A Long Way Back Part 2

After checking the equipment against Hermione's list and finding all items present, Severus signed the work order and hustled the technicians out of the manor. They were glad to go. The scowling, threatening wizard overseeing them was absolutely frightening. When Severus ascended the stairs, he was aware of the corridor being more airy, fresher. He couldn't discern anything different physically, but there was definitely a more open feeling.

"Hermione!" he called.

"I'm in here. The living room, Severus," she answered him.

Severus strode down the hall and turned into the living room. His black eyes scanned the room with approval, resting on the plush furniture and the placement of it. The large window was visible, opening up on to the gray grounds, letting in natural light, and the dark curtains had been replaced by lighter blue draperies with a valance.

"The house elves certainly are no slackers," he commented, entering the living room and looking about a bit more before his eyes rested on Hermione. She looked a bit hesitant as she looked back at him, as if she had something to tell him but was reluctant to. He was quite familiar with this look. There had been times he had to use legilimency to get the truth out of the witch.

"What happened, Hermione?" he asked her.

Hermione frowned at him slightly.

"How do you know anything happened?" she questioned him.

Severus gave her a little scowl.

"I was your lover for almost four years, Hermione. I might no longer be bedding you, but I haven't forgotten your mannerisms. There is a certain look you get in certain situations. I know that expression…so out with it," he said demandingly.

Hermione looked at him and sighed.

"Ibondedwithtwentyonehouseelves," she said in a low quick voice.

"What? Speak up. I couldn't understand you," Severus said, frowning down at her.

"I said I accidentally bonded with twenty-one house elves. They serve me now," Hermione said somewhat defiantly.

Severus blinked at her for several seconds. Then his mouth quirked and his face began to contort. Suddenly the wizard burst out in deep, rich laughter and collapsed into the nearest armchair, gripping the arms of it convulsively as he fell into gasping conniptions.

Hermione scowled at the wizard blackly as he laughed until tears streamed down his face.

"It's not funny," she said, which made Severus stop for a moment.

He tried to speak but started laughing again. Hermione enslaving house elves. It was just too funny, too ironic. She must have been mortified. And not one, but twenty-one? That was three Quidditch team's worth. Severus wiped at his eyes and struggled to regain control, taking great gulps of air as he tried to calm down. When he spoke to her, his voice was a bit high.

"You enslaved twenty-one house elves? You? Gods Hermione…how did you manage that?" he asked her.

"Well, I came in here and was so impressed I said I wouldn't mind the house elves hanging about if they could work miracles like this…and they heard me, and when they found out I was the owner of the manor, they all shot golden tendrils at me, and the next thing I knew…I owned them," she said.

"I didn't know house elves were such opportunists," Severus replied. He felt like laughing again at the way the elves had duped her. They were far from stupid creatures. Serving Hermione would be much less of a chore than working at Hogwarts…though the creatures liked work, it had to be hard to serve so many people.

"I'm going to give them the guesthouse as servants quarters. It has all the amenities. Four bedrooms, three and a half baths, a living room and study and a very nice kitchen. They can fix it up like they like," she said, "plus I am going to give them each a small allowance so they have some spending money. I always thought they should have money of their own."

Severus thought Hermione's house elves would probably be the best treated in the wizarding world.

"You're more than likely going to have to tell them what to do with it," Severus said. They know about purchasing supplies and such, but personal spending is another story. But they are good stewards of money. They receive a budget at the beginning of each month from Albus and use it to order and purchase food for meals. No one oversees this, they do it themselves and there is always a bit left over. They know exactly what is needed. Amazing really, considering the variety of dishes they are asked for by the staff.

The students at Hogwarts ate buffet style, whatever the elves served that's what they ate. But staff ordered their meals individually and had varied tastes that differed from student fare. But whatever they asked for, the elves always had it.

"You know they are going to want to do the cooking, Hermione," the wizard said. "Most likely they will insist upon it."

Hermione remembered the sandwich she had fixed for Severus.

"I made you a ham sandwich for your lunch and left it in the far cooler," she said to the wizard.

Severus looked surprised. That was quite thoughtful of the witch.

"Thank you, Hermione. I will get it presently," he responded.

No sooner than he uttered it, a house elf appeared with the sandwich on a plate and a tall glass of pumpkin juice, set it on the table beside the Potions Master, bowed and winked out.

Severus and Hermione looked at each other.

"They certainly don't waste any time starting their service do they?" Hermione said, looking at the sandwich.

"No they don't. They aren't going to let you lift a finger, Hermione. You are a witch of leisure now," the Potions Master said, lifting the sandwich and taking a bite.

Hermione didn't know how much she would like being waited on hand and foot.

"You'll get used to it," Severus said, his dark eyes resting on her. "By the way, the lab is set up and ready to go. We can start working on breaking down the elixir as soon as you are ready."

Hermione nodded. She would go down and check it out a little later. She narrowed her eyes at Severus.

"You certainly got those workers out rather quickly," she said, her amber eyes resting on him.

"They were riding the clock," he said evenly, "They were finished unpacking and just hanging about. They needed to go…and were reluctant. It seems they wanted to see you again, though they couldn't say why. So I helped them along."

"The Queen's influence," Hermione said, "They couldn't help it Severus."

"I don't give a damn what they couldn't help," he said with a bit of a growl. Hermione couldn't help but feel it was a rather possessive sound.

"Severus, does the Queen influence affect you at all?" Hermione asked him.

Severus put his sandwich down and let his eyes flick over the skinny witch. Her face was no longer as drawn as it was, she actually looked rather pretty, but was still not herself the way he remembered her.

"Yes, it affects me. But I am aware that it is a magical attraction and my logic and discipline help keep me from acting like a besotted fool. We aren't together, and I know you aren't going to invite me to have sex with you…and even if you did, your physical condition would be a liability so I wouldn't act anyway because I could seriously harm you. You'd snap in half, witch," he said to her, his black eyes glittering.

Hermione couldn't help the warmth that welled up inside her as she remembered how strong a lover the wizard was, how dominating and controlling behind closed doors. He didn't deny himself any pleasure and enjoyed twisting her about and riding her hard. He certainly could harm her without meaning to.

Severus noticed the heat that flared up in the witch's eyes and quickly looked away from her, picking up his sandwich and biting into it, staring at it as if it were the most fascinating sandwich in the world. He didn't want to see that heat. She had turned him away after all, and that look still did something to him, despite her abandonment. Severus hadn't had sex in a very long time, and it was because of Hermione. Her looking as if she wanted to be shagged by him didn't help matters. He swallowed and cleared his throat, deciding to change the topic.

"Hermione, it occurred to me that we are both sadly lacking in knowledge of the latest Potions developments over the past five years. I believe we need to go through the trade journals and bone up on what's been happening. There may be some new techniques we'll find helpful," he said.

Hermione's eyes lit up.

"You mean study?" she said excitedly.

Severus nodded. Hermione used to love studying. Apparently she did again.

"That's a wonderful idea. But how will we get hold of all those journals?" she asked him.

"Most Potions Masters keep the journals for reference purposes. I'll owl Master Vargas and ask to borrow his. He'll do it. He's almost a friend of mine," Severus said evenly.

Master Vargas was a pompous poser, but he would be delighted to have Severus owe him a favor.

"You know this will set our work back several weeks," Hermione said, looking at the wizard.

"Yes, but we will be better informed. It could help us more than hinder us," Severus said, "Unless you are in a rush to do this."

Hermione shook her head.

"No, I'm not driven by guilt anymore. I think it is best I go into this as informed as possible," the witch said. "I want to resurrect Harry, but I want to be thorough so no mistakes are made. I think it would be good if I get my mind up to par. It is a bit rusty from non-use."

Severus nodded. He thought Hermione's attitude was a wise one.

"Very well. I will write Vargas later today," the wizard said.

Hermione gave him a breathtaking smile. It made his heart clutch a little. She used to smile at him like that all the time, and it made him feel good. He didn't make many people smile in his life, so he felt rather special when she blessed him like that.

He felt rather special now.

Severus did write Vargas, and the wizard shipped over a staggering amount of journals. Hermione started reading first, then gave Severus the trade magazine to peruse. Soon, they were arguing and debating theories and new developments as they used to do, Hermione pacing all over the study, gesticulating, shouting and driving her points home, flushed and animated as Severus sat in the armchair, quietly and aggravatingly challenging her. It was like old times.

The house elves proved to be absolutely wonderful. They were discreet little creatures too. Hermione rarely saw them. But they did all the cooking, the cleaning, the washing…everything that needed doing was done almost before even needed. Their meals were always ready, snacks present the moment they were thought of. Hermione had to admit having them was a godsend.

The witch began to fill out and within three months, was completely restored. She had a little get together at the manor, Albus, Ron, Poppy and Remus Lupin visiting all at once. They exclaimed over the state of the manor and were overjoyed they had their Hermione back. All were surprised to see Severus, who was as dark and brooding as ever. Hermione explained that they were working on a project together, pointedly letting everyone know they were associates and not lovers. Albus' eyes twinkled at this. He knew it had been a long time for both of them, and they had been good together. Hopefully they would be good again.

Hermione heard for the first time Severus' plans for the future.

"After we have completed our project, Headmaster, I plan to return to my journeys. I enjoy traveling and seeking out new potions. I was so sequestered for most of my life, I find exploration freeing," he said to the wizard, who nodded sagely.

It made sense for the Potions Master to want to experience the world. He had been bound for many years.

For some reason, Hermione felt her heart sink. She had gotten used to Severus' presence and knowing he intended to move on after they discovered the secret of the elixir sat on her stomach like a stone. She had no right to feel this way. She had no claim to him. And even if she did have a claim, that wouldn't give her the right to hold him back from what he longed to do.

Ron's son Harry was in attendance also. He was three with a full head of red hair that always stayed rather messy, no matter how much it was combed. He had startling green eyes as well. He took to Hermione immediately, sitting on her lap and hugging her tightly. He followed her around almost the entire time, and Hermione found she didn't mind a bit. He was so cute and inquisitive. He turned his eyes on the black urn on the mantle above the fireplace. It caught his attention because it was the only item there.

"What's that, Hermione?" he asked, pointing at the urn.

"That is an urn. It holds the ashes of my friend Harry Potter. The wizard you are named after," she said to the precocious little wizard.

Harry knew ashes were black stuff left over when wood burned. Since they were Harry's ashes that meant he had to have been burned.

"Did it hurt him when he burned up?" little Harry asked.

Hermione shook her head.

"No, Harry. He was beyond pain then. It didn't hurt him at all," she said softly, looking at the urn.

"That's good," the boy said. "I want pumpkin juice, please."

Hermione smiled down at the boy.

"Certainly, Harry. Come on," she said.

Harry grasped her hand and followed her to the table where the juice was, thinking she was the nicest witch he had ever met outside of mum.

Ron was eyeing Severus, waiting to catch him alone. He didn't have to wait long. The wizard sat down in an armchair at a little distance from the others, nursing a firewhiskey. Ron approached him.

"Professor?" Ron said to the wizard.

Severus sipped his firewhiskey, then looked up at Ron with a slight scowl.

"Yes, Mr. Weasley?" he responded.

Ron looked as if he were chewing on something particularly nasty for a moment, then blurted out, "I just want to thank you for getting Hermione to come out of her shell. We all tried and tried but she wouldn't respond to us. I was so afraid she was going to …well you know what she did to herself when Harry died…but she didn't. I know you helped her come back to herself. I just…just wanted to thank you. She means the world to me."

Severus looked up at the wizard consideringly. Ronald Weasley thanking him for something. Well, well.

"Hermione snapped out of her funk herself, Mr. Weasley. I had nothing to do with it," the Potions Master responded. "She must have been ready to come back to life, as it were."

Ron looked at him with narrowed eyes.

"I don't believe that Professor. I believe you snarked your way into her psyche somehow and gave her just what she needed to wake up. I'll always be grateful to you for that," Ron said. He walked away quickly.

Severus looked after him.

"I have the gratitude of a Weasley," he thought sarcastically, "What a blessing."

Severus snorted and drained his glass.

He'd be glad when this damned get together was over. He wanted to debate Hermione again about the use of Yarrow Root as a feasible substitute for Hellebore in potions.

He didn't want to admit that he wanted her all to himself.

But he did. Gods help him…he did. She was so much the woman he remembered now. All brilliance and fire. Her intelligence had always been attractive to him, and now that she was restored, he found himself drawn to her again. Sometimes he would just admire her as she strode back and forth, arguing for all she was worth, her eyes flashing and arms flailing, her face screwed up in derision that he didn't see her points. Most of the time he did see them, but acted as if he didn't…just to get her going.

Back when they were lovers, there were times the debates traveled to the bedroom with them, Severus finally shutting her up the way he loved…and she loved. It was hard to talk when you were crying out in passion.

Across the room, Hermione looked at the dour wizard. It was so much like it used to be between them, except for one thing. Intimacy. Now that she was restored, her libido was back and she found herself thinking of the Potions Master the way she used to. She still hadn't apologized for dumping him. It was very hard to do…she couldn't seem to drum up the courage. She was afraid of what he would say or how he would react. Sex was something neither spoke about. It was as if the subject was taboo.

Hermione had begun her initial testing of the elixir. She had been dismayed to find out that her spell that allowed her to identify chemicals and allow chemical reactions in the wizarding world had been cracked and now was being used commonly. Ah well. If she hadn't been so selfish, she could have gotten some residuals from it. Live and learn. She immediately taught the spell to Severus since it made no sense to keep it to herself any longer.

The elixir was proving to be quite complicated, but at least the base was plain water, which made it easier to separate the components, some of which were chemical in nature and others, which were magical. She had to separate these components further so she could study each individually. She had so little to work with, and it was very focused and tedious work…she had to practically separate the components grain by grain with tweezers while peering through a powerful microscope and keeping the tweezers scourgified so there was no cross-contamination. It was slow work but she was making some progress. It would be another month before she had everything separated, then could go about identifying each part and the exact combination necessary to create a viable solution. But at least they were on their way.

Finally the guests left and the house elves cleaned up everything in a twinkle. By the time Hermione came back from walking her guests to the door, the room was spotless. Gods, she loved house elves. Ying and Yang did too. The cats were spoiled rotten and the elves fed them whatever they wanted. No more cat food for them. As far as the familiars were concerned, the elves were an excellent addition to the household.

