The witch walked up to Raucous and untied the letter. Before she could draw her hand away, he gave her a nasty peck on the back of her hand drawing blood.

"Ow!" Hermione said, snatching her hand away. "You bloody black…"

She pulled out her wand as Raucous soared away toward the kitchen, squawking loudly and landing on the kitchen table. He nicked her toast and flew up on top of her cabinet, wolfing it down as the witch ran into the kitchen.

"You give me back my toast!" Hermione yelled at him.

Raucous clipped his beak at her and continued eating the toast.

"Fine," Hermione said through clenched teeth. She fired a stunner at him.

But Raucous was used to dodging hexes and leaped out of the way, soaring over Hermione and planting a wet, slopping dropping on her shoulder, ruining her robes as he passed.

"Ugh!" Hermione grimaced. She scourgified her shoulder but a stain remained. She was going to have to change her robes.

"Who would send a bird like you to someone's house?" Hermione yelled at Raucous as he sat on top of the cooler. He clipped his beak at her snarkily. Hermione swelled up.

"Professor Snape," she hissed.

Raucous cawed at her, smiling nastily. Of course, she couldn't tell. It was a bird expression that only other birds could see.

Hermione tore open the parchment and read it. She looked up at Raucous, then stormed through the living room and opened the door.

"Get out!" she said to the bird, completely pissed.

Raucous didn't move. She still had the wand in her hand.

Hermione stared at the bird, who looked at her wand pointedly.

Hermione put it in her pocket bad temperedly, the end sticking out. Raucous still didn't move. Finally she shoved it all the way in.

Raucous cocked his head at her, then looked at the kitchen table and lined his parting path up with it and the front door…he had to time this just right. He leaped off the cooler, deposited a dropping directly into Hermione's cup of coffee then soared past her, snagging a bit of curly hair with his claw and yanking it out as he raced toward freedom in a swerving flight path. Hermione screeched in pain and got her wand out of her pocket, shooting several blasts after the bird who squawked mirthfully as he safely flew out of range. Hermione slammed the door, totally pissed.

"I'm going to see that damned bird again," she seethed.

Hermione walked back into the kitchen, picked up her coffee and was about to drink it when she saw a thin line of bird shit on the side of the cup.

"Ugh!" she said, scrunching up her face and dumping the coffee into the sink. For a moment she wondered if the raven was actually Professor Snape in animagus form. She'd find out when she went to see him on Saturday.

She looked at the clock on the wall. It was almost eight o'clock.

"Damn it," she cursed, walking back into her bedroom to change her clothes.

She was going to be late for work.

Saturday evening, Hermione dressed carefully in her blue dress robes, brushing her hair back, then deciding to wear it in a bun to look more professional. As she prepared for her meeting she remembered Draco's warning as to the Professor feeling she was a failure because of her working in the private sector. Hermione had taken out some time to go to the Ministry libraries to look up the specifics of patronage as done in the wizarding world and found to her consternation that sexual relations between patron and sponsor was indeed commonplace and expected.

So Draco wasn't actually using patronage as an excuse to get under her robes per se, but simply attempting to exercise his rights under the practice. Hermione was stunned by this since most of the wizards and witches she knew had served under a patron. Even Minerva McGonagall had a patron…Albus. It seemed they continued after she became self-sufficient. Now Hermione understood how they came to be together.

She had never sought out a patron because she didn't really know anyone who would be willing to sponsor her. But she was a reasonably attractive witch and a number of wizards would have been willing to be her patrons.

But sex for sponsorship? That seemed too much like prostituting herself to get ahead. It didn't sit right with her upbringing. But then again, she was muggle-born and some beliefs of what was morally right or wrong were inbred. The wizarding world was much more lax sexually, prostitution being an accepted practice, homosexuality accepted as easily as heterosexuality and sex as payment for services rendered seen as fair exchange whether performed for or by witch or wizard. It was an odd standard considering how strict they were about marriage. But then again, many married couples had open marriages and could take other lovers with their mate's blessing. It was an odd world sometimes.

Hermione took a final look at herself in the mirror. She looked fine. Not that it would matter to the Professor. He would probably do his best to make her leave his presence in tears. Well, she refused to let him do it. He was going to hear her out. If she had to do it, she'd make a deal with the Devil to get at those books. They were Harry's last hope. She secured her flat and disapparated for Hogwarts.

Severus Snape sat in his office behind his desk, twiddling his thumbs idly as he watched the clock. It was two minutes to seven. Hopefully the witch would be late and he'd be spared this audience. Raucous sat on his shoulder.

Raucous had returned and showed Severus the havoc he wreaked at Hermione's flat. The Potions Master was quite pleased with him and order fresh fish from the kitchens for the raven. Raucous was most appreciative. This was really the best of both worlds for him, having a Master that understood him and being allow to act absolutely horrendously without fear of reprisals. If there ever was a birdie heaven, this was it.

There was a knock on the door. Severus looked at the clock. It read seven on the dot. He pinched his nose. The witch was as punctual as ever. He drew in a deep breath to calm the black anger that was already rising like magma inside him. He was already pissed and he hadn't even seen the witch yet.

"Come in," he snarled.

The door opened and Hermione walked in.

The Professor's black eyes swept over her. Hermione still looked like herself, but had matured somewhat, the innocence gone. She had her hair in a bun, an obvious attempt to look even more mature.

"Thank you for seeing me, Professor," Hermione said, sitting down in the rickety chair.

Severus stared at her for a moment.

"Your thanks are neither wanted or appreciated Miss Granger. I want you to know that I did not want to see you and hope whatever nonsense made you darken my door after so many years can be dispatched with swiftly. I have no inclination to waste my time with a witch that has thrown her life away. So make this fast, Miss Granger. Vivaldi, Odgen's and I have an appointment much more important than this one," he said evenly.

Raucous clipped his beak at her for emphasis.

Suddenly Hermione drew her wand and hit the bird with a stunner. Raucous toppled off Severus' shoulder. The wizard jumped to his feet and Hermione trained her wand on him.

"How dare you stun my familiar!" he roared.

"Your damned familiar needs to learn manners before he enters a witch's home and shits on her person. Obviously, you aren't the one to teach him, so I took it upon myself. I am sure next time he visits, if he ever does, he will conduct himself properly. Now sit down Professor, before I have to blast you too," Hermione said evenly.

Severus' dark eyes met Hermione's. He didn't see a bit of wavering in them. He had no doubt the witch would hex him without hesitation. Actually, she was within her rights to give Raucous what for, but he never thought she'd do it. No one else ever did.

Raucous cawed weakly on the floor behind Severus' swivel chair and the wizard bent to pick him up. He cradled the stunned bird then walked over to his study door and pulled the torch to let himself in, Hermione's wand trained on the wizard the entire time. Severus entered the study and put Raucous on the sofa to recover and returned to his office, closing the door behind him. No doubt Raucous would want Hermione's blood for daring to hex him on his home ground. Better that he was out of the way.

Severus returned to his seat, his eyes resting on Hermione's drawn wand.

"Put it away. If I wanted to hex you I would have done it by now. Look under my desk," the wizard said in a tired voice.

Hermione leaned down a little and saw a wand attached beneath the desk, pointing directly at the chair she was sitting in.

"A bit of added protection. I could have hexed you with your wand pointing directly at me," the Potions Master snarled. "For now I will reserve that action until after I hear whatever it is you wanted to talk to me about. So less aggression, more mouth witch."

Hermione stared at him for a moment, then put her wand away. He could have blasted her into unconsciousness. She didn't know what she had been thinking when she hexed Raucous. He just looked so fucking smug. How a raven could look smug was a mystery, but he did. And she couldn't take it.

"All right, Professor…I'm going to lay it all on the line. I've been trying to find a solution to Harry's condition, the partial destruction of his soul. I can't find what I need in the usual magical tomes. Magic to do with the soul is usually dark. I have exhausted all the usual avenues of research. I want to access your books of Dark Magic to see if I can find the answers I need."

Severus stared at her.

"You want what?" he asked her quietly as if he couldn't believe what she asked.

"I want to use your books of Dark Magic," she repeated.

Severus looked at her for a moment…then his lip quirked, then began to tremble. Suddenly he broke out into rich, deep laughter, holding his belly and laughing as if he would never ever stop. Tears ran from the corners of his eyes as Hermione looked on soberly.

Finally, after about ten minutes, Severus looked at her and wiped his eyes.

"I can't remember the last time I had a good a laugh as that, Miss Granger. You are stark raving mad if you think I would let you anywhere near my Dark Magic books. You aren't worthy to even look at their titles, you poor excuse for a witch," he hissed. "If that is what you came to ask me, you might as well go now. I will never let you in my private library for any reason. You were a damn fool to even ask me. Now go."

Hermione stared back at him and folded her arms stubbornly.

"I won't go," she snapped back at him. "You fucking owe Harry you bastard. He freed you. You can at least listen while I plead his case."

Severus looked at her soberly.

True. The idiot Potter boy had done that when he killed the Dark Lord. But a broken soul? No one recovered from that…not that there was any precedence for it. As far as anyone knew Harry was the first case.

"Fine. I'll listen, but only because he killed Voldemort. Not because of you," the wizard snapped back.

Hermione drew a deep breath.

She had to make this good.

"Professor, Harry is the first person to survive a direct Dementor attack with some of his facilities," Hermione began.

Severus snorted.

"It is my understanding that Mr. Potter cannot speak, dress or even feed himself. What kind of facilities does he have Miss Granger that even warrants further investigation?" the Potions Master asked. "You're just wasting your time. He is little more than a vegetable. He doesn't even interact with his environment. Leave him alone."

"He does interact! He can laugh and he can cry, Professor. Those are distinctly human reactions…it shows he retains some soul," Hermione said.

"It shows nothing. It could just be autonomous. Like blinking," the wizard replied.

"Yes, if he only did it intermittently. But he laughs when I arrive and cries when I leave, so he feels something. He is not totally gone. I think he can be restored, Professor. All I need is to learn more about the soul and spells that affect it. The books of light don't go into depth about this. Your dark books probably contain the information I need," Hermione said. "Harry gave up everything to rid the world of the Dark Lord, who was your cruel Master. Voldemort would have ended up killing you if not for Harry, even if he had come into power. He always suspected you as a traitor, Professor. Your usefulness to him would have ended, and so would you. You owe Harry."

Severus stared at the witch.

"Miss Granger, if you had come to me five or six years ago, I would have believed you capable of handling the dark knowledge contained in my books. Your mind was sharp then, honed by constant challenge, when learning was your only interest. But now you are a mental slacker. You haven't had to use your mind in over four years, following formulaic designs creating potions and spells of no real significance for the profit of private enterprise. You sold out, Miss Granger…I have no doubt that mind of yours has atrophied in the process. You probably couldn't produce an original spell or brew an intricate potion now if your life depended on it. Even now, I see a fatal flaw in your approach to Potter's condition. Back in the day, you would have been more prepared in presenting your case to me. But you come empty-handed and apparently empty-minded expecting me to put books of immense power into your hands based on sentimentality and a sense of owing Potter. He did not kill Voldemort to free me, but to free himself. I know the wizard was driven to kill the Dark Lord not to save the wizarding world, but to save himself, Miss Granger. He wanted to be free of the evil constantly hanging over his head since the day he was born. Gryffindor or not, his motivations were selfish. I owe him nothing."

"That's not the case, Professor!" Hermione declared, "You know that Harry was always groomed to face the Dark Lord. You yourself protected him so he would survive to face that day. He may have had his own reasons to want him dead, but he did what he did for everyone's sake…including yours. The Dementor only got him because he was so caught up in the Dark Lord's death. It's not fair that he survived Voldemort only to have his soul partially sucked out of him. He deserves a chance at a happy life, Professor."

"A happy life. Pah!" Severus said, "He has life. That should be enough for anyone."

Hermione scowled at the wizard blackly.

"Just because that's enough for you, Professor, doesn't mean it's enough for everyone else. You choose not to interact with the world…to hide down here with your books gathered around you like some kind of literary miser, gloating that you have something no one else does. Yes, you've been mistreated and misunderstood, and it's horribly unfair, but you've done nothing to claim the respect due to you. You simply hide here in the dungeons and make others miserable as possible when you interact with them."

Severus scowled at the witch. How dare she talk to him this way?

"You've done good but live like a pariah, shutting out the world because of the pain you experienced. And you like your pain. You wrap it around yourself like a cloak of invincibility…nothing can hurt you, nothing can touch you, nothing can make you feel. Well, you like that Professor and choose to live that way. Harry is forced to because of what has happened to him. You may have the answer to his freedom in your libraries…but because you are so cold and miserable, you would deny him another shot at life. It is as if you are condemning him, Professor, condemning him because of your own selfishness and misery. You need to let me research your books. You need to give Harry another chance, like he gave you! Just because you didn't take it is no reason to deny him," Hermione said, her amber eyes glittering.

Severus looked at the witch.

"And what about you, Miss Granger, hiding in the private sector wasting your life because you are too proud to give up a bit of trim to advance yourself and your fields of study? Many people invested time and faith in your abilities…you were accepted into our world and learned our secrets, our knowledge in the hopes that you would advance that knowledge…but how did you reward us? By turning your nose up at our traditions. You may be a witch, Miss Granger…but you are still very much a judgmental muggle who thinks your moral standards to be superior to our own. To think of all the hours I spent poring over your work, your lengthy essays and theories. How I answered all your infuriating questions with the hope that it would all be worthwhile. I can tell you now that I had great hopes for you, Miss Granger…and you failed me and everyone who ever taught you. And now you come to me asking for more knowledge…knowledge that most likely you can no longer handle. As I said before you are a wasted witch and deserve no help from me," the wizard said, his face contorted with disappointment and anger.

"I am not a wasted witch. I am making my own way," Hermione countered.

"You are wasting your gifts," the wizard replied, "You haven't created one spell or potion you can claim as your own, and so cannot move into a higher, better position. You've had your degrees for four years and done nothing with them. Nothing at all. In four fucking years!" the wizard said, slamming his hand on the desk in anger. "You should at least be working in the Ministry or as a teacher. But no, you make sex spells and elixirs, or other worthless items. Even if you did show a little creativity…it would mean nothing since all you create is claimed by your employers. You are a stupid little witch. The sight of you sickens me."

"I can create spells and brew potions with the best of them," Hermione claimed. "Just because I work in the private sector doesn't mean I can't still use my skills and knowledge. You have no right to assume I am less than I was four years ago, Professor."

"Four years ago, you might have been the only person I would allow access to my books," the wizard said evenly, "But seeing what you have done with your life, I believe my expectations of you were wholly erroneous."

"They weren't!" Hermione claimed, "I just chose a different direction. I am still brilliant."

Hermione paused a bit. She had never, ever described herself that way before. She felt it too pompous. But the Professor pulled the declaration from her. She wasn't stupid…she hadn't changed. She was just as capable as ever.

Severus studied her for a moment.

"You really believe that?" he asked her quietly.

Hermione lifted her chin.

"Yes I do," she replied without hesitation. "And I believe I can solve Harry's problem if I have the right research materials."

Severus looked at the witch consideringly. She had finally claimed her own intelligence, like a Slytherin would have. As a Gryffindor she had always sidestepped stating she was the brightest student Hogwarts had seen in fifty years, trying not to seem big-headed. But her vapid desire to excel always spoke louder than her lack of words. At least she was being honest now…if a bit late. The Potions Master wondered if she did indeed still have that intelligence he had greatly admired when she was a student, that fire to excel?

If she did, would she be willing to exploit it and go for the magical gold she had always been groomed to gain? He tapped his fingers on the desktop as he looked at her.

Hermione fell silent. She could see the wizard was thinking. That was good. Finally he spoke.

"As I said Miss Granger, I see fatal flaws in your approach to Harry that I believe you would also see if you had remained on your original path to possible greatness. However…"

Here the Professor paused.

"However…" Hermione urged, getting a black look from the wizard as he continued.

"…however, in deference to the witch you used to be…I am tempted to put you to a test, to see if you have still have the abilities you once did. You are a full-fledged Spells Mistress and Potions Mistress…at least in name and on parchment."

"I am willing to take any challenge you put to me," Hermione said eagerly, seeing she might have a way in.

Severus' eyes glinted at her.

"Very well. I will give you two tests, but there is more to it than that. If you manage to pass these tests, you will quit your job in the private sector, move into my home and accept me as your patron. I must receive some compensation for giving you access to my books if I grant you access. And I mean patronage in every sense of the word," the wizard said evenly, his dark eyes glinting at her.

Hermione stared at the wizard. Professor Snape as her patron? Good gods.

"But, if I accepted you as my patron then that would mean I'd have to…to…" she said in a tremulous voice.

"Precisely," Severus purred, "But fortunately, Miss Granger, I am not attracted to you physically, so your being in my presence will not automatically trigger my desire to shag you. It would only happen when my own body expressed the need for female companionship, a need that comes very rarely. I have been celibate for a very long time and no worse for wear. If you were to accept another patron, most likely you would be required to perform quite often since you are well-formed and not too terrible on the eyes."

Hermione looked at him rather wild-eyed for a moment. This pleased the wizard.

"You do want to help Harry don't you?" he purred.

Hermione cleared her throat. She felt if she had spoken immediately, all that would have come out was a squeak.

"So what is in this for you, Professor…since sex is not a driving force?" she asked the wizard.

"I have a love for the field of Potions and feel it is stagnating and needs an influx of new blood as it were. I think you will be the blast in the arm the field needs if you were given free reign to research as you wished. Any advancement or new discovery would please me greatly. Plus the residuals you earn with original creations are cut sixty/forty in my favor, so I will earn money in the process of sponsoring you. Of course you would be free to work on Spell Making as well, though I would hope since your patron is a Potions Master, you would primarily focus on research concerning my art. I will supply everything you need and give you an allowance for personal needs within reason if I find you worthy to sponsor," he replied truthfully.

If Hermione proved to be as sharp as she was when a student, then Severus would have another dimension added to his sour existence. There would be something to look forward to, something that he would be a part of. His life was dull and empty. It would be of benefit to both of them.

Hermione looked at him, then drew a deep breath.

"All right. Let me see if I can pass your tests first…just to prove to you I still have it," she said, "Then we will talk about the possibility of patronage."

"Without the patronage, I will not grant you access to my library," the wizard said, frowning at her. "This is a package deal. All or nothing."

Hermione thought about this. She'd be giving up her independence…her flat, everything. Yet there was a time she would have gladly done it in exchange for greater knowledge, greater learning opportunities. She looked at the pale wizard. Yes, he was cold, disciplined and snarky. The Professor didn't look like he was one to shag often if at all. He claimed he wouldn't want sex often. She believed him. It required contact with another human being after all, something he tended to avoid. Plus, she would have a lot of freedom…but she wondered what his home was like.

"Do you have a lab?" she asked him.

"Two of them," he replied. "Both fully stocked. But I rarely go to my home. You will be there alone for the majority of the time. Well, not totally alone. I have a house elf named Eli who takes care of the place. He will fix your meals, shop and do the domestic work. He will serve you while you are under my protection…IF you can pass the tests and agree to be sponsored."

A house elf? Hermione hated house elf servitude. But Eli was already there. She bet the poor thing was miserable serving someone as snarky as the Potions Master. The Potions Master probably beat him for fun. She thought about Harry. Poor sweet Harry.

"Very well. I will accept your patronage, Professor, but under duress. I really want to help Harry, and if I have to make a deal with the devil to do it, I will," she replied.

Severus arched an eyebrow at her.

"The Devil, Miss Granger?" he said with a rather evil smirk. "I assure you that particular deity has nothing on me."

First, Hermione and Severus hashed out the specifics of the tests.

"I need a spell that will simplify my brewing processes in a significant manner. How it works is up to you, but I need more time so I can work on more than one or two elixirs. That will be your first test and you will have thirty days to create it. The second test will be to use that spell in brewing a potion of my choosing. I assure you it will not be a simple one," Severus said.

Thirty days? That was hardly any time…but Hermione knew the Potions Master wouldn't budge on it. He was also testing her quickness as well as her skill and intelligence.

"When I develop the spell," Hermione countered, "I receive full residuals for it since I am not yet under your patronage."

Severus shook his head.

"Since I have given you the idea to develop such a spell I insist on receiving some residuals for my input," the Potions Master replied.

"Thirty/Seventy, my favor," Hermione bargained.

"No," Severus said firmly, "Sixty/Forty in your favor, the same as I will collect when and if you become my sponsoree."

Hermione agreed to this. It was fair.

"But my research for Harry's condition takes precedence over any other work," she said shrewdly.

"That's fine, as long as there is a cap on the time spent. At least one third of your time should be spent researching potions," the Potions Master said, "I believe that is more than fair. I expect you to keep a journal of all of your work and how your time is spent, which will be duplicated at the end of my patronage and given to me for my own records."

Hermione frowned at him.

"All right, but I reserve the rights to that journal. It cannot be published without my consent, in part or entirety," the witch said.

Severus' eyes glittered. If the witch did manage to repair Harry's soul, she could be on the brink of restoring individuals who had their souls completely taken. In that case, her research would be a valuable commodity. She was wise to include such a condition. He wouldn't fight her on it.

"Done, but the percentage of sales would be sixty/forty your favor," the Professor said. He wasn't going to miss out on a single galleon the witch could generate.

"Fine," Hermione said, taking a deep breath as she prepared to breach the more sensitive issues. "Now as far as the physical aspects of our relationship…sex between us should be once a month."

Severus scowled at her.

"There has never been a limit set on the amount of times a patron can utilize the physical aspects of patronage, witch. It won't start now. I will not be curtailed. I have told you that I am not a very carnal wizard. My conjugal visitations will more than likely be few and far between. I will not change tradition for you," he said darkly.

Hermione stared at him. Shit. It had been worth a try.

"Inversely, are you are virgin, Miss Granger?" he asked her, his eyes sweeping over her.

It was Hermione's turn to scowl.

"Professor, I am twenty-six years old. Of course I'm not a virgin," she replied, coloring a bit.

"Have you had many partners?" he asked her. "And do you have partners now? I don't want to sleep with the entire wizarding world when I do indulge myself."

Hermione wanted to tell him it was none of his business. But they had to communicate to make this work.

"No. Not many. Three. And I am not currently involved with anyone right now," she answered, frowning at the wizard's invasion of her privacy.

"That is good. You will not engage with any other wizards while under my patronage," Severus said firmly.

"What? And what if I feel the need for male companionship?" she asked the Potions Master bristling.

"Then you will either take the matter in hand or purchase a suitable sexual stimulator to take care of your randiness. I will not be your personal wizard-on-call. You are already receiving the brunt of the benefits here. I will not include stud service as one of them," he said evenly.

"Like I'd pick a cold, hard wizard like you for stud service," Hermione said under her breath. How dare he tell her she would have to masturbate to relieve herself?

"Hot and hard would be a better description of me in a situation such as you are describing," the wizard said straight-faced, "Regardless, that is a condition of this agreement. Remember your precious Harry."

"That is distinctly unfair. I am available for you anytime you feel the need, whereas I cannot seek out relief with someone more palatable for myself," she spat at him.

Severus gave her a small smirk.

"Fair or not, Miss Granger…this is how it will be. I am not into either STDs or sloppy seconds. This will assure me that I will not be receiving either. Now, will I have to apply a chastity spell on you or will you be able to handle this? There are ways to tell if you have indulged another wizard and I will always check," Severus said, his eyes narrowed.

Three lovers weren't much if the witch was telling the truth about her sexual history, but he needed to be sure she would remain pristine while under his care.

"Fine," Hermione said, "I don't need a chastity spell, thank you. But in return…I don't want to have to go through any weirdness with you. Straight sex only."

Severus considered her.

"What do you mean by "weirdness?" he asked her.

Hermione colored.

"Just…weird," she said lamely.

Severus smiled inwardly. It seemed Miss Granger was telling the truth about her sexual limitations. She seemed a bit…repressed. He sighed.

"Miss Granger…you will not dictate how I take my sexual pleasure of you. As far as 'weird' goes, I promise on the rare occasion I do dally with you, I will not viciously strike you or mutilate you. Whatever discomfort you feel, if any, will be normal for the act. That is the best I can tell you. You will not curtail me before I even touch you," the wizard said, his face sober.

Hermione noticed there was not even the slightest inkling of lust or desire on the Potions Master's face despite the topic they were discussing. He might as well be talking about the procedure for brewing a potion. Most likely sex with the wizard would be quite clinical, emotionless and cold. It was Hermione's turn to sigh. She really couldn't argue with him about this if she wanted his cooperation concerning those books.

"Fine. But as my patron, you are also my mentor by virtue of your knowledge. If I come to you with questions, I expect you to answer them," the witch said, "and not in riddles either. Straight response."

"I will only help you if I see you are truly backed against a wall. Your intelligence is why I am interested in being your patron. I will not spend my time telling you what you should be able to figure out for yourself. I am not your Professor in this instance, Miss Granger," Severus replied coldly. "I am your enabler."

Hermione sighed. She had hoped to take advantage of his knowledge. It would be an uphill battle…but she'd be damned if he didn't tell her how to handle the books of Dark Magic.

"Concerning those Dark Books of yours, I expect you to warn me of any and all potential dangers in using them. Especially physical danger," Hermione said, her eyes narrowing.

"I see my godson doesn't know how to keep his mouth shut. I was looking forward to you learning a harsh lesson about dabbling in Dark Magic. But since you know, I will tell you how to handle each book you are interested in when the time comes. You must come to me first. But again, all this depends on whether or not you can pass my tests and gain my patronage. There is a distinct possibility you will fail as you've done with the rest of your life," the wizard said snarkily.

Hermione glowered at him.

"My life is nowhere near over…it will take the sum total of it to decide whether I am a failure or not, Professor…and at this point in time I do not consider myself one, despite your opinion of me. I will pass your tests, and I will find a way to restore Harry," she said firmly.

"Ah, that Gryffindor boasting," the wizard purred, "How much I've missed the pompousness of it."

"It's not boasting. It's faith," Hermione replied, standing up.

It was time to go.

"Return in thirty days with the completed spell and be prepared to demonstrate it," the Potions Master said.

"Don't worry. It will be completed," she replied heading for the door.

Severus discreetly pulled out his wand and hit her with a subtle hex as her back was turned. She didn't even feel it.

"Until next we meet, Miss Granger," Severus said, not even rising as she opened the door.

"Yes, when next we meet, Professor," the witch replied, exiting.

Severus smirked. Wait until Hermione realized he'd hexed her. Surely the witch didn't think she would leave his presence unscathed after hexing his familiar right off his shoulder. If she did, she was sadly mistaken.

Severus rose, stretched then headed for his study to check on Raucous and let him know he had been avenged.

No one fucked with what was his.

As Hermione walked through Hogwarts, she was met with many curious stares from the students. She didn't meet up with any staff members as she exited the castle. She simply attributed the stares to her being a stranger and thought no more about it.

Before she went home, she stopped in Diagon Alley to browse the bookshop. Again, she was getting stares and people whispered as they walked by her, looking back at her oddly. The witch began to feel a bit self-conscious. Why was everyone looking at her? The last straw came when a little boy of about five pointed at her and said, "Mum! Look at the Blue lady!"

"Come along son," the witch replied, coloring and rushing by Hermione.

Hermione darted into the shop's loo and looked in the mirror, then gasped. Her hair and her face matched her blue robes perfectly. She looked like some kind of alien with her amber eyes and white teeth.

"Professor Snape," she hissed at her image.

She pulled out her wand and tried to scourgify the hex off. Nothing happened. He must have put his signature on the spell. She would have to work on it when she got home. She used her wand to add a hood to her robes and pulled it over her head. She exited the loo and walked through the shop, clutching the hood around her face closely. Now she looked as if she were hiding something. As she walked down the street towards the public apparition point…two Aurors noticed her and started following. The witch was obviously trying to hide her face. Maybe she was wanted for something illegal.

As Hermione approached the apparition point, an Auror grabbed her arm. Reflexively she went to draw her wand and found it pinned by the other Auror.

"All right now, let's see what you're hiding under this hood, witch," one of the Auror's said with gritted teeth, drawing down her hood.

Both Auror's mouths dropped open as they looked at the blue-faced witch.

"Blimey," one swore.

"What happened to you? Going to a masquerade or something?" the other Auror asked Hermione.

"Someone hexed me…as a joke," Hermione replied, highly embarrassed as a curious crowd began to gather.

Both Aurors chuckled.

"Whoever it was got you good. You're absolutely freakish," the first Auror said, as he and his partner let Hermione go. "Can't you fix it?"

"No, at least not until I get home," she spat at them. The crowd was laughing now and Hermione's face turned purple because of her blushing. This made the people howl even louder. "Can I go please?"

"Sure you can, blue witch," one of the Aurors quipped. Both broke into laughter as Hermione pulled up her hood again and pushed her way through the crowd, people yanking at her hood as she passed. Finally she made it to the apparition point and disapparated. She was furious.

She returned to her flat and let herself in, cursing Severus Snape with every foul name she could think of. What a rotten thing to do. He could have at least hexed her with something she could feel. The fuck.

Hermione removed her robes and walked into her bathroom. She spent the next three hours working on the hex before she finally broke it and restored her natural hair and skin color.

"I'm going to get him for this," she seethed as she got ready for bed.

"What a sneaky, dirty, conniving bastard!"

Hermione went right to work on creating a spell that would assist the Potions Master in his brewing. She immediately divined it would have to be a multitasking spell, one that worked in increments according to the directives given. In other words, the spell would have to work based on instructions given. Actually, it was quite simple, but truly brilliant, with the caster describing type of ingredient, its location, preparation, intervals of times etc. It was simple but involved as well, each and every step would have to be described, separated by a swish and flick of the wand as a separator. Specifics were necessary. The spell needed to know whether an ingredient was added whole, chopped, diced, powdered or pulverized. Was the cauldron to be covered or uncovered and how long? What type of utensils were to be utilized for the preparation of ingredients? Cutting board or bowl? How many stirrings were necessary and in what direction? Even the scourgifying of utensils between ingredients had to be directed. In fact, the best way to utilize the spell would be to write down every aspect of the brewing process first, then read it off as a list, separating the instructions with wand motion. Nothing could be overlooked. If done properly, all the Potions Master would have to do was bottle the results. He could work on countless brews at the same time. This would be a great boon to him and all other Potions Masters.

It took three weeks for Hermione to get the spell down pat. She applied her signature to the spell to keep it hers…then added a special invocation developed specifically for the Potions Master to be able to utilize the spell his first time out. The witch wore quite a wicked little grin when she added the release word.

To invoke the spell, the caster simply had to do the proper wand motions, invoking it by saying the word "Sequentius," and finished with "Fin." It wasn't proper Latin, but it was the intent and not the word itself that activated the spell after all. After its initial use, Hermione had no doubt the Professor would find the spell immensely useful, and that after it was patented, it would bring in a fortune's worth of residuals over time.

Although she finished the spell a week early, Hermione didn't bring it to the Potions Master. Let him think it had taken her the full amount of time to complete. If he knew how fast she was, then he would expect faster results. The witch wanted to give herself as much breathing time as possible.

One thing Hermione Granger was sure of however, was that Severus Snape would never forget the first time he used the "Sequentius" spell.

On the designated day, Hermione returned to Hogwarts and together with Severus entered his potions lab and explained the spell to the wizard. She presented him with a parchment that gave the invocation, necessary wand movements and detailed instructions on how to sequentially list all facets of the brewing process, then put the spell in action.

Severus listened carefully. So she created a spell that sequentially and magically performed all the steps in brewing a potion according to proper instructions. Simple, but brilliant. Possibly some brewing techniques could be 'saved' and reused without the necessity of describing each step more than one time.

"But you must be sure to include each and every procedure you would do, and have your ingredients available to be accessed. If they are locked in a cabinet, then the spell will cease to function and the brew will be ruined," she said to the wizard who nodded.

For the test, Severus had Hermione use the "Sequentius" spell to brew a potion that had over one hundred and sixty-five steps, but was completed in precisely eight hours time. It was quite a labor intensive process that required close observation, timed additions of ingredients, carefully calculated temperature changes, and stirrings.

The potion itself was a simple plant elixir utilized by Madame Sprout to strengthen weak plants. It could bring the most damaged plant back to health. But it was also a brew that required constant attention from start to finish. When Severus worked on it, he was trapped in his lab the entire day. An awful amount of time for a plant elixir.

Hermione had the Professor put all the ingredients in easily accessible positions. The spell could later be adapted to actually be able to retrieve ingredients from their locations, but for now this was fine.

The wizard watched as Hermione wrote down the entire brewing process from beginning to end, then invoked the spell and proceeded to read off each step, separating them with a swish and flick, then pronounced "Fin"

Severus watched as bowls, pestles, ingredients, knives, cutting boards, cauldrons and liquids went to work, the entire process seeming as if an invisible Potions Master was hard at work chopping ingredients, adding bases, turning up flames and timing the process. Both he and Hermione watched the entire eight hours until the potion was finally completed and the cauldron shut off and items were scourgified and put away.

Severus carefully spooned out a bit of potion and poured it into the pot of a very withered Snapdragon. The plant immediately turned a vibrant green, the red petals snapping at the wizard with gusto. Severus stared at the plant, then turned to Hermione.

"The spell works. Do you accept my patronage?" he asked her immediately.

"Yes," Hermione replied.

Immediately magic swirled around them in a manner similar to taking a wizarding oath.

"Now I am bound to watch over you until such time as you no longer need my support. We will both be made aware when this happens by magical means," the wizard said. "Our agreement cannot be dissolved until your tenure is completed."

"What? There's no way out of it?" Hermione asked, her eyes wide with horror. She was under the impression either of them could back out of the agreement. She never imagined she would be magically bound to the snarky wizard. Oh good gods.

"Yes. The way out is to do what you are required to do," Severus said with a smirk. "Then you and I will both be released from our 'partnership,'" he purred.

"You knew this would happen!" Hermione said, furious.

"I would think you'd be happy. Your access to my library is secured," he replied, looking at the parchment again. "Now, is this spell ready to be used by another?"

Hermione looked at him with a scowl.

"It has my signature on it. What you have to do is invoke the spell, give your instructions and say the word "Fabio" to remove my signature. Then say "Fin" and it will work."

The Potions Master arched an eyebrow.

"Fabio?" he asked her.

"Yes. It's the name of a muggle model. I figured it was rare enough to avoid accidental invocation," she replied evenly. "Now it's late and I have to go. I will put in my two-week notice at work and be ready to move into your home after I leave."

"Very well," Severus said absently as he studied the parchment. "You may go."

Hermione scowled at the wizard. It was after four in the morning. He could at least walk her across the grounds to the gate. But Severus Snape didn't do such things. Hermione gathered her robes around her and exited his lab, walking through his office and down the dungeon corridor.

The witch glowered as she exited the castle, wand drawn as she walked across the landscape. A half-moon lent some glow.

Well, fuck him then, the mannerless bastard.

And just wait until he invoked that spell.

The next day seemed to drag on for the Potions Master, who was anxious to use the new spell to brew some simple healing potions for Poppy. He didn't tell Hermione this, but the new spell was fantastic. He had no doubt they would make tons of galleons from its patent.

Finally, classes were out, and he rushed the students from his class and headed directly for his lab. He took out all the necessary ingredients, wrote down the brewing process step by step, applying the necessary separating flicks, then said the word to remove Hermione's signature.

Suddenly he felt strange sensations all over his head. They weren't painful but he brought his hands up to his face. To the wizard's horror, his face was pulsating, changing. He could feel his nose straightening and facial structure becoming broader, his chin stronger. There was a bristling sound and his scalp felt funny and his hair heavier. Finally the sensations stopped and he could feel his features had changed. He rushed to a drawer, opened it, pulled out a small mirror, stared into it then bellowed in rage.

"I am going to KILL that damned witch!" he snarled as he looked at the reflection in the mirror.

The Professor was handsome…no gorgeous, with chiseled masculine features, a noble chin and a long mane of rich blonde hair that flowed over his shoulders and down his back. He looked like the long-haired hero found on the cover of cheesy romance novels. The wizard didn't know it, but he was the splitting image of the model Fabio…at least from the neck up. His tanned face was a startling contrast to his pale throat. Apparently the spell only worked on his head.

Hissing in anger, Severus tossed his hair and pulled out his wand in a vain attempt to change his features back, but to no avail. Damn it. He had an after supper staff meeting to boot. He couldn't miss it. It was required by Albus that all staff attended.

Hermione Granger had a very nasty streak.

Albus wondered why Severus didn't show up to supper that evening. He always ate in the Great Hall when there was to be a staff meeting, because the staff room was only a few doors down.


After supper, all the staff gathered in the staff room, taking their seats and looking up at Albus expectantly. The Headmaster had these meetings once a month to share information about the going-ons at the school and to address any problems or complaints. He never started the meeting until every staff member was present. If they didn't show within five minutes of the designated meeting time…he would go and retrieve them himself. Currently, he was waiting for Severus.

Suddenly the door flew open, and Severus strode in, his head completely hooded, looking like Death paying a visit. He sat down in a chair in the back of the room, holding the hood tight around his throat with one pale hand.

Albus stared at him for a moment.

"Severus, please remove your hood," he said to the Potions Master.

"I would rather not, Headmaster," the Potions Master replied.

Albus scowled.

"Severus, I want to see your face so I know you are paying attention," he said in an even voice. "I do not allow other staff members to cover their faces at these meetings. It would be distinctly unfair if I allowed you that privilege. Now remove your hood at once," the white-bearded wizard said, his blue eyes rather hard.

Slowly Severus lowered his hood to the collective gasp of almost all the witches present.

"It's Fabio!" they all cried, half rising from their seats. Apparently the muggle's good looks and celebrity had made it to the wizarding world.

"I am not Fabio!" Severus snarled, unconsciously tossing his blonde mane. "This was an…an accident!"

All the witches batted their eyelashes at him, Sybil Trelawney surreptiously moving from chair to chair to get closer to him…but Severus saw her and pulled out his wand.

"Get back!" he hissed at her. "Come any closer and I'll turn you into a dragonfly!"

The male staff was staring at him with mixed emotions, except for Albus who looked absolutely delighted.

"At least this face is better than your old one, Snape," Marcus Delaluci said, "Maybe you'll be able to wrestle down a witch now."

All the witches tittered at this comment as Marcus gave Severus a nasty smirk.

"Shut up, Marcus before I cast a spell on you that permanently locks that telescoping cock of yours on 'tiny,'" the Potions Master threatened, a dimple showing as he attempted to scowl blackly. It only made him more handsome.

The witches all gasped at his comment. Telescoping cock? Every female eye slid toward Marcus, who blanched. Most of these witches were so old their vaginas were probably dustbowls. He slumped down in his chair trying to become as unnoticeable as possible.

"Now, now! Enough of that language. We are here for a meeting. Now everyone pay attention," Albus said, tapping his wand against the podium, restoring order.

Severus sat scowling as the Headmaster droned on and on, his arms crossed tightly over his chest and furrowing his eyebrows at the witches who kept turning around to look at him. It made him look as if he were flirting with them.

After the meeting, Severus had to practically run back to the dungeons to escape the gaggle of female staff attempting to surround him. They knew he wasn't Fabio, but oh…he was so good-looking. They just had to touch him. The Potions Master quickly put distance between himself and them, entering and securely warding his office, then retiring to his private rooms to try and remove the blasted spell.

But Hermione was a full-fledged Spells Mistress and put a signature so powerful on the spell, he couldn't break it. Angry, the Potions Master floo'd up to the owlery and sent an owl immediately to her home. He didn't use Raucous this time. The raven would only make things infinitely worse.

The missive was full of threatening phrases such as "early death," "tarred and feathered," "stretched on a rack of nails" and other delightful expressions. Hermione laughed until she choked. She wrote him back saying she would only lift the spell if there would be no repercussions and a cessation in hexing between them. She owed him for the "Blue Lady" hex after all.

Severus wrote her back grudgingly agreeing to her conditions. She then sent an owl saying she would lift the spell tomorrow afternoon after work. The Potions Master was livid, but there was nothing he could do. He was forced to hold classes with Fabio's head, to the delight of his pupils, particularly the seventh year witches, who sighed over him constantly, even when he took points and gave detention. It had to have been the worst day of teaching in his life.

At about five o'clock, the wizard felt the sensation of his face realigning itself. He hurried to the loo and watched as his familiar pale features returned. The little bitch. She could remove the signature from a distance. She had purposely put him through hell. Hermione was a vindictive little minx.

Well, she'd be in his home in two weeks. He promised not to hex her, but the Potions Master was not a man to let anyone get away with what he considered a crime against his person, and Hermione had certainly crossed the line.

The witch would pay, and pay dearly.

When Hermione turned in her two-week notice to Preston's Spells and Potions, her supervisor, Boris Craftsman didn't take it well at all. Hermione was the most talented and faster worker he had, and often corrected errors that the Development had overlooked in their spells and potions right in the processing line without any credit. By rights, she should have been promoted several times over, but since she didn't press the issue, it was more cost-effective to keep her in the position she was in while taking advantage of her expertise. She did get her annual raises and an occasional bonus but wasn't earning near to what she should have been.

"Haven't we treated you well here?" Boris asked her, red-faced as he shook the notice at Hermione.

The gray-haired, whiskery wizard was livid. How dare she leave?

"Yes, I've been treated fine Boris, but everyone moves on," Hermione replied, very surprised at her supervisor's reaction. Plenty of employees put in notice and Boris had always been accepting of it.

"What? Do you need more money? A raise? Would a raise make you stay?" Boris asked her, calculating the least amount of galleons he could offer.

"A raise would have been nice, but no…my situation is that I must go," Hermione replied, not wanting to give her supervisor the details.

"Did another company offer you more money or perks? A higher position. I'm sure we could match their offer given enough time," Boris said, his voice almost pleading.

"No Boris," Hermione said, taking a deep breath. She had to tell him the truth so he would just accept her resignation.

"I am going into private research. I have a patron now," the witch said.

"A patron?" Boris asked, his brown eyes sweeping over the witch now. He knew what patronage entailed.

Hermione nodded.

Boris sighed. He had hoped this day wouldn't come. He had always known Hermione was too talented for the private sector, but since she hadn't taken a patron, he had hoped she'd stay with them. She was cheap, but extremely talented labor. There was nothing the company could offer her that would be equal to patronage.

"Have you already been bound to your patron?" he asked.

"Yes. We are bound," Hermione said, blushing a bit.

Boris took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes a moment before replacing them.

"Very well. Then there is nothing more to be said," he said glumly. Losing Hermione was going to be costly to the company. They would have to add staff to quality control now. Profits would drop considerably.

"You will be sorely missed," he said to the witch.

"Thank you, Boris," Hermione replied.

Boris' higher-ups were not happy when they heard Hermione Granger was leaving their employ and told Boris to offer her a large promotion to keep her. They were livid when they found out she had taken on a patron. Boris was directed to tell Development to send their most difficult spells and potions through before Hermione left, so she could help fix them before her departure.

Hermione worked very hard those last two weeks, staying after hours at Boris' request and finding the work full of glaring errors which she corrected. It didn't take her long to figure out they were trying to work her to death before she left. Finally Hermione told Boris she would no longer do any overtime. The supervisor couldn't blame her and besides, she was leaving anyway so he couldn't coerce her with threats of dismissal. He was glad for the work she had done however, and thanked her.

Hermione sold all the furniture in her flat to the landlord at a good deal, packed up her clothing, books and research, sent them ahead and prepared to depart to her patron's home, located in Shropshire.

The witch walked to the door of her flat, turned around and took a final look at her home of four years. Her life was about to change dramatically and although she was apprehensive, she felt excited too. Soon she would have access to knowledge few had ever had a chance to study, and the freedom to follow her own heart.

More than that, she could now focus on restoring Harry, and that was the most important aspect of this new situation. Yes, she had to make some concessions, but she felt she could live with them. A bit of detached, intermittent sex with a glacial wizard was worth the life of her friend. Hermione had decided she wouldn't even think about that aspect of her patronage until she was actually faced with it.

With a final glance at her former home, Hermione Granger closed the door and stepped into her new life.

She arrived at Severus' home and was surprised to see it was a rather pretty little house. She expected something dark and ragged, with gaping window eye-holes, barren lawn and bats swooping around the chimney. That seemed more in line with the snarky Potions Master. But the house was painted a pretty shade of blue, with a white and blue porch and a swing. The lawn was immaculate, and there were even flowering bushes planted close to the house. Hermione could see a well-kept herb garden on the side of the house. It sat on a half acre of land with no close neighbors. She wasn't surprised about that. The Potions Master was a private man after all. A low white picket fence encircled the house and Hermione felt magic wash over her when she opened the gate. Obviously it was warded to keep the unwanted visitor out and attuned to her signature.

She walked up the steps to the front door which suddenly opened. A smiling, bobbing house elf stood in the doorway.

"Welcome! Welcome Miss! My name is Eli and it is my pleasure to serves you!" the little green elf said, showing all his sharp little teeth. "Please comes in."

He opened the door wide and Hermione walked in, a bit stunned at the joyous welcome. The elf seemed very happy she was here.

Eli smiled as she walked by. At last, a live person to serve…no more empty house and days spent repetitively cleaning an already clean domicile. Now he would have someone to cook and wash for, maybe even assist from time to time. Plus, the witch's presence would mean his Master would be home more frequently. At least that was what Eli hoped.

Severus had taken Eli from the Dark Lord's fortress after the wizard's demise. All of the elves there were unhappy, but at least they had a Master. The worse thing in the world to a house elf was to be without work and Masterless. Dumbledore kindly took in the rest of the elves, though he didn't bind them to Hogwarts. Instead, they were free to work there until they found their own masters. It at least kept them busy and gave them a choice of who to serve.

Eli was extremely grateful to Severus, who didn't really interact with the elf, but still he was fiercely loyal to the Potions Master. He took excellent care of his home, keeping it bright and airy despite the wizard's disposition. Eli felt it wasn't good for him to be in the dark all the time, so kept the house accordingly.

When Eli arrived, the house was nearly as dank as Hermione imagined, the lawn unkempt, paint peeling, the porch bent and broken in places….weeds abounding. In a week's time Eli made it lovely. Severus was taken aback and started to complain, but Eli countered with he was a house elf and needed to work and the house was a big work. Severus accepted this. It wasn't as if he was going to be here all the time, besides…though he wouldn't admit it, the house was rather warm and comfortable. It almost made him feel…well…human.

Of course that made it more imperative he spend time away from it.

Hermione entered the house and looked around. The living room was painted white and furnished in mostly silver and green, definitely a Slytherin domain. There were three large windows, a sofa with extra cushions, two large plush armchairs and of course, a fireplace. A large ornate desk with parchments and quills occupied one corner of the room, and potted plants abounded as well as muggle landscapes of the sea.

"I never expected the Potions Master would have such a pleasant home," Hermione breathed, looking around.

"Eli thinks he never expected it either, Miss," the elf grinned at her. "Not always like this, Miss. Was dismal. Very, very dismal. But everything needs light. Even the Master."

Personally Hermione thought if the Professor was in sunlight too long he'd burst into flame like a vampire, but she kept that to herself.

"Where are my things, Eli?" she asked the elf.

"This way, Miss," Eli replied, leading her down a hallway. There was a bathroom and three bedrooms. Eli entered the first bedroom on the left. "This is yours, Miss."

Hermione looked around. She had a king-sized four-poster bed, a dressing table, wardrobe, walk-in closet, a small bookshelf lined with her books, and her own bathroom. The bed was covered in Gryffindor colored bedding and a small Gryffindor crest hung on the wall. A clock with a lion in the center and moving hour and minute paws hung over the bedroom door. This had to be the elf's doing. Hermione was sure Severus would never have approved this. The walls were richly paneled with gleaming wood. Hermione opened the wardrobe and found her clothing and shoes placed neatly inside. She pulled out the drawers and her delicates and socks were also folded and put away.

She turned to Eli.

"Did you do this?" she asked.

"Of course. It was a service. I unpacks your things and puts them up," the elf replied.

"Well thank you," Hermione said smiling at the elf.

Eli beamed.

The witch walked into her bathroom and found a large sunken marble tub with several spigots encircling it, a vanity with two basins, a medicinal potions store and a large lighted mirror. There was also a large translucent glass enclosed shower, and a pantry for washcloths and towels. All of her personal supplies had been put away.

Well, her accommodations were very nice.

Eli showed her the rest of the house. The kitchen was neatly kept, had a large stove, cooler and numerous cooking utensils of all types. A large pantry held a number of dried and canned food, condiments and pastas.

"I will cooks and serves all your meals," Eli explained, "You just has to tell me what you likes and I will makes it. Or else Eli will surprise you. I is your servant while you is under my Master's patronage and knows what you likes. Whatever you needs, I will provides."

"Thank you Eli," Hermione said, still not comfortable with having a house elf serve her.

"You will gets used to me, Miss," Eli said, smiling at her.

Hermione looked at him.

"How did you know I was uncomfortable with being served this way, Eli?" she asked the elf.

"It is my job to know Miss. I am your servant," the elf replied. "But you will gets used to it."

Eli led her to a door and opened it. A stairwell led down.

"Your labs," the elf said, gesturing to Hermione to go down. Torches lit automatically as she carefully navigated the wooden stairs. There were two doors side by side at the bottom. Hermione opened one door to find almost an exact replica of Severus' lab at Hogwarts, full of potions utensils, and a locked potions stores. Hermione was tempted to try and unward it, but decided against it. The stores might be booby-trapped. She would have to wait for Severus to come and open it, or adjust the wards to her signature.

She exited that lab and entered the other. It was a mostly empty room, with a large blackboard, desk in the corner and long counter. Perfect for Spells work. So the Potions Master provided her with separate labs to work with, depending on what field she was concentrating on. It was almost…thoughtful. It would have been if the Professor wasn't expecting to make a profit off her work. Basically he was trying to accommodate her so she could churn out work without much difficulty.

"Do you find the labs satisfactory?" a silky voice asked her.

Hermione spun to see the Potions Master standing in the doorway, his black eyes resting on her. There was a slight gleam in them.

"Yes. In fact the entire house is rather nice. I'm surprised," she replied, "You're the darkest fixture in here."

The Potions Master stared at her a moment, then said, "I definitely agree with your observation, Miss Granger. Now, accompany me upstairs. There is a matter we need to…discuss."

Hermione shrugged and walked past the Potions Master without commenting and took the stairs. The Potions Master closed the lab door and silently followed after her.

Eli was waiting for them in the living room. He had let Hermione enter the labs alone and when Severus arrived, was delighted to see him. Severus looked down at the elf.

"You may go, Eli," he said to the elf, whose ears flattened. He had hoped to be in his Master's presence longer.

"Yes, Master," he said, giving Hermione a furtive glance before winking out to his cupboard.

"Where did he go?" Hermione asked.

"To his cupboard," the Potions Master said. "So I take it you find my home livable."

"Yes, very," Hermione said.

"Good," the Potions Master said, starting to unbutton his robes.

"What are you doing?" Hermione asked him.

Getting comfortable. My robes will get in the way," he replied, looking at her somberly.

"In the way of what?" Hermione asked, a cold feeling in her belly.

"You," he replied, "I've decided to exercise my right as your patron."

Hermione blanched.

"But…but you said it would occur rarely," the witch said in a low voice as she watched his fingers move slowly and deliberately down the front of his robes.

"And it will. Rarely has nothing to do with when. I've decided I need to see if we are even…compatible. It could be that I do not find you arousing enough to even get pleasure from you. In that case, Miss Granger…you won't have to worry about me at all," he replied, slipping off his robes. He held his wand in one hand.

Hermione saw that all he wore beneath his robes were a pair of black silk boxers, his black socks and boots. He was lean, but surprisingly fit. His body seemed much younger than he appeared. There was a sparse sprinkling of hair on his sinewy arms and long legs, his torso and ribbed abdomen hairless, but a rather thick line of straight black hair led from under his navel under his boxers. He didn't appear to be aroused however. His boxers weren't the least bit tented. The Potions Master was very pale, his skin like alabaster. His dark eyes rested on Hermione, watching for her reaction.

"But…but I'm not ready," Hermione said, her eyes wide.

"Don't worry about that. There are magical ways to make you ready," the wizard said, stepping closer to her and leaning down, sniffing her hair. His face contorted.

"Your hair smells of jasmine," he said, "From here on out you will not use any scent on your hair or body. I have a sensitive nose and prefer the smell of a body unadorned by masking scents."

Severus flicked his wand at Hermione's hair, then sniffed it again. He still frowned and gave it another flick. He sniffed it again, the witch trying not to cringe as he invaded her space.

"Not all gone, but bearable," he said, stepping back and looking Hermione up and down before glancing around the room. His eyes fell on the sofa.

"Over here," he said, walking behind the sofa.

Hermione stared at him, unmoving.

Severus pointed his wand at her.

"Accio wand," he said.

Hermione gasped as her wand flew out of her pocket and into the wizard's hand. He placed it on the end table next to the sofa. Then he pointed his wand again.

"Accio, Hermione Granger," he purred.

With a shriek, Hermione flew into the wizard's arms. She started to struggle and suddenly found it very hard to breathe. She clutched at her throat.

"Stop struggling," Severus hissed, "The discomfort will pass."

Hermione did as he said and soon could breathe again.

"What did you do to me?" she asked accusingly.

"Nothing. You are bound to me by magic similar to a wizarding oath. Anytime you try to squirm your way out of the terms agreed to, you will suffer discomfort just as you would if you tried to break a wizarding oath," Severus said, pulling the witch back against him. "It is best if you just comply. You can't get away from me."

"Oh fuck," Hermione breathed, relaxing against the wizard. She still didn't feel an erection however, only his hard body pressed against her back.

"Now, bend over the couch," the Professor instructed.

"What? The couch?" she said, outraged.

"Yes the couch. We don't need to go through all the trouble of getting in bed for this tryst. Besides, for what I am going to do to you, this is the perfect position…"

Hermione started to protest but Severus cut her off.

"And this does not qualify as 'weirdness.' It is a common copulation method. Couches, tables, walls, etc. So bend," he breathed.

Hermione felt her breath growing short again. Damn the magic that bound them. She bent over the couch and felt the Potions Master lift her robes over her back, then make a noise of disgust.

"Jeans," he muttered, then "Divesto!"

Suddenly Hermione felt cool air on her ass. The wizard had removed her jeans and knickers. She still had on her socks and trainers however. Damn, he didn't even want her naked.

Hermione felt him press his wand against her rectum and mutter a spell. A foaming sensation filled her bowels. Her eyes widened.

"No!" she yelled, trying to raise up, but the Potions Master held her down with one pale hand. Hermione wasn't very strong.

"You told me you weren't a virgin," he purred.

"Well…well I am there!" Hermione cried, wriggling. Now the Professor's erection began to grow as he watched her smooth ass swing from side to side.

"Hold still," he hissed at her, and once again Hermione felt the sensation of her breath being taken away and fell still. Once again the wizard placed the tip of his wand against her rectum.

"Lubris. Lubris," he breathed.

Hermione felt liquid flow inside her, making her feel rather slick inside. She felt Severus' hand slide from the middle of her back to her waist.

"Petrificus Partialus," he breathed. Suddenly Hermione couldn't move her hips.

"No! You can't do this!" she cried.

Severus gave a little smirk as he lowered his boxers around his thighs and pulled out his thick, long organ, stroking it gently and leaning over Hermione so his lips rested against her ear.

"Believe it or not, Miss Granger, I cast this spell so you will not injure yourself attempting to get away from me. The magic that binds us will not come into play in this instance, because your attempt to escape me will be a natural reaction to getting your ass reamed for the first time, and not blatant disobedience. It will hurt enough without your struggles adding to your pain. So what I did was an act of mercy," he said softly.

"A real act of mercy would be not to do this," she said, a sob in her voice.

Severus remembered his stint with Fabio's head.

"I'm not that merciful," the wizard replied, letting his warm breath waft over the distraught witch's ear before straightening and positioning himself for entry, resting against her. Hermione gasped at the feel of his hard flesh and closed her eyes.

"Welcome to my home, Miss Granger," he purred, thrusting forward with a grunt.

Hermione howled as Severus slid inside her, but it wasn't from roughness, but from her muscles being forced around his size. The wizard hesitated, then pushed a bit deeper, adjusting his grip and groaning as her tightness wrapped around him.

Hermione groaned as the Potions Master persistently but rather gently pushed his length deeper and deeper until he rested fully immersed in her body. He had used the Lubris spell twice to insure that the witch was well lubricated. Now his loins rested against her buttocks and he held still, trying to let her get accustomed to him.

"This shouldn't take long, Miss Granger," he said softly, his black eyes focused on the erotic sight of being embedded in her body. Slowly he pulled back and gently thrust forward, feeling her walls caress his length.

"Ah, yessss," he breathed. "Just relax, witch. The ache will go away."

Hermione groaned again.

The Professor began to gently thrust, the ache slowly receding as the wizard clutched at her waist, making silken sounds of pleasure as he immersed himself in her body, feeling the witch relaxing around him, his strokes smooth and deep. He pointed his wand at her and released her from the partial petrification spell. Hermione was able to move again.

Being penetrated this way felt strange. At least the Potions Master wasn't trying to hurt her as he took his pleasure. He was much more vocal than she imagined, hissing, sighing and cursing softly as he approached climax. He sped up but still didn't treat her roughly, his body gently bouncing against her buttocks.

Severus clutched her waist tighter as a low growl issued from the back of his throat, electricity racing down his spine and into his scrotum which drew up tight, the wizard letting out a cry as he pressed deep into the witch and came. The Potions Master leaned heavily on Hermione's back, resting on her robes until his pulsing ended.

Letting out a deep sigh of satisfaction, Severus withdrew his now limp organ and watched as Hermione's body slowly returned to its proper dimensions. He placed his wand tip against her rectum.

"Scourgify," he panted before turning the wand on himself and repeating the spell, then drawing up his boxers.

He then pointed to her jeans and knickers which were resting on the armchair and magically redressed her, pulling down her robes and stepping back from the witch, who turned around and looked up at him.

"My ass hurts," Hermione said reproachfully.

"Not as much as it could have," he responded, his black eyes searching her face. She had proven quite pleasurable. "I find you suitable, witch. You will find pain and healing potions in your bathroom. I will keep you well supplied."

He walked over to his robes, put them on and began to button them up, Hermione staring at him. He was the same as he always was now. Cold, disciplined…as if he had never touched her. Hermione felt it a bit unfair that he found release but made no effort to help bring her to climax.

"You're selfish," she breathed at him.

"Yes I am," he agreed, fastening his collar and looking down at her, his black eyes gleaming, "I imagine you are referring to your not receiving an orgasm. It would have taken too long. Maybe I will give you one our next encounter when I'm not so pressed for time. I have to return to Hogwarts. I only stopped by to taste your wares. Very sweet. You did well for your first time."

"And to pay you back for the Fabio incident," the Potions Master thought. He couldn't say it out loud, tempting as it was. He had promised no repercussions. Thank goodness she hadn't insisted on an oath.

Hermione glowered at him. The bastard.

"Oh, and before I forget, here," the wizard said, reaching into his robes pocket and removing a small, thick journal. Hermione could see it was very ancient. He handed it to Hermione.

"This is not actually a book of dark magic, though it makes references to it. You want to help Harry. It is clear to me that your time in the private sector has indeed atrophied your thought processes. You have forgotten to start at the beginning. It is in my own best interest that you approach the problem with some sort of structure, so I have generously given you a start. Do not expect such things from me often. Plus, it will give you something to read while your ass…recovers," he smirked at her.

Hermione looked at the title on the cover.

"The Journal of Damius Altacare"

Hermione looked up at Severus.

"Who is Damius Altacare?" she asked the wizard, who scowled at her.

"Why the hell do you think I gave you the book, Miss Granger? If you want to find out who he was, read the book you hare-brained little chit!" he snarked. "I must go now."

With that, the Potions Master turned with a billow of robes and disapparated with a crack of thunder. He didn't say good-bye or give her an inkling when she would see him next. Hermione shrugged and took a step toward her bedroom. She winced. Yes, her ass was sore. But the Professor was enormous, though she didn't get a chance to see his tool. No doubt he could have done much worse to her if he wanted. It seemed all he really wanted was to get off.

Hermione retrieved her wand from the end table and slowly made her way to the bedroom, then to her bathroom. She opened the potions stores which was behind the long mirror and looked at the shelves. Yes, the wizard had stocked a lot of potions there for all manner of complaints. Headaches, upset stomach, there was even a cramp reliever. There were a number of contraceptive patches as well. The witch shuffled through the bottles until she found a glass flask filled with purple liquid. It read "Pain Potion."

She opened the bottle and swallowed a little bit of it, just to taste it, but the small amount took away all her ache. It was quite strong. It seemed the wizard didn't want her to be uncomfortable after sex. Not a trait she would expect from the man.

Hermione walked into the bedroom and sat down on the edge of the bed, turning the journal over and over in her hand, before opening it. It was penned in red ink, and a language she didn't understand. She tapped the book with her wand, and the strange markings realigned themselves into lettering she could understand. She read the foreword.

This is the journal of Apocathery Damius Altacare and outlines a great work for the king of Myrrh from the year 855. I have been commissioned to create an invincible army to strike fear into my Lord's enemies. Something that the world has never seen before, something with the potential to make me almost immortal in the process and able to bridge the world of matter and spirit. I already know what I wish to create…the only matter now is how to create it. I may need help from the powers of the nether world, and if so…the price for that aid will be great. Yet I have a trick that will even keep me from the bowels of Hell though my soul is possessed if I am successful.

And I must be successful…my years are waning.

D. Altacare

She began to tremble. Up to this point, no one knew where the Dementors originated from. How did the Professor get this journal…and why did he keep the information to himself when it could have helped others?

Hermione scowled.

Because Severus Snape was a covetous, selfish bastard with no desire to help anyone. If asked about it, he would most likely have replied, "No one asked me."

Well, he had given the journal to her. He was right. She was going about this wrongly. She wasn't doing her background work. Understanding the Dementors might help her develop a working theory even without the books of Dark Magic. If the actual ingredients and spells that created them were there, who knew…maybe she could develop an anti-spell or potion to negate their effects.

Her eyes darkened. But there were no more Dementors. They had all been destroyed at the final battle.

At least that was what the wizarding world believed.

The only one who knew this wasn't true was Harry. And Harry couldn't tell anyone or even bring the remembrance to mind. It was locked inside him.

Fascinated, Hermione opened the book again and began to read, her sharp mind absorbing every single word.

At last, she had something solid to work with.

Severus really didn't have anything to do back at Hogwarts. He just didn't want to stay with Hermione after being intimate with her. It was his usual response to sex when he indulged. Do the dirty deed and make as fast a getaway as possible.

The witch hadn't been bad at all. Hermione's petite body had been an excellent source of sexual pleasure. He thought that he might indulge himself a bit more in the sex department…next time he might actually have intercourse with her. A bit of fellatio as well, though he doubted she could do much with him. He was simply too big. But a little sensation beat none at all. Hermione would manage.

Severus was also quite pleased about being the first wizard to penetrate her anally. She had sealed her fate when she told him she was a virgin. He had never been first in anything to do with a witch in his life, so it was a double pleasure taking Hermione in such a manner. He knew she expected him to make it painful, and he had thought about it quite seriously while Fabio's head rested on his shoulders, but as time passed logic won out. Firstly, it had been a rather nasty hex he put on her, and if she hadn't retaliated in some manner, he would have considered her little more than doormat material which would have added to his already low opinion of the witch. It had been a good hex she set him up with, combined with just the right amount of vindictiveness and nastiness. Making him wear the head of a male muggle supermodel for an entire day when she could have easily removed it in a moment was a stroke of genius. In effect, Hermione had shown herself to have strength and a backbone. He saw very little of that in most witches…Minerva having been the only other witch who showed such traits. The transfiguration teacher may have been a Gryffindor but Minerva had very Slytherin-like tendencies. Hermione was evidencing the same traits as her former head of house. At least she had some positive points.

Severus also believed, after he calmed down, that the spell which bound them would not allow him to take advantage of Hermione beyond the agreement. Yes, sex was part of it…but not violent, brutal sex meant to cause her pain. He was her patron, which also meant her protector. The Potions Master doubted if the spell would allow him to brutalize her while she was his charge and he had no desire to test its limits.

Besides, as dark as he was, Severus had no desire to hurt the brilliant witch. Hermione was like his possession now, and Severus always took good care of his possessions. It was his nature to do so. That way they would last and be in top condition when he needed to utilize them. Plus, Hermione had spirit and he didn't want that taken from her. Nothing was worse than a broken witch. He had seen enough of them in the Dark Lord's service. Female deatheaters…empty, trembling shells of their former selves, afraid to take a single initiative without someone giving them permission. Sure, they were deadly enough in battle, but in the presence of the Dark Lord or other male deatheaters, they were little more than playthings, not allowed to speak unless spoken to, even their bodies not their own, married or not. They were more than servants. They had been slaves. Severus wanted no slave under his control. What was the fun in that?

The Potions Master returned to Hogwarts in a good mood, the best mood he'd been in for a long time. Plus he had thrown the witch a bone. That journal would keep her occupied and no doubt a bit appreciative towards him, despite his "breaking her in."

Severus was more interested in Hermione's project with Harry than he let on. She would make him a fortune if she could find a way to return stolen souls to survivors of Dementor attacks. The wizard only hoped after she read the journal and formed her theories, that she would have enough sense to actually look into Harry's mind and see just what was going on inside him. She had to discover how much soul was left and what he retained and experienced in his semi-vegetative state before she could actually do anything for him. This was something she should have done long ago. The fact that she hadn't showed Severus she was not on point intellectually. Probably her emotions got in the way. She was going to have to move past her feelings for Potter if she wanted to truly help him.

Most likely Severus would have to help her along.

He sighed.

More work.

Hermione read Damius' journal far into the night, Eli appearing and bringing her ham and Swiss cheese sandwiches, fixed just the way she liked them, and some sparkling pumpkin juice.

"My own creation," he said proudly as Hermione exclaimed over how good it was. "Eli could be a chef if he wasn't an elf."

"You could still be a chef, Eli," Hermione said to him.

Eli shook his head.

"I serves my Master and you. That is enough to keeps Eli happy," he replied smiling at the witch. Hermione finished her food and Eli took the plate and glass, then wished her goodnight, leaving her to her reading.

The journal seemed very focused on the nature of the human soul in relation to the cosmos. Damius claimed that the human soul was a microcosm of the Universal soul, and bound together through the "Celestial Music of the Spheres." Much reference was made to a book entitled "The Harmonics of the Human Soul."

Hermione found excerpts of the book, penned in Damius' hand.

This harmony is reproduced in the human body, containing seven organ, seven orifices, the head of the properly formed body measuring exactly one-seventh of the body's length. There are seven spiritual centers which hold the music of the soul and therefore the soul itself. There are times when these spiritual centers become unaligned and the soul either escapes (death) or becomes damaged. In cases of damage, it is believed that the spiritual balance can be restored if the music of the soul is re-established, played by a talented Harper, one who can capture and play the missing strains and allow the soul to heal itself.

The pattern or individual musical structure of an individual can be divined from the moment the human takes his first breath at birth, the pattern and notes of the planet's positions at birth clearly evidencing the music of that particular soul. Translating the planet's natal positions, aspects and progressions into musical patterns and a Harper playing that particular symphony will repair the damaged soul and restore an individual to full spiritual health."

I can often feel the Dark Logos of the earth around me. I have awakened its interest. Soon I may have to make contact and exchange my own soul for its dark powers. It will be a more than fair exchange.

Hermione had to reread the hard to understand passages several times before she understood it. She frowned. A Harper. That must be a wizard that has the power to magically enhance music. She had never heard the term before and assumed it was a power that died out long ago. But the idea of the music of a person's soul being translated from planetary positions at birth intrigued her. Hermione never could play music with any talent, but she could notate it. She enjoyed the mathematics that surrounded the art. It sounded as if charting the music of Harry's soul would be difficult and challenging. Every planet reacted with every other planet in the universe, felt the pull in either a positive or negative manner…which could be deciphered by the degrees apart they were. Then there were retrograde motions, eclipses and other planetary interactions that would have to be taken into consideration. Trines, sextiles, squares and other aspects would have to be translated into notes, chords and final symphonies. There would be progressions, consonance, deceptive cadences and she imagined dissonance. There would never be perfect harmony, because chaos was necessary for change and growth.

Hermione fell back on the bed, her mind spinning with the implications of this knowledge. She could chart how Harry's soul was put together at least. Have some groundwork done. She really wasn't sure if the "Harmonics of the Soul" was an actual magical science and not one wizard's fantasy or fairy tale, but it was worth a try.

She needed to see if she could find the book on soul harmonics itself. Maybe it gave instructions to make the musical translation process simpler. In either case, she needed to go to the Ministry records and pull Harry's birth certificate to find the exact time of his birth, and purchase a star chart or emphermis. Gods, this was so close to astrology, a rather wooly divination science as far as Hermione thought. She could only imagine the Potions Master's reaction to this.

"Music of the soul? Preposterous. Go work on some potions."

And a Harper? She would have to look up Ministry records and see if there was a witch or wizard who had that kind of magical power. If there was, she would do what she had to in order to secure his talents.

With a plan in mind, Hermione felt better about Harry than she had in years. It felt for the longest as if she had been going in circles, but in just one day under Severus Snape's patronage, she had made great mental strides in approaching Harry's problems.

She frowned slightly.

Strides she couldn't have made if the snarky wizard had not provided her the journal. Hermione thought back to their tryst. The Professor hadn't been that bad really, though cold, determined and brooking no opposition. In other words, true to his nature. Hermione was less than willing to oblige the Potions Master because she had thought he was the kind of wizard that enjoyed giving pain, due to how he treated his students and others. She had thought he would brutalize her.

But he didn't hurt her beyond her threshold, and he didn't draw the act out to humiliate her. He just took his pleasure and made sure she was taken care of afterwards, even cleaning and redressing her. It would have been much worse if he had left her to take care of herself. Then he gave her the journal. Hermione wondered if he did that to try and insure that she wouldn't think too badly of him after penetrating her in such a manner. He was quite manipulative. Maybe he thought she'd think…"Yes, he buggered me, but then gave me this wonderful book! What a doll."


But she wasn't as angry toward him as she should have been, so if Severus had planned to stave off her wrath, he was partially successful.

Hermione removed her clothing, put the journal in her drawer by the nightstand and slid under the covers naked. The bed was just the perfect firmness. Hermione idly wondered if this were more elf magic. It didn't matter. She was fried and had a lot to do tomorrow.

She'd need to stop by Gringotts and pick up some spending money first.

She nestled down under the covers. The witch had been so absorbed in reading the journal that she didn't notice the stack of galleons Severus had left on her dressing table or the note beside it. Her weekly personal allowance. It was a rather generous amount.

Severus had no idea how much money a witch spent in a week, but they were vain creatures, so probably went through coinage like water buying doodads, lacy underthings and whatnots. He had plenty of money since he didn't spend a dime of the residuals that had been coming in for years and gaining interest. He had also left Hermione a coupon for Cedric's Sex Symposium.

Twenty-five percent off every sex toy purchased.

The next morning, Hermione awoke raring to go. She took a shower, dressed in comfortable jeans and a t-shirt, pulled her robes over it and tied her hair back in a pony-tail. As she picked up a hair tie off the dressing table, she noticed the stack of galleons, the note and the coupon. Her eyebrows rose as she looked at the amount of money. It was easily a week's salary at her old job. She picked up the note.

Here is your weekly personal allotment. I will leave this amount for you in this area each Sunday evening for your weekly needs unless you tell me you need more in which case I will accommodate you. This money is ONLY to be spent on your personal needs. Any items used for your research are to be purchased from my accounts, which I have temporarily set up with permissions for you to use. I keep careful tabs on spending however, so save all receipts and place them in the top drawer of my writing desk in the living room.

I have also left you a coupon. Please utilize it. It is good at anytime and has no expiration date.

Hermione's mouth formed an "O" as she read the coupon for Cedric's Sexual Symposium. At first she started to tear it up…but after a moment's thought…stuck it in her pocket. It wouldn't hurt to browse the store, particularly since the Potions Master's performances might be few and far between and, well, rather one-sided when they did engage. A witch had to look after her needs, and since she was cut off from other male companionship during Severus' patronage, something from Cedric's might come in handy. She changed her robe, choosing one that had a hidden hood tucked down in the collar. If she went to the sex symposium, she'd be sure to be wearing it.

Hermione decided she would look for the "Harmonics" book before asking the Professor what he knew about it. It didn't classify as a book of Dark Magic and might be available in reprint or in the Ministry Library where she could have it duplicated for a few galleons. She also needed to purchase some staff-lined parchment, a metronome, pencils, erasers and a small child's piano to tap out notes and chords. She also needed a compass, protractor and star charts. Most of all she needed Harry's birth information

Eli knocked on Hermione's door and informed her breakfast was ready.

Hermione followed him to the kitchen and found he had made her a hearty breakfast of sausage, eggs, bread and jam, coffee and pumpkin juice. It was perfect.

"Thank you, Eli" Hermione said as she sat down and pulled the plate toward her.

"It is Eli's pleasure to serve," the elf said, sitting down opposite her and watching her eat with a look of satisfaction on his face. There was also a bit of curiosity.

Hermione couldn't help but notice it. She stopped eating.

"Is there something you want to ask me, Eli?" Hermione asked the elf.

Eli's ears lay back and he looked very nervous.

"It is not Eli's place, Miss," the elf said, "Too nosey, Miss."

Now Hermione was curious.

"You can ask me, Eli. I won't get mad," she replied soothingly.

The elf stared at her for a moment.

"Does the Miss wants a wizard?" the elf asked, his green eyes whirling in his head because of his own audacity.

Both of Hermione's eyebrows rose.

"A what? Wizard?" she repeated.

"Mate," Eli said by way of clarification.

"Oh," Hermione said, looking a bit taken aback. It really was a personal question. "I suppose I do, one day."

Eli's face lit up.

"Oh, that is very, very good Miss! My master needs a mate too," he responded enthusiastically, then he looked a bit sad, "But he needs help. Help to see he needs a mate."

Then the elf's face lit up.

"You and he could be mates. Very good in-outie. Nicer Master," the elf smiled.

Hermione's mouth dropped open.

"In-outie? What in the world is that?" Hermione asked the elf, feeling a bit nauseous at the elf's suggestion that she be the 'mate' of Severus Snape.

Somehow the term "mate" sounded more natural than being the "witch" of Severus Snape, or the "woman" of Severus Snape. He was the kind of wizard that seemed as if he'd have a mate. The designation of "mate" intimated there was only a physical sexual bond. A mate sounded perfect for the Potions Master needs.

But not her. Not in a million, billion years.

In answer to the "in-outie" question, Eli made a circle with his scaly thumb and forefinger, then thrust his other thumb through it very quickly several times. Apparently, house elves had very vigorous sex.

Hermione made a face.

"Sorry Eli…your Master and I are not compatible that way. I want a mate…er…wizard that is human," she said, "Someone with feelings, emotions, settings other than mean and meaner. I want a wizard who is kind. Your Master is not kind, Eli."

Eli swelled visibly.

"My Master IS kind. He took Eli away from the bad place and brought him here, gave him much work," the elf argued.

"Getting himself a slave to take care of his home for free is hardly kindness," Hermione shot back at the elf, her brow furrowed.

Eli pushed away from the table and stood up, highly affronted. The elf was fairly shaking with rage.

"Eli is no slave. I is bonded to my Master and would die for him. He is hard, but good. If not for my Master I would be in Hogwarts very unhappy like the others. You is a bad witch," the elf said, magically clearing the table although Hermione had not finished her breakfast. The elf scourgified the dishes and put them away magically.

"I'm not a bad witch, Eli," Hermione said, somewhat surprised at the elf's demeanor. Most house elves wouldn't dare say something like that to a human. "I just…"

Eli turned on her, scowling.

"My Master takes you in, gives you money, gives you freedom, saves you, and you says cruel, nasty things about him. You is a bad, unthankful witch," he said, pointing a long clawed finger at her and shaking it furiously.

"Saves me? What do you mean? He's not saving me," Hermione said to the house elf, "This patronage works distinctly in his favor. He can have my body when he wants."

Eli stared at her a long moment.

"You thinks that is more than he gives you? You has access to everything! Things my Master does not shares with anyone. You is not only a bad witch, you is a blind witch too," he said quietly, shaking his head and winking out.

Hermione stared at the empty space Eli had occupied only seconds before. She had just been told off by a house elf.

As Hermione prepared to apparate to Diagon Alley, she thought about Eli. He had to be the only living creature on earth that felt so strongly about Professor Snape.

She found that a little sad.

When Severus woke up the next morning, it was business as usual. Getting his shower, having breakfast, gathering the dunderheads' parchments, looking over his lesson plan. Then on a whim, he did something different.

The wizard walked into his study, then over to his writing desk. He pulled out the main drawer, took out the items in it, then lifted the false bottom. Underneath it was a small mirror. He took it out, sat down in his swivel chair and held it up.

"Focus: Hermione Granger," he said to the small piece of glass, which immediately clouded up then showed Hermione at breakfast and Eli sitting across from her. Unfortunately, the mirror did not provide sound so the Potions Master couldn't hear what was being said.

Severus had Eli set up small disillusioned mirrors in every room of the house, including Hermione's bedroom, bathroom and both labs before the witch arrived. They were positioned so they covered every area of space and worked like security cameras. He could only see Hermione when she was in his home. When she left the premises he had no idea what she was doing and the mirrors only captured live action. They couldn't record.

Yes, it was sneaky of the Professor, but he was a Slytherin. Sneakiness was part of the package. The wizard told himself he was just "being careful" and "watching over" the witch. But such extremism suggested there was more to it. Severus was not used to sharing his home or any part of his life, and felt as if he were losing control of part of it with Hermione's presence. She could be doing anything in his home, with his funds. She might even sneak a wizard into her bed. Severus didn't like the helplessness he felt. Watching the witch made him feel less vulnerable. More on top of things.

If the wizard caught Hermione dirty, his wrath would be great. He wasn't certain if the patronage bond would cover her infidelity. Some arrangements were open and fidelity was not a normal part of the bond. He had insisted on Hermione keeping herself pristine for his use, but there was no way to tell if the bond would defend his extra condition. So he had to count on his own methods of protection. Hence the mirror.

Severus watched as Eli made a rather vulgar motion with his fingers. What in the world were they talking about? It had to be sex-related. Then he saw Eli slide back from the table and magically take Hermione's unfinished breakfast away, scowling fiercely at the witch as he did so.

The Potions Master had no idea Eli could or would be so rude to a human as he looked at the stunned Hermione. This was a trait the wizard appreciated. More words passed between them, the elf shaking his finger at the witch as if scolding a child…then he said something else and winked out, leaving Hermione looking bewildered.

Severus didn't know if Eli would reveal their conversation. He was magically bound to keep Hermione's secrets as well. But the wizard certainly was curious as Hermione disapparated.

He'd try and find out later what transpired. The dunderheads awaited.

Hermione arrived at Diagon Alley's public apparition point and immediately drew up her hood and drew her wand. She had decided to go to Cedric's Sex Symposium first, figuring most perverts slept in late exhausted from their nightly activities, and there would be less customers. Cedric's was located in Knockturn Alley. Originally, the owner Cedric had a shop directly on Diagon Alley, but there was a public outcry because so many Hogwarts students shopped their before starting term, and parents felt that seeing huge double-headed dildos and knickers made of sweets dangling in the windows was a bit too much education. So Cedric had to move his shop to Knockturn Alley, which actually improved his business, since customers were leery of entering his shop out in the open. No one cared if you wanted something to twiddle your diddle in that location.

Hermione strode through Knockturn Alley with a strong "I'm-not-a-victim-and-will-blast-your-ass-to-kingdom-come" walk and wasn't bothered a bit by the dark characters loitering there. She often came to Knockturn Alley to get potions ingredients and knew her way around. There had been an incident or two. The Knockturn Alley regulars soon learned it wasn't wise to fuck with a Spells Mistress, even if she was only five foot three.

Hermione walked up to Cedric's Sex Symposium. A few wizards leered at her as she approached, trying to see into her hood as she passed. In the shop window were round mouthed joy-witches complete with tall black pointed hats, a smattering of vibrators and dildos, and a few painful looking clamps that went gods knew where.

Hermione walked into the shop, which held three well-stocked aisles of every kinky doodad you could imagine: Vibrators, dildos, erotic books, phallix glass toys, steel toys, bondage and fetish items, lubricants, gifts and gags, toys for boys, harnesses and butt plugs to name a few.

Behind a counter by the door stood a rather small, bent, glassy-eyed wizard. He was an unhealthy pale color, his black hair slicked to his head, his face pockmarked with craters and he had very full, thick and rather wet lips. He licked them compulsively and rubbed his fingers over his knuckles quite slowly as if caressing them.

This was Cedric.

"Ah, an early bird," he purred, in almost a conspiratorial whisper. The timbre of the shopkeeper's voice made Hermione get goosebumps all over her body and not in a good way as he looked at her rather lasciviously. Cedric embodied the word: Pervert.

"What can I do you for today? Nipples clamps? A Hands-Free Vibrator? Ah, a clitorial piercing, perhaps?" he asked breathily, his eyes dropping to Hermione's thighs for a moment before returning to her face. He smiled, showing gapped brownish teeth. Hermione shuddered.

"I'm just browsing, thank you," Hermione replied in a very high voice, hurrying away from the creepy proprietor.

"Just call me if you need any assistance. Any at all," he called after her.

Hermione didn't reply as she darted down the dildo aisle.

"She wants me," Cedric breathed, rubbing his knuckles even harder, his eyes going half-lidded. "They all want me. I have so many fun toys."

Still hooded, Hermione did her best to shake off the effects of Cedric and tried to focus on the sex toys in front of her, but it was difficult raising her libido high enough to decide what she would enjoy sexually with Cedric perving behind the counter. Gods…she was going to hate paying him. She hoped he wouldn't actually touch what she purchased. If he did, it was going to undergo a very intense purification spell.

There was a large assortment of clownishly colored dildos in all sizes. Hermione liked large. She noticed a sign.

"Hands Free Wicked Wheezer, the Witch Pleaser. Just Invoke and let it Smoke!"

Interested, Hermione eased down to the display. A number of flesh colored dildos of various sizes with scrotums on the ends lay on the table, looking quite realistic. There were tags wrapped around each shaft that gave a further description of what the dildo could do.

"The Wicked Wheezer warms, stiffens and moves like a real penis independent of any physical manipulation on the part of the user. It is invoked by a simple command, has three settings of sexual intensity, gentle, normal, and wild and self-scourgifies at the end of each session. Satisfied customers claim it is as good as the real thing."

Hermione looked over the dildos and picked up a rather large one. She was a small witch but had a thing for big tools and strong wizards. One of the reasons she didn't use sex toys was because they were so much work. The self-engaging Wicked Wheezer sounded just perfect. Of course, there was no galleon back guarantee.

She began to make her way back to the counter, and the disturbing Cedric when she heard the door open and a familiar voice. She hurried back down the aisle and dipped around the corner.

"Hey there, Cedric," a bright female voice called out.

"Ah, Miss Weasley, my best customer…what can I do for you today?" Cedric said in his creepy voice.

Ginny looked up at the handsome blonde-haired wizard on her arm, and the little brunette clutching his other arm rather hotly.

"Oh we know what we want already, don't we John? Gail?" she said to them, grinning sexily, throwing back her red hair.

John's blue eyes glittered at her.

"That's right, Ginny. I certainly know what I want," he growled at her. Then he looked at Gail, who fluttered her lashes at him, her brown eyes fairly glowing. Then she looked at Ginny and nodded, winking at her.

"Gail's the quiet one…at least until we get behind closed doors," Ginny informed Cedric who nodded, his eyes washing over the curvy witches.

"You're a lucky young wizard," he purred at John, who gave him a rakish smile.

"Luck had nothing to do with it. I've already had to prove myself to these little beauties," he said, kissing Ginny, then Gail lightly on the lips. The witches smiled at him. "Good thing I make my own hours at work, or I'd be in big trouble."

"Come on John, let's get it and go back to your flat," Ginny purred, leading him and Gail down the dildo aisle. She stopped in front of a huge display of long, double-headed dildos. She picked up a bright blue one.

"This is a cheery color," she said, turning it over in her hands, testing the rigidness. "What do you think, Gail? We can give him a little breather with this."

Gail nodded and John grinned as they walked back up the aisle to the counter and paid for the item. Hermione noticed Cedric didn't touch it. He just took the galleons and passed them an opaque bag. Ginny put the dildo in and the trio left.

Hermione shook her head. Ginny was obviously as uninhibited as ever.

She made sure they were gone, then approached the counter, placing the Wicked Wheezer on it and pulling out her purse, avoiding looking at Cedric. She was so put out, she completely forgot about the coupon.

"Ah, a good choice. You won't even need a wizard with one of these. I'm told they're that good. I haven't tried one yet, but intend to," Cedric said, accepting the galleons from Hermione. She dropped them into his hand, not wanting to touch him. Ew, ew, ewwww.

Cedric made change and offered it to her. The witch quailed at the coins in his pale palms which looked as if the fish-belly colored flesh was covered in fine black hair. What put hair on palms?

"Keep it," Hermione said quickly.

"So generous," Cedric purred, sliding a bag over. "I hope you continue to patronize my shop."

Hermione didn't reply as she bagged the dildo, reduced the bag and put it in her pocket.

"Have a good day and an even better night," Cedric said to her as she exited the shop quickly.

"Yeah, she definitely wants me," the shopkeeper breathed as he watched Hermione hurriedly exit Knockturn Alley.

"They all do."

Hermione returned to Severus' home with everything she meant to purchase, immediately placing the receipts in the top drawer of the Potions Master's desk as instructed. Paying for the items had been relatively simple. When asked what form of payment she preferred to use she stated the items were to be charged to the account of Severus Snape. His account was referenced and her name was listed beneath his, under "Sponsored."

A couple of clerks who knew the snarky professor curiously gave Hermione the twice over. So, this witch was the charge of the pale, bad-tempered wizard. Who would imagine he'd provide Patronage for anyone? Well, Hermione didn't have any marks on her so she must not be suffering too much.

Hermione was required to press her thumb against the parchment for identification purposes, then her items were charged to the Professor's account and a detailed receipt given her, listing not only the items, but the time and date purchased as well as the clerk who handled the sale. Hermione imagined it was for record keeping and possibly prosecution purposes if she misused the funds provided by her patron for her research. Most likely the clerk named would be in court to testify against her if she were charged with misuse.

Eli was nowhere to be seen when Hermione arrived home. In her experience, house elves always popped up when their charges arrived after shopping to help put away items. Eli's absence meant something was amiss. He had been very angry when last she saw him. Had he decided not to serve her any longer? Could a house elf do such a thing?

Hermione first went into her bedroom and took out her package from Cedric's Sex Symposium and put it in her nightstand drawer, still wrapped up. She pushed it far to the back, flushing a bit. Even though the Potions Master had given her the coupon…she didn't want him to know she actually went to the sex shop. It wasn't the most adult reaction, but there it was.

Hermione then walked downstairs to the spells lab and took out her research items. She took the packages out of her robes pocket, placed them on the counter and enlarged them. She took out a small child-sized piano, a metronome, staff parchment, star charts, protractors and compasses, several EverSharp pencils with erasers and the duplicated copy of "The Harmonics of the Soul."

Hermione arranged the items neatly on the counter, sat down on the stool and made sure everything was properly positioned for researching, then returned back upstairs. Eli was still absent. Worried, she called for him.

"Eli? Eli?" the witch shouted loudly.

Suddenly, a rather sullen voice sounded behind her.

"I am here, Miss," Eli squeaked.

Hermione spun, then gasped, bringing hand to her mouth as she looked at the elf.

Eli's head had knots and bruises all over it, one of his eyes was swollen and half-closed and all his fingers had little rags tied around the tips. The elf's other good eye was glazed with pain.

Hermione ran over to him, kneeling down, her eyes full of worry.

"Eli! Eli what's happened to you?" she asked the elf.

"Eli gave bad service to the Miss. Was disrespectful. Eli punished himself for his badness. Am so sorry Miss. So, so sorry. Is worthy of clothes Eli is," the elf said sadly.

Hermione stared at him for a moment, horror on her face.

"You did this to yourself just because you lost your temper? Oh, Eli," the witch said, tears forming in her eyes, "You shouldn't have done this. Everyone loses their temper."

Eli shook his head.

"Not good house elves, Miss. Never supposed to lose temper with Master or Mistress…not that way. We complains quietly to ourselves, Miss. Not disrespect. Eli was very wicked, bad elf. Deserves clothes," he said again.

"No you don't Eli," Hermione said quietly, standing. "Come with me to my room and let me fix your hands and head."

Eli shook his head stubbornly.

"You are disobeying me, Eli," the witch said.

Suddenly the house elf charged headfirst into the wall, Hermione screaming as he hit it with a thud and fell back, greenish blood oozing from his head.

"No!" Hermione screamed as the elf struggled to his feet and charged the wall again. Hermione pulled out her wand and stunned the elf, who fell to the floor. She ran over to him and picked up his small bleeding body in her arms.

"Oh, Eli. You poor thing. And people think House Elf servitude is all right. It isn't all right if you do this to yourself because you think you've displeased who you serve," Hermione whispered, carrying Eli into her bedroom and gently laying the elf on her bed.

Hermione walked into her bathroom and took out a number of potions from her medicinal stores and carried them back into the bedroom. She sat down on the bed and gently pulled Eli over until his head rested in her lap. She pointed her wand at him.

"Enervate," she said softly.

Eli's good green eye opened and he looked up at Hermione rather dazedly at first. Then he realized where he was and began to struggle.

"I order you to lie still, Eli and let me tend to your wounds," Hermione said sternly.

Eli ceased struggling.

"The Miss should not…" he began when Hermione cut him off.

"Don't speak, just drink these potions," the witch said, offering Eli one vial after the other, the elf drinking them down. They worked and his eyes cleared up, the knots, bruises and cut on his head disappeared and his fingertips were healed. He had purposely burned them on the stove.

Eli sat up and turned so his scaly legs dangled over the edge of the bed. His head hung dejectedly and his ears were flattened to his head in shame. Hermione looked at him.

"Eli, while I am here you will not punish yourself in any manner. Do you understand me? Not for any reason at all. I forbid it," the witch said.

Hermione wasn't comfortable giving orders to the elf like this, but it was the only way she could be sure he wouldn't do himself harm.

"Yes Miss," the elf said sullenly, not looking at her.

"And I don't want you thinking about what happened this morning anymore. Everyone loses their temper. You are very loyal to your Master. I understand why you were upset with me. And you are right about some aspects of it. You just have to realize that I see things differently with your Master. I am not here because he is being kind to me. We have an arrangement. We are both taking what we need from each other. There are aspects to our arrangement that are difficult for both of us, I imagine. Your Master isn't used to sharing what is his. And I am not used to sharing my body the way I agreed to. We aren't used to it yet. Not used to each other. I've only known the Professor as a brilliant Potions Master, but someone selfish, sarcastic and rather cruel to people, Eli, even though he served the Order. I don't see him the way you do. Maybe before this patronage is over I will see something good in him," she explained to the elf. "I think it best if we don't discuss how we feel about him anymore. All right?"

Eli looked at her and nodded.

"Yes Miss," he said.

"Good," Hermione replied, resisting the urge to pet the elf on his head. "Now, no more about what happened. We are going to pretend that we are just getting acquainted again…and I am starving. Could you make me lunch?"

Eli hopped off the bed, fully restored.

"Yes Miss," he said, bowing low. "A most yummy lunch for the Miss. I go now."

Eli winked out.

Hermione let out a huge sigh and scourgified the green blood off her robes. She threw away the empty bottles of healing and pain potions and washed her hands. Poor Eli. He must have suffered so much while she was gone. Hopefully, this wouldn't happen again. He was just expressing what he felt. Apparently that wasn't allowed.

Hermione understood house elves enjoyed being bound, but that still didn't make it right in her opinion, not if things like self-punishment were part of their service. Ah well. This was the wizarding world. No one would take up the cause of the House Elf. She found that out years ago at Hogwarts. Even Hagrid told her to leave them alone when she tried to campaign to give them freedom, rights and pay.

This wasn't the muggle world. No one interfered in the personal lives of others on a social level. There were no protests if a witch chose to terminate a pregnancy, or if two people of the same sex wanted to be married or adopt a child. Wizarding society allowed people to make their life choices and deal with the consequences of those choices on their own. So no matter how she felt about Eli's situation, she had to leave it alone.

Eli made her a huge ham sandwich, piled high with ham, cheese, sweet pickles, tomatoes and mustard, as well as a large, cold glass of sparkling pumpkin juice. She ate every bit of it, the elf smiling at her.

"Not so much a bad witch," the elf thought as he looked at her. "Maybe not so blind either."

When Hermione finished her sandwich, she looked at Eli.

"Eli, that was the most delicious ham I've ever tasted," she said to the elf, who looked around the kitchen very guiltily.

"Was not the usual ham, Miss," he said in a low voice, his ears pressed flat against his head "Was the Master's own. Eli wants to make the Miss a wonderful sandwich…so uses that."

"Really?" Hermione replied, dropping her voice as if the Potions Master could hear them to comfort the elf.

"Yes. It is called 'Iberico ham. Muggles makes it. Is very good. Very expensive," the elf whispered, his green eyes whirling.

Hermione had heard about that kind of ham, but never tasted it before. The ham itself came from Spain, the highly-prized meat harvested from black-hoofed Iberian hogs. The hogs were treated royally, living a leisurely free-range life and eating up to 20 pounds of acorns a day. The bellota-ham cuts, marbled with fat and infused with flavor from the acorn diet, are cured in mountain air for at least two years. A very, very expensive meat. Obviously the Professor was a connoisseur. He would probably have conniptions if he knew Eli was feeding Hermione his treasured Iberico ham.

"Well, thank you, Eli…it was very delicious," she said, "We'll just keep it between ourselves."

The elf nodded and grinned then cleared the table. Hermione stood up, stretched and patted her belly. She was a bit sleepy, but decided against a nap. She wanted to read the "Harmonics" book for a while to see if she could get any tips on translating the planetary map of Harry's soul into music. Then she would chart his soul pattern based on his birth date and time. According to Harry's birth certificate, he was born at seven thirty-one in the morning. Hermione found that interesting because he was also born the seventh month and thirty-first day. She was sure that was significant.

Hermione said goodbye to Eli and headed down to the lab.

She had work to do.

Severus hadn't visited his home in over a month, though he kept tabs on Hermione through the magic mirror, wondering what the hell she was up to. On the blackboard in the Spells lab, she had drawn two charts of what appeared to be an over the top view of the solar system, with the sun in the middle and only seven planets encircling it. Underneath each planet was a single letter of the alphabet. They both differed, the planets in different locations in each chart.

She also was working furiously on some kind of calculations, her hair a complete rat's nest…proof that whatever she was doing had taken her over completely. Eli came down with sandwiches and had arguments with her, presumably about eating. He always won however, though he had to dodge an irritated hex or two. Severus smirked at this. Hermione had very dark tendencies.

He remembered how she had idiotically tried to start a campaign to give house elves more respect and rights. Now look at her…firing hexes at one. Luckily, as an elf that served Voldemort, Eli was extremely nimble at dodging hexes. Deatheaters would hex the elves for fun, and Eli had retained his survival instincts.

The Potions Master watched as the witch made chart after chart, crumpling up work she had been hovering over for days, then starting over. Her eyes had that hungry look the Severus remembered when she was discovering some new knowledge.

Finally it seemed she had gotten what she wanted, then for the next several days it was all compasses, protractors, points and more calculations. She had not gone near a cauldron or wand for more than three weeks.

It was when Hermione began cautiously plunking notes on what looked like a child's piano and making musical notations that Severus' curiosity couldn't be contained any longer. That Friday evening he arrived at his home and after rummaging through her bedroom, immediately went to the Spells lab, opening the door and entering. Hermione was so absorbed in her work, she didn't even hear him.

The wizard silently approached the witch and stood behind her, looking over her shoulder at very complicated planetary charts with all manner of colored lines arcing from planet to planet, and symbols running along each line, and a kind of multiplication chart using planetary symbols instead of numbers. He recognized the symbols for trines, sextiles and squares representing degrees of planetary interaction. Hermione's brow was deeply furrowed as she added a note to the staff paper in front of her.

She was writing music? Music?

The Potions Master's eyebrows rose. He was sure she had an explanation for all this, but she was supposed to be working on Harry's situation, spells or potions.

"Using my galleons to create symphonies, Miss Granger?" he said suddenly. "I doubt you are a good enough composer to earn me any galleons with your lyrical notations."

Hermione started, turning around quickly, her hand going to her heart. Severus smirked, pleased he had startled her. She took a deep breath.

"You could have let me know you were here," she said scowling at him.

"I did," he replied, "Now what are you doing?"

"I'm notating the music that should heal Harry's broken soul," she replied, turning back to the sheet music."

"What?" Severus said incredulously, his face contorting at such a ridiculous statement. He was about to blow a torch at her wastefulness, when she slid her journal over to him.

"Before you bust a blood vessel, read," she said.

Severus snatched the journal from Hermione's hand, pulled up a stool and started reading. She had recorded quite a bit of work, and his frown soon turned to a look of interest as he read what she was doing, what it was based on and her findings. It took him about forty-five minutes to get through it. Finally he put the book down and looked at the notations.

"So this is?" the Potions Master said.

"The opening melody to Harry's soul," she said softly, her eyes shining. "It's only a few notes…but there is something about them…something that touches me."

Severus eyed the notes, and the timing, playing them in his mind.

Hermione reached over to the little piano and hesitatingly tapped them out.


theburningpen . com Slash Gray Slash harry . m3u

She was no musician. Severus had to admit (to himself of course) those few notes were rather moving.

"And you hope to do what with this?" he asked her, though her journal had covered that.

Hermione turned to him.

"After I complete the score, I need to try and find a Harper…someone who has Music magic. A Harper can turn ordinary music into something more…he or she could bind this score to Harry's broken soul like a missing pattern and allow it to repair itself. I couldn't find a Harper listed at the Ministry. They are usually virtuosos, very talented musicians," she said. "I figure I will check out a few bands or orchestras to see if I can find someone who plays with great skill. Maybe they might have untapped powers, or I can enhance their playing magically."

"I see," Severus said, looking at the notations. It seemed Potter's score would be interesting. He might duplicate it and see what it was about when Hermione was finished with it. He looked at the witch. She was a mess.

"You've been taking care of yourself in your usual manner when working on a project I see," he commented, sniffing delicately. "You need a bath. You stink to high heaven. It is fortuitous I didn't have carnal intentions toward you tonight. I would have been completely repulsed."

Hermione bit back a reply that she would stay in a constant state of stink in that case. The Potions Master's eyes glittered at her anyway. He knew she was thinking of saying something very stupid.

"As it stands, I've only come to collect my receipts. I will be returning to Hogwarts now," the dark wizard said, his dark eyes washing over the witch. "Get a bath, for gods' sake."

Severus exited the lab, Hermione sticking her tongue out at his back as he strode up the stairs, robes billowing.

Yet seeing the wizard had a very odd effect on Hermione. She felt a bit randy at the sight of him. The witch had been so caught up in her work that she hadn't given a moment to thinking about sex. But now…shit.

Their initial sexual encounter had been rather one-sided, but the Potions Master had quite a large attribute…no doubt intercourse with the wizard would be good despite his coldness. But hell, it could be months before that happened. Hermione felt herself getting a little wet and found the scent of arousal mixed with unwashed body was not good. She did need a bath…and maybe a little something else.

She thought about the Wicked Wheezer dildo in her nightstand drawer.

Maybe it was time to break it in.

Back in his study, Severus tried to focus on something other than what he had found in Hermione's nightstand.

The Wicked Wheezer.

He knew he had left the coupon for her, but he didn't actually think she'd go to Cedric's sex shop. Of course, she had needs…but he thought the witch better…well…controlled than that. Perhaps if it had been an ordinary dildo, it wouldn't…wouldn't make that much of a difference. But what he saw and by what he read, that was much more than a toy a witch stuffed in and out of herself.

It was a toy that actually shagged.

When he opened the package, at first he was startled because of how realistic the dildo looked. It was as if a wizard had been castrated and his tool placed in a bag. Severus sat down on the bed and pulled the thing out. It was quite large, almost the size of his own member. Hermione was such a small witch. Obviously, she preferred large tools.

Well, he definitely had that.

Severus read the label. Hands free? Stiffens? Warms? Three settings? The Potions Master read further to find out how the dildo worked. Hmm. A simple invocation accompanied by the preferred setting.

Do me gentle. Do me normal. Do me wild.

Good gods.

She hadn't used it yet. But he imagined she would soon.

The wizard walked over to his liquor cabinet and fixed himself a drink, sitting down in his armchair and taking a slow sip as he stared into the fireplace. He had been observing Hermione, but not watching her in her bedroom or bathroom. Hell, she wasn't showering anyway, so the most he probably would have seen was her using the loo. Severus wasn't interested in that.

But after what he said to her tonight, perhaps she would look after herself. He downed the firewhiskey, then fixed himself another…then another, getting ready to tie one on, listen to some classical music and probably play a bit on his violin. But as his buzz grew, so did his curiosity. Finally he stood up, stalked over to his desk, opened the drawer, removed the false bottom and took out his security mirror. There really was no reason for the wizard to hide the mirror the way he did, but Severus was a bit paranoid and never left anything he valued out in the open or easily accessible. His rooms were private, but house elves and Albus could enter at will. He never really trusted the Headmaster too much. Dumbledore had a rather nosey nature, and Severus could see the old coot snooping about his rooms a bit if it suited him.

The wizard grabbed the entire bottle of firewhiskey out of the cabinet and set it on the table next to his armchair, right by the wizarding wireless radio. He sat down and looked into the mirror.

"Focus: Hermione Granger," he said, warmed by the booze he consumed. What he saw made him feel a bit warmer.

Hermione was nude in the shower, soaping up her body with a washcloth. She was a very curvy witch, with large breasts, dark nipples, a small waist, ample hips and ass and rather thick thighs. She would probably become rounder when she reached middle age.

Severus watched her wash her hair. It was quite sensual to see her this way, unaffected and natural, lifting her curling locks, soaping them up, rinsing and letting the water run over her body. His eyes fell to the little vee of chestnut pubic hair and he felt a small throb. He swallowed and poured himself another drink.

The mirror followed Hermione as she exited the shower and dried off, drawing the towel over her body slowly…a bit too slowly in fact. The Potions Master sat forward in his chair watching her. She was doing it on purpose, rubbing the towel over her breasts until her nipples stood up in hard peaks, throwing her head back as she rubbed between her legs. She was arousing herself.

Severus then leaned to the right and turned on the wizarding wireless, letting the beautiful music wash over him as he watched Hermione exit the bathroom, everything twisting and shifting deliciously as she walked. Those robes hid a lot.

Hermione sat down on the bed and opened the nightstand drawer. Didn't she sleep in anything? Severus himself slept in the nude, but it seemed…scandalous that a witch would do such a thing.

Severus held his breath as the witch reached into the drawer. There were books in there…it could be she was going to read for a bit…but she wasn't. She drew out the bag with the dildo in it.

Severus let out a long breath as he watched the petite witch pull out the huge dildo and remove all the tags and labels. Then she read them again, and stared at the huge fake member for a moment before flicking it with her forefinger. It bobbed comically and she shook her head as if she couldn't believe she was doing this.

Severus couldn't believe he was watching her do it, but he was and he felt rather aroused by it. Hermione slid into the bed and lay down on her back spreading her legs and bending her knees slightly.

The Potions Master swallowed again as he got a peek at Hermione's pink core and watched as she slid her own fingers between her thighs and starting masturbating, her face contorting slightly as she arched up from the bed.

Good gods. Was this the same witch that was such a mess in the lab only an hour or two ago?

Severus unconsciously began unbuttoning his robes. He had a huge erection and it was uncomfortably tenting his trousers. He had to let it out. The wizard pulled open his robes and unfastened his trousers, reaching in and drawing out his stiff organ, his black eyes locked to the mirror and the gyrating witch on the four-poster bed.

Severus had never been a voyeur before…not purposely. He had witnessed sexual acts at the Revels, but he had to do that…and they were depraved acts that he hated, painful, cruel and ending in death. This was the first time he found himself enjoying watching a woman…particularly a woman who thought she was behind closed doors and away from prying eyes. This was the real Hermione he was observing…the sexual side of the walking Gryffindor brain, the primal female animal.

He watched as Hermione partially sat up, her legs still bent and spread, her hair falling forward as she watched herself lowering the Wicked Wheezer to her core.

"Do me. Wild," the witch breathed.

Hermione shrieked and fell back on her hands as the Wicked Wheezer wickedly lived up to its name, plunging into her hard, deep and fast.

"Oh shit!" the jerking witch cried, her face contorting as the sex toy did its work.

Severus' eyes were as wide as saucers as he watched the sex toy tear into the witch's body, Hermione apparently shrieking as it drove into her incessantly.

"Good lord," he breathed, his erection becoming rock hard and starting to ache as he watched the little witch. "She must have set it on wild."

Hermione was getting quite a reaming, the Wheezer stuck on high and hard. The witch fell back and the toy adjusted itself, continuing its assault on her body, Hermione arching and wailing, her fingers clawing the mattress as the toy fucked her. Tears streamed from her eyes.

"Why doesn't she stop it?" the Professor breathed, watching her body gyrate under the pummeling.

Hermione turned over rising to her knees, the Wheezer staying with her, entering from the back now, the witch's head down, her curling hair sprawled over the pillows, her face turned toward the mirror, her eyes closed and mouth slack. Her breasts swung in tangent with the Wheezer's penetration, her body covered in a slick sheen of sweat. Severus thought she was the most erotic sight he'd ever seen…and the way she was taking that toy…

"Damn," he thought as he watched her.

Severus was amazed as he watched the witch willingly giving herself up to the almost brutal toy. It was huge, and although it was clear it made her ache, she didn't even try to stop it. Suddenly the witch stretched out, her mouth open and eyes closed, then she began to shudder and Severus watched as the toy literally began to drip with her release. She had orgasmed, and slumped in the bed, the dildo still tearing into the spasming witch. She still didn't stop it, but lay there with a small smile on her face, the very picture of surrender.

Severus didn't realize he was stroking his own extended member as he watched Hermione. Whenever the Potions Master had engaged in sex with a witch, because of his size he had always had to hold back. If he began to get too arduous, the woman would complain. Since he wanted to climax, he listened. If he had indulged in the Revels, he could have let loose, but he managed to fandangle his way out of performing for Voldemort. He didn't want to take a woman who he knew was being victimized…who he knew was going to die. And they were, because he was the one who usually mercifully killed them with the Killing Curse as their bleeding, broken, suffering bodies quaked on the mattresses, even more deatheaters approaching. He was often crucio'd for "killing too quickly" but the Potions Master thought he was never quick enough to spare them the horrible pain they suffered through as deatheater after deatheater raped, bit and beat them.

But here…here was a woman who obviously liked it rough…rougher than he ever imagined any woman would want. What was with Hermione Granger? Why was her sex drive so strong? He watched as the witch orgasmed again. She had flipped back over and held her legs to her chest and he could clearly see the huge Wheezer dipping into her up to its false balls. It was covered in white, creamy come.

Suddenly the Professor choked and stiffened, letting out a howl as he ejaculated, his come falling on the hearth and even into the fire where it sizzled. The wizard's head fell forward, his long, lank hair falling around his head as he grunted with pleasure until the final pulse. He sat there a moment, breathing heavily, his eyes closed, the long black lashes resting against his pale cheeks. After a moment or two, he raised his head to look into the mirror.

Hermione was flat on her back, her breasts rising and falling, the Wicked Wheezer lying on the mattress between her legs, still and clean. She had finally stopped it and it self-scourgified. Her face was flushed, but there was a look of satisfaction there. She opened her eyes and looked up at the ceiling, wrapping her arms around her belly, still quaking slightly.

The wizard's dark eyes rested on the sated witch thoughtfully as he drew his wand out of his pocket and scourgified himself and the hearth.

So this was the other side of Hermione Granger when she willingly engaged in sex. She certainly wasn't the resigned witch he reamed bent over the couch.

This Hermione Granger was far more interesting.

This Hermione Granger was a masochist.

The wizard tucked himself back into his boxers and closed his trousers. Even without a witch, that had been one hell of a climax.

How intense could it be with a witch with needs like Hermione?

Severus wondered if he had made a mistake not giving the witch equal sexual access to him. He poured himself another firewhiskey, his buzz being all but neutralized by what he had witnessed. He tossed it down and wiped his mouth, looking at the naked witch. She was sound asleep, looking completely at peace. Naughty, naughty woman.

Hm. Some changes would have to be made. But first the Potions Master had to do one thing.

Get rid of that blasted Wicked Wheezer.

The next morning, Hermione awoke stretching luxuriously, aware of a luscious ache. She sat up and looked at the Wicked Wheezer still lying between her legs. She picked it up and looked at it. It was no worse for wear.

"Now, you were a good investment," she said to the bobbing dildo, then opened the drawer and returned it to the bag, pushing it to the back of the nightstand and closing the drawer.

She stretched and slid out of the bed, going directly to the shower.

Hermione had never had the opportunity to experience sex that strongly before. True, she had a couple of lovers who brought her to orgasm, but the witch could never bring herself to tell them what she really wanted, afraid that her partner would think something was wrong with her. The Wheezer had brought her closer to her deepest, darkest desire. As good as the toy had been strength-wise, there was the missing element of a strong male body, and rhythmic differences in stroke. A wizard could move his body different angles, faster, slower, locate the sweet spot and do a number of wonderful things to a witch's body. The Wheezer, though good could only drive…it couldn't feel her reactions and adjust itself to be even better. An attentive lover could do that.

Physically she was sated, but there was still something missing. But then again, she'd take what she could get.

After dressing, she walked into the kitchen to find Eli had made her an ample breakfast, featuring several very thin slices of the Professor's treasured ham.

"Good morning, Miss. Did you sleeps well?" the elf asked her.

There was a knowing look in the little creature's eyes that made Hermione suspect Eli knew exactly what she had been up to last night. If Eli did know, he made no mention about it as he placed utensils next to her plate.

"Yes I did, Eli," Hermione responded, picking up a slice of the succulent Iberico ham and poking it into her mouth. Gods, it was good. She chewed blissfully, then bit into a slice of toast covered with butter and jam, thinking about the day ahead.

Eli noticed she was all cleaned up. That was good. The Miss was starting to stink and he didn't know how to tell her without giving offense. Not that it bothered him too much…house elves kind of liked pungent odors…but he knew his Master wouldn't appreciate her scent.

"The Miss takes a shower," he commented, smiling.

Hermione nodded.

"I was overdue. Will probably be so again," she replied, "At least until I finish the scoring. I just get so absorbed in my work, Eli. It's like nothing else matters when I work."

The elf nodded, not responding. He often lost track of everything when working. He could identify with the witch. But house elves didn't sweat so body odor wasn't an issue.

"You would have made a good house elf, Miss," Eli said by way of compliment. Hermione smiled at the elf and finished her breakfast.

Well, she had showered well and put on plenty of deodorant. Her hair no longer smelled of jasmine, however. She had followed the Potions Master's directive and bought unscented shampoo and conditioner. She ought to be good for a day or two.

She said goodbye to Eli and headed down to her lab, ready to immerse herself in scoring. She was making good, if slow progress. She intended to get the basic melody line down first, then the accompaniment. She wondered just how Harper magic worked. One witch or wizard was supposed to be able to play an entire symphony. It sounded impossible. But then again, it was magic. She only hoped she could find someone who possessed the gift.

Severus stayed away from his home for another month, though his mind drifted towards Hermione quite often. He had purchased a book that went into depth about female masochism and spent his evenings reading it and sipping firewhiskey after finishing his class work.

He came to the conclusion that Hermione was the way she was because of the stress of just being who she was. All through school she was held to a higher standard, was always the one expected to be exemplary…and lived up to it. Maintaining such a standard of control in her life was stressful. She was very intelligent, and most likely found it challenging to find wizards who could deal with her. She had said she had intercourse, but not relationships. Many wizards would feel threatened by the witch on a number of levels.

When she had sex, she used it as a kind of release…a way to surrender and give up control. Apparently the more vigorous and physical it was, the better she felt. It seemed to take quite a bit of effort on the part of a wizard to make her feel better, if she had even found anyone to meet her dark needs.

Somehow, Severus doubted it. If she were a Slytherin witch, she would have no problem sharing her need for strong, dominating sex. But she was a Gryffindor, and Gryffindors were supposed to be "good." Being shagged until there was a depression in the mattress was not conducive to that image. Most likely, she had never told a soul.

He had taken to looking in on her nightly. Again, she wasn't taking care of herself as she should, her hair a mass of tangles, circles under her eyes, fighting with Eli about eating. But she didn't go for the Wheezer again. Still, he wanted to get it away from her.

At first, he thought about asking Eli to filch it, but he didn't know if the elf could lie to Hermione if she asked him did he take it. He wouldn't tell Severus ordered him to, but it could put him in a bad light with the witch if he told her the truth. Hermione would stop trusting him and it wouldn't be fair to Eli.

Besides, taking the Wicked Wheezer wasn't a real solution. The witch could just go buy another one.


Tomorrow was Saturday.

He'd pay a visit to Diagon Alley.

The next morning, Severus had an early breakfast, did some last minute grading pocketed his security mirror and apparated to Diagon Alley. The wizard strode from the public apparition point directly to Knockturn Alley, his face set.

Wizards and witches quickly got out of his way as he strode through the dark alley, heading for Cedric's Sex Symposium. Severus Snape was well-known here, both respected and feared. He was a wizard who hexed first and didn't bother with questions.

Severus walked past the joy-dolled window and entered the shop. Cedric was behind the counter, counting his till when the tall, pale wizard walked in. He looked up at Severus and his jaw dropped for a moment, then snapped shut.

Gods, he'd make the perfect Master. What a cruel mouth and piercing dark eyes. That huge nose promised something huge underneath as well. Cedric wouldn't mind taking a few licks from the Potions Master. He hunched submissively as Severus glowered down at him, hoping that the wizard recognized the sign of interest. He didn't.

"Are you the owner of this…this establishment?" Severus asked, his dark eyes drifting over the shelves full of sexual doodads before turning back on Cedric, who was practically quivering.

"Yesssss," he hissed at the wizard.

Severus scowled at him for a moment.

"I have a request to make of you," the Potions Master said, noticing the man shuddering in a way that disturbed him.

"Oh gods, why couldn't he order me to do something, like suck him off?" Cedric thought as he looked up at the lank-haired wizard.

"What is it?" Cedric asked.

"I want you to refuse service to a patron," the Potions Master said.

Cedric immediately stopped quivering. This was galleons the wizard was talking about. Lost galleons.

"I can't do that. This is my livelihood," the proprietor said, meeting Severus' eyes steadily. It wasn't surprising. Cedric's shop was in Knockturn Alley after all…the wizard couldn't be too much of a pushover, or he'd be constantly robbed. As it was, no one other than customers entered his premises. There had to be a reason.

"I will make it worth your while," Severus replied, taking out a large sack of galleons and setting it on the counter, the coins clinking loudly. Cedric's eyes glittered and he rubbed his knuckles very hard as he looked at the sack. Then he looked up at Severus.

"Who is it?" he asked, his eyes shifting back to the bag on his counter.

"Her name is Hermione Granger. She is about five foot three, chestnut haired with amber eyes. She was in here about two months ago and purchased a Wicked Wheezer," the Potions Master said.

Cedric looked thoughtful, then smiled, showing his gapped brown teeth.

"Ah, yes. She wore a hood and wouldn't show her face the entire time she was in here. Very nervous, that one. It was the only time she was in here. Sure, I can deny her service," the shopkeeper said.

Cedric didn't believe Hermione would be back anyway or if she did come, it would be intermittently. He'd be better off taking the galleons from the wizard. The witch would never spend that much after all.

"Good. Sell her nothing," Severus said, his black eyes glinting as he slid the bag over to Cedric, whose hand darted out like a snake, snatching the bag from the counter and pulling it protectively into his body. He cupped the bag of money with his other hand and caressed it lovingly.

"Yours is the only sex shop in the area," Severus said to him darkly, "So if the witch turns up with any new toys I will assume she purchased them here. In that case, since you have accepted my money I will be forced to take action against you. Very physical action."

Cedric cringed and began to tremble again at the thought of the wizard beating and manhandling him. It was almost too much to hope he might fuck him too. The pervert's eyes went half-lidded at the thought.

"I won't sell her anything, but if you think me amiss…by all means come seek me out. You'll find I can take it like a man," the shopkeeper said breathlessly.

Severus felt a wave of nausea wash over him as he saw the desire in the bent wizard's eyes. He had to get out of here.

"You've been warned," he growled, turning and leaving the shop with a billow of robes.

"I know. I know I've been warned. Gods, threaten me again," Cedric breathed after the wizard, stroking the bag harder and harder until his eyes rolled up in his head. His hips thrust forward a few times, then he relaxed, shuddering slightly.

"I love when that happens," he said with a sigh, his trousers full of hot come.

It had been quite a profitable and exemplary morning for the twisted shopkeeper.

Cedric gave a final shudder as he thought about Severus.

What a Master that wizard would make.

As Severus strode through Knockturn Alley, he surreptiously pulled out the security mirror.

"Focus: Hermione Granger," he said in a low voice.

Hermione appeared, hard at work in her lab, plunking keys on the little piano and making notations. She looked awful, which meant she wouldn't be coming upstairs. The wizard closed the connection and repocketed the mirror. When he arrived at the public apparition point, he cast a silencing spell on himself and disapparated to his home.

He had a Wheezer to get rid of.

He appeared in the living room silently, startling Eli who was dusting needlessly.

"Master! Is good to see you! Can I fix you something?" the delighted elf asked the wizard.

Severus scowled at him, and Eli's ears instantly flattened against his head.

"You will not tell Miss Granger I have been here," Severus directed the elf, who shook his head.

"No sir. Not a word. Eli keeps his Master's secrets," the elf replied nervously.

"Good," Severus said, then he strode down the hallway to Hermione's bedroom, opened the door and walked directly over to her nightstand. He opened it and removed the package containing the Wicked Wheezer, reduced it and stuck it in his pocket. He exited the bedroom.

"Now what will you do, witch?" the Potions Master breathed with a nasty smirk, replacing the silencing spell then disapparating.

Hermione didn't notice the Wheezer missing at all. She made great progress in notating the music of Harry's soul, becoming more proficient as she worked, learning by sight the musical expressions of two or more planetary aspects. There was quite a bit of augmentation in Harry's music as the soul progressed in years, probably signifying the effect of all the challenges he went through during his life as well as much discordance from beginning to end. Parts of the music reminded Hermione of a great battle. She felt it would be best to progress the score to a year or two past where Harry was stricken by the Dementor…as if it had never happened, to represent a healthy soul pattern rather than his current state of brokenness.

Hermione visited Harry several times since she became the Potions Master's charge. She told Harry all about it, as he blankly smiled at her and held her hand. Hermione could only imagine what the wizard's reaction would have been if he had been whole:

"Are you out of your bloody mind Hermione? That means you'd have to shag the greasy bastard. Shag him, Hermione! That's like shagging a troll or something, but a thousand times worse! I don't care if you are doing it for me…can't you get out of it?"

Most likely if she did manage to restore Harry to his former state, she'd still hear it. The witch's eyes glistened. She'd give anything to have Harry scold her, his green eyes belligerently flashing behind his glasses in righteous anger. Anything.

And she was.

The Professor hadn't made a sexual advance toward her in over three months. Hermione was a bit surprised. She knew the dark wizard had said he would only come to her when his body required release, but she thought he might try to take just a little advantage of their situation. The witch reversed the roles in her mind and colored a bit as she realized if it were she in the dominant position, she certainly would have taken advantage of it. Dear gods, did this mean Professor Snape had better ethics than she did? A very disturbing thought to say the least.

It had been more than a month since Hermione had engaged the Wheezer, though she had a couple of randy nights. She didn't know why she didn't pull it out. Maybe because the idea of becoming sexually dependent on a toy bothered her. It would be easy to do. Then, when she got the real thing and it wasn't satisfactory she would feel horrible. The witch didn't want that to happen. She needed a real encounter. A real wizard.

Suddenly Eli winked down into the lab.

"Excuse me, Miss," he said, his ears flattened.

Hermione looked up from her work, a bit irritated.

"What is it, Eli?" the witch asked the elf sharply.

Eli's ears flattened.

"I comes to tell you that the Master is coming tomorrow night. He says you is to be 'presentable all over' and to dress for dinner," the elf said apologetically.

Hermione dropped her pencil and stared at Eli for a moment. Presentable all over? That could only mean one thing. He meant to engage her. Since he wanted her thoroughly clean, it was highly doubtful he intended to bend her over a couch and lift her robes.

Hermione felt a pulse of warmth inside. It was a reaction to sex rather than the Professor himself. Gods, he had a huge tool. Hopefully he would be good…but the way the witch felt, any encounter with a living male would be good.

Eli smirked. He could tell the witch was excited about the Master coming for in-outie. Maybe…maybe they could become mates after all. The elf's ears slowly shifted forward.

"I will makes a good dinner. Shrimps. Fish. Oysters. Salad. Fruit. Not too heavy though Miss. Heavy not good for in-outie," the elf said knowledgably.

Hermione colored.

"That sounds fine, Eli," she said quickly, turning back around to the counter and picking up the fallen pencil doing her best not to appear excited or flustered. But Eli wasn't fooled. He could smell her slight arousal.

The elf bowed.

"As you wishes, Miss," he said, smiling and winking out.

It took Hermione a little while to get back into the groove. The Potions Master was coming for her tomorrow night. She hoped the cold, snarky wizard would be satisfying. At least bring her to orgasm.

If he didn't…she'd just die.

Severus found himself sporting wood several times during the day. It was quite unsettling for the wizard. It was the first time he had ever found himself in the position of lusting after a particular witch. Normally, he became aroused at the physical sight of a female body, not the idea of it. He didn't like feeling this way. It was so…uncontrolled. It was as if his body was taking over. Despite his discipline, the wizard couldn't stop the erections from happening.

Good thing it was Saturday, or the wizard would have spent much of his class time behind the desk, hiding his tented robes. As it was, he was having difficulty not apparating to his home early. He had made certain plans on how to approach his possession of the witch tonight and he wanted to stick to them. He took out his security mirror and focused on Hermione.

It appeared the witch was also out of sorts. She spent much of her time pacing in her lab rather than notating, though she sat down several times and tried to work. Was it possible she was anticipating his arrival? Well if she was, she didn't look it. Her hair was still ratty and tangled, her robes wrinkled from days of wear. Hopefully she'd clean up good before he arrived…and if she hadn't…

The Potions Master's lip curled nastily.

He'd throw her into the shower himself.

When Severus arrived at his home that evening, he found Hermione seated in the living room waiting for him. She looked presentable. Her hair was washed and she wore a white blouse and blue skirt with comfortable white shoes. Not formally dressed but…presentable. Her amber eyes shifted up to his face. He thought he saw a bit of expectancy there.

"It's good to see you bathed," he said gruffly, his dark eyes washing over her. "My nose thanks you."

"Delighted to see you too, Professor," she replied sarcastically as the wizard strode past her.

Eli had set dinner up in the dining room, the large table transformed into one more suitable for two diners and covered by a Slytherin green tablecloth. A pitcher of pumpkin juice and a bottle of magically chilled wine sat waiting for consumption.

Hermione stood up and followed him as the Professor walked over to the table and sat down. She stopped near her seat, looking at him. Most wizards pulled out the chair for the witch when they were sitting down to a meal. Severus looked up at her, his eyes narrowed.

"Well, don't just stand there, sit down," he snarked at her.

Hermione made a noise as if swallowing back some rude comment, pulled out her chair and sat down heavily.

Eli appeared out of the kitchen carrying two steaming bowls of tomato soup, Hermione's favorite. He sat one down in front of Hermione first, then Severus…who wrinkled up his nose.

"What's this?" he asked the house elf.

"Tomato soup, Master. The Miss likes it," the elf replied, trembling as Severus scowled.

"Well I don't. Take it back, Eli," he said. "I like soup with meat and vegetables. You know that."

Eli nervously took the bowl from in front of his frowning Master, and without a word returned to the kitchen with it.

He stared at Hermione, who was eating her soup.

"You are exerting undue influence over my house elf," he said to her, frowning.

"He was just trying to be nice to me," Hermione replied a bit defensively.

"He is my elf first and foremost. He should be trying to please me, not you," the wizard said, his black eyes resting on the witch.

"As should you," he added.

Hermione ate another spoonful of soup and looked at him.

"Please you? I am doing what I am supposed to do," she said to him.

"You haven't applied yourself to a single potion," the wizard replied, "you are supposed to apply one third of your time to either potions or spells. All you've been doing is musical notations."

Actually, Severus didn't mind Hermione's project. It was quite fascinating…but he felt compelled to remind her of her obligation to him. He wanted to see her react…possibly blow up. He used to enjoy goading her as a student and it seemed he still did.

"The notations are very involved. I just can't stop focusing on a project that way, Professor. I have to see it through to completion," Hermione responded, her nose wrinkled.

Severus looked at her as Eli reappeared with a bowl of steaming chicken and vegetable soup, setting it in front of the Potions Master and bowing low. Severus ignored him and the elf returned to the kitchen. The wizard tasted the soup and nodded slightly. It was good. He looked back up at Hermione.

"Well I am going to give you a couple of brewing assignments to do for me. You can use the "Sequentius" spell. I need more free time," he said.

"Fine," Hermione snorted.

"And before I leave tomorrow morning I want a copy of your musical notations to take with me," the wizard said.

Hermione arched an eyebrow at him.

"Why?" she asked him curiously. What could the Potions Master want with Harry's music?

"Because I do," he replied obliquely. "You are creating it under my watch as it were, so I am entitled to review your work. You will supply me with a copy tomorrow morning."

Suddenly Hermione realized the wizard said he wasn't leaving until the morning.

"You're spending the night here?" she asked him. The Potions Master had never spent the night here since they first started their arrangement.

"That is my intention, yes," the wizard replied, eating more soup and chewing as he looked at her steadily. "And you will be spending it with me in my bed."

"Your bed?" Hermione asked him. Severus looked at her blackly.

"Gods woman, stop asking me so many questions. I am sure you understand what I meant when I said you will be spending the night with me in my bed. How am I to exercise my patron's rights with you in your own bed? Don't act so blasted stupid!" the wizard hissed.

Hermione looked at the wizard, a slight puddle forming in her knickers as he frowned at her. He looked so angry…would he still be angry when he…oh gods…she hoped so. The witch began to speed up eating her soup

Severus noticed Hermione flushing. He had yelled at her, and she responded to it. Hmm. Was her need to be dominated kicking in? The Potions Master began to harden. Damn it. He hated his lack of control. There wasn't a bit of interesting skin showing on the witch, but he was responding as if she were buck naked in front of him. He let out a breath, willing himself to deflate.

It didn't work.

"Eli, next course!" Severus bellowed in a bad temper.

Immediately Eli entered with two plates of Shrimp Scampi, poached fish with lemon and a green salad. He quickly placed them on the table and removed the empty bowls of soup.

"Ooh, it looks delicious, Eli," Hermione said. The shrimp were huge.

"Thanks you, Miss," Eli said as Severus glowered at him.

The house elf hurried back into the kitchen, and returned with a dozen oysters and condiments, setting them in front of Severus, whose scowl lessened. He loved oysters. Eli sighed with relief and returned to the kitchen.

Hermione ate her food silently as she watched the Professor prepare his oysters then slurp them down, chewing with a distinct look of pleasure on his face. She studied that look…it was a rare one. She wondered if he would look like that when he had sex with her. She didn't get a chance to see how he looked their last encounter since he was behind her, though he was surprisingly vocal. He had a beautiful voice. It would probably been more of a turn on for Hermione if she didn't feel as if a Quidditch bat was gently being shoved up her ass over and over. Hopefully tonight would be different.

Severus finished his oysters and made short work of the shrimp and salad. He sat back and looked at Hermione, who was just finishing her own meal.

"Tonight we will be having traditional intercourse," the Potions Master said matter-of-factly as he wiped his mouth with a napkin, then dropped it on his empty plate. He sounded as if he were discussing the next homework assignment. The lack of passion in his voice didn't bode well.

"Fine," Hermione said glumly, not looking at him.

The wizard scowled.

"I hope you show more enthusiasm in the bedroom than your voice conveys witch. If I wanted to screw a stiff body I could have stopped by St. Mungo's morgue," he snapped at her.

Hermione wiped her mouth then threw her napkin on the table.

"What difference does enthusiasm make to you, Professor? You're going to do what you want anyway, most likely very selfishly…like last time. I'm just a place to shove your cock," the witch said, "So forgive me if I'm not melting into a puddle of lust for you."

Severus stared at her, his dark eyes glittering. He slowly stood up, walked around the table and grabbed the startled witch by her arm.

"Eli, forget dessert. We are done and are going to retire to my bedroom. I don't want to be disturbed for any reason," he called out, his dark eyes staring down at Hermione, who was wetting her knickers thoroughly.

The kitchen door opened.

"Yes Master," Eli called back, "No disturbing."

Severus drew Hermione up from the chair rather roughly.

"Come with me," he hissed at her, pulling her down the hallway and pushing her into his bedroom. It was sparsely furnished. Only a four poster bed, wardrobe, dresser, chair and small writing desk. The walls were bare.

Hermione spun and looked at the Potions Master. His eyes were still glittering and he looked more wicked than normal.

"Have you utilized the patch?" he asked her drawing out his wand.

"Yes," Hermione replied, standing very still as the wizard approached her. He whispered a spell. The tip of his wand glowed white and Severus passed it over her belly and lower thighs, then took it away.

"You haven't indulged lately," he said, putting his wand back in his pocket. "Are you randy?"

Hermione blinked at the wizard. Yes, she was randy but she wasn't about to tell him that.

"I'm fine," she replied, her eyes shifting the way they did when she lied.

Severus was familiar with this motion, being that he was her teacher for several years and had caught her in several lies because of that telltale reaction. The wizard smirked slightly.

"Undress," he said starting to unbutton his robes.

Hermione slowly brought her hands up to the neck of her blouse and began to unbutton it.

Gods, she hoped the wizard wouldn't be a selfish pig tonight, interested only in his own release.

She really needed a good shag.

A/N: And that is the end of Part 1 of "Walking the Gray Line." Thanks for reading.