Payback is a Witch Final Chapter

Hermione woke up at eight-thirty Monday morning. She hadn't slept well, being tormented by a pair of deep, dark eyes all night long. The witch rolled over and looked at the time, her eyes widening.

"Shit!" she said, bolting from the bed and into the bathroom.

Hermione hurriedly showered and dressed. She had to skip breakfast and hurriedly warded the front door and apparated to the Ministry.

At about eleven o'clock two shimmers made their way across Hermione's yard, stopping outside her front door.

"Check it, Fletch. We don't want any nasty little surprises," Jackson said to his disillusioned partner.

Fletch took out his wand and checked Hermione's front door.

"Warded," he said, "Nothing too fancy though."

"Can you get through it?" Jackson asked him, looking around the neighborhood. All was quiet. Most everyone was at work. It was a cloudy day as it usually was, with a small breeze blowing, making the bushes wave. The motion covered their shimmers nicely.

"Probably, but first let's check around the house. Maybe we can get through a window or something. Most people don't ward everything," Fletch said, moving along the side of the house.

"Good for blokes like us," Jackson chuckled as he followed the wizard.

Sure enough, Hermione's kitchen window wasn't warded. It was small, but Fletch was slim enough to work his way through. Then he walked to the back door and let Jackson in. Usually wards were one-way. They didn't let people in, but they could usually go out. Another safety factor most overlooked.

The two wizards looked about, Fletch going to the cooler.

"What are you doing?" Jackson hissed at him.

"I'm hungry," Fletch said, opening the cooler.

He found a piece of roast chicken wrapped in cellophane. The blonde wizard removed it from the cooler, ripped off the wrapper and bit into it. He dropped the plastic wrap on the floor.

"Pick that up you idiot," Jackson said to him. "She's not supposed to know anyone's been here. I doubt she's a slob like you. Now throw that away."

Fletch scowled at his partner, picked up the wrapper and threw it in the trash bin.

Jackson eyed the basement door.

"Two to one her lab is down there, and warded," he said to Fletch, who took out his wand again and checked the basement door.

"Yep. This door is warded all right. Strong ward too," the wizard said, chewing. "Maybe booby-trapped."

Jackson nodded.

"I guess we should do a drop-down then and go around them," the wizard said, studying the floor. He walked out of the kitchen and into the living room, followed by Fletch. He nodded. "I think the basement goes the length of the entire house."

Jackson walked up to the armchair. It wasn't set far from the wall.

"We'll enter here," Jackson said, looking at the small space behind the armchair. "In case anyone comes in, they won't see the hole right away."

Jackson pulled out his wand, pointed it at the floor and said an incantation, moving the wand in a circular motion and cutting through the wood. Presently it fell in, leaving a hole large enough for them to drop through.

"Your little stint as a carpenter comes in handy, Jackson," Fletch said grinning as the black-haired wizard began to lower himself through the hole.

"You know me, Fletch. Always trying to improve my art," Jackson replied, dropping through the hole. Fletch followed him.

After a rather busy morning, Hermione took a break, intending on filing the paperwork for the Aisle of Non-magic spell when she realized she'd left them home.

"Damn it," she said. She looked at the time and it was eleven-twenty. "I've got to get those papers filed today. The solicitor must be up to his neck in inquiries. I can just pop home and get them."

Hermione closed up her lab, exited the Ministry and apparated for home.

The two wizards looked around Hermione's lab. It was dark and Fletch raised the torches. There was potions making equipment, lots of notebooks neatly stacked under the counters, a desk, a blackboard and…eureka…a file cabinet in the corner.

"There it is," Jackson said, starting to approach the file cabinet. Fletch held him back shaking his head.

"She's a Potions Mistress. They protect their research with all kinds of nasty wards and traps for the most part. We've got to check this out good," the wizard said. "Don't want any surprises now, do we?"

Jackson paled. He had almost made a very stupid mistake.

Fletch pulled out his wand and pointed it at the file cabinet and said an incantation. He couldn't detect any kind of ward on the cabinet. He frowned.

"That's strange," he said, "There isn't a single ward on it."

Jackson gave a grin.

"Well, she's new at this, isn't she. Probably hasn't had anything stolen yet and figures the ward on the lab is enough," the wizard said. "Ah well, live and learn witch."

He approached the file cabinet. Fletch, who was very sensitive to magic…started as he felt a change in atmosphere.

"No! Jackson! Wait!" he cried, but the wizard walked up to the file cabinet. Immediately ropes fell from the ceiling and bound him, bells and whistles sounding loudly.

"Shit!" Fletch cursed.

"Hey! Who's there!" came a female voice.

"Double shit!" Fletch cursed backing to the wall next to the door, his wand in hand. He watched Jackson shout and struggle against his bonds.

Hermione had arrived, let herself in the house and picked up her paperwork off the coffee table. She was just about to leave when the ward in her lab sounded.

"What the fuck…" she cursed, running to the kitchen and up to the basement door. In what she hoped was a brave voice Hermione cried, "Hey who's there?"

She found the basement door was still warded and hadn't seen the hole in the floor behind the armchair. She unwarded the door and ran down the stairs to her lab. The noise was next to deafening. She found her lab door still warded as well. She undid the wards and pushed the door open, her wand extended. She saw a man writhing on the floor in front of her file cabinet, tightly bound. Her trap had worked. She didn't ward the cabinet, but the area around it. Only she could enter that space without the ropes binding her. Cautiously she walked into the lab and looked at the wizard. He looked vaguely familiar.

Hermione stopped the alarm and stared at the bound man, who had ceased struggling, his dark eyes looking at her hatefully.

"What the hell are you doing in my lab and how did you get in here?" she asked him. Then she looked up and saw the hole in the ceiling. She looked back at the man. "Pretty smart. But obviously not enough. I'm calling the Aurors."

Suddenly Hermione was grabbed from behind, her wand yanked out of her hand and her mouth covered. She felt a hard body pressed into her.

"I'm afraid you won't be calling anyone, witch," a male voice hissed in her ear.

Then everything went black.

When Hermione awoke, she found herself sitting in the living room, tightly bound to a kitchen chair. No one was with her but she could hear noises coming from down the hall. Presently, Fletch returned. He now had a black bandana tied around his face so only his eyes were visible. He was putting something in his pocket. He looked at Hermione.

"Ah, you're awake, eh? Well good…" he breathed.

"What do you want?" Hermione asked him.

"Anything of value," Fletch replied, his blue eyes drifting over her in such a way Hermione's blood ran cold.

Jackson emerged from the back, also wearing a bandana around his face. He scowled at Hermione, pissed he had been caught in her trap.

"You're a sneaky little bitch, warding the area around the cabinet. You set a bloke up, you did," he seethed at her. Then he pulled out a small rectangular box. Hermione looked at it and realized it was her file cabinet, reduced.

"All I did was reduce it, then accioed it," Jackson replied, "After Fletch cut me out of those bonds, that is."

He cocked his head at her.

"Now, what to do with you, witch," he said, his eyes narrowing.

"Just go," Hermione said. "You've already robbed me."

Hermione's heart started to pound with fear, especially the way the blonde-haired wizard was looking at her. There was definitely lust in his eyes.

Fletch walked closer to her, and caressed her hair gently.

"Not of everything, love," he purred.

Hermione's heart dropped as Fletch ran his rough hand over the curve of her face. He looked back at Jackson.

"I think we owe her something for that ward, Jackson…what do you say?" he asked the black-haired wizard.

Jackson shrugged.

"That's your thing, Fletch. You know I don't rape witches. If you want to do her, do her. But I'm going to go check if there's anything we missed," Jackson said, making his way back down the hallway.

"What? You don't want to watch?" Fletch called after him.

"No. And make it quick. No killing," Jackson called back.

Fletch looked at Hermione hungrily.

"You're a pretty little bird. I'm going to enjoy spreading your wings," he said, starting to unbutton his robes. Horror shot through Hermione.

Dear gods, he was going to rape her.

It was almost the end of Potions class. Severus was in a foul mood after returning the latest tests to his fifth year pupils. Not a decent grade among them. Now he would have to review everything and it was going to make a mess of his lesson plan. The Potions Master took ten points from everyone in exasperation.

"What the hell do you do in here?" he yelled at them, slamming his hand on his desk furiously. "Even the walls of Hogwarts aren't as thick as you lot!"

All of his students blanched. The wizard was just warming up to total browbeat mode when a pulse of genuine horror washed over him so strongly, he lurched.

Hermione. What the hell was the matter with her? Waves of fear poured over him.

Shit. Something was wrong. Very wrong. The witch was terrified.

"Class dismissed! Out now!" he shouted at his stunned pupils. He hadn't even given them an assignment. Well, they weren't about to wait until he remembered that and quickly gathered up their books and departed. There was only fifteen minutes left until lunch anyway.

When the last student exited, Severus quickly strode from his classroom, warding it, then dashed through his office, impatiently waiting for the wall to open to let him into his private rooms.

The moment he entered, he placed a silencing spell on himself, then disapparated.

Fletch stripped off his robes, then pointed his wand at Hermione.

"Divesto," he said in a deceptively soft voice. Hermione was left naked, but still bound, the ropes crisscrossing her breasts. She screamed and struggled in the chair, making her breasts jiggle in the process. Fletch's tongue almost rolled out of his mouth as he looked at the well-built little witch.

"Damn, those robes hid a lot, didn't they," he said, his eyes hot. He began to undo his trousers.

"I think we'll start with a blowjob. You have such a pretty mouth," he said.

"I have an STD," Hermione said desperately, "and I'm on my period."

Fletch chuckled as he opened his pants.

"You're a Potions Mistress. If you had an STD you'd just whip something up to cure it. As for your period…I don't mind a little blood-play," he said, reaching into his boxers and pulling out his erection. Hermione could smell him immediately and wretched.

Fletch's tool was short, thick and uncircumcised. He pulled back the foreskin, hissing, the red glistening head pointing at Hermione. She thought it was the most ghastly thing she ever laid eyes on. Gods, she couldn't put that in her mouth.

"I won't do it!" she cried.

Fletch's eyes went hard.

"Oh, you'll do it all right witch, even if I have to break your jaw to get your mouth open," he threatened her.

Hermione went white. She could tell the wizard wouldn't hesitate to beat her. Rape was a violent act after all…what difference would assaulting her make to the wizard? Not much.

Fletch started walking toward her, his hand holding his erection, the musky, unclean scent of it making Hermione want to gag.

"Open up," he hissed.

Severus appeared silently in front of Hermione's home. Her waves of terror fairly rolled over him as he approached the door. As much as he wanted to go to the witch, his experience told him caution was necessary. He tried the door and found it open. Slowly and quietly he entered the house.

"Open up, damn it. I'm not going to tell you again witch," said an angry male voice.

Severus' eyes turned hard as stone and he drew his wand, stealthily walking through the foyer and leaning to look into of the living room. He saw Hermione bound naked to a chair, and a masked wizard standing in front of her, his hips thrust out. The Potions Master felt rage pour through his body.

"Get away from her!" Severus roared, firing a blast at Fletch and hitting him, sending the startled wizard flying down the hallway.

The Potions Master ran forward, past Hermione to the fallen criminal, dropped his wand, dragged him up by his collar and began to beat Fletch viciously in the face, blood flying as his bony knuckles collided with his nose and mouth over and over again.

"There are two of them!" Hermione screamed just as Jackson ran up the hallway, his wand extended.

Severus held Fletch up just as Jackson fired a blast, blocking it then threw the unconscious wizard at his comrade, who staggered back as they collided. The Potions Master grabbed his wand and stunned Jackson before he could recover. He then stalked down the hall, plucked the wizard's wand out of his hand and put it in his pocket and bound them both securely. The wizard dragged both of them into the living room, a trail of blood left behind by Fletch, dropped them hard, then turned to Hermione, who looked at him with wide eyes.

She certainly looked delicious naked and all tied up.

Severus pointed his wand at her and removed her bonds, then unfastened his robes, took them off and covered her, guiding Hermione to the sofa and sitting her down. The witch was trembling.

"Are you all right?" the wizard asked her, his black eyes searching her face.

"No," she said in a whisper, her eyes resting on the bloody Fletch, "He was going to rape me."

Severus looked at the blonde-haired wizard, his nostrils flared and felt like stomping the life out of him as he groaned. He walked over to the fallen wizards and yanked down their bandanas. His eyes glittered murderously.

"Vargas," he thought.

"Stay here," Severus said to Hermione. He walked outside and fired a red burst into the sky, the signal for Auror assistance, then re-entered the house.

"They were robbing the house. I came back to get the paperwork for the spell and walked in on them," Hermione said weakly, clutching Severus' robes around herself. Then she looked up at him.

"How did you know to come?" Hermione asked the wizard, who sat down beside her.

"I felt your terror," he replied shortly.

Hermione stared at him a moment, thanking the gods he had that connection with her. If he hadn't….

"Thank you, Severus," she said softly.

He blinked at her several moments, then asked, "Do you know what they took?"

"The dark-haired one has my file cabinet in his pocket. They got into my lab by cutting a hole in the floor behind the armchair. I don't know what else they took," she said.

Severus stood up and walked back over to the wizards. He kicked Fletch over and checked his pocket. He found some jewelry. Then he turned Jackson over and dug through his robes until he found the file cabinet and removed it. He kicked the groaning Fletch in the stomach as hard as he could, the wizard vomiting.

"If you had succeeded in abusing the Potions Mistress wizard, I would have killed you," he hissed at the retching man. "With my bare hands I would have killed you."

Normally Hermione would have protested such viciousness, but in this case, she held her tongue, marveling how angry Severus was as he addressed the man. Would he kill for her? Yes, looking at the hatred on the pale wizard's face as he looked at the man, she had no doubt Severus would have killed him. He looked as if he wanted to kill him now.

"Hermione!" a male voice cried.

Ronald Weasley tore into the room followed by several Aurors. His blue eyes rested on Severus, then Hermione, then the two bound wizards on the floor.

"What happened here?" Ron addressed Severus angrily as if he thought the wizard had something to do with it.

The Auror didn't know anything about the Potions Master's past with Hermione. He despised Severus so much, Hermione thought it best not to tell the red-haired wizard about her encounters with him. Ron would have blown a torch and probably want to seek revenge for her.

Severus looked at Ron distastefully for a moment, then replied, "Apparently these gentlemen were in the process of robbing Mistress Granger's home when she walked in on them. Here is one of their wands."

Severus handed the Auror Jackson's wand as Ron looked at Fletch's ruined face.

"And what happened to him?" he asked Snape, an eyebrow raised.

"He was attempting to force himself on the Mistress when I entered. I treated him accordingly," the Potions Master said, looking at Fletch grimly as the Aurors hauled him to his feet.

Ron blanched, then walked over to Hermione swiftly and took both her hands in his.

"Are you all right, Hermione? Did he get to you in any way?" Ron asked her.

"No. He was close to it when Severus came in and saved me," Hermione said.

Ron looked at Severus suspiciously. How did the wizard know to arrive in the nick of time? Did he set this up somehow?

"I find it strange that you were right here when the crime was occurring, Professor," Ron said to him, "Why did you come here? Normally Hermione is at work this time, and you at Hogwarts," Ron said.

Severus looked at Ron for a moment. He couldn't tell him about the connection…that would open up all kinds of questions about the Switch potion and an uncontrolled experiment.

"Mistress Granger contacted me by two-way mirror about nine-thirty this morning and told me she forgot some important paperwork she needed to file at the Ministry and asked if I could fetch them for her. I told her if I could find the time I would before the day was out. Obviously, she believed I wouldn't do so and came here herself, finding the robbers. I arrived to retrieve the paperwork and discovered her situation," the Potions Master lied smoothly.

Hermione stared at the wizard wide-eyed as both he and Ron turned to look at her.

"The quaffle is in her court," Severus thought, looking at the witch expressionlessly.

"Is this true, Hermione?" Ron asked her, his blue eyes narrowed.

Hermione swallowed, then nodded weakly.

Ron still looked at the pale wizard suspiciously. Something wasn't on the up and up.

"All right," Ron said, turning to the bound wizards held up by the Aurors. "Bring them along."

He made a very ugly face at Fletch as he was dragged by. So this bastard tried to rape Hermione eh? He wouldn't have a very pleasant time down at the Ministry. Ron would make sure of that. The Auror turned to Hermione as the crack of apparition sounded outside.

"You're going to have to come down to the Ministry and make a statement against these two, Hermione," he said to the witch who nodded. Then he looked at Snape as if he expected the wizard to leave too.

Severus stood there stoically, his black eyes gleaming at the Auror.

"I assume you'll be going, Professor Snape?" Ron asked him with a little edge to his voice.

"As soon as Mistress Granger returns my robes," the Potions Master replied.

Ron looked at Hermione and realized she was wearing the Professor's teaching robes. She must be naked under them.

"You want me to wait Hermione?" he asked her, his blue eyes shifting to Severus.

"No. You can go Ron. I'll be fine," she said.

Ron looked hesitant. Severus sighed.

"Mr. Weasley, surely you don't think I am hanging about to assault Mistress Granger the moment you leave?" he said snarkily.

Ron did kind of think that, though he knew it was ridiculous.

"No, I don't," Ron said, kissing Hermione on her cheek and walking toward the door.

"The paperwork will be waiting for you," he said to Hermione. "I'm glad you're all right."

Ron exited the house. He didn't thank Severus for saving his friend.

Severus stared down at Hermione and she rose from the sofa.

"I'm going to put on some clothes. I'll be right back," she said, walking down the hall, the hem to Severus' robes dragging on the floor behind her. The wizard sat down. He had been tempted to say, "Don't rush on my account," but considering the circumstances the comment would have been entirely out of line and would have started a row between them. He didn't want that. He still wanted to talk to Hermione about their connection.

Presently the witch returned, looking no worse for wear, but her eyes still looked a bit traumatized. She handed Severus his robes.

"Thank you," she said again. "If you hadn't come Severus…"

Hermione shuddered again as she thought of Fletch's red, smelly organ moving toward her mouth. Severus felt her wave of disgust wash over him.

"That wizard truly disgusted you, didn't he, Hermione?" the wizard asked her quietly.

"Gods yes. He smelled and…eww…I don't want to talk about it," the witch said with another shudder.

He looked down at her as he put his robes back on. Hermione looked up at him, her face curious.

"Severus, did you mean what you said to that wizard? About killing him?" the witch asked the wizard.

"I most certainly did," Severus growled, fastening up his robes. "He's lucky I arrived when I did. If I had walked in here and found him forcing himself on you…"

"But killing him, Severus?" Hermione asked him.

Severus looked at her rather possessively. Hermione felt a knot form in her stomach.

"He would have deserved it," the wizard said firmly.

Hermione scowled at him. "But you're guilty of the same thing concerning me," she said somewhat accusingly.

Severus frowned at her.

"Hermione, when are you going to take some responsibility for what happened years ago? Neither time did I force myself on you. You could have said no. And the second time around, witch…you enjoyed my attentions. You told me so yourself. And you agreed to let me do you the last time we were together. All three times you were given your choice, unlike me when you took me while I was trapped in your body. I didn't have the option of saying no to you."

The witch blinked up at him. He was right. She needed to come to terms with the truth. Severus moved in quickly.

"Hermione…I truly need to talk to you about the residual connection I have to you and what happened between us the last time. There are other aspects you don't know about, but I have to get back to Hogwarts. It is very important witch," he said sincerely.

Hermione frowned at him.

"How do I know you won't feed me a sack of lies, Severus? You aren't the most trustworthy wizard," Hermione said, "You could tell me anything to try to pull me over to your way of thinking."

Severus looked at her. He hated doing this, but it was the only thing he could think of to persuade the witch to listen to him.

"I will talk to you under veritaserum, with the stipulation we will only talk about our situation. A wizard's oath you will ask me nothing else," he said.

Hermione looked at him. He was willing to take veritaserum in order for her to listen to him. That was a huge concession.

"I can provide the veritaserum?" Hermione asked him. She wasn't about to let the wizard bring his own. It could be doctored.

Severus nodded.

"I would expect no less," he replied.

Hermione looked at him. What he wanted to talk about must be very important to the wizard indeed if he were willing to bare his soul like this.

"All right," she said, "You can come by Friday at seven."

The wizard nodded.

"Thank you Hermione," he said, his black eyes glittering at her.

"Don't thank me, Severus. I may find out you are a worse bastard than I already take you for," she replied as she started toward the door. They both had to get back to work.

"Yes, there is that," he agreed, "but you may find out something else as well."

Hermione snorted.

"I highly doubt that," she responded.

Severus scowled at her for a moment, tempted to take her to task for being so flippant to a man who had just saved her from being sexually assaulted. But he held his tongue as they crossed the threshold. Severus walked a few paces away from the witch, who was warding her door. She turned toward him.

"I'll see you on Friday," the wizard said, disapparating.

Hermione stared at the empty space for a moment, then disapparated as well.

Friday was going to be very eye-opening.

Severus returned to Hogwarts and finished out his day. When his last class departed, he carefully locked and warded both his classroom and his office, then went to his private rooms. The wizard opened a panel of false book fronts, reached in and pulled out a very well worn set of what appeared to be muggle brass knuckles. He slipped them over his pale hand, flexed it, then made a fist. A grim expression washed over his face, then he removed the knuckles and put them in his wand pocket. He immediately disapparated for Vargas' manor. The wizard was going to answer for what happened to Hermione in blood. Lots of blood.

Severus reappeared in front of Vargas' manor just in time to see the wizard being led out of the manor in shackles by Aurors.


Ronald Weasley heard the crack of apparation, looked up and saw the Potions Master. He hurried down the stairs and walked up to the scowling wizard.

"Fancy seeing you here, Professor," Ron said suspiciously.

The Auror wondered if Snape was in on Vargas' little operation. After being "properly conditioned' by Ron, both Jackson and Fletch spilled their guts concerning Vargas…giving up a large amount of information in the hopes of leniency when they were brought up on charges.

"I came to see Master Vargas about a personal matter," the dark wizard said, his eyes glinting maliciously after the wizard, who was demanding to see his lawyer.

"This personal matter wouldn't concern Hermione would it, Professor?" Ron asked him, his eyes hard. "Or any of the other Potions Masters whose work has been stolen?"

Severus looked at Ron. His face grew dark.

"Are you insinuating I have anything to do with Vargas' illegal activities, Mr. Weasley?" Severus asked him evenly.

"Well Professor, first you were at Hermione's and now you show up at Vargas' manor right after we discover he sent those two goons to her house. What else am I to think?"

"Possibly that I was visiting Vargas because he is also a Potions Master with whom I have been long acquainted?" Severus replied. "Why would I want any harm to come to Mistress Granger when she is my business partner and has the potential to make me very rich?"

"With Hermione's research, and her out of the way, you might be able to become even richer," Ron said, his blue eyes searching the wizard's face for telltale signs of deceitfulness. He didn't see it, but then again Snape had been a spy. He'd be able to hide his lies well.

"I am no thief, Mr. Weasley," Severus said coldly. "And if you are accusing me of being one, I may just have to call you out…as a civilian of course…if you are wizard enough."

At that moment, Vargas caught sight of Severus and paled. Suddenly he became quite cooperative with the Aurors. He knew he was safer in the hands of the Ministry than at his manor now. Ron noticed the change in the wizard and completely ignored Severus' thinly veiled challenge.

"Master Vargas seems frightened of you, Professor," he commented.

Judging by Master Vargas' reaction to the Potions Master, Ron thought this might not have been meant to be a friendly visit

"Frightened wouldn't be the word I'd use, Mr. Weasley," Severus replied, staring at the wizard before the Aurors disapparated with him. He turned his black eyes on Ron.

"There are many types of justice, Mr. Weasley. I believe Master Vargas has or will receive the less painful of the two set before him," the wizard said evenly.

Now Ron understood. The Professor had come here to punish Vargas.

"For criminals, there is only one kind of justice under the law, Professor. Master Vargas has been arrested and will pay for his crimes as directed by Ministry law. He'll have a fair trial," Ron said to the wizard.

Severus looked at the Auror.

"Mr. Weasley, do you expect me to believe for one moment, that if those two wizards had raped, beaten and possibly killed Mistress Granger because of a directive given by Vargas that you would allow the wizard to make it to trial? Because I don't. I believe you would find a way to kill him before he even made it to a cell. She is too close to you," Severus said quietly.

Ron studied the pale wizard for a moment. Snape had him pegged all right. But he wouldn't blatantly admit it.

"All right, that explains me…but what about you, Professor? By Vargas' reaction to you I could tell this was not going to be a friendly visit. You knew he was at the bottom of this, didn't you?" Ron asked him.

"I suspected," the Potions Master said, "but I didn't know for sure. I intended to 'ask' him about it."

Ron's eyes swept over the wizard.

"And if he admitted he had something to do with it?" he asked the Potions Master.

"You would have gotten him. Eventually," Severus replied, his nostrils flaring.

Ron didn't ask if it would have been alive or dead. He suspected the latter…and most likely the Potions Master would have gotten away with it. He scowled at the wizard.

"What I don't understand is why? Hermione is nothing more to you than a business partner…" Ron began…then his eyes widened.

"Oh no," he thought. "Shit."

Severus smirked as he saw the realization sweep over Ron's face. The young wizard knew he would not get involved in this situation in such depth unless he had a personal, vested interest. He was a Slytherin after all. He would have a selfish purpose.

"Slytherins protect their own, Mr. Weasley," Severus said silkily, his black eyes glittering with a dark mirth at the look of horror Ron was trying desperately to conceal.

Shit. Hermione couldn't be doing Snape. He was probably worse than Vlad. Damn it. He should have broken it off with Susannah. He would have if he knew Hermione would turn to such a dark, cold man for sex. Merlin, what was the witch thinking?

"You consider Hermione your own, Professor?" Ron asked him frowning slightly.

"Close enough, Mr. Weasley, close enough," the wizard replied. "I have an interest in her continued safety."

And the wizard did. He couldn't shag her if she were dead.

Several Aurors emerged from Vargas' manor with a number of files, parchments and notebooks. One walked up to Ron.

"We've collected what evidence we could find at the manor. A lot of this paperwork has the names of other Potions Masters on them and are dated years ago. He has another lab offsite that will have to be examined as well, sir," the Auror said to Ron.

"All right. Return to the Ministry. I'll be along," Ron said to him.

The Auror nodded his head, returned to the others and they all disapparated.

Ron turned back to Severus and looked at him speculatively.

"I don't know what she sees in you, but I know that Hermione has a pretty dark side to her. You probably fit right in the shadows," Ron said a little bitterly, "but you'd better not do anything bad to her, Professor. I'll take it personally if you do, I promise you."

Severus said nothing. He just looked at the wizard.

Ron sighed.

If Hermione wanted this greasy git of a dungeon-dweller, there was little he could do about it. Hermione became very volatile if he tried to tell her what to do. He'd had to dodge quite a few hexes in the past because he'd made that mistake. He wouldn't say anything to her. Well, at least Snape would protect her. She was safe…at least from others if not him.

"You may be called in concerning Vargas," Ron said to Severus. "So don't leave town."

Ron added this just to show he had some authority over the wizard as an Auror. It was his equivalent of kicking up dirt and walking about stiff legged. Severus' eyes narrowed, but he wasn't about to get in a pissing contest with Ron. The Auror believed he had Hermione after all, and that was a biggie.

"I will be about, Mr. Weasley," he replied.

Ron nodded and disapparated.

Severus looked toward the manor. A little house elf with a huge smile stood in the doorway. It didn't look very disturbed about its master being taken away in chains. The creature slowly swung the door closed.

Severus reached in his pocket, touched the cold brass knuckles, then sighed. Well, Vargas got away from him…but at least the wizard would do a very long stint in Azkaban for his theft of works and conspiracy with Fletch and Jackson. Without Vargas, most likely the Potions field would begin to show immediate growth. Vargas had been the main wizard holding advances back.

Severus gave a small smile at this thought, then disapparated back to Hogwarts.

Hermione filed the Non-magical Aisle spell at the Ministry, then went down to Ron's office, where she filled out a detailed statement against Jackson and Fletch. She had to describe everything that occurred and it was difficult to relive Fletch's lewd attempt at raping her…but she managed to get it all down, including Severus' rescue. More than likely he would be brought in for questioning

Hermione finished out her day and returned home. She felt some apprehension as she faced her dark house, and stood on the doorstep several minutes before unwarding the house and entering it, wand drawn, her amber eyes sliding from side to side, listening intently for any sound. She turned up every torch in the house as she carefully went from room to room, her heart pounding. Suddenly, she heard her name called.

"Hermione? Hermione."

She spun around but saw no one. The voice continued to call her. Wand pointed and wavering, Hermione walked back into the living room where the voice was louder. She walked toward the coffee table. The two-way mirror Severus had given her was there and the Potions Master's scowling visage in the glass. Relieved, Hermione picked it up and sat down on the sofa.

"Hello, Severus," she said looking at the wizard. She felt a bit more safe.

"Why did it take you so long to answer?" he demanded, "You are supposed to keep this mirror with you so I can contact you for business. It defeats its purpose if you don't carry it you witch."

Hermione arched an eyebrow at him.

"So you are calling me about business?" she asked the Potions Master, who looked a bit uncomfortable.

"Er…no. Yes. I was just check…calling to see that…if…if you filed the paperwork," he lied.

Severus really called because he thought she might be out of sorts alone in the house after the robbery and attack on her person. It had been a traumatic situation after all.

"Yes, I did," Hermione replied shortly.

"Good," Severus said, a bit awkwardly.

Gods, he just couldn't seem to get a grip on this connection thing. He was genuinely concerned about the witch, but didn't know how to express it.

Silence followed for a bit.

"How are you feeling?" Severus asked her.

Hermione looked at the wizard. Had he called to just chitchat? Severus Snape? This was weird. But she was glad he called. But she would have been glad of anyone calling, the way she was feeling.

"I'm a little out of sorts," Hermione replied, deciding to be honest.

"Would you like me to come over and help you settle in?" the dark wizard asked her, his eyes going a bit too hot for her liking. If Severus came over, he'd do his best not to leave until morning…she knew this.

"No, Severus. I know the kind of settling in you probably have in mind," she replied, an eyebrow quirking at him.

The wizard smirked. He felt more relaxed now. Whenever things went slightly sexual, he felt more in control.

"Actually, I was concerned that you might be still feeling the effects of today's unfortunate events. It could be daunting to return to the house alone…there is bound to be some residual fear," he said evenly.

"It's a little scary, yes, but I've checked the entire house and everything seems in order," she said.

Severus nodded.

"Perhaps you should consider getting a pet for protection. A weredog perhaps. They are loyal and will eat anything and anyone that enters their territory uninvited," Severus suggested. "That way you wouldn't be alone."

Hmm. A weredog. That was a thought. . Maybe a weredragon. No. She'd have to fireproof the house and keep the temperature regulated because they were cold-blooded. Maybe she'd go down to the pound tomorrow and see what they had in the way of animals or homeless familiars.

"That's actually quite a good idea, Severus," she replied.

Hermione wondered if she could teach it to shred Severus' robes on sight. That alone would make it worth having a pet. Her smile became noticeably wicked. Severus arched an eyebrow.

"I have been helpful twice today. I believe that is a record," he said to her.

"Yes, you have," Hermione said, then yawned.

"I see you are tired," the Potions Master said. "Get some sleep, witch. I will call you tomorrow."

"All right. Good night, Severus," Hermione said.

The wizard's sober face disappeared and Hermione found herself looking at her own reflection. She did look tired. She got up from the sofa and walked around the house, warding every window and door this time. Then she retired.

The next day during her lunch hour, Hermione went down to the Ministry pound, where masterless familiars and other magical creatures were kept for adoption. If they weren't adopted then they were put down. She pulled open the door and entered. She could smell the animals and cleaning solution immediately. A kindly faced young wizard stood behind a counter.

"Can I help you, Miss?" he asked her pleasantly.

"Yes. I'm looking for a pet…for companionship and protection," she said.

The wizard looked overjoyed.

"Oh that's wonderful. We have a large selection of familiars of that type looking for homes," he said, walking around the counter and gesturing for her to follow him to a door on the distant wall.

"Right through here. You can check them out and tell me the ones you are interested in," he said, opening the door for her. Hermione walked through.

It was a kind of corridor with a number of magically warded cages on both sides. Parchments about the animal each cage contained were taped to the front. Hermione began to walk. There were a bunch of puppies with forked tails in the first cage. They all crowded toward the front of their enclosure, wriggling, forked tails wagging, looking as cute as could be. Hermione knelt.

"Aw, you are all so adorable," she said. Then one barked, and a long tongue of fire emitted from it, almost burning Hermione's face. She stood up quickly and read the parchment, which warned not to get too close to the pups because there was a danger of receiving third degree burns. She moved to the next cage.

A large weredog with baleful yellow eyes looked up at her quietly. He was huge, and his fangs showed even when his mouth was closed. He must have weighed two hundred pounds and was covered with thick brown fur and had a broad tail, which was wagging as he looked at her. Hermione read the name. Gabby.

"Hello Gabby," she said to the weredog, who pricked his ears forward and whined back at her, putting one paw on the gate. Hermione gave him a small, tight smile. He looked so ferocious though. What if he didn't listen to her and ate her when she got him home? Still she put him on her mental "possibles" list and continued on.

In the next cage was a large bird of prey with a great hooked beak and huge talons. It had dark eyes and seemed to glare at her. But that was the general way all birds of prey looked. It was white with black markings. It reminded her of Severus. It looked as if it could do some damage however. She read the parchment. Wereeagle. It required at least two hours of flight time each night as it was nocturnal and live food, preferably nifflers. Hermione shuddered. No, she wouldn't be able to feed it live nifflers. That was more Hagrid's thing. She moved on past an assortment of lizards, cats, bats and even a gryffon, which was huge.

She walked to the last cage, which contained a large black cat stretched luxuriously on a clean blanket. It wore a jeweled collar, had long curling fangs like a saber-toothed tiger and looked at her curiously with its golden eyes, flicking an ear forward as she read the parchment. It was a saber-toothed panther, and a familiar. Hermione looked at the beautiful animal.

"Hello beautiful, " a soft male voice said to Hermione.

The witch looked around but saw no one. She shrugged and looked back at the cat.

"Your eyes are almost the same color as my own. That makes us compatible, " the panther said in her mind.

Hermione's eyes widened.

"You're talking to me? I understood familiars only talked to those they bonded with," Hermione said to the animal, who rose and stretched, extending its wicked claws, then walking up to the front of the cage and sitting on its haunches.

"Ordinary familiars, perhaps. But I am no ordinary familiar, witch. I am the only one of my kind and can speak to anyone I choose to speak to. I have been here three months and you are the only one I felt worthy enough to make myself known to, " the panther said, whisking his tail about. "I am from India. My name is Bagheera. I am named after another cat in a non-magic book."

Hermione smiled. "Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book," she said.

"Yessss, " hissed the panther, his beautiful eyes meeting Hermione's. "Why are you seeking a familiar witch? "

"I was attacked recently in my home…and…" she began.

"Wait, " the cat said, staring at the witch intensely. Then he snarled viciously, causing Hermione to jerk back in fear.

"I am sorry, " the cat said, its lips drawn up in displeasure. "I saw what happened. I have killed men like that in my native land. Cowards hunting females, forcing them to mate. "

The panther hissed angrily.

"How did you come to be here?" Hermione asked the panther, who began to pace.

"My mistress married an unworthy man, who thought of nothing but her wealth…and she would not listen to me. I was not friendly toward her husband and mauled him when he attempted to remove my collar for the jewels. He was lucky I did not kill him. That convinced my mistress to get rid of me. She sent me here with the hope someone would adopt me. But I have wanted none of those who've come here and remained silent and unresponsive. They plan to kill me soon. They think I am unadoptable. But I will not accept just anyone. You are kind and intelligent. You would not treat me as a showpiece or keep me on a leash or in a cage. Take me and I will protect you all my
days, " the panther purred.

"How are you so intelligent? Most familiars communicate in images," Hermione said.

"Again, I tell you witch, " the cat said, stretching again. This time Hermione could see the pawprint-like patterns in his coat. "I am no ordinary familiar. I can think and speak four languages. If I were not an animal I would be allowed to move freely through the wizarding world. But this is my lot in life. "

"I'm not rich, Bagheera. I don't live in the luxury you are used to and my house is very small," Hermione said to the cat.

"But your heart is very big. It will be fine, " the cat said.

Hermione stared at Bagheera.

"You certainly are beautiful, " she said in a soft voice. Bagheera bumped his head against the gate and Hermione rubbed between his ears with two fingers.

"Mmmmm, " the cat purred in delight. "Soft, supple hands…like my old mistress. Take me with you, witch. "

Hermione thought the cat sounded a bit dominant. He reminded her of someone.

"Will you obey me?" Hermione asked the panther, who looked at her with its golden eyes. "Cats are very independent."

"If you take me from this place, yes. I will always obey you without question. I am more than a cat, I assure you, " Bagheera responded. "My word is my life. "

Hermione stared at the cat. He was very intelligent…as intelligent as a human it seemed. He would be very good company for her, and with those claws and fangs, no doubt he could protect her.

"Wait here," she said, rising and heading for the office.

After work, Hermione turned quite a few heads as she walked to the apparation point.

It wasn't everyday that people saw a black saber-toothed panther with a jeweled collar being led on a leash through the streets of the wizarding world.

Hermione and Bagheera apparated to her home. The panther scrutinized the small neat yard, picket fence and flowers.

"It is small, but nice, " he commented to Hermione.

"I like it," Hermione said to him, then paused her eyes becoming troubled. "I used to feel safe here…"

"You will again. You have me now, witch, " Bagheera replied, bumping his head against Hermione's leg affectionately,
"and you don't have to answer me out loud. You can think your response. I will hear you as clearly as if you have spoken to me. "

"Like this? " Hermione thought.

"Yes, like that, " the panther said, purring. "Now I am anxious to explore my new home. "

Hermione walked up to the front door and opened it, letting Bagheera enter first then following. She bent and removed the leash from his collar. The panther sniffed about.

"No man, " he said, his golden eyes looking up at Hermione.

She shook her head.

"No. No man, " she replied.

Bagheera walked into the living room. "But there were men here. And fear…and anger. Lust too, " the panther remarked, his lip curling a bit.

"The robbers, the wizard who rescued me and Aurors, " Hermione answered.

Bagheera circled the living room, sniffing everything. He stopped by the hole in the floor behind the armchair.

"What is this?" he asked her. Hermione walked over.

"The hole the robbers used to get past my wards. I need to fix that," she said, pulling out her wand. She pointed it at the hole.

"Reparo," the witch said, and the hole repaired itself, the round piece of flooring rising from the lab and filling the space, then the seams disappearing. The floor looked good as new.

Bagheera padded down the hallway and turned into Hermione's bedroom. He leaped into her bed and sniffed about. The cat looked at the witch, who was standing in the doorway.

"I thought you said you have no man?" the beast said, his eyes narrowing.

Hermione flushed. The panther must smell Severus. She had washed all her bedding several times, but the panther's nose must be sensitive.

"Well, I have…er…been with a man…but he isn't my man," she said awkwardly.

"But I smell him in the living room too, " the cat said, lying down on her bed now. "A fresher scent than this one. And I smell you now. You desire him. "

Hermione scowled at the cat.

"I do not! " she seethed at Bagheera, who stretched his mouth in a wide cat smile for a moment.

"You have a man, " he said firmly, leaping off the bed and walking past her to examine the guest room.

Hermione frowned after the familiar. What did he know? Just because he smelled Severus didn't mean anything. She walked into the hall as Bagheera came back.

"I will need a door to go in and out, " the panther said to her.

Hermione looked a bit apprehensive about this. Bagheera couldn't prowl around the neighborhood. He'd scare her neighbors to death.

"Do you have any idea how big and smelly a litter box for a cat my size would be witch? " the panther asked her. "You'd have to change it daily. Maybe twice daily. "

Hermione looked at him.

"I'll make a door, " she said.

She could make a door attuned to the panther's signature. Nothing else could pass in or out of it.

Bagheera nodded and rubbed his long body against her leg in appreciation.

Hermione smiled at the cat.

"Are you hungry? " she asked him.

"Yes. I would like some meat, if you please, " Bagheera replied.

"Come with me, " Hermione said.

Bagheera followed her to the kitchen. Hermione reached into her robes pocket and pulled out some items she had received at the pound. One was a free introductory coupon for sixteen pounds of meat from the "Barrelston Butcher Shop: Specializing in Providing Foodstuffs for your Favorite Familiar." The other was a small panther-shaped statue. She simply had to invoke it and meat would be delivered directly to her cooler any time of the day or night and charged to her account. She had set up this delivery system at the pound. Bagheera ate about ten pounds of meat per day.

Hermione placed the little panther on top of the coupon.

"Delivery please," she said, and the panther flashed blue…the coupon disappearing.

After several moments, her cooler flashed blue. She looked at Bagheera.

"I believe din-din's here, " she said to the panther, who licked his lips expectantly as Hermione walked over to the cooler.

She opened it and found two large brown packages wrapped with twine. She took one out and brought it over to the counter. Then she walked over to the cabinet above the sink and took out her largest platter. She sat this on the counter, pointed her wand at it and said, "Engorgio." It grew larger. She opened the package and looked at a large chunk of very bloody meat. Gingerly she dumped it on the platter. It landed with a squishy plop. The witch picked up the platter and set it on the floor. Bagheera immediately lit into his, his huge sabers tearing it easily.

"Ummm, so good, " the cat thought at the witch as he ate, "Much better than that ghastly panther chow they forced me to eat at the pound."

"Panther chow? " Hermione thought back at him.

"Yes. Ghastly little meat-flavored pellets that supposedly contained all the nutrition a cat like me needs. It was disgusting. This is much better. Thank you," Bagheera replied.

"You're welcome, " Hermione replied. "I'm going to take off my work robes. "

The cat nodded and Hermione left him in the kitchen.

As she walked down the hallway, Hermione realized she really did feel safer with the panther here. And since he was so intelligent, she would have someone to talk to. But he seemed quite opinionated. Imagine, saying she had a man. A wizard.

She walked into her room and began undressing. She was down to her bra and knickers when she got a strange feeling. She looked in the doorway and Bagheera was sitting there, his tail lashing and eyes narrowed, watching her.

"You are very beautiful, " the cat said, walking in and rubbing slowly against her thigh with his soft fur, purring.

Hermione looked down at the cat.

"Are you sure you're a panther, Bagheera? Appreciating the female human body isn't very cat-like, " she said to him as he leaped up on the bed and crossed his front paws.

"I assure you I am a panther…now, " the cat replied. "Though once I was a shapeshifter. "

Hermione stared at him.

"You…you were a man? " she asked him, suddenly feeling the urge to cover up.

"No, I was a shapeshifter. I had a human and animal form. Not quite a man but not quite a beast either. I was cursed and my human form taken from me by a powerful Brahmin whose daughter I seduced. I visited her in panther form one night and changed into a man. I did not have the sabers then but looked like a true panther. I was quite handsome as well as persuasive and she could not resist me. But I should not have touched her…still…she was so beautiful. I had to have her. Her name was Selene."

A faraway look came to the panther's eyes for a moment. His tail flicked and he continued.

"When her father discovered what I had done, he had the gods curse me and take away my man form and give me sabers so others would know I was not natural. But my mind remained and my ability to communicate. I did not like life out in the wild and found my mistress bathing in a stream close to her home and spoke to her. At first she was frightened, but I soothed her fears and she took me in…until she married. You know the rest."

The panther looked at Hermione with a half-lidded gaze.

"Can't you get your powers back?" Hermione asked him. The panther shook its head.

"No. When one is cursed by the gods, he is cursed all his days. I have come to terms with it," Bagheera replied, yawning and rolling on his back, his paws in the air, looking at Hermione upside down.

So Bagheera was no common familiar, but a cursed shapeshifter. That explained a lot. Hermione still felt a bit awkward in front of him.

"There is no need to be ashamed to be naked in front of me, witch. I am a panther and have no designs on you. Now, if you were a feline… " he thought at her, grinning with all his teeth. "I just still happen to appreciate a pretty human form. That is as far as it goes."

Hermione looked at him, then finished undressing, flushing a bit as the panther rolled back over, its golden eyes on her. But he didn't say anything.

"I'm going to take a shower, " Hermione said, walking into the bathroom.

Bagheera lay on her bed for a few moments, until he heard the shower start. Then he leapt off the bed and walked into the bathroom. Hermione was in the shower, the translucent door pulled closed. The cat watched her wash for a moment, then walked over to the sunken tub. It was nowhere near as large as the tub at his mistress' home but it would have to do. He reached down with his paw and flicked up the little handle that closed the drain. Then he pushed the lever that turned on the water and watched as the tub filled.

Hermione heard the water running and pulled back the shower door.

"What are you doing? " she asked the panther, amazed he was filling the tub.

"I like water, " he said, watching the faucet a moment, then splashing the stream with his paw.

When the tub was almost filled, he pushed the handle so the water stopped running, then slipped into the tub, purring loudly, immersed up to his chin, his ears laid back with pleasure. The water magically mixed and the temperature was just right. Bagheera closed his eyes and ducked his head beneath the water for a moment, then emerged, water running down his face.

Hermione finished her shower and exited the stall, looking down at Bagheera as she retrieved a towel and dried off.

"You're going to make a mess when you get out of there, " she said to the cat, smiling despite herself at the animal's obvious pleasure. She wrapped another towel around herself and leaned back against the vanity.

Bagheera opened one eye and looked up at her.

"You can dry me with magic, " he replied, "but not all the way. It makes my fur frizzy. "

Hermione laughed.

"All right. Just call me when you are ready to get out, " she said, leaving the bathroom to dress in something more comfortable.

Bagheera soaked for a while. Being in the pound, he had no access to water other than what he was given to drink, so he was enjoying this…even if he couldn't swim. Finally he mentally called Hermione, letting the water out of the tub with his paw. She appeared in the doorway with her wand, and dried him…leaving just a touch of dampness. The panther sprang out of the tub lightly, walked over to the witch and bumped his head against her legs so she petted him between the ears, the cat rolling his head appreciatively. Then they both exited the bathroom and the bedroom, heading for the living room.

"I made your door for you, " she said to the cat. "The back door in the kitchen foyer will let you out into the
backyard. "

"Thank you, " Bagheera said, padding into the kitchen and outside.

Hermione followed and watched as the cat went into a corner and dug a hole. He did his business then covered the hole neatly. Well, that was good. There wouldn't be panther shit all over her backyard. Bagheera returned.

"What do we do now? " he asked her.

"I usually read in the evenings until it is time for bed, " Hermione said, "Though sometimes I go to my lab to work. I feel like relaxing and reading tonight. "

"Quiet time is good, " Bagheera said, following Hermione into the living room. The witch picked up a magazine and sat on the sofa. Bagheera joined her, stretching his long body across the couch, including her

"How am I supposed to read like this, Bagheera? " she asked the panther who was purring steadily. He looked up at her.

"Maybe you could sit at the end. That way I can put my head in your lap, " he replied.

Hermione looked at the panther, who hopped off the sofa and looked at the witch. Hermione sighed and moved to the end of the sofa. Bagheera rejoined her, resting his head on her lap and sighing contentedly. Hermione absently stroked his fur as she read the magazine. This suited Bagheera just fine. He was a very affectionate animal, and obviously Hermione was affectionate as well. They would make a good team.

After about an hour, Hermione heard her name called. Bagheera sat straight up with a growl, sniffing the air, his ears pricking forward. Who was here? He didn't smell anyone.

Hermione picked up the two-way mirror on the coffee table.

"Relax, Bagheera…I have a call," she said out loud to the cat, who relaxed and looked at the mirror with interest. There was a very ugly, pale wizard in it with stringy black hair..

"Hello Severus," Hermione said, giving the wizard a small smile.

"Who were you talking to?" Severus demanded. His belly was tight with jealousy. This threw him. He had never been jealous of a witch before.

"Bagheera. My familiar," she said.

Severus' severe look relaxed.

"Oh, you took my advice then," he said.

Hermione nodded.

"Yes I did. And he is wonderful," Hermione said.

Bagheera rubbed his muzzle against Hermione's face at her comment. He thought she was wonderful too.

"What the hell was that?" Severus exclaimed as he saw a huge black something push the witch aside for a moment.

"Bagheera," she said, tilting the mirror toward the panther, who gave the wizard an absolutely blood-curdling snarl.

"Shit," Severus thought, looking at the saber-toothed panther.

"Bagheera, stop that!" Hermione chided the panther, who looked at her with his ears laid back apologetically.

The panther noted though that the wizard in the glass hadn't flinched or looked frightened. Simply surprised. That was good. He suspected the ugly wizard might be Hermione's man. Bagheera didn't like cowards. They were no good to have around. It seemed this wizard wasn't one however.

"He certainly is large. Didn't they have any weredogs?" the Potions Master asked the witch.

Bagheera snarled again, but quieted when Hermione frowned at him. A weredog? Wait until he came over here.

"Yes. But I wanted him," Hermione said. "He's beautiful."

Yes, the cat was beautiful, but gods…those teeth.

"You're going to need quite a large litter box," the wizard said.

"He is housebroken and goes in the backyard. He is very sanitary," Hermione replied, "And he won't let anyone hurt me."

Severus watched as a large paw snagged Hermione's body protectively before the witch pushed it off. The panther seemed very protective all right. Maybe too much so. It also seemed to be responding to their conversation. It must be intelligent.

Severus wondered if the cat was intelligent enough to know the difference between hurting a witch and shagging the shit out of her.

"Are we still on for Friday?" Hermione asked the wizard.

"Yes," Severus replied.

"Good. You can meet Bagheera then," she said, petting the panther, who rolled his head against her hand again, his golden eyes half-lidded with pleasure.

Severus watched the animal respond to the witch. It certainly seemed to like her.

"I look forward to it," Severus replied evenly.

The cat stared straight at him, licking its lips suggestively. If Severus didn't know better, he might suspect it was trying to frighten him off. Well it would take more than a big pussy to keep him from seeing Hermione.

"I'll see you Friday then," he said.

"Bye Severus," Hermione replied. The mirror cleared, showing her and Bagheera.

The cat looked at her.

"He certainly is ugly. I've seen smaller noses on elephants, " the panther commented, making a choking sound like chuckling.

"He…he has other qualities…I suppose, " she said, wondering why she was trying to defend Severus to the cat.

"I bet he does, " the panther replied, sinking down to the couch and staring at Hermione. "With a nose like that, his lingam must be enormous. "

Hermione colored.

"Ah, I see it is, " Bagheera said, purring and rolling on his back luxuriously.

Hermione couldn't say a word.

Thursday night, Hermione and Bagheera were relaxing in the living room when there was a "Tap. Tappity-tap" on the window. Bagheera lifted his head.

"What is that?" he asked the witch.

"Most likely, Severus' familiar. A raven. A very snarky bird. I have to watch him every time he delivers a message," Hermione replied, sliding from under Bagheera who slumped back down on the sofa, his head resting where the witch was sitting.

Hermione looked out the window to meet the ever baleful gaze of Raucous. She still didn't know the raven's name. She opened the front door and the raven sailed in, flying to the living room and landing on the back of the sofa.

He watched Hermione approach, his head low. She was dressed in a woman's wife beater and pocketless sweat pants. No pockets meant no wand. The raven smiled to itself.

"What have you got for me?" she asked the bird.

Raucous clipped his beak at her nastily.

"Oh, we're back to this are we?" Hermione said, a nasty little smirk on her face, "Bagheera?"

Suddenly the raven found himself scooped off the back of the sofa and resting on top of something warm and furry. He looked up into a pair of narrow yellow eyes and huge glistening fangs. Bagheera snarled at him.

The bird turned completely white and fell over, his claws stiff and curled in the air.

"Oh my gods!" Hermione cried out loud, running around the sofa. "Bagheera, you've frightened him to death."

Bagheera snuffled the bird.

"He's fine. Just startled," the panther replied. "He should have better manners."

Hermione picked the stricken bird up gently. She reverted to thought-speak.

"Considering his master, I think this is actually the best he can be," Hermione said, carrying the raven over to the armchair and setting him down. She took the message off his leg, opened it and read it.

"It's just a letter about how many inquiries were made about the new spell I developed. It's going very well though there is some haggling going on about the cost of licensing it. But we have the upper hand there. Because of how useful the spell is, it will be pricey but whoever uses it has the potential to make a lot of galleons themselves…so it balances out," the witch said to the panther.

Raucous began to stir. Both the panther and witch watched as the bird rolled over. He was still white however. The raven opened its eyes and looked at the panther, then promptly fell back over.

"Shit. Severus will kill me if anything happens to that bird," Hermione said, picking Raucous up again.

She walked toward the foyer with him and opened the door so the night air washed over them. Raucous roused again. This time, he took off out of Hermione's arms, not looking back. He was still white.

Hermione watched him wing away, then closed the door and walked back to an amused Bagheera. He was lying on his back on the sofa.

"I think your Severus is going to have to find another deliverer," the cat said, stretching out his paw and flexing his claws.

"Probably. If I was that bird, I know I wouldn't want to come back here," she said, moving to the end of the sofa again.

Bagheera politely moved so she could sit down, then rested his head on her lap again. Hermione looked down at him, and caressed his head.

"You know Bagheera, you're going to have to sleep in the guest bedroom. Waking up with your nose in my face and your paw over me was…well…scary," Hermione said softly.

Bagheera stretched slightly, opening his eyes and looking up at his Mistress.

"But I like sleeping next to you. You are soft and warm," the big cat complained. "Your hair smells like flowers…"

"Be that as it may, Bagheera, you are too big," she said evenly.

"No bigger than that ugly wizard," Bagheera said sullenly.

Hermione stopped petting him.

"Bagheera, you are a cat," she said to him. "You have no business sleeping with a human female."

"Most cats sleep with their owners," the panther countered, "Anyway, how am I to protect you from the guestroom?"

Hermione smirked at the cat.

"The door will be open. If anyone comes in here I am sure you will hear them. That's no excuse Bagheera," she said gently.

"But you are my Mistress. I want to be near you," Bagheera purred persuasively, bumping his head against the witch affectionately and blinking his golden eyes at her.

Hermione looked at him and sighed.

"All right…you can sleep with me if you stay at the bottom of the bed. No more wrapping your paws around me and cuddling," she said firmly.

Bagheera sighed exaggeratedly.

"All right," he replied, looking forlorn.

"Stop it!" Hermione said, rubbing his head roughly.

Bagheera mouthed her hand playfully, holding her arm with his paws and biting her fingers lightly. Then he stopped.

"I think tomorrow night I must sleep in the guestroom," he said to her, his tail lashing. "Your ugly wizard with the big lingam comes."

Hermione frowned at Bagheera and pushed his head off her lap, standing up.

"He is only coming over to talk," she said, walking toward the kitchen. Bagheera lay on the sofa for a moment, then hopped down and followed Hermione.

"You don't want to just talk. I can feel your desire for him. He does good with you. Hard. Strong. Very dirty." Bagheera commented, sitting on his haunches as Hermione colored then went into the cooler and took out a pitcher of milk.

She poured herself a glass, then looked at Bagheera and got a bowl. She poured some milk into it and put it on the floor. The panther walked up to it and started lapping.

Hermione sat down and looked at her familiar.

"Bagheera…Severus and I have a history. He was…well…the first wizard I ever had sex with, and it wasn't…well…good. He was very selfish and thoughtless. Then…" she began as the panther finished his milk and looked up.

"Don't tell me, show me," he said to her. "Open up your mind and let me see for myself."

Hermione had never shared her relationship with Severus to anyone. But Bagheera was her familiar…and she felt it would be all right to let the panther see how it was between herself and Severus. Maybe he would stop implying there was more to them.

"All right," she said.

The panther looked at her intently for several minutes. He made small growling noises as he viewed what happened between her and Severus. Finally, he lay down on the kitchen floor and looked up at her.

"You have always desired him…even from the first time," the cat said, "but he wasn't ready for what you offered him. Pleasure was his only motivation. But he didn't take. You gave yourself to him, then blamed him afterward for being the man he was."

Then the cat cocked his head at her.

"You were a man?" he asked the witch.

"Only for a little while. I was in his body for a time," she replied.

"And did to him what he did to you. Kinky," the panther said, stretching his jaw a bit lasciviously.

Hermione colored.

"He was good to you that last time. He took you to the 'Wild Divine.' He knows you. Feels you. He is your man, Mistress. He came to save you…would have killed for you. He wants you desperately," the big cat continued. "It is a pity he is so ugly. Is that why you won't accept him completely?"

Hermione didn't think Severus was ugly. He had a distinctive look about him. His features fit him.

"Ah, you find him beautiful," the cat said, purring. "Then I do not understand your hesitance at all. He makes your yoni happy with his lingam."

"But our history…" Hermione began.

"All beautiful things start out with turmoil, Mistress. Look at the world. It began angry, fiery and chaotic. No room for life. But then it reached a state of balance and understanding. Now it is green, lovely and life giving. There are still inhospitable places, yes…but the world is a good place now. You too can find your good place with this very ugly wizard," Bagheera said.

The panther stood up and left the kitchen, leaving Hermione to her own thoughts.

"It is good I am here," the panther thought to himself as he hopped up on the sofa. "Without my advice, the Mistress' yoni would always be hungry for that ugly wizard."

Friday evening, Severus stood in front of his mirror, brushing his hair and adjusting his robes fitfully. He felt nervous about his upcoming talk with Hermione. She would know everything he thought and felt about her. He would be baring his soul with no way to control what he told her. He had never been completely open with anyone in his life. Once you opened yourself, you could be wounded. Hermione had the power to wound him in a way no one else ever had. It was frightening.

He had been tempted several times throughout the day to owl her and call off the talk, but Severus Snape had never been a coward, no matter how frightening the situation. He'd been beaten and tortured for his secrets, and never revealed them. But now, a witch had broken him. How the mighty have fallen.

The wizard scowled. How he wished he hadn't indulged in Hermione's emotions. He should have tried to remain detached, unaffected. But he couldn't. He had occupied her body and learned it, felt her desires from the point of view of a witch. He knew what it was to surrender himself to another, and to want to be closer. He had felt her need, her deepest desires pouring over him, hungry and insistent and was able to fulfill them to both their pleasure. Severus had been given knowledge no wizard had ever experienced, and it changed him. Probably forever.

His sex life was a shambles now. He couldn't even bring himself to touch another witch, feeling he would be disappointed before he even indulged. Not one of them would treat him with the passion and sweetness Hermione had exhibited that night. They had shared something other than their bodies…something that made sex transcend itself. Now that he tasted what it could be like…he didn't want anything else.

And the only one who could bring him that satisfaction, that connection…was Hermione Granger. He had to make her accept him. What would he do if she didn't? It was an uncomfortable feeling, knowing his happiness hinged on the whim of a witch…a very aggravating, independent, brilliant witch. He would have never seduced Hermione on New Year's Eve if he had any inkling it would come to this.

He supposed if she did turn him down, that he could still have sex with other witches…but there would always be something lacking. Something he would miss. Something that would leave him dissatisfied. Depth.

Severus looked at the clock. It was a quarter to seven. He picked up the small glowing globe resting on his bed, put it in his pocket, took a deep breath…then disapparated.

The moment of truth had arrived.

Hermione paced the living room nervously. Bagheera lounged on the sofa, watching her, his head swinging back and forth as she moved through the room. A small bottle of clear liquid rested on the coffee table.

"You are going to wear a groove in the floor, witch," Bagheera commented, "And my neck is starting to hurt from watching you. Sit down."

Hermione stopped and looked at the familiar.

"I can't," she said, looking at the clock. It was five to seven. She began pacing again.

"I don't see why you are so nervous. You have been with him before," the cat said.

"Yes. But not like this, Bagheera. He is going to tell me the truth about how he feels about me. I'm scared to death," she replied.

"You should be happy. Not many witches get a chance to know what is in a wizard's heart," the panther replied.

Hermione was about to answer Bagheera when a strong knock sounded on the front door.

"He's here," Hermione hissed out loud, freezing in place…unable to move.

Bagheera looked at the witch as the knock sounded again.

"Answer the door," he said to her. But Hermione was petrified.

The familiar sighed, leapt off the sofa, walked up behind Hermione and nipped her on the ass.

"Ow!" she cried, spinning and scowling at the familiar, whose lips rose in a toothy grin. "What did you do that for?"

"To wake you up. Now go let the ugly wizard in," Bagheera said, licking his lips.

The knocking was more insistent now.

"Fine. I will," Hermione said, taking a deep breath and marching toward the door as if on her way to war.

Bagheera hopped back up on the sofa and stretched out his full length.

"I had forgotten how complicated life can be as a human," the cat mused to himself, "I guess I should be thankful the gods left me a cat and not a man."

Bagheera adjusted himself to appear as regal as he could. He wanted the ugly wizard's first impression of him to be a good one.

Hermione pulled open the door a bit harder and faster than she intended to, she was so intent on not seeming to be out of sorts at the Potions Master's visit. Severus' hair ruffled a bit from the wind and he looked down at her with an arched eyebrow.

"I was beginning to think you weren't at home," he said to the witch.

He could initially feel apprehension coming off of the witch, but as she looked up at him, he felt a small pulse of desire as well, probably in remembrance of his last visit. The wizard looked past her into the house, his black eyes scanning it rather cautiously.

"Where is your familiar?" he asked Hermione.

"In the living room. Come in, Severus," she replied, stepping back and letting the wizard in. Severus stood inside the foyer, waiting for Hermione to escort him into the living room, rather than just walking into it as usual. That cat was big.

Hermione led him into the living room. There, stretched out on the sofa, lay Bagheera…looking at the wizard rather lazily.

"What a beautiful animal," Severus thought as he looked at the panther. "Formidable too."

Bagheera heard his thoughts and hopped down from the sofa, stretching and showing off his long, lean body and flexing his claws. He had watched the wizard enter and thought he moved rather like a feline himself. He could sense no fear in the Potions Master, only curiosity. His head lowered, Bagheera approached the wizard.

Severus stood very still as the big cat circled him, sniffing his robes and familiarizing himself with the wizard's scent. He could smell desire on the wizard and a bit of nervousness, but it wasn't directed towards him, but Hermione. Finally he sat down in front of the wizard, looking up at him with his golden eyes.

"Severus, this is Bagheera. Bagheera…Severus," Hermione said by way of introduction.

"Hello Bagheera," Severus said, looking down at the beautiful panther.

"He is not quite so ugly now that I look at him. He is like a cat himself…he moves like one. He is strong. Dangerous. He would protect you as ferociously as I would. I like him," the panther thought at Hermione.

"You're approved," Hermione smirked at Severus.

"Thank you, Bagheera," Severus said to the panther, reaching into his robes pocket and pulling out the shining globe. "I brought you a gift."

Begheera's ears flicked forward with interest as the wizard drew out his wand and removed the globe. Then he enlarged what looked like a ball made of thick, brown burlap. Bagheera stiffened immediately, his golden eyes going wide.

Severus tossed the ball into the living room and Bagheera took off after it, grabbing it with his claws, then rolling on his back, writhing as he played with the ball, snuffling it, his eyes narrowed in pleasure.

"What is that?" Hermione asked as the cat began to bat the ball around, rolling on it and purring.

"Catnip," Severus replied, a small smirk on his face as he watched the panther scamper about, digging his claws into the ball and tumbling head over heels with it.

So much for Bagheera being dignified.

"You are such a suck-up," Hermione said with a small grin.

"Just being cautious," the wizard replied, "especially after the way Raucous returned to me after meeting the cat. He was completely white. He is darkening now, but he must have received quite a fright. He refuses to return as long as Bagheera lives here.".

Hermione looked a bit guilty. She had put Bagheera on the snarky bird after all. But Severus didn't need to know that. But the wizard felt her pulse of guilt and arched an eyebrow at her. He didn't say anything however. Instead, his dark eyes noticed the clear bottle of veritaserum resting on the coffee table. He looked at Hermione.

"I think we'd best get on with why I am here, Hermione," he said to her silkily, his belly tightening uncomfortably. "But first I need a wizard's oath from you stating you will only stick to questions involving you and I."

Hermione's belly was also in a knot as she nodded and made the oath. Bagheera looked up as he felt the powerful swirl of magic flow around him, then picked up the catnip ball in his mouth and padded down the hallway into the guestroom. He would find out what passed between his Mistress and the wizard later.

Hermione pointed to the armchair.

"You can sit there, Severus," she said.

Severus began to unbutton his robes. He wanted to be comfortable. Hermione watched him with mixed emotions. Normally when he unbuttoned his robes before her, it was for one purpose. Severus felt her pulse again. He only hoped when this was over, her pulsing would be hot, strong and accepting. He laid his robes on the sofa, then walked over to the chair and sat down, loosening his collar. He watched as Hermione walked to the coffee table and picked up the bottle of veritaserum. She approached him.

"This is a half hour dose," Hermione said, "But it will cease to work if you've said all you have to say. My own brew."

Severus only nodded. He felt like flubberworms were roiling about in his stomach as the witch uncapped the bottle and offered it to him.

"It will take about five minutes to work," she said as Severus took the bottle from her hand. He looked at her for a moment. She had never seen the wizard look so vulnerable. This was hard for him. Most likely Severus had never taken Veritaserum in his life.

The wizard brought the bottle to his lips, hesitated a moment, then drank the contents down. He handed the bottle to Hermione.

"This is it," he thought as he met her amber eyes. "I bare my soul now. Hopefully she won't rend it to pieces afterward."

Hermione walked over to the sofa and sat down on the edge of it, watching the wizard intently. She realized she was so apprehensive about tonight, she hadn't thought of any questions to ask him.

The Potions Master's eyes began to glaze and he relaxed in the armchair. Hermione's heart began to pound as the veritaserum took effect.

All right. She would start with some basic questions.

"What is your name?" she asked the wizard.

"Severus Arsenius Snape," he answered.

"How old are you?" she asked him.

"Forty-four years of age last January," he answered.

"And what is your occupation?" Hermione inquired.

"I am a teacher and a Potions Master," he replied.

"Do you know why you are here?"


Hermione looked at him, then realize her questions had to be focused.

"Tell me why you are here," the witch said.

The wizard's dark eyes regained some of their intensity.

"I am here to convince you to become my lover," the wizard responded. "My only lover."

Hermione felt her heart skip. Severus wanted a monogamous relationship with her? He had to. He couldn't lie under veritaserum.

"But what about your other witches? You are used to variety, Severus. One witch will become boring after a time.

The wizard shook his head.

"I don't want them. I want you. I can take you in many ways…there will be enough variety with you witch. I will not become bored, not with the connection I have with you. I can feel you. I cannot feel them so they no longer satisfy me. I can't shag them any longer. It is too empty. They cannot bring me the pleasure you do. The emotion. I want that."

Hermione looked at the wizard.

"What about what I want, Severus? Suppose I don't want you that way?"

"I felt you, Hermione…when I occupied your body and when I last took you. You want what I want…another person to connect to beyond sex. I can give you that, witch. I can make you feel whole every time you lie with me. Only accept me, and I will be what you want and what you need."

Hermione's eyes glistened a bit, then she centered herself.

"Why Severus? Why this change…it is so drastic. You aren't the type of wizard who gives of himself. You have always been a taker when it came to witches. And why me?"

"Hermione, I've been a man without humanity for most of my life. I connected with no one, bonded with no other living being because of what I was. Who I served. How I lived steeped in deception. I had nothing to give but my life, Hermione. And no one had anything to give me but hatred and disdain. Except the witches. They gave me their bodies in exchange for the dark sexual pleasure I could give them, gave me the freedom to let the pain inside me out, pummeling it into them, releasing it into them. Respite from my darkness as I met their needs. They were something I could control when I took them, turned them, twisted them into what I needed. There was so little else I could control, Hermione. Yes, I took what they offered me, and gave them what they wanted. A good hard shagging…but nothing else."

He looked the witch directly in her eyes.

"You are the only witch who was a virgin when I took you. I have never had another untouched witch. So for me, Hermione…even though I did not show it…you are special. And you are the only witch I ever desired to spend more than a night with me, hence the weekend in my home where I took my pleasure of you over and over again. And you let me know that despite my bringing you there under duress, that you liked my treatment of you. You were more than any of the others I've had. You had substance, intelligence and innocence…which I took selfishly. But I needed a witch like you, if only for a weekend…if only once in my miserable life. Someone pure and wholesome. You also offered me more when you asked to kiss me. I believe you could have become mine then if I had given in. But my life did not allow that kind of connection. I did not allow it. You would have been a source of weakness and I could not afford weakness. So I expelled you from my bed and my life and returned to what I was used to. Quick hard encounters with witches that were only interested in quick hard shags. You weren't that kind of witch then."

Hermione flushed. She was that kind of witch now it seemed. Or became that type. She had never loved or had any emotional connection with any of the wizards she slept with. She had a kind of love for Ron, but not the kind of love that binds a witch and wizard together. Severus continued.

"But you became that kind of witch…but not for the same reason. As far as your sexual life goes, you are a victim of your own strengths, and have had to settle for purely physical encounters or go without male contact at all. As a young witch, you have needs to be met. The lack of connection was the price you paid to live as normal a life as you could. You are daunting to most wizards, Hermione. You are brilliant and driven, the kind of witch that makes men feel inadequate outside of your bedroom. You either are their equal or far above them, able to do more and accomplish more than they ever could. You overshadow them and their fragile egos. You need a wizard who appreciates your strength and intelligence, and isn't threatened by it. A wizard who applauds your accomplishments and takes pride and joy in them. A wizard who will not feel diminished by your success, and who will treasure the opportunity to be the one you turn to when you need to feel connected physically and emotionally. There are few wizards like that, Hermione."

Hermione felt as if the wizard was picking her soul apart. She had settled for what she could get, if not love, then at least an orgasm or two. In this way, she found she was a lot like Severus, though their reasons for being this way differed. She had never seen that before.

"I was not a wizard like that until the Switch. I have always applauded your brilliance…albeit secretly and never felt threatened by it. But I never knew what it was to connect with a witch…and believed I didn't want to know. But you changed that. I felt your need and your desperate desire for connection when I was in your body, and when I left it, I felt that same need from you in my presence. I wanted to use that emotion to make you surrender to me completely, but instead I was lost to it, Hermione. Completely lost to it. No witch was ever as passionate and tender with me as you were. No witch ever made me want to provide what she needed as opposed to what I wanted…until you. I had never been kissed the way you kissed me, or embraced the way you embraced me. I never wanted to be part of a witch the way I wanted to be part of you. Not just take you and use you…but be part of you. Can you understand this, witch? We both surrendered that night. You are the only witch I ever surrendered to willingly and wholly."

Severus shifted in the chair and leaned forward.

"No other witch can give me that, Hermione. It is as if an entirely new world has opened up to me…but there is only one doorway into that world, and the doorway is you. Everything else pales in comparison. And I tested it. I went to witch after witch and although I wanted sex, I didn't want theirs. I wanted you and only you, so I could experience that wonderful, overpowering connection as our bodies met. And I tell you witch, I want you now. What is the change in me? You are. Drastic, yes it is…but I am like a starved man who is staring at a banquet that he cannot reach. If you refuse me witch, I am doubly condemned. Condemned to the dark, empty life I have always led, and even more condemned because I have tasted what connection is…food for the soul, Hermione. I am tired of starving. I don't want to go back to the meaningless trysts that used to feed me. You can save me from that…and in return I will give you all the passion and connection you'll ever need witch…and try to redeem myself for the selfishness I exhibited in your younger years. Become my lover, Hermione Granger and you will always be satisfied and whole."

Hermione felt as if she wanted to cry. Dear gods, she had no idea the wizard felt so strongly. She watched as Severus' eyes began to clear and he straightened in the armchair…his dark eyes shifting around the room before resting on her. He looked a bit afraid. She had never seen the confident wizard afraid before.

Severus swallowed. He remembered every word he'd said to Hermione, and hoped that his sincerity was evident and he had moved her heart. He felt as if he were teetering on the edge of a precipice and would fall over if she denied him. He stared at the witch, waiting for her to say something. Anything.

Instead of speaking, Hermione stood up and reached into her robes pocket, pulling out a small bottle of clear liquid. It was veritaserum.

Severus looked at her. She wanted him to go under again?

She must have understood the look in his eyes.

"No Severus…this is not for you," she said, her voice trembling with emotion, "It's for me. I don't know how I feel about you…not really. This will let us both know."

Severus stared at Hermione in amazement. The witch was willing to take veritaserum and be questioned by him? Severus had mixed feelings about this. If she didn't feel anything but loathing for him, she would be brutally honest about it. If she said she never wanted to be his lover, then that would be all there was for it and any hope he had of persuading her would be crushed. But inversely, if she did feel anything for him at all, he would know it without any doubts.

Plus, he could ask her anything and she would have to tell him the truth. His eyes glittered slightly at this. He rose.

"Take this chair, Hermione," he said, moving aside.

Hermione looked at him. Her eyes were glistening but also slightly afraid. She had mixed feelings about the wizard, feelings she couldn't sort out. This was the ultimate way to do it. If Severus was willing to bare his soul, then she could do no less. Hermione walked slowly to the chair and sat down. She opened the bottle and drank it down, not thinking to ask for an oath from Severus. The wizard watched as she drained the bottle. Suddenly, Hermione's eyes flicked to him.

"An oath…" she began.

Severus shook his head and smirked at her.

"Too late, witch. You should have secured it before you took the veritaserum," he replied. He had some lingering questions about her time at Hogwarts that he would love to know the answers to.

"You really are a bastard," Hermione spat at him.

"But you already know that. It still doesn't change how I feel about you witch. Now