Severus was still sitting in the armchair, brooding. Hermione sat down next to him.

"You look thoughtful," she said.

"Yes. I was just mulling over something Ronald Weasley said to me," he responded, the firewhiskey making him a bit more open than usual.

"What did he say?" Hermione asked him curiously. Severus and Ron never got along.

Severus turned his black eyes on Hermione.

"He seems to think I am the one who brought you out of your funk," the Potions Master said. "He thanked me for it."

Hermione looked at the wizard for a moment.

"You were the one, Severus. Yes, I got an epiphany, but if not for you it would have never happened. Your presence here made me start to change for the better. And you know, I've never thanked you for it either," she said, leaning over the armchair and gently kissing his cheek.

Severus closed his eyes as he felt her soft lips on his face. He swallowed and looked at her for a long moment after she pulled away.

Hermione suddenly stood up.

"I'm so tired, Severus…I'm going to go to bed," she said, leaving quickly.

She couldn't take the way he was looking at her.

"Good night," he said, a bit of rawness in his voice. He watched her go, the place where she kissed him tingling slightly.

"You shouldn't have done that witch," he said under his breath, staring into the fire.

"You should have left well enough alone."

"What was I thinking? I should never have kissed him. I should have just told him 'thank you.'" Hermione chided herself as she drew her nightgown on.

Gods, the way he had looked at her. She knew that look…it was Severus' "I want more' look. She should have never kissed him. But the wizard probably wouldn't act on it. He had done nothing remotely sexual towards her, made no attempt at flirting or seduction. He conducted himself for the most part, like a gentleman.

But Severus Snape was no gentleman, and Hermione knew it.

She lay down in her bed, her belly tight. What if he had made some move toward her after she kissed him? Would she have resisted?

She doubted it. Her body was back on point, her cycles regular again. Her period had almost disappeared over the years, coming sometimes two or three months apart and then only lasting a day or two…she was in such poor shape. But now, everything was as it should be, and that meant there were times of the month when Hermione felt particularly randy. She had masturbated several times over the past couple of months to get relief. And it had been to the memory of the Potions Master. It was her guilty secret.

When she saw him the next morning after these bouts of self-release she would always flush, trying to hide her embarrassment from him. If he did notice, Severus didn't show it. Now she lay in bed, feeling the first throbs of desire growing inside her as she remembered the feel of his warm flesh under her lips. It was just his face, but it brought memories of her lips running over other parts of him. His throat, his chest, his rippled belly, his…

Hermione flipped over to her stomach trying to push the image away. He used to love when she performed fellatio on him, his dark eyes smoldering down on her, his silky voice urging her on and voicing his pleasure, his fingers locked on her head, guiding her…

Hermione flipped back over.

"Get out of my head, Severus Snape!" she breathed, beginning to feel an ache, an outright ache for the wizard.

"Damn it!" she cursed, sitting up in the bed. She wasn't tired anymore.

He's haunting me…he's fucking haunting me now," she hissed.

After a moment, Hermione got out of the bed.

"I know what will help this," she said, shrugging on her housecoat and her slippers.

"A dip in the pool."

Naked in his bed, Severus looked down at his erection.

"Damn it," he muttered.

Hermione should never have kissed him. By pressing those soft, full lips against his skin she had torn away that silent wall between them. He had made it a point not to touch the witch at all, knowing it could lead to other things. Now she had crossed that line he worked so hard to preserve.

Hermione called that little kiss "thanking" him? If she believed he did indeed bring her out of her lifeless existence, she should be much more grateful than that. That kiss was just a tease as far as the wizard was concerned. Saving her deserved much more than a peck on the cheek. He should be getting the full treatment, Hermione's legs thrown over his shoulders and the witch shrieking her gratefulness as he took his pleasure of her. He hadn't had satisfactory sex since she sent him away. And that was another thing that rankled him, though he did his best not to show it…the way she so coldly dismissed him without so much as a goodbye shag.

Well, if she had let him shag her…she probably would have stayed with him, because he would have been intent on making her still want him, bringing her to climax after climax until she forgot everyone and everything except him. Even Harry.

The wizard flipped over, his hard-on pressing into his stomach uncomfortably.

Damn it. He needed to do something about this.

He sat up in the bed, then got out and pulled on his housecoat, tying it securely.

A swim might help.

Hermione entered the pool room and the torches flared up brightly. She immediately dimmed them to be more soothing. The pool lapped gently, sending reflected light rippling along the walls. Hermione experimentally stuck her toe into the water. It was too cool for her liking tonight. She wanted warmth. She walked over to the panel and adjusted the temperature. After a couple of minutes she tested it again. It was nice and warm. Certainly this would soothe her.

The witch removed her housecoat and her nightgown, then walked to the edge of the pool and let herself slowly into the warm water. The pool was still on the equal depth setting. There was no shallow part. She tread water for a bit, letting the water's warmth soother and relax her. Then Hermione began to swim slowly, her body cutting through the water easily as she stroked to the other side of the pool. She lingered there a moment, then swam back.

"Ah, this was a great idea," she sighed. She turned on her back and floated comfortably, closing her eyes and letting the water rock her. Gods, it felt so nice against her skin.

She was so relaxed, she didn't hear the door open and Severus enter.

He didn't look at the pool but walked straight over to the chairs and removed his housecoat. He still had an erection. A nice cold dip should take care of that. Then he felt the humidity. Someone had changed the pool temperature. He looked at the pool, his eyes widening.

Hermione was in there, naked, her full breasts floating like balloons, the water softly lapping over her body…the body he remembered…the body he knew every inch of. The body he very much desired.

The wizard couldn't help but feel Providence had arranged this middle of the night meeting. But should he go back to his room and give Hermione her privacy or should he slip into the pool and surprise the witch? He throbbed as the latter thought crossed his mind. Well, that was a yes vote if ever there was one.

Silently the Potions Master walked to the edge of the pool and slid into the warm water, his eyes focused on the floating witch.

Suddenly, the wizard submerged.

Hermione floated lazily on top of the water, her eyes closed and totally relaxed. Coming down to the pool had been a wonderful idea. Suddenly, she felt some kind of motion or ripple, like something had passed under her. Quickly she straightened and started treading water. She looked down into the pool but because the torchlight was so low she couldn't see anything.

"What was that?" she said, her brow furrowed.

Then she felt it again. She looked down and thought she saw a dark shadow swimming away from her. It disappeared.

"I'm getting out of here," she breathed and started swimming for the end of the pool. She had almost made it when she felt the movement underneath her again, and her heart started pounding with fright. As she reached the edge of the pool, Severus burst from the water next to her with a loud splash, wiping water from his face. Hermione shrieked at his sudden appearance and started swinging at him, one hand holding on to the edge of the pool.

The witch connected a few times before Severus caught her wrist, his dark eyes glittering at her.

"What the fuck are you doing, Severus?" she demanded.

"Taking a swim," he responded silkily, looking at Hermione's breasts.

She dipped a bit lower in the water. He still held her wrist.

"But…but…I'm in here," she said.

"So much the better, since you are the reason I came down here in the first place," he responded. "I couldn't sleep because of you."

Hermione felt her belly tighten. He was having thoughts about her too? Dear Merlin.

The Potions Master cocked his head at her.

"Now witch, the question is what brought you down here in the middle of the night?" the wizard asked, his eyes searching her face. "Found yourself a bit sleepless too?"

"A bit," Hermione responded, quaking a little because she realized the wizard was as naked as she was.

"And why was that?" he purred.

Hermione didn't answer him. If she had lied, he would have known. Severus always could tell when she was lying to him…one of the drawbacks of having been his student for seven years. And she couldn't bring herself to say she had been lusting after him and needed to find a way to get him out of her mind.

"Don't you have an answer?" Severus pressed her, his eyes flicking over her mostly submerged form.

"I just felt like a swim," she replied lamely, "that should be good enough. Now if you don't mind, could you please turn your head so I can get out?"

She tried to pull her wrist out of his grasp, but the wizard held on to her.

"As a matter of fact, I do mind. I want you to stay," he said softly, "And I think you know why."

Hermione looked up at the pale wizard who looked at her intensely, his eyes beginning to smolder. Her body answered his intense look with a sudden pulse that made her gasp. Severus' eyes narrowed slightly. He knew that response.

"No Severus…no," Hermione said as the Potions Master moved closer.

"Your mouth is saying no, witch…but I can feel your body's language. It's been a long time for both of us," he said in his most seductive voice. "You want me, Hermione. I've seen all the heated little looks you've given me…flushing in my presence. I was with you for four years, witch. Don't you think I know when you are aroused? You're healthy now, and a healthy body wants sex."

"No…" she said again, "We can't do this Severus. You…you have plans for yourself. To go back to exploring."

He nodded.

"Yes I do, but that has nothing to do with us tonight," he responded. "Tonight I am here…with you, witch. And I want you badly. I haven't had satisfactory sex since you made me leave you. I had one encounter and no others in all the time I was away from you. I didn't attempt it again, because of you. You ruined me for casual encounters, Hermione. I need this. You need this too. Admit it, and I promise you I'll be all you desire. You know me witch. You know how I make you feel."

Hermione felt warmth spreading over her body, and it wasn't from the water. She looked up at him but didn't say anything. She couldn't. She felt as if she had a lump in her throat as big as Hogwarts.

Severus stared at her. He wanted Hermione, but he wanted the witch to say yes. He had no doubt he could simply kiss her and she would fall to him as if he hit her with a battering ram…which was the general idea…but no, he wanted to hear her say she wanted him. He decided to try another tact.

"Hermione, I could handle being near you as long as there was no contact between us. The Queen influence is long gone, otherwise Albus, Ron and Remus would have been fawning over you. So this is me, Hermione…all me. You kissed me tonight, witch. I know it didn't seem like much, a kiss on the cheek. But I remember that soft mouth, and what it would do to me, witch, and I couldn't help wanting that again. That and more than that. In other words witch, you drew first blood. And to be honest, Hermione, if you truly believe I rescued you from your empty, lifeless world…is a kiss enough of a reward?"

Hermione scowled at him.

"You want me to repay you?" she asked him.

His mouth quirked.

"I'm a Slytherin, Hermione…you know that. You feel you owe me, don't you? The restoration of a life should be worth more than a kiss on the cheek," he said persuasively.

"Severus Snape, you have no ethics. You are as self-serving as ever," Hermione said to him, even as desire was boiling over her.

"Yes I am," he breathed, moving closer. "Tell me you'll let me have you witch. I'm starved. Look at me…I'm huge and I ache."

Hermione felt Severus push against her thigh and gasped. She didn't look down at it, but moved away slightly, breaking the contact while being covered in a full body flush. Suddenly Severus swung about and caught her between his body and the side of the pool, his arms on either side of her. He looked down at her hungrily.

"I'll make it good, witch," he hissed at her, lowering his head to kiss her.

Hermione tensed, but the wizard only planted a soft kiss on her mouth, his gentleness belying the raging desire thrumming through his loins. He hoped the witch said yes soon, or he might be forced to ravish her. It wouldn't be rape, because he knew she wanted him. He could see it in her eyes. This waiting…it was a witch thing. They always felt they had to protest at least a little before giving in.

"Say yes, Hermione," Severus said, kissing her shoulder this time, then her throat, then her lips again.

His mouth was so soft, so warm. The ache Hermione had worked so hard to get rid of returned in full force, and Severus felt the familiar tremble of need. He kissed her again, and again, moving from her mouth to her neck, to her shoulders and back, not touching her anyplace else.

Hermione closed her eyes and let him kiss her. It felt so wonderful. She hadn't been kissed like this in so long. She let out a little purr and the Potions Master returned to her mouth, kissing her fully this time, his tongue slipping into her mouth and twining around her own hungry muscle. The witch began to kiss him back, unable to help herself.

"Yes," Severus thought as he pressed his body against hers, slipping his arms under Hermione's armpits to keep her from slipping into the water. Her full breasts mashed against him. Gods they felt so good.

Severus broke the kiss. Hermione looked at him, her eyes glazed, hot and half-lidded.

"Say yes, Hermione Say you want me…I'll give you more. You know you want more," he breathed at her.

As Hermione gazed at Severus, flames licking up and down her body, she wondered why she was trying to resist him. Gods knew she wanted to feel him take her again, fill her and fill her over and over, those black eyes burning down at her. He was magnificent when he shagged, magnificent and talented. She didn't think she had ever engaged the Potions Master without orgasming. And orgasming sounded like such a good thing right now. Severus pressed against her harder, knowing the effect his body had to be having on her.

"Let me in," he breathed. "Let me have you, Hermione. You need me. You won't rest until we do this. You nor I. We'll be meeting like this every night if we don't do something about it."

He kissed her again, the witch's will melting away as his warm mouth captured hers again, claiming it hungrily. Hermione felt every doubt, every hesitation, every reason to say 'no' fall away. She wanted him...gods, she wanted him.

"Yes, Severus…yes," Hermione sobbed into his mouth, the final wall broken.

Severus wrapped his arms around the witch victoriously, pulling away from her mouth, his black eyes glinting.

"As much as I would enjoy shagging you against the side of this pool, Hermione, I would much rather have you in a bed," he breathed down at her. "Apparate to my bedroom, witch. My bed is large and firm. It will hold up. I only hope you will."

Hermione stared up at him, hardly lucid from the Potions Master's kisses and the feel of his body pressed against hers.

"Apparate to my bedroom," he hissed at her again, pressing into her belly insistently, making the witch moan.

Suddenly the pool was empty, the reverb of thunder and the clothing left on the furniture the only proof they were there.

A couple of house elves winked in. Eli and Leaf Ear. Both were grinning broadly as they collected the housecoats, slippers and Hermione's nightgown.

"There is goings to finally be in-outie between the Mistress and the Snape, Leaf Ear," Eli said to his companion, who nodded enthusiastically.

"And some upsy-downsy too," Leaf Ear replied, his ears flicking back and forth suggestively.

Both elves chittered with happiness and winked out.

Hermione and Severus appeared in the Potions Master's bedroom, embracing tightly. Severus sniffed Hermione hair appreciatively.

"Jasmine," he breathed, releasing her and stepping back so he could see her body. He bit his lip as his eyes washed over her once again full breasts, small waist, ample hips and thick thighs. Then he met her eyes. She looked both lusty and apprehensive.

"You look a bit afraid, Hermione," he said to her silkily.

Hermione swallowed.

"It's…it's been a long time Severus," the witch replied, her voice barely more than a whisper as her eyes moved over him and rested on his enormous erection. He looked too big, but she knew he wasn't. It was just she was no longer used to seeing him naked. The Potions Master saw where her eyes rested.

"I assure you it will still fit, Hermione and will still bring you pleasure," he said, taking her hand and kissing the palm of it gently. "Trust me. I haven't changed."

Severus didn't want her nervous. Hermione would tighten up and make entering her difficult…he used to have problems with her when they first became lovers, she would freeze up and her body would lock down. It gave him no end of frustration but also taught him just how necessary foreplay was for a woman like Hermione. Not all witches were wet and ready. Some needed contact, a modicum of tenderness to start them off. Hermione was one of those kinds of witches.

He kissed her mouth again, gently and backed her toward his bed. He didn't know how patient he could be. He backed the witch up until the back of her legs hit the side of the bed.

"It's been so long," he breathed as he took her down to the mattress and helped her up into the bed properly. He lay stretched out beside her for a moment, his eyes drinking the witch in.

"I never thought I'd get to do this to you again, witch," he said to her softly, letting his pale hand come to rest on her belly and rubbing it gently. Then he propped himself up on his elbow, his brow furrowed slightly as he asked Hermione the next question. "Did you sleep with another wizard after me, Hermione?"

Her amber eyes rested on his face.

"No, Severus. I didn't. I was so miserable I just wanted to be alone. There would have been no substitute for you anyway," she replied. "I've never wanted anyone other than you. Ever. No other man could have replaced you."

The wizard stared down at her. Hermione had been a virgin when he took her the first time. Knowing no other wizard had experienced her body or her passion made him feel good. Hermione was the only thing in the world that was truly his…even after five long years. She hadn't given what was his away. Severus kissed her temple, feeling somewhat tender towards her, though still hungry. He knew what he was going to end up doing to her. It was best to show some tenderness now. Damn, he wished he had some purple potion in his bathroom. It was all down in the lab.

Suddenly, he felt a presence. The Potions Master turned quickly toward the nightstand and smirked.

"What is it?" Hermione asked him when he moved so quickly.

He turned back to her.

"Nothing," he said, his dark eyes washing over her body again.

On the nightstand sat four bottles of purple potion. The house elves. Gods they were efficient. They weren't bound to him but they still seemed to anticipate his every wish. Maybe they knew their Mistress would need the potions. It didn't matter…the potions were there. Now he had carte blanche.

Severus lowered himself to the bed and pulled Hermione on top of him.

"Kiss me witch. I've missed it," he said, wanting Hermione to be the aggressor…for a little while at least. He caressed her back coaxingly.

Hermione looked down at him a moment, then kissed him lightly, pressing her lips against his, then sucking on his lower lip for a moment and pulling back.

"Lost your talent for kissing?" he asked her, one eyebrow arched. "You used to do better than that. I think your long hiatus has had a negative effect on your…er…abilities."

Severus knew the witch would not take kindly to his summation of her sexual prowess. Hermione was one of those people who had to be good at everything.

"There is nothing wrong with my abilities, Severus Snape," she snapped at him.

The wizard's mouth quirked.

"Don't worry. With practice I'm sure you'll…" he began but was cut off by Hermione's tongue claiming his own, the witch kissing him almost violently.

The Potions Master managed to pull away for a second to gasp in some air. Hermione was attacking his mouth so passionately he thought she might suck his lungs out of his body. The wizard wrapped his arms around the witch and let her consume his mouth, fire streaming through him at her ardor.

Hermione didn't miss a lick as she kissed Severus hungrily, her sex-starved body heating up and starting to move sensuously against him, forcing a groan from the wizard…which only served to make her more ardent as she felt her own power over him. Hermione's lips moved from his mouth to his throat, her small hands beginning to caress the wizard's body.

"Yesss," Severus purred as he felt the witch's mouth moving over him.

He was throbbing, and as much as he wanted to shag her, he wanted to feel her appreciation of his body…and Hermione was in sex mode, familiarizing herself once again with his taste and musculature as her mouth moved lower, over his shoulders and chest. Severus' hands were moving over her now, smoothing her soft buttocks and silky thighs, sliding up her waist and caressing the sides of her breasts, groaning with pleasure as the witch moved over his belly. Gods, he hoped she was going to blow him.

Hermione let her breasts drag over his loins and organ, then down his thighs as she moved lower, listening to the rich sound of his voice and feeling his hands caressing and fondling her body.

Practice? She didn't need any practice, damn it. All she needed was him. Hermione felt her darkness coming on her as she kissed and licked Severus' flesh, letting desire take her over. It had been so long since she had given over completely. She wanted to feel the wizard's strength, his need, his demanding nature. She knew what to do to get him going.

Hermione moved lower, then stopped directly over his organ, rising to her hands and knees, her breasts dangling lightly against the wizard's legs. Severus went stock still as if holding his breath. Hermione blew on him and the wizard buckled helplessly, staring down at her, praying she would take him into her mouth. The witch looked up at the wizard mischievously.

"You know, I'd like to do this Severus, but I'm afraid I'm so 'out of practice' that I might disappoint you. Better no blow job than a bad blow job…don't you think?" she said wickedly, pretending as if she were going to move back up the bed.

Severus caught her shoulders.

"You minx," he growled at her. "You know exactly what to do. Don't tease me. You know what I'm like when I'm teased."

Hermione felt her belly clutch. She certainly did know what he was like. An enraged incubus.

"Do you think I need practice then, Severus?" she asked him.

"No. No you don't, Hermione," he said to her, gripping his member and trying to position it properly to reach her mouth.

But Hermione had to lift her head. It was too long to get to her mouth the way she was. And she knew it. The witch still hesitated, purposely teasing the randy Potions Master beyond his limit.

"Say please," she said, batting her eyelashes at him.

That was it.

Severus scowled at her. Suddenly he sat up and wrapped his fist tightly in the witch's hair. Hermione's eyes widened and she let out a little cry of surprise, creaming herself. This was the Severus she remembered. Randy and demanding. No, he was definitely no gentleman.

"Please," he said, adjusting her head and forcing the witch's mouth over him with a growl.

Gods, it felt like heaven when her heat engulfed his swollen, leaking head. His eyelids fluttered furiously as he tried to maintain control. He was ready to come right then, it had been so long. The wizard's face contorted as if he were in pain as Hermione fell to her duty, bobbing her mouth over him and massaging his shaft with both hands.

"Merlin," Severus hissed, releasing his grip on her hair long enough to gather it all together and renew his hold. He wanted to see her, and gods what a delicious sight she was working over his organ, sliding her lips over the shaft now and sucking the sides of it as she moved toward the base. He tensed up, knowing what was next.

"Arrrrgh," he groaned as she pulled his balls into her mouth and rolled them around like marbles. Severus could hardly stand the pleasure.

"You wicked little witch," he breathed at her as she made her way back up his shaft and engulfed him again. The Potions Master fell back, his eyes closed and head tilted back, grunting as Hermione worked her magic on him. No, she didn't need any practice at all.

Severus felt the pressure building. Fuck. Let her finish him, or flip her over? Hermione whirled her hot tongue around then sucked him hard and the wizard buckled. He could flip her later.

Severus began to thrust upward, pushing Hermione's head down rhythmically. The witch could feel him begin to shudder…a sure sign the wizard was about to blow. She reached down and began massaging his balls with one hand and caressing his swollen, pulsing shaft with the other. His voice was breaking with pleasure now, telling her he was almost there, and Hermione sped up and felt his balls draw up in her palm.

"Oh dear gods!" Severus gasped as he climaxed, pressing Hermione's mouth over him as far as he could and firing shot after shot into her sweet mouth, his body quaking as he held on to the witch's head, trapping it so she wouldn't move one inch until he was through.

Hermione was dripping she was so turned on by the wizard's vocal release, and the hot rush of his seed filling her mouth. Once she found out what it was all about, she loved bringing the wizard to climax with her mouth. He was so hot…so helpless when she did it…his black eyes filled and face twisted with pleasure. As they were now.

Severus watched her drink him down, his mouth slack and hips thrusting reflexively until he was spent and panting. Dear Circe, that had been exquisite. He released the witch's head, his arms falling to his sides as if there were no strength left in them. Hermione gently released him from her mouth and his organ fell heavily against his thigh, rolling over a bit as it continued to deflate. She pulled herself upward and lay down on him, her face nestled against his throat. Weakly Severus brought his pale hand to her back and caressed her.

"You've still got it, witch," he breathed, his eyes closed and his breathing slowing.

"You just had to egg me on, didn't you? Manipulative as ever Severus," she said, smiling against his throat.

The Potions Master chuckled a bit.

"By whatever means necessary, Hermione. You've always risen to a challenge. It's the Gryffindor in you," he replied, tightening his arm around her. "However I egged you on…you were wonderful. Even more wonderful than I remember."

Hermione flushed at the praise. For a moment, in the beginning…she thought she might not be able to do this. But nature took over and all fear melted away. She smiled slightly, snuggling into the wizard.

Suddenly Severus rolled over on her.

"However, I am not about to be outdone," he breathed, licking his lips. "I haven't tasted you in five years, witch. I intend to make up for that."

The wizard fell to her throat, Hermione squealing as he voraciously sucked, licked and nibbled at it.

"Now I'm practicing," he breathed, moving lower.

Hermione writhed as the Potions Master now reacquainted himself with her body. He drank at the globes of her breasts, fondling, licking, squeezing and tweaking them until her hips were spiraling out of control.

"I never thought you'd get these back," he said to the witch around a mouthful of titty.

Severus was a breast man. He was a thigh man, an ass man and a hip man as well. It was as if Hermione's restored body was a giant salt lick and Severus a depleted, thirsty soul trying to rehydrate on her flesh. He was maddeningly slow as he tasted and kissed her body and Hermione was a raging storm of lust as she surged beneath the wizard. She wanted him at her core, and now. It was absolutely throbbing.

"Damn it, Severus," she hissed at him…but the Potions Master only smiled as he moved lower.

He ran one pale finger between her labia, collecting her juices on the tip as Hermione wailed at the contact, buckling. Then he tasted her, his eyes going half-lidded with pleasure as he did so.

"Sweet as ever, witch," he breathed, looking up at her…his nostrils flared.

Hermione didn't want a finger. She wanted that long, talented tongue.

"Severus, please," she groaned as he returned his fingers to her core and manipulated it until the witch was practically screaming. The Potions Master loved her wild response to him, her begging for more than fingers at her apex. Suddenly the wizard rose to his knees.

:What…what are you doing?" the witch gasped, clutching at him, "Noooo! Severus!"

Severus smirked down at her then moved to the side and lay down on the bed, his head resting on the pillows. Hermione turned toward him desperately.

"Severus," she whined, her hand moving between her own legs.

The wizard stared at her for a moment, then he said, "Grab the headboard and straddle my face, witch. I don't feel like wrestling with your thighs."

Hermione almost orgasmed as she hurriedly sat up then climbed over the wizard, grasping the headboard and hitching forward, the wizard's hands gripping her waist as she did so. Finally she was in position, slightly lifted over his face.

Severus black eyes looked up at her glistening pubic hair and labia, drawing in a deep breath and smelling nothing but sweet, sweet female. He flicked out his tongue slipping it between the two folds of skin, dipping it into the flower and collecting the nectar.

"Mmmm," he groaned, then pulled the witch downward so he could access her core. Severus went to work, his tongue moving over her inner thighs licking them clean before laying supple flesh to the witch, who was groaning and writhing over him, looking down. She could see his hot eyes half closed with pleasure and part of his large nose, which he was using, moving right and left, stimulating her.

"Oh dear gods," Hermione shrieked when the wizard sucked her clit hard and not being able to help herself, she ground down on his face hungrily. Gods this was good. Severus was in danger of being suffocated by a dripping orifice and managed to get his hands under the witch's thighs so he could lift her high enough to breath. Hermione was strong, but Severus was stronger and raised the witch high enough so he could continue kissing, licking and sucking, his face covered with her juices.

Hermione's hip whirled as Severus buried his tongue inside her, and gave her a mini-shag, twisting and turning his supple muscle inside her until she keened, and he quickly grasped her clit between his teeth and pulled, the witch crying out and convulsing, coming all over the wizard's face. Severus was in pure heaven as her thick climax practically poured into he mouth, the wizard gripping her waist so tightly he left finger marks. It was as if he were immersed in pure sex, and after an almost five year hiatus, the wizard was ready to drown in it.

Hermione was completely red as she orgasmed, pressing down on the wizard as her flow covered him, bliss curling her toes, her fingers digging into the headboard. She could feel Severus' head winding under her thighs as he drank down every drop of her release. Hermione slumped as her climax ended, Severus' tongue still moving over her sensitive flesh and thrusting inside her until he was satisfied he had consumed every luscious drop of her.

Finally the wizard lifted her thighs up and slid out from under her, sat up, shifted over and lay back against the pillows as the witch moved downward, then fell face first into the pillows before turning to face him. He definitely smelled like pussy, his nose and cheeks and even forehead shining with her juices. He couldn't reach them with his tongue.

Hermione looked at him a moment, then moved over to him and gently kissed and licked the remainder of her own emissions away until his face was cleaned. Severus' eyes glittered at her as she did so, loving the feel of her tongue on his face. Her inhibitions seemed to have lessened quite a bit over the years. That, or she was just as starved as he was. Either way, this was a first. Severus slipped an arm around her waist as she bathed his face, pulling her closer.

Finally Hermione finished her ministrations with a deep kiss, sharing her own taste with the wizard, who growled appreciatively. When she moved away, he looked at her.

"That definitely beats a scourgify," he said to the witch. "Gods, Hermione…you were like a ripe, succulent living fruit overflowing with juice, witch. And the gods knew I was thirsty. I only hope I haven't drunken it all."

"I seriously doubt that, Severus," Hermione replied, the ache between her legs slowly returning as she studied the wizard's face.

A lot of good things could be said about a supple, talented tongue…but when it came down to it, a hot, stiff tool couldn't be beat. Severus knew that look she was giving him. She was ready for the main event. The wizard was slowly hardening, but he wanted a moment or two to savor their last act. Ooh, it had been good and Hermione so passionate. There was nothing, absolutely nothing as enjoyable as a faceful of witch. Well…shagging was right up there. Still, he had missed it. Missed her. Oral sex wouldn't have been satisfying for the wizard without Hermione on the receiving end. It was as if time had been turned back five years.

"You really like traveling, don't you Severus?" Hermione asked to him, her fingers tracing his chest lightly.

She was torn about his plan to continue his world traveling, particularly now. She could already feel his absence, and it saddened her, though she was determined not to show it. She couldn't hold him back. It would be wrong to try. She had him once, but let him go. It was her fault and her loss that the wizard found something else that fulfilled him.

"Yes, the traveling, the challenge and the danger, Hermione. I enjoy working in the lab, brewing potions and elixirs…but there is a part of me that longs for the danger of the unknown. I am a man used to having my life in the balance…death was a constant companion when I served as a spy. Challenging it is in my blood. I need to live on the edge Hermione…at least a part of the time. I was denied so much of life and I want to live it to the fullest. There are so many undiscovered potions and elixirs out in the world Hermione, potions and elixirs I want to collect and understand. It gives my life more meaning," he said to her softly. "Of course, it gets lonely, but that is something I have to deal with. I've learned to deal with loneliness over the years."

Hermione looked up at him, her eyes glistening.

"Severus, I'm so sorry for what I did to you, what I did to us. I was so broken up over Harry's death I felt I didn't deserve any happiness. I drove you away…I didn't think about how you felt. I hate to say this, but I was glad when you stopped coming. I was so selfish…so cold…so cruel. Please say you forgive me," the witch said, tears rolling from her eyes.

Severus looked at her for a moment, then pulled her closer so her face was buried in his hair against his throat.

"Oh Hermione. To be honest, I hated you for what you did for quite a while, even more so when I discovered because of you, casual sex was no longer the pleasure it used to be for me. I was depressed for a while, but unlike you…I managed to shake it off and embroil myself in adventure and found I loved it. When I returned and saw you, I saw that you were punishing yourself…and what you did to us was part of that self-punishment. Not that it helped my heart any…it still hurts sometimes…even now, here, I can feel the ache of your rejection. You have to understand Hermione that in my world, you were the only one who accepted me as I was…and to have you reject me felt like the greatest betrayal I had ever experienced in my life."

He drew her back, looking at the witch as tears streamed down her face. Hermione ached for the wizard, for what she had done to him and it seemed as if the tears would never stop falling.

"But I know what it is to punish yourself for acts you couldn't help committing. Feeling you deserve nothing good. Wishing something would happen and you could just leave the world without being called a coward or a suicide, leave it without feeling you had let everybody down. You left the world, Hermione…that's what happened. After the one suicide attempt, you couldn't come to terms with killing yourself…it was too cowardly and you are a Gryffindor after all. So you left the world another way, through a gloomy mansion and a twelve-foot high fence warded to keep everything good out. Self-incarceration and the barest of nourishment. No pampering. No company. If not for your familiars you probably would have wasted away completely. I was very angry at you Hermione, but when I returned here and saw your state, I believed the way you punished yourself all these years far surpasses any vengeance I could have exacted on you…"

He looked at her a moment.

"However…you cut me off cold. No more access to you or your sweet body. I went through horrible withdrawal, masturbating constantly until my body came to terms with the fact I no longer had a lover. There were some days I came here to try to talk sense to you and was almost overcome by my desire. I thought about forcing myslef on you more times then I care to remember, believing that if I could just get at you, make you feel my need, my passion…you wouldn't turn me away. That could have been so ugly, Hermione."

"I'm sorry," she whispered again.

"I know you are," Severus replied softly. Yet underneath the softness of his voice lay a bit of iron. "But I can get some satisfaction, some reparation tonight. I plan to shag the shit out of you witch and make up for all those times I wanted you and you denied me. For all those nights out in the bush when I dreamed about you, aching, believing I could never have you again. Reparation for going through the trouble of having sex with someone else and getting nothing out of it but an empty release, because she wasn't you. I can't help feeling the need to do this…you know me witch. It's my nature to be vengeful. But I guarantee you, Hermione…if you are as starved as I am…it will be good to you. I know your nature too, and believe you need me this way to ease your own guilt. And I will ease it, witch. Believe me."

Hermione had stopped crying, because the wizard's words had sunk into her body and ignited it. He was going to get closure and give it as well. She rolled to her back, and Severus' eyes washed over her. He was rock hard now and ready to do some damage…hopefully in a good way. He needed to break the witch apart, to know he still had the power to do that, to make her forget everything in the world except him. To shut down that brilliant mind and make it recede while driving her primal self into the light. The wizard swallowed.

"I hope you can handle this witch," he said in a low growl. "Because once I begin, you will have to take the whole journey."

"I'm willing to journey with you, Severus," she said.

The wizard looked at her. This was the last opportunity for tenderness until the aftermath. He pulled her closer.

"Good," he said, kissing her deeply and readying himself to take her.

Severus broke the kiss, drawing away from the witch slowly. Hermione looked up at him, her chest rising and falling with excitement and dark desire. He planned to work her over, and witch couldn't remember wanting to be worked over so badly in her life. The Potions Master looked at her consideringly for a moment, his dark eyes flicking over her body back and forth thoughtfully. Finally, he spoke.

"Now witch, it's time to pay for past sins," the wizard breathed at her, half sitting up and his dark eyes hardening with lust, "Get on your hands and knees. I want you doggie style first. Good and deep."

Hermione felt a fresh gush roll out from between her thighs. This was one of Severus' favorite pummeling positions. The Potions Master obviously meant business. His black eyes rested on her.

"You're excited. I bet your masochistic nature is doing somersaults right now, isn't it witch?" he said stroking himself slowly so Hermione's eyes shifted down to watch his pale hand gently caress his long, thick tool.

The veins of the wizard's organ were visibly pulsing, the shaft filled to capacity with blood while the swollen head was deep purple, and a single tear of pre-cum dripped from that single eye. It was enormous and ready.

"Stop staring and get on your hands and knees," Severus suddenly hissed at the witch.

He said this so sharply, Hermione was startled into action and quickly obeyed him, panting with emotion as she did so.

Severus inched around behind the witch and began stroking her back slowly as his eyes rested on her rounded buttocks. Normally the Potions Master would have taken her so he could see her face, see her eyes when he entered her…the shock and the lust that would register there. But that look would still be there when he finally flipped Hermione to her back. Right now, he just wanted to tease her first, then shag her and hear her scream his name as well as her apology. He let his hands slip under her belly, and move upward to roughly fondle her breasts. The witch let out a groan. The wizard then lifted his shaft and let it rest on her full cheeks so she could feel the length and weight of it.

Hermione moaned and wriggled so slipped slipped between her buttocks. Severus began to move back and forth so she could feel him sliding over her, teasing her, gripping her waist and watching his thickness move back and forth over her petite body, the head reaching above the small of her back. The wizard lightly slapped his thighs against her soft buttocks, watching them bounce and ripple as the scent of her arousal filled his nostrils, which flared in reaction. The witch was dripping for him, her hips swaying invitingly, trying to make him enter her. He pulled her back harder against his loins and the witch gasped with longing.

"Severus, please stop teasing me," Hermione beseeched him, rolling her ass against him.

"No. I want you to feel what its like to want me and not have me," he replied. A thick drop of pre-cum dripped just above the witch's crack. Severus rubbed it into her skin with one fingertip, Hermione sighing as she felt the slickness on her ass.

"You're a cruel man, Severus Snape," the witch wailed as he sped up, making the witch almost crazy with need.

"You knew that when you first let me take you," he said, his lip quirking and head cocking as the witch bumped against him frantically. "You want me to take you right now, don't you Hermione? This big thick tool will make you feel as if I'm splitting you in half. You want to be split in half, don't you, witch?"

"Yessss," Hermione hissed.

Severus bit his lip.

"Tell me you want me more than you want anything else in the world," he demanded, "tell me you are sorry for turning me away."

"I want you Severus, and I'm so, so sorry for turning you away," the witch cried out, "Now please…whatever you're going to do to me…do it!"

Suddenly Severus slapped Hermione's right buttock with his palm sharply, and the witch buckled.

"Oh shit!" she cried out, shuddering as more lubrication rolled out of her.

"Don't presume to make demands of me, witch. I'll shag you when I'm ready. And I'm not ready yet. You turned me away. I want to know you want me now…I want you to know how it feels," he said, bending over the witch now, so his lips were against her ear and she could feel his body close and curled around her, both arms on either side and his hardness pressing against her buttocks.

Severus humped against Hermione hungrily, loving the sound of her frustration and need. He intended to drive her wild, and was doing an excellent job of it as Hermione leaned her head over so his lips rested on her ear.

"Do you remember what it's like to be shagged by me, Hermione?" he asked her, letting his voice drop to its full silkiness.

"Yes…yes, I remember," she gasped back at him. The wizard licked her ear, then bit the lobe lightly. Hermione cried out and tried to rise, meeting his lean hard body.

"You're going nowhere, witch," he breathed, moving her hair aside and kissing her throat, running his lips over her shoulder, sucking at her flesh gently. Hermione thought she would burst like a bubble if he didn't enter her soon. She decided to try goading him into action.

"I think you've gone soft, Severus," she whispered tauntingly, "I think you haven't had sex in so long that you're afraid if you penetrate me, you're going to come immediately. You aren't punishing me…you're buying time. Trying to build up your stamina by rubbing against me like you're doing, hoping it will keep you from exploding once you're inside me. You can't handle me."

She felt the Potions Master stiffen for a moment. Then he chuckled and began to move against her again, harder this time, his loins making little slapping noises as he mock shagged her.

"You little minx. You almost had me," he crooned in her ear. "You were trying to make me take you, weren't you?"

He rolled against her back, making Hermione groan.

"Weren't you witch?" he insisted.

"Yes, you bastard," she hissed back at him.

"Ah, anger. Anger is good, Hermione. Nothing like shagging an angry witch," he said.

She could feel him smile against her ear.

"Be assured I can handle you, witch. The question is, can you handle me? And the answer is, you're going to have to. There will be no choice," he purred.

Hermione felt his lips recede from her ear, and the weight of his body ease as the Potions Master straightened and moved his hips away from her. Then his warm hand pressed the small of her back, and the witch felt him shift back a bit. Then she squealed as he slid the head of his organ over her inner flesh roughly, then back down again, a small groan rising from his throat as he looked at her glistening juices coating his mushroomed peak.

"You certainly are wet, witch. Well, you're going to need the lubrication," he breathed, rubbing into her wetness again.

Hermione cried out, waited, and when he slid back down she thrust her body back, his thick head partially entering her. She cried out at the size of it as the wizard buckled, gasping and pulling his hips back.

"You greedy little witch," he hissed down at her. "Trying to steal a bit, eh? Just a taste to tide you over. How's this then?"

Severus shoved three fingers into the witch and started plunging them in and out of her rather forcefully, Hermione shrieking, buckling then pitching over the brink, orgasming all over the wizard's fingers, whimpering as she quaked. He had driven her too far and she couldn't help herself…something of him was inside her and that was what she wanted. It wasn't an earth-shattering climax, but it felt so damn good and the witch fairly melted.

Severus removed his hand quickly, positioned himself and slammed into the witch as deep as he could, straining against Hermione whose eyes went wide as she screamed at his size and power when he hit her cervix. The witch convulsed and came again while still throbbing from her last orgasm, tightening around the Potions Master like a fist and squeezing him powerfully.

Severus hissed as he felt her gush over him, her sleeve pulsing, her body quaking.

"Yessss," he groaned, arching into the witch's trembling body, experiencing her release for the first time in five years, his eyes rolling up with bliss. "I have you now witch. I have you."

Severus pulled back and slammed into her again, Hermione screeching his name as he buried himself in her hot, clenching body, driving through the soft, pink flesh with a vengeance and lust only forced absence could bring forth. Hungrily he twisted inside her warmth, sighing with pleasure as he felt her tight resistance. He rolled his pelvis over and over, delving into the witch, before pulling out completely, then driving into her again to the hilt, forcing his way in, the witch's back arching beneath his hand. He forced her back down.

"Oh gods! Severus!" Hermione screamed, her mouth dropping open at his powerful ache.

"This is just the beginning, witch. You have a lot to make up for, and I am going to take every inch of you until I'm satisfied," he growled, pulling back and slamming into her, his loins stinging her ass. "I haven't begun to possess you yet."

Severus drew back again and hesitated, Hermione tensing, waiting for the wizard's huge member to drive into her again. When it didn't, her body relaxed somewhat. He plowed into the witch again, catching her off guard. Hermione howled as he strained into her, his pale back arched, his black eyes glittering with pleasure.

Gods. This was what he had missed, Hermione giving herself to him this way. She was such a strong, lusty little witch. This was the dark side of the brilliant woman that no one else knew existed, no one else but him. The years may have been hard on her, but she hadn't changed.

Severus slid one hand up Hermione's back slowly until he reached her hair. He took his time wrapping it around his fist, so she would feel what he was doing to her, and was rewarded with a gush of hot lubrication washing over him. He groaned and gave Hermione a short hard thrust of appreciation, before pulling her head back by her long locks. Hermione's mouth dropped open slackly. Gods she was so turned on. And Severus knew it. Twisted little witch.

The Potions Master pulled back, Hermione moaning as he did so. He adjusted himself and looked down at his organ. His shaft was generously coated in white, creamy lubrication.

"You oiled me up well, didn't you?" he breathed at Hermione, who was quaking with anticipation. Severus' eyes went hooded, and his own darkness washed over him, powerful, insistent, demanding satisfaction

"Enough of the warm-ups, witch," he said, thrusting into Hermione, jerking her head back farther as he started shagging her in earnest, pistoning into her soft, hot core like a man possessed, groaning as she wrapped around him, a luscious, wet living second skin slipping over him again and again as he immersed himself inside her.

Hermione bounced jerkily, her body's motion checked by the wizard's tight hold on her hair, the shrieking witch completely lost to his pounding, his organ so hard it felt as if made of hot stone as it battered deep inside her, caressing and punishing at the same time, stretching her cervix and shifting it as the wizard took what he had always claimed his own.

Severus gave her a deep, deep stroke, which made the witch cry out and fall forward on her face into the pillows, Severus following her down for a moment, still plunging and ramming before pulling hard on her hair.

"Get up," he hissed, slamming into her brutally and he pulled her back. Hermione had no choice, though it was hard to get up when the wizard seemed intent on driving her back down, his loins slapping against her loudly, stinging her cheeks.

Get up, witch!" Severus demanded, stopping for a moment to let her get back up on her hands then ramming into her so hard she almost slid down again. She was already going hoarse from crying out, and the wizard was just starting.

"Yessss. Such good, good trim, Hermione," he grunted as his balls slapped against her labia. "How dare you deny me this? Deny me you…after all I'd invested? You have no idea of the pain you caused me. None."

The wizard let go of her hair and grasped the witch's waist, hauling her into his stroke powerfully, busting through her resistance, the witch's shrill cry seeming to bounce off the walls as she came again, her fluids pouring over him.

Severus pulled out of Hermione and bent, burying his face between her cheeks and drinking down her release before flipping her over to her back and throwing her legs over his shoulders, driving into her, his black eyes hot and locked to her face as he continued shagging the almost incoherent witch.

"I loved you, Hermione. I never said it, but I did," Severus breathed, his face contorting from emotion as he bounced the witch off the mattress with his ardor. "I loved you and I know you knew it. Still you threw me away. I never loved anyone before you. I will never love anyone after you."

Hermione felt her heart tighten even under the wizard's pummeling and fresh tears rolled from her eyes, not only from his ache, but from remorse.

"I'm…I'm…sor…sorry…Sev…erus!" she gasped up at him.

He stared down at her and slammed deep inside, rotating his hips, his eyes fluttering for a moment, then resumed his devastating stroke, breaking the witch apart beneath him, her eyes glazing as she went under. The Potion Master felt her surrender for him totally, like she used to…when she loved him.

"I loved you, Hermione," he gasped again, then dropped on her, covering her mouth with his own as he continued to thrust into her soft body, his body undulating, muscles flexing, perspiration rolling off his back and down his sides, mingling with Hermione's sweat.

The wizard let loose all his anger, loss and anguish into the witch, returning it to her the only way he knew how, physically. Staring pulled back from her mouth, staring into her half-lidded amber eyes, knowing he was all she knew at this moment. Once again, he was her world. And as he buried himself into her body, feeling it responding, meeting him instinctively, he knew that this witch…this beautiful, frustrating, brilliant creature was his world too…for this moment the hands of time whirled backwards and let him feel again.

Severus took the witch this way for a good amount of time. His lungs were burning, and his lower back began to ache, but still he continued, wanting to last as long as he could, wanting to possess the witch as completely as possible. Hermione's legs began to tremble from being locked under his arms so long.

Severus pulled out of Hermione, slid off of her and rolled her so her back was against him. He lifted her leg and entered her smoothly from behind, hissing with pleasure, then wrapped his arms around her and buried his nose in her hair as he continued his assault on her body. Jasmine. Sweet jasmine.

Hermione was no longer shrieking as Severus laid his tool to her hungrily. She let out soft little cries, and these aroused him even more than her screams. He wanted everything she could give him…he didn't know if this would happen again between them, if she would share her passion with him ever again. So he possessed her as if it would be the last time he would ever touch her.

Hermione whispered something inaudible, and the wizard slowed, leaning forward so his ear was near her mouth.

"What is it, Hermione?" he asked her, pressing into the witch rhythmically, feeling her bouncing gently in his arms as he waited for an answer, if she could give it.

Hermione said it again, and the wizard's eyes widened for a moment, before he began to take her strongly again, losing himself now as her softness became his solace, his port, his one place in the world to run, and he felt the familiar tightening in his balls as he buried himself inside the witch.

"No…." he groaned…but it was like trying to hold back a surging ocean. Her body, and her words had made a crack in the dam of his control and the wizard let himself crumble, slamming into the witch with a guttural cry and releasing strongly, filling Hermione with his seed, clutching her close as the room spun and he spilled over into bliss and satisfaction, shuddering against her back, the witch gasping for air as he crushed her to him.

He pulsed inside her for what seemed like forever, then finally he was drained, feeling as if he had emptied five years worth of sperm into the witch's sweet body. He sighed and fell still, loosening his hold on Hermione, but not letting her loose. He wanted to feel her quake against him a little while longer…before she left him alone again.

They lay together quietly, hearts pounding like thunder. Hermione knew better than to move. It had been five years, but she knew what awaited her after Severus' intense possession. She half opened her eyes and saw the purple vials on the nightstand and breathed a sigh of relief. She was going to need them, but gods…his ache was delicious and welcome after all this time. She felt the wizard shift behind her, then remembered the words that had slipped from her mouth uncontrollably…

"I still love you, Severus."

Dear gods. Why had she told him that?

Because it was true.

But he planned to leave…to return to his life of discovery and adventure. Love was not an option for the wizard now. Hermione blinked back the tears that threatened to spill over. He told her he had loved her and she had broken his heart. If he had told her this before, would it have made a difference? No…her grief had been too deep. His confession of love would not have kept her from leaving him. Still, she ached for him. She had brought the dark wizard love then took it from him. It was a miracle he hadn't returned to the darkness that once covered him. She needed to try and fix this…she needed to take back her words so he wouldn't feel torn, if he could feel it.

"Severus?" she said softly.

"Mmm?" the wizard mumbled, his nose resting in her hair.

"What I said…it was because I was so far gone, because I was…" she began.

"Lost to me?" he asked her, pulling back now and turning the witch so she faced him.

Hermione instantly lowered her eyes.

"Yes," she replied, her lip trembling.

Severus studied her face. Hermione wouldn't look at him directly.

"That tells me why you said it," the wizard said, lifting her chin so he could see her eyes, "but did you mean it?"

Hermione swallowed and shook her head.

"It was just the passion of the moment," the witch lied.

Severus arched an eyebrow at her.

"The passion of the moment, you say?" he repeated, his dark eyes seeming to look inside her very soul.

The wizard knew she had meant it. The witch would never make a declaration of love like that unless she felt it honestly. But Hermione's confession meant complications he didn't want to deal with. He would be leaving after they found the secret to the elixir and resurrected Harry. He had no plans on staying, not even after tonight. He still did have residual feelings for the witch, enhanced because of what they just shared, but he didn't think he loved her any longer. His eyes swept over her slowly.

"All right, Hermione. I will forget you ever said it," he responded.

A coldness filled Hermione's belly for a moment, and she wanted to tell him not to forget it, and that it was true, and driving him away was the worst mistake she had ever made in her life, but she said nothing. Instead she gently untwined his arms from around her and achingly sat up on the edge of the bed. She reached for the vials and drank all four of them down. She felt the ache recede, though there was still some soreness. Severus had really worked her body over.

"I should go," she said, not looking back at the wizard, who was admiring her. She was a lovely little witch. He felt a throb, but considering what had just been said between them, he thought it wise to let the witch leave.

"Your housecoat is on the back of the chair. The elves must have brought it," Severus replied.

Hermione felt as if she had swallowed a stone when the wizard didn't try to make her stay. She stood up, walked over to the chair and slipped on the housecoat. She looked at Severus, who was propped up on one elbow in the bed, his long, lean body and sated organ clearly visible as it rested against his thigh. His dark eyes drank her in.

"Good night, Severus," Hermione said, willing her voice to stay steady and her eyes to remain dry.

"It was," he replied, smirking at her.

Hermione gave him a little scowl and exited his bedroom. The Potions Master sighed and dropped on to his back, bringing his arms up behind his head. Gods, that had been good. Hermione had been good.

He closed his eyes, wondering how the "morning after" would be.

Well, he'd find out tomorrow.

Severus awoke a bit late the next morning with a huge "morning after" erection. Maybe he should have talked the witch into staying the night. He could have relieved his hard-on in a very pleasant way if he had. Ah, well…hindsight is always 20/20. The wizard walked into the bathroom, relieved himself and showered the scent of Hermione from his body. As he bathed, his stomach growled horrendously. The wizard hoped Eli made a huge breakfast.

Severus brushed his teeth, dressed quickly and headed downstairs for the kitchen. When he entered he saw the table set for one and Eli was busily scraping salmon and eggs into the waiting bowls of Ying and Yang, who were sitting patiently, their twitching tails the only sign of their eagerness to eat. They both yowled a greeting at the wizard.

"Good morning, kitties," Severus said, sitting down at the table. "Good morning, Eli."

The elf smiled at him broadly.

"Good morning, sir. I makes you a big breakfast. Figures you is very hungry this morning," the elf said, a sly grin on his face.

Severus looked at the elf as he walked over to the stove and returned to the table with a large platter of sausages, buttered toast with jam and hard scrambled eggs. Eli set the platter before Severus, who began piling up his plate.

"And why do you figure I'd be so hungry, Eli?" the wizard inquired as the elf poured him a large cup of steaming black coffee.

"Very big in-outie last night, sir. All the elves heard sir. You worked very hard," the elf replied. "The Mistress was very hungry too sir. And walked slow."

Severus quirked his lip at this. So Hermione had been up early. He wondered did she sleep at all last night after she left him. More than likely she was feeling a bit ashamed at giving herself to him, though she shouldn't. She was an adult witch with needs after all.

"And where is the mistress now?" he asked the house elf.

"She is brewing, sir. Down in the lab," Eli replied.

Severus looked up at this. Brewing? What was she brewing? He had to investigate this…had she made a breakthrough in the elixir and started trying to reproduce it without him? The wizard scowled and hurried through his breakfast.

When he finished, he thanked Eli, exited the kitchen and hurried down to the lab. The door was unlocked and he walked in, his eyes narrowed.

Hermione was seated on a stool in front of a small bowl of cooling liquid. She was staring at it as if willing it to cool faster. She looked up when Severus walked in and blushed furiously, quickly looking back at the potion.

"Good morning," Severus said, walking up and standing over her, looking at the cooling brew.

"Good morning," Hermione said softly, not looking at him.

"And what do we have here?" the Potions Master asked, looking at the cooling liquid, "It's not the elixir is it?"

His voice had a slight hard edge to it. Hermione looked up at him sharply.

"No. I wouldn't start any brew on that without you," she stated.

Then she looked back at the potion and took a deep breath.

"Last night after I left you, I realized that I hadn't been…prepared for sex. We didn't use any contraception…so I brewed a "Morning After" potion, just in case," she said quietly.

Severus stared at the witch. Good gods, she was right. He was so anxious to get at her he hadn't even thought about protection.

"Oh," he replied.

It wouldn't be a good thing for the witch to turn up pregnant.

Hermione stuck her finger in the potion, then picked up the entire bowl, brought it to her lips and drank it down. She sat there a moment as she felt the potion tingling below her belly, cleaning her uterus.

Severus watched her silently, wondering if she had just terminated a child…their child. Not that he wanted to be a father, he just found the thought slightly disturbing. Well, he would never know for certain now, and he couldn't blame the witch for wanting to make sure she didn't produce a child for a man who wouldn't be there for them.

Hermione set the bowl down.

"All done," she said, pulling out her wand and scourgifying the bowl and her cauldrons.

She put the supplies away, then walked over to the microscope where the components of the elixir were waiting. She picked up the tweezers, scourgified them thoroughly and began the painstaking process of separating the grains as she looked through the lens, scourgifying the tweezers constantly as she worked.

Severus watched her for a little while, then left the lab. He couldn't help her with this process. Hermione wanted to keep account of every grain and couldn't do it if they were separated.

As the wizard walked up the stairs he realized Hermione was probably going to try to pretend that nothing happened between them. He only hoped that she wouldn't change toward him in other ways. He enjoyed their debates and arguments. They were stimulating to say the least.

He needn't have worried. Hermione still engaged him mentally in the weeks that followed. She too enjoyed their intellectual bickering. It was the nights that were hardest for both of them. Each lay in the bed thinking of the other, but making no moves to do anything about it. It seemed that they had indeed had their last tryst, and closure was made.

One evening, an excited Hermione ran into the study where Severus was reading a potions journal and sipping on a firewhiskey.

"I've finished, Severus! I've separated the components, identified them and calculated the proper ratios to reproduce the elixir!" she cried joyfully, dropping into the armchair next to him and smiling idiotically.

Severus blinked at her. She had done it. He always knew she could.

"It should take only two days to recreate it. I've already ordered the supplies, enough for five gallons of elixir," she said. "I put a rush on them. They ought to be here tomorrow evening at the latest."

She fell back in the chair, her breasts rising and falling with excitement.

"Soon, I'll have Harry back…and he'll have a brand new life to live the way he's always wanted to," the witch breathed. "He'll have a second chance in a Voldemort-free world, Severus. He deserves that."

The Potions Master looked at her, his dark eyes slightly troubled. Yes, they had the formula now and could brew the elixir…but should they actually use it? There was nothing he could do to stop her however, he had taken the oath in order to get Hermione to help him. Still…

"Hermione, are you sure you want to bring Harry back? Suppose…just suppose he's…happy where he is," the wizard asked her.

Hermione raised an eyebrow.

"Surely you don't believe in Heaven, Professor!" she said, surprised. "A place where happy souls go to live out a carefree idyllic eternity?"

Severus shook his head.

"I don't know what follows life, Hermione. But to think it is extinguished seems, well…wrong. It would make life itself worthless if there were no continuance. A waste of energy. I believe the universe wastes nothing," he said.

"Harry dead is a waste Severus. A waste of a truly good and decent person who never had a chance at a happy life. He was abused as a child and used as a young adult. He died saving the wizarding world without knowing hardly any happiness. If I can bring him back to a happier life, I intend to," she said soberly. "He'd want that, I know."

Severus stared at the witch as her chin stuck out stubbornly. She wasn't going to budge on this.

"All right. I promised you that Harry would be the first resurrection. I believe honestly he should be the only one, Hermione. Now that I will know the components and make-up of the elixir, I am satisfied. I think that we should discard it after we use it on Harry," he said evenly.

Hermione looked at him as if he were mad.

"Discard it as if it never existed, Severus? After all that work? I don't think so," she said frowning at him. "This is the greatest discovery in the wizarding world. An elixir that brings back the dead. You want to keep that from the world?"

"Yes, knowing what the world will do with it. Abuse it, sell it to the highest bidder, bring back those who should remain departed. The world will become a horror, Hermione. Think about it. Even the Philosopher's stone is for all intents and purposes considered illegal, and all it does is prolong life…and turn lead to gold. How much worse is the elixir?" the wizard said, scowling. "What if Voldemort were brought back?"

Hermione snorted.

"Voldemort's remains were completely annihilated by the Ministry. There is nothing left of him to use," Hermione said.

Severus wasn't so sure about that. There might be a relic or two coveted by some zealot somewhere. A bit of finger or bone. Or a drop of dried blood.

"Still Hermione…it is something to consider carefully. This elixir is very dangerous and can change the world in a very negative manner if it fell into the wrong hands. Not everyone has the moral standards you do. Just consider it, witch. Please," the wizard said.

Even if Severus destroyed the elixir, Hermione had the means to recreate it anytime she wished. There was little he could do about it, short of obliviating her. And that would leave the witch with more questions, particularly if she brought Harry back.

Severus sighed and settled back in his chair. He could only hope the witch would see reason. If she didn't, he would be forced to do something about it.

The Potions Master hoped it wouldn't come to that.

A week later, Hermione had reproduced the elixir. It had been tested on several nifflers with excellent results. Tonight they would try to resurrect Harry Potter.

The shaman was quite aware of the elixir's use. He could feel it's power, but it seemed weaker than it should be. It was not the same as the one stolen. It had no spirit and was being used to restore insignificant lives…lives without cognizant souls. Animal lives. Creatures that existed on instinct alone.

But the shaman had a feeling that this use would not be the only one. He sat before the fire, staring into it. The younger brother who stole the elixir was very foolish. The elixir could only be used under certain favorable conditions when it came to human life. If used wrongly it could cause great irreparable harm. The shaman had to stop this at all costs. Life was precious.

The wizened man hummed to himself, painted red by the firelight, rocking slightly…waiting…waiting until he could be drawn to the place the pale man was and stop him from making a great and terrible mistake.

Hermione dumped Harry's ashes carefully on a clean sheet she placed on the floor of her laboratory as Severus watched, his belly uncomfortably tight as the crumbled grains of the-boy-who-died lay in a small pile, the blackness contrasting with the whiteness of the spread sheet.

Hermione walked back, set the urn on the lab counter and picked up the two-liter container of elixir. She uncapped it and looked at Severus who stared back at her soberly.

"This is it," Hermione breathed, "This is where Harry gets a second chance at life."

Severus wanted to shout, "Don't do it, Hermione!" but his oath kept him silent.

He could only watch as the witch poured the elixir over Harry's ashes, wetting them thoroughly before stepping back, watching the mixture intently.

At Ronald Weasley's small flat, Ron's wife Susan Weasley, formerly Susan Bones of Hufflepuff, was dressing little Harry for bed after his bath.

She had just pulled his pajama top over his head when the little boy said suddenly, "Mum, I don't feel so good," then collapsed to the floor, shuddering terribly and going into a seizure.

"Ron!" Susan screamed horribly, trying to hold her son still, "Ron, summon a healer quick! Harry's seizuring!"

Ron burst into the bathroom and stared at his little boy. He was horribly pale, his lips blue and spittle was draining from his mouth as he spasmed uncontrollably on the tiled floor. Susan was in hysterics, trying to hold him steady, placing a towel under his head.

"I'll get someone! Don't worry Susan," Ron said, bolting from the room, his heart thudding in his chest.

Something was wrong with his son, his Harry.

"Dear gods…please don't let my little boy die," the wizard prayed, disapparating.

Severus watched as the ashes began to shift and undulate, taking on the familiar golden glow…but something was wrong. The edges of the glow were a sickly green fading to black.

"Something's wrong, Hermione," the wizard said as the ashes began to spin, forming the funnel. There was a scent of burning.

Hermione watched the funnel grow larger as more ash was added.

"It's…it's just different…this is a human being. The process is probably slightly different," she said uncertainly. "Besides, we can't stop it."

Everything in the lab began to shudder.

"Shit," Hermione breathed, pulling out her wand, "Severus, help me lock everything in place so it doesn't go flying."

Severus pulled out his wand and together they magicked everything in place.

The funnel grew larger and the wind picked up, a loud roar filling the lab, and not only the lab but also the entire mansion. The house elves all fled for the guesthouse gibbering with terror. They could feel something not right happening, something intrinsically wrong. Ying and Yang were on their heels, darting into the guesthouse behind them, the door heavily warded against the wind picking up outside.

A frantic Ron appeared in the lobby of St. Mungo's and rushed up to the check-in desk.

"I need a healer immediately!" he screamed at the clerk, who looked at him with a rather bored expression.

"Everyone who comes here needs a healer. Now what is the problem, Mr….?" she asked him, pulling out a form.

Ron looked at her wildly.

"My son is dying! I need a healer now!" he exclaimed, looking around the lobby desperately.

"How do you know he's dying? You're not a healer are you?" the witch replied coldly.

That was it.

"You fucking idiot…I don't have time for this!" Ron seethed rushing through the double doors.

The witch turned red. "Come back here! You're not allowed back there without authorization!" she shouted after him. "Security!"

Ron didn't give a fuck about authorization.

He ran down the hallway.

A wizard in a white coat looking at a clipboard emerged from a room. Ron ran up to him. Security burst through the door behind him, led by the clerk. They were big, burly wizards.

"There he is!" the clerk cried pointing at the red-haired wizard who desperately turned to the white-coated man.

Security charged, ugly looks on their faces and wands drawn.

"Are you a healer?" he asked the wizard breathlessly.

"Why, yes I am," the healer replied, craning his neck to see the approaching security.

"You're coming with me. My son needs you. Now," Ron said, wrapping his arms around the healer and disapparating.

They arrived directly in the bathroom. The healer took one look at the pale, spasming little boy and dropped to his side.

"I'll do what I can," he said, drawing his wand.

The shaman suddenly stiffened, then stood up before the fire. Yes, it was happening now, and it was wrong…all wrong. The little Kogi stretched his staff over the fire, shaking it and chanting, a blue glow surrounding him. He could feel them…find them now. He shouted the word of power and was gone.

Severus and Hermione were hanging on to the counter, the wind threatening to whip them around the room now. It was like a hurricane as the funnel turned on its side and lengthened, forming what looked like a stick figure. It was a dark, dirty golden color as if tainted.

"It's happening!" Hermione shouted to Severus over the noise.

The wizard's heart was in his throat. This was all wrong…so wrong.

The stick figure began to take shape, thickening, definition appearing as it lightened, a male human body forming, black hair sprouting from the head. It began to take on features…recognizable features as it lightly drifted down to the sheet.

"Harry," Hermione breathed as she looked on the naked form of her best friend, tears forming in her eyes. He lay there, pale and still, waiting for life to enter him.

"Come on, Harry," Hermione urged, "Take a breath. Come back to us."

Severus looked on, hoping that the wizard would not revive. He felt something was happening that was terrible.

Suddenly there was a blue flash beside him. A small, almost naked and rather wizened brown man stood next to him, a pointed cone on his penis, a red cloth wrapped around his waist, streaks of paint on his body and holding a long staff with gourds and feathers tied on the end. The little man looked at him, his black eyes hard. Severus recognized his dress. He was a shaman of the Kogi tribe.

Hermione stared at the little man who held up both his hands and made a motion. A small white cloud appeared before them, then the image of little Harry seizuring, a healer bent over him, casting spells that were having no effect as Susan and Ron clung to each other, tears rolling down their faces.

"You would take a new life for an old one past its time?" the shaman asked Hermione, who stared at the image.

"What is happening to Harry?" she cried, staring at the convulsing little boy, her face pale.

"You are taking his life," the shaman said.

"No, I am trying to resurrect my friend!" she claimed, looking at Harry's body.

"That little one was your friend. He has a new life now. A happy one, and you are stealing it away," the shaman said accusingly.

Hermione's eyes widened as she stared at the dying little boy.

"You mean that's Harry? My Harry?" the witch said, horrified.

"Yes. And you are killing him," the shaman replied, his eyes hard.

"Oh my gods…stop it! Stop it!" the witch screamed, "I didn't know. Please…please help him!"

The shaman nodded, and stepped over to Harry's prone body. He extended his staff over the unconscious form and began to chant. Presently a golden light began to form around the naked pale body. Suddenly it fell to black ash. The wind stopped.

Hermione and Severus stared at the image as little Harry fell still. He wasn't breathing.

Susan ran forward, pushing the healer aside. The wizard was shaking his head.

"Noooo!" she screamed, falling to her knees and gathering her son into her arms, rocking him wildly. "Wake up, Harry…please…my baby! Wake up! Wake up!"

Ron looked on, his lip trembling as tears fell freely from his blue eyes.

"Noooooooo," Susan howled, looking down at Harry's pale face and caressing his tousled red hair. "Nooooo!"

Hermione stood there, tears streaming down her face.

"What have I done? Oh gods, what have I done…" she sobbed as Severus looked on the scene somberly. He wasn't an emotional man, but the death of an innocent child because of he and Hermione stung him, and he was full of guilt and remorse.

"I'm going to have to tell Ron it was me," Hermione said, shuddering. "Tell him I murdered his son…killed Harry…again."

The shaman looked from Hermione to Severus with sober eyes.

"Everything in the world has a season. Our lives are seasons. The Spring of Youth, the Summer of Adulthood, the Autumn of Age and the Winter of Death. Men are like trees. They shed their lives like leaves only to rise up again larger and stronger in spirit, with new life. Your friend was reborn into the life he longed for with family and love. The elixir can only be used on those who have died within a week, and even then they only live for a short time. Once they are removed from the world they cannot return for long. The universe removes them because they have no place and must move on to the next incarnation. But look," he said, pointing to the image.

Suddenly color returned to little Harry and he gasped, breathing again.

"He was not ready to give up his new life," the shaman said smiling, as Susan screamed again and held her son tightly as he struggled to get away. She was crushing him.

Ron ran forward and fell to his knees, wrapping his long arms around both wife and son, sobbing with relief as the healer looked on, trying to get his wand close enough to check the boy's vitals.

Hermione slumped with relief. Thank the gods. Her amber eyes flickered toward the remaining elixir.

"You were right, Severus. This is too dangerous for anyone to have," she said, then she looked at the shaman, "anyone in our world at least."

The shaman nodded and looked at Severus.

"You are quite the patient thief," the shaman said to the tall pale wizard, who stiffened, prepared to draw his wand to defend himself. The shaman smiled.

"You have nothing to fear from me, younger brother. I am not as vengeful as my tribesmen. Shamans do not punish or take lives. The universe takes care of the wrongs men commit…in good time…over many lives. I have only come to take our potion before something else terrible happens. It is my hope you will not make more."

"No, we won't," Hermione said, picking up the large jug and handing it to the small brown man. "Never again."

"That is good," the shaman said, then he looked at Severus.

"Goodbye, thief," he said, "There is a place in the world for even those like you. I imagine this will not be the last time arrows whiz by your ears."

The shaman shook his head ruefully at the wizard, then suddenly disappeared without a sound. It was as if he had never been there. The floating image of Susan kissing a struggling, complaining little Harry all over his face disappeared.

Hermione looked down at the ashes of the man she once knew as Harry Potter.

"It think it's time to let Harry go," she said softly.

Severus nodded.

"Yes, it is witch," he responded quietly.

He watched as Hermione pointed her wand at the ashes. They whirled together and soared back into the urn, which capped itself.

The next day, both Severus and Hermione stood on a high cliff overlooking the sea, the witch clutching the urn in her arms, the wind whipping her hair lightly around her face. She looked down at the crashing surf and up at the brilliant blue sky…which was rare in England. It was usually overcast. She took the clear day as a sign that it was time to let Harry go. She blinked up at Severus, who looked at her soberly.

"Release him, Hermione," he said to her softly.

The wizard felt a tightness in his chest despite himself. He had never really cared for Harry, but Hermione had loved him deeply and now had to face the fact that the Harry she knew was gone. He couldn't help but feel for the witch.

Hermione opened the urn and stared down at its contents.

"Goodbye, Harry," she said softly, then shook out the ashes into the wind, which carried them high over the sea where they swirled almost joyfully…then vanished from sight.

It was over.

Hermione and Severus walked away from the blue sky, the blue water, and the young man she had loved for more than half her life, the Potions Master slipping his arm over the witch's shoulder to comfort her.

Together, they disapparated.

Hermione spent the following days alternating between mourning and amazement. Severus watched for signs to see if she were slipping back into self-punishment mode, but after about a week, the witch seemed fine.

They went to visit little Harry.

Susan's eyes went wide with surprise when she opened the door and saw Severus with Hermione, but she welcomed them in graciously. Ron was at work, but little Harry was there. His green eyes twinkled with pleasure as he saw Hermione.

"Hermione!" he cried, running through the living room and leaping into her arms. "How did you know I wanted to see you?"

Hermione hugged little Harry tightly.

"Oh I don't know. I just felt like stopping by," she said, "You remember Professor Snape don't you?"

The little boy's eyes darkened as he looked at the somber wizard. Severus' mouth quirked at the child's dislike. Seemed as if some things stuck with a soul.

"He looks like a bat," Harry said, frowning at the wizard.

"Harry!" Susan exclaimed in horror at her son's outburst. "That's a terrible thing to say to someone. Now you tell Professor Snape you're sorry, right now."

Harry scowled stubbornly as Hermione fought to keep from laughing.

"That's quite all right, Mrs. Weasley," Severus said, glowering lightly at the boy, "It's an old designation from Hogwarts due to my lurking in the dungeons for so many years. It's been used countless times to describe me. I no longer take offense at it. Beside, I have a feeling the boy got it honestly."

"But still," Susan said, "He has to learn to hold his tongue."

Severus looked at Harry who scowled up at him.

"I would think, Mrs. Weasley, your focus would be best spent keeping him out of trouble. He may have a predisposition towards finding himself in sticky situations," the Potions Master said, smirking slightly.

"Actually, he is a bit naughty. He already tries to sneak Ron's Firebolt out of the broom closet. And at his age too," she said, frowning at her son.

"He likes to fly," Hermione said, hugging the boy again, who grinned at her. She set him down.

"I sure do like to fly. I am going to be a see…see..." he stuttered.

"A seeker," Hermione said smiling down at the boy.

"Yep. Just like big Harry was," the boy said. "I saw pictures. He was fast. I'm going to be fast too."

Hermione ruffled his already messy hair.

"I believe you are," she said, her eyes starting to glisten.

They had a nice visit, with little Harry glowering at Severus most of the time, then returned to the manor. Severus walked Hermione to the door.

"Little Harry is amazing," she said to Severus as they stopped outside.

"He's something…I'm not sure amazing covers it," the wizard replied, scowling a little.

Hermione chuckled.

"He still doesn't like you," she said to the Potions Master.

"Yes, and I find that reassuring. I'm just glad I won't have to teach him," Severus replied, then he looked at Hermione, his face darkening a bit. "Hermione, I'm leaving tomorrow morning. We've completed our project and it's time for me to return to my adventures and seek out new discoveries. My ship leaves tomorrow morning at ten. I have to make some arrangements before then so will be gone most of the afternoon. I just wanted to see you back before I left. I will be back this evening to pack."

Hermione looked at him and nodded, feeling everything inside her just drop to her feet.

"It was good having you here, Severus," she said quietly.

"It was good staying here, Hermione," he said, looking down at the witch.

Hermione stared up at him a moment then started.

"Well, I'd better not hold you up then," she said opening the door and letting herself in. "I'll see you tonight."

The Potions Master nodded and the witch closed the door. He stared at it for a moment, then walked out into the yard a bit, and disapparated.

It was past eight o'clock when Severus finally returned to the manor. He had to arrange his itinerary and go to Gringotts to set up his moneybag, which provided the proper coinage of any country he visited, magical or muggle.

He found Hermione sitting in the study. The witch looked rather drawn.

"Good evening," he said to her silkily. She was dressed in her nightgown and housecoat. She was barefoot and had a glass of wine sitting next to her and staring into the flames. Her amber eyes looked up at him.

"Hello Severus," she said softly. The wizard could hear the sadness in her voice, and sat down in the armchair next to her. "Did you take care of everything?"

He nodded.

"Yes. I only have to pack, and I don't have much," he replied looking at her intently. "Hermione, what are you going to do now?"

The witch shrugged.

"Probably start my research again, though it isn't as appealing to me as it used to be. Maybe take a few university brush up courses. I'll stay busy," she said, taking a sip of wine.

"Good. Because I don't want to come back here to visit you in another five years and find you in the state I found you in this time," the wizard said. "You have a lot of life ahead of you. A lot of living to do."

Hermione sighed.

"Yes, I do," she agreed, but it didn't sound like her heart was in it.

Severus' eyes washed over her. This was going to be the last time he saw her most likely. He felt he should say something, but he didn't know what to say to the witch. So he stood up.

"I'm going to retire and pack now," he said, looking down at the witch. "I'll most likely be leaving quite early in the morning and won't see you, so I think it best to say good-bye now, witch."

Hermione looked up at him.

"Goodbye Severus," she said softly, feeling her heart breaking.

"Goodbye, Hermione," he said. Then he bent and kissed her hand, reveling in the softness of her skin as he did so. Then he turned and walked from the room.

Hermione sat there for a moment in silence.

Then the tears came.

Severus lay in his bed tossing and turning. He had everything packed, and was ready to go. But he couldn't sleep. He was leaving Hermione…again. Yes, he had the memory of their last time together, but it was growing old. He saw her sadness and there was a small part of him that ached a bit too. Maybe he should have asked her if he could have her once more before he left England. But he didn't want to be rejected.

Severus tossed and turned some more before he finally sat up on the edge of his bed, rubbing his pale hand over his face and sighing deeply. He wanted the witch one more time, and wanted her badly. He stood up, took a deep breath and pulled on his housecoat and slippers. Quietly he exited his room and walked down the corridor, heading for Hermione's room.

He ran right into the witch, who had on her housecoat and was walking up the hall.

"Hermione?" he said, looking down at the witch in surprise.

Hermione blushed furiously.

"Hello Severus," she said softly.

"Where were you going?" they both asked the other at the same time.

Severus smirked at the witch.

"You were coming to my room, weren't you Hermione?" he asked her, his eyes going hot.

Hermione gave him a little scowl.

"You were heading for my room," she said accusingly.

"Yes, I was. And since it is the closest room…" he said, grabbing Hermione by her arm and pulling her back towards her bedroom, "I think I will continue on my way."

He arrived at her door, pushed the witch in and followed, closing the door behind him and stripping off his housecoat immediately. He was naked and aroused. He looked down at his member and then at the witch who was staring at him rather hungrily, though her entire head was pink.

"You don't have to ask me why I'm here…nor do I have to ask you why you were on your way to my bedroom. It is the same answer, isn't it Hermione?" he said silkily, slowly walking toward the witch.

"Yes," Hermione said, unable to raise her voice above a whisper as the wizard took her into his arms and kissed her deeply, his hands untying the sash, then pulling her housecoat from her shoulders. He was surprised to find her naked underneath them as well. He arched an eyebrow at her.

"I see you were going for easy access, witch," he purred, scooping her up into his arms and carrying her over to the bed, laying her down in it. He climbed in after her and wasted no time rolling on top of her soft body.

"I couldn't leave here without having you one more time, Hermione," he said to her, his black eyes studying her face as he gently pushed her hair aside.

The witch looked up at him as if trying to memorize everything about the wizard.

"I couldn't let you leave without…without…" she began…faltering.

"Without having you," he said, kissing her again.

Hermione wrapped her arms around his strong lean body and melted into the kiss, savoring the taste and feel of his tongue exploring and claiming her mouth. Severus was so sexy, so demanding. Gods, why had she ever let him go?

When the wizard pulled away from her mouth, Hermione said, "I'm going to miss you, Severus."

The wizard looked down at her.

"I know, Hermione," he said softly, adjusting himself and entering her smoothly, the witch sighing with pleasure. "I know."

He began to shag her gently, hissing with pleasure as he slowly buried himself in her softness, staring down at her and watching as she gave in to the pleasure of his penetration. He went deep, pressing against her cervix with a bit of strength, but not pummeling her. He wanted to milk her orgasm from her this time, not beat it out of her.

"So good," the witch sighed, leaning her head forward and kissing him before letting it fall back. Her hips rose and fell to meet his stroke, the lovers in perfect sync as they took their final pleasure of each other.

"You're going to be in my dreams, witch," the wizard whispered, "my only solace in the lonely bush."

Hermione buckled a bit at his sweet words and thrust a little harder, her body wanting more now. The wizard obliged her, making his strokes stronger, deeper, flexing against the witch strongly so she emitted little cries, but not tearing into her. Not this last time.

"I wish you weren't leaving," Hermione whispered.

Severus knew that the witch was caught up in her passion again, and spouting the truth now.

"I know," he groaned as her tightness slid over him, his pleasure building. He kissed her again, hungrily, trying to imprint her kiss on his very soul. He released her mouth. "But I must go, Hermione."

"Then make me feel like you'll be here forever," the witch said to him softly, her eyes full of tears. "Let me have that last fantasy, Severus"

The wizard paused, looking down at her, his chest tight. Then he readjusted himself, lifting her legs, locking them behind his arms and raising himself on his hands. He looked down at her body, completely open to him then into her amber eyes.

"As you wish," he breathed, driving into the witch powerfully and closing his eyes in pleasure as she cried out his name.

Severus gave Hermione what she needed and then some, his body in overdrive, his body slapping loudly against hers, perspiration pouring down his back as the witch gave up all her secrets, telling him what was in her heart as he took her mind away, leaving only her passion, only her deep emotion for him. Only her love.

The wizard dropped on her, driving into her.

"Come with me, Hermione. Travel the world with me," Severus panted, willing the witch to agree as he shagged her, doing his best to make her say yes.

"I…I…can't. My home. The elves," she cried.

"Come with me," he groaned. "Hermione, I want you with me."

The witch orgasmed powerfully, triggering the Potions Master's own sudden climax, and they shuddered against each other, mutual bliss turning them almost inside out as they clung together, both lost to the pleasure of the flesh as well as the meeting of the heart. Spent, they drifted back to earth, wrapped around each other, panting heavily.

"You will come, Hermione?" the wizard gasped against her ear.

There was silence.

"No, Severus…I can't. I'm sorry," the witch said.

The Potions Master held her tightly, his heart feeling a bit heavier than normal. It was her decision. If she did still love him, she didn't love him enough. He kissed her and rolled off of her body, pulling her against him, feeling her heart beating quickly.

He kissed her forehead.

"I'm going to miss you witch," he said softly, then let sleep take him.

Hermione lay in the wizard's arms, listening to him breathe rhythmically.

"I'm going to miss you too, Severus," she said softly, then also drifting off, her last awareness being wrapped in the wizard's strong arms.

When she awoke, the first gray light of dawn was streaming through the window.

And Severus was gone.

Hermione sat up in the bed, her eyes resting on the spot Severus would have been lying in if he had stayed. She realized that in her deepest heart she had been hoping the wizard would realize he loved her, and not have left. But this was Severus Snape and he let nothing control him anymore. He had a path for his life, and was determined to follow it.

The witch sighed and bent her leg, tapping her thigh. The contraceptive patch she had bought weeks before glowed green. It was still in force. She had purchased it just in case she and Severus had another tryst. They hadn't, but she still took the precaution. It had come in handy. She tapped it again and it disappeared.

The witch rolled out of bed. She could still smell the wizard on her. Sex and sandalwood. She walked into the bathroom and relieved herself. There was a small sting and residual ache from the wizard, but it was bearable…Severus hadn't been as voracious as the first time they engaged. He had been much gentler, much more…how could she put it any other way…loving.

She walked to the shower, pulled back the translucent glass and turned it on. She stepped inside and washed him from her body, the last remembrance swirling down the drain. His last words to her had been "I'll miss you."

Hermione gulped suddenly, willing herself not to cry as she finished her shower and stepped out, picking up a towel and drying herself off.

She couldn't go with him. Running all around the world, being pursued by gods knew what, going to strange dangerous places and risking their lives over and over in the pursuit of knowledge. It was madness. She wasn't a student at Hogwarts any more, getting into dangerous situations with Harry and Ron. Yes, she knew a lot of defensive spells and had to admit those times had been exhilarating as well as frightening, but…but…she was a grown witch now with responsibilities.

"What responsibilities?" a small voice in her head said to her.

"The manor. The house elves. Ying and Yang. My research." Hermione thought back.

The little voice fell silent as the witch dressed.

She walked downstairs, her footsteps echoing in the great manor. It felt so large and empty. She made it to the first floor, walked down the hall and past the kitchen though she was hungry, turning right and following the corridor to the pool room. She pushed open the door and walked in.

It was still very humid. She had never reset the temperature. She looked at the glistening water and remembered Severus trapped her against the side of it, naked and aroused, demanding that she apparate them to her bedroom. The witch wrapped her arms around herself at the memory of that night. He had been exactly what she needed and gave her closure, eased her guilt when he took her so strongly, reclaiming what she had taken from him fully. It had been a powerful experience.

Now Severus was gone. He had another calling other than being her lover.

Hermione left the pool room, and walked the lonely corridor. She saw several house elves cleaning unnecessarily. But they looked happy and nodded to her as she passed. They kept the manor up admirably and needed no orders or instruction to maintain it. And they were self-sustaining. Hermione hadn't had to provide anything special for the little creatures since they arrived.

Determined they received some kind of recompense, Hermione had it set up through Gringotts that they received a galleon a week apiece. They wouldn't accept anymore, and each had a small moneybag that provided their weekly "gift." She didn't think any one of them had spent a single galleon yet, and accepted the money more to humor her than anything else. But it made her feel good that they did receive something.

She turned back into the kitchen to find a rather sober-faced Eli there, and her breakfast ready. Ying and Yang were there also, looking up at her with their tails twitching fitfully.

"Good morning, Eli," she said to the elf, who carried her breakfast over to her, his ears somewhat flattened.

"Good morning, Mistress," he replied in a somewhat dejected voice. He set a soft-boiled egg, butter toast and cup of coffee in front of her and walked back to the stove, removing the pot and placing it in the sink. His little shoulders were slumped.

Hermione looked down at the meal. How had Eli known that she couldn't eat a large breakfast this morning, despite sleeping with Severus? House elves were truly amazing.

Hermione started to eat.

"What are you still doing here?" a male voice said to her.

Hermione started and looked over at Eli, who was washing the pot, his back turned to her.

"Did you say something, Eli?" she asked the elf, who turned to her.

"No, Mistress," he said, then turned back to the sink.

Hermione looked at him for a moment, then began to eat again.

"It wasn't the elf. It was me."

Hermione felt a moment against her leg and Yang was there looking up at her.

"Yang? Is that you talking to me?" she asked the cat incredulously.

Eli half turned around, and a slow smile crossed his face. The familiar was talking to the Mistress. Hopefully some sense.

"Yes, it is. You need a good talking to. Why are you still here?" he asked her.

"I live here," she said, her eyebrows raised.

Ying walked up.

"You should be gone with the wizard. There's nothing here. We can run the manor and oversee the elves," the Siamese sat, licking her coat for a moment then staring up at Hermione with her blue eyes.

"But I couldn't go…I have to…" she began.

"You have nothing to do. You don't work. The manor is taken care of. You are rich. You've been sitting on your haunches for five years wasting life. You need to go someplace and do something. Get out!" Yang hissed at her. "Go with the wizard."

Hermione scowled at him.

"I will not be told what to do by a…a…cat!" she seethed at him.

"Fine. Be miserable again. But I won't be talking to you anymore, Mistress…you can be sure of that. It is a total waste of time. I told you Ying!" he said, looking at his companion with narrowed eyes and stalking away, presenting his butt to both Ying and Hermione.

Ying looked up at Hermione.

"Why do you fight happiness, Mistress? This is a big lonely place for a witch. You will waste your life here alone. Adventure is not for males alone. Please go, Mistress. We will keep the manor for you," the cat implored, rubbing against her leg.

Hermione looked down at the cat, then over at Eli. She made her decision.

"Eli," she said softly, "Summon the house elves for me."

Eli turned to the witch, smiling now.

"Yes, Mistress. I gets them right away," he said, winking out.

Severus stood on the deck of the "New Life" the vessel that would take him to ports unknown. He leaned on the railing, his black eyes watching the deckhands load the ship with goods and supplies. The sky was overcast, the perfect backdrop for the bit of darkness that clung to him.

Hermione wouldn't come.

The Potions Master sighed.

It would have been more work if she had. They would have spent much of the voyage toughening her up with exercise. Severus blinked.

And much of it shagging too.

But Hermione had the heart of an explorer, and she was courageous. She had proven that when still little more than a child at Hogwarts. And she would have been a great help divining the elixirs once they got them in their possession. The witch knew how to protect herself as well. It would have been nice to have a companion, a fellow explorer and a lover alongside him.

But she clung to the things he had let go. The life he found too constricting. But it was familiar, safe. The witch had folded in on herself over the years. Maybe that ran deeper than he had realized. He listened as the captain shouted to his men to prepare to launch. A few stragglers ran up the gangplank.

"All passengers below deck!" the captain bellowed.

Severus turned to descend into his small room when he heard something.


He turned and walked back to the railing, peering down at the box and rope strewn dock.

"Wait! Please!" a familiar female voice cried.

Severus' heart began to pound in his chest. The sailors heard the voice too…they had just been about to draw in the gangplank when they saw a small woman with a bag running toward the ship and waving at them.

"Please…wait, I want to come aboard!" Hermione shouted.

The sailors looked at each other, then back at the captain who nodded.

"Always could use a few more galleons," he growled.

The sailors released the gangplank and Hermione jumped over the scattered debris on the dock quite nimbly, then hurried up the gangplank, the admiring eyes of the sailors on her.

The captain walked up to the witch, who was dressed in jeans, trainers and a white sweatshirt. She still looked damned good. The captain, who imagined himself as somewhat of a witch's man, gave her a good once over. Maybe he'd get lucky on this trip. His blue eyes glittered appreciatively as he looked down on the petite witch.

"Are you traveling alone, Miss?" he asked her, a small smile on his face. She hadn't arrived with anyone…so most likely she would be alone on the voyage. Just perfect.

Hermione looked up at him and was about to reply when a long arm encircled her waist, pulling her against a hard, lean body.

"No, captain. She is not traveling alone. She's with me," Severus replied, meeting the seaman's gaze rather dangerously.

The captain's eyes raked over the tall, rather ugly wizard. He looked quite formidable, and the possessive way he held the witch let the captain know there was something intimate between them. Shit. Lucky bloke.

"Very well, Mr. Snape. Will you be requiring a bunk, Miss?" the captain asked Hermione.

"No," Severus replied.

The captain scowled at him as Severus reached into his pocket.

"But you have a single," the captain said.

Severus dropped a very large amount of galleons into the wizard's hand.

"So much the better," he purred at the captain, who gave a slow smile and nodded. He looked at Hermione.

"Welcome aboard, Miss," he said, tilting his cap slightly, then striding away.

"All passengers below deck!" he bellowed again.

Severus looked down at the witch.

"You came," he said, his silken voice cracking a bit.

"Yes. I belong with you Severus," Hermione replied softly.

"I'm glad you finally realized that. Just like a witch…waiting until the very last moment," he mocked griped. "I am going to have to teach you a lesson about being punctual."

Hermione felt a little warmth rise up in her belly.

"A lesson?" she asked him, a little squeak in her voice.

"A very thorough lesson," he purred, pulling her against him a little tighter as they descended into the dark depths of the ship together, heading for the Potions Master's quarters.

A shocked squeal then a giggle rose up from the darkness as the gangplank was drawn in and the ship prepared to launch.

Invisible, Eli rested against the railing, staring down at the docks, a huge smile on his face as the ship lurched away. After Hermione gave the house elves their instructions, Eli gave Leaf Ear and the others instructions of his own.

"The Mistress needs a servant. Eli will go to the dangers with her. Elf magic will be very good there," he said. "Leaf Ear will be overseer tills I get back. You bests keep the manor well."

Leaf Ear bowed low.

"Yes, Eli. No worries," he replied.

Eli turned invisible and tiny, and without Hermione knowing, mounted her shoulder and rode with her as she disapparated. He would wait until they were far out at sea to reveal himself to the witch and wizard. He would be most helpful on their journeys. He could help them steal, fight and escape. House elves had been very good at that when they were free and it was ingrained in them, despite their servitude. The elf was going to enjoy this particular service. He grinned wickedly.

In Severus' tiny quarters, the wizard was busily prying Hermione from her jeans. He had a full sized bed, which would require them to snuggle relatively close at night. He didn't mind that at all.

"I have you now, witch," he breathed at her as he slipped her blue jeans down, then straightened. "You got away from me once…but never again."

Hermione nodded, her amber eyes soft as she looked up at him.

"It's been a long way back to you, Severus," she said, "but I guess it was all part of my journey."

"Yes," the wizard said, guiding the witch to his bed and helping her in. He joined her, slipping a long finger under her chin and studying her face. "The first of many journeys and adventures together witch, starting with this one."

The Potions Master rolled on top of the witch and proceeded to take her around the world…his way. Combined with the rolling lurch of the ship, it was quite a convoluted and adventurous journey indeed.

"Run!" Severus yelled at Hermione as the first fireball shot past them.

The little witch took off like a shot. She didn't need to be told twice. She quickly cast a deflective spell around herself as Severus did the same. That would hold off the hot balls of fire from connecting with their flesh for a short while. Hopefully until they reached the passage.

Behind them, Eli shot blasts of water at their pursuers, running backwards. The elf was still quick despite his orientation.

They thought they had gotten away clean. They entered the dormant volcano through a hidden passage they discovered behind a few collapsed pillars left by the long dead people who once inhabited this island. A people who were the creators of the "dragon drink." Legend had it that the elixir still existed, hidden inside the "Silent Dragon" protected by the "Guardians of the People"

Severus had believed that any guardians would have long perished by now. That might have been true if they were human guardians, or even guardians made of flesh. But they weren't.

Severus, Hermione and Eli worked their way through the stone passageway, wands lit until they found themselves inside the volcano. Two rough-hewn stone statues stood next to the passageway.

A great roiling lake of lava spread before them, overlooked by a cliff. A small rubble-strewn path edged around the lake, leading up to the cliff. The path looked as if it had once been much wider, but obviously time and erosion had play their part and it was just large enough for the couple and Eli to navigate. After a few minutes of careful walking they followed the path upward to the high cliff over the lake of fire and found open ground.

It was hot inside the volcano, so hot that Hermione removed her shirt and tied it around her waist, traveling only in her sports bra. Severus opened his shirt, his pale chest bared. They were too focused on their mission to admire each other as they made their way through the volcano carefully and quietly, coming to a small stone temple, and upon entering it and lighting their wands, found a chamber, encircled by a number of roughly hewn stone figures. In the middle of the chamber was a pedestal on which rested a black bottle made of volcanic glass, the stopper in the shape of a dragon's head. Eli waited outside.

The elf started as he heard a rumble as if stones falling, then two small splashes. His ears flickered back and forth, but he heard nothing else. He looked furtively toward the temple, wishing the couple would hurry.

"That's it!" Hermione said excitedly as Severus looked around, his brow furrowed. This was easy. Too damn easy. He walked up to the bottle and looked at it carefully, then waved Hermione over.

"What do you think this weighs?" he asked her, opening a bag tied to his waist. Inside were a number of stones.

Hermione looked at the bottle consideringly, then reached into the bag and removed two stones, hefting them in her hand.

"These should do it," she said to the wizard.

Severus had learned to trust the witch's judgment. He reached out for the bottle as Hermione drew close with the stones holding her wand out in front of her. They wizard wasn't sure if there was some booby-trap that would be triggered by the bottle's removal. Better safe than sorry.

"Ready?" he asked the witch.

Hermione held the stones in her hand, very close to the bottle. Her face was set as she nodded.

"One, two, three!" the wizard breathed, lifting the bottle from the pedestal, Hermione replacing it with the stones in one smooth motion. They both winced and stood still, waiting to see what would happen. Nothing did.

"No protections," Hermione said, looking around the room.

Severus wasn't sure about that. He grabbed her arm.

"Let's go," he said, leading her quickly out of the temple and back toward the passageway in. He hadn't located a secret elixir yet that didn't have some kind of dangerous protection around it.

The moment they left the temple, the stone statues began to emit heat. The stone façade around them cracked, and beneath it, lava glowed. They pulled away from the walls and quickly followed the departing couple.

"I heard noises I did sir," Eli said, his ears flattened as he fell in step with the couple. Severus was putting on quite a stride. "It comes from the lake of fire. Falling rocks and splashing."

Severus nodded.

"Let's just get out of here," the wizard said.

And that was when the first ball of flame whizzed by his head.

"Shit!" he said ducking and breaking into a run.

"Run!" he yelled at Hermione who took off.

The wizard looked back and saw about a dozen stone men made of rock and lava pursuing them, throwing their hands forward and slinging balls of burning lava. Witch, wizard and elf ran for the path that led to the passageway.

"No!" Hermione screamed, skidding to a stop…her eyes wide as she surveyed it. "It's gone, Severus!"

The wizard looked and paled. The passageway was buried under a pile of rocks. The stone figures were gone and part of the path was broken.

"Those statues must have come to life after we passed and sealed us in. Then tried to pursue us and broke through the path, destroying part of it and falling into the lava," the wizard said, looking back at the lava men who were coming closer. He was almost burned by one of the lava balls, which stopped less than an inch from his face. The deflective spells were weakening.

"What are we going to do Severus?" Hermione cried, looking at Eli who was desperately sending freezing water at the lava men, slowing them down as they sizzled, the lava darkening for a moment, then igniting again. He couldn't hold them off for long.

The wizard looked around desperately, finally looking up to the volcano's opening high above them. He looked at the bottle in his hand.

"Let's hope this works," he said, uncapping it.

"But Severus, if we use it, then we'll have nothing," Hermione said, her amber eyes resting on the bottle.

"If we don't, we'll be nothing but ash," he replied, "Eli, get over here and hang on to my neck!" The elf ran and leaped on the wizard's back as Severus drank half the bottle's contents and gave the other half to Hermione, who stared at it unwillingly. They had gone through so much to get it. The journey was fraught with peril. Monsters, unfriendly natives…cannibals at that. Now they would never find out the elixir's secret.

"Mourn later, drink now!" the wizard cried, starting to shudder.

The lava men were almost upon them. Hermione squealed as she was hit by a lava ball and felt the heat through her depleting shield. She drank the contents down.

Suddenly Severus and Eli disappeared.

"Severus! Severus!" Hermione screamed, beginning to shudder herself. The lava men were almost on her now. They had stopped throwing fireballs and had their arms extended to grab the witch. She'd be burned to a crisp.

Hermione screamed and closed her eyes as a lava man went to grab her.

But it never did. Something very large came between them and the creature was gone.

Hermione looked up to see a large pale black-eyed dragon grinning toothily down at her, its tail lashing. It was flicking the lava men away with a large scaly toe. They couldn't burn him.

"Severus?" she said.

"Yes," the dragon said in thought-speak.

Hermione could see tiny Eli clinging to the dragon's neck. Suddenly the world seemed to whirl around the witch and her perspective changed, as did her orientation. She was still on two legs, but two very large, scaly legs. A lava man grabbed on to her foot, and she shook it off gingerly. She was a dragon. A blue dragon. Much smaller than Severus.

Next to her, Severus unfurled great white wings and flapped them experimentally.

"We can fly," he said leaping off the cliff and flapping upward strongly towards the opening in the volcano, Eli clinging to him in fright.

Hermione kicked off a few more lava men, throwing them into the lake of lava where they melted and disappeared into the raging magma. She spread her wings.

"But I don't know how to fly," she said, "I'm human."

But obviously the body of the dragon did know how to fly. It leapt off the edge of the cliff, Hermione mentally screaming as it flapped upward strongly, following Severus. After a moment or two the witch relaxed. She really could fly.

They emerged from the top of the volcano, flew a little distance, then landed on the beach near the shore. Some cannibals who had been tracking them, saw the dragons, screamed and ran back into the bush, thoroughly terrified. There were tales of dragons that went back generations, and it was said they had more of a taste for human flesh than the cannibals did. The natives were not going to wait around to find out.

Severus lowered his head and let Eli climb off him.

"The elixir worked," Severus said to Hermione who nodded, admiring his form. He made quite a handsome dragon. Severus eyed her as well, his dark eyes glinting. A waft of smoke blasted from his nostrils.

"You make quite a delectable little dragon," he purred at her. Then he looked at Eli. "Wait here, Eli. Hermione and I are going flying."

Severus launched himself into the air.

"Follow me, witch…if you dare," he thought at her, then began to fly straight upward.

Not about to be undone, Hermione flew after him, catching up quickly. She was smaller and faster. Presently, she passed him, craning her head down and blowing a taunting flame at him. She began to feel randy as Severus pursued her, and she flew higher and higher, the wizard soaring after her, his eyes smoldering

Presently they both burst through the clouds. The sun was bright and the air cold. They hovered there, looking at each other hungrily.

"I wonder how dragons mate?" Hermione said wistfully.

Severus blew a blast of fire just above her head.

"Like this, witch," he said, launching himself at her and wrapping his wings tightly around her body, his huge organ emerging and burying itself inside the witch smoothly. They inverted and plummeted toward the earth, their bodies locked together intimately, Hermione groaning mentally as the wizard began to move as they fell. He was just as good as a dragon as a wizard.

"I think dragon sex is very fast," the wizard panted, his eyes half-closed in pleasure as the wind whistled past them.

"Then we'd better hurry," Hermione purred back at him, entwining her neck around his and giving herself over to his passion.

It really was very fast, but very good, both dragons orgasming and breaking apart just in time, spreading their wings, landing awkwardly on the beach and stumbling forward, almost crushing the fleeing Eli. They sprawled and transformed back to their human forms, panting, lying on their backs in the sand.

Hermione lifted her head and looked over at Severus.

"That was fucking amazing," she said, smiling naughtily at the wizard, who raised his head and looked back at her.

"It seems our brief encounter with the dragon drink wasn't a total loss," he panted at her in response, falling back in the sand.

Eli looked from one to the other, his scaly hands on his hips.

"A fine time for in-outie," he thought, shaking his head.

As far as Severus and Hermione were concerned, any time was a good time for that.

They lay there in the sun, catching their breaths…Severus already thinking about their next adventure.

After all this heat, the Himalayas sounded nice. There was supposed to be a tribe of yetis there who had an elixir that could stop time.

Now, that sounded like a plan.


A/N: And that is the end of "A Long Way Back." Thanks for reading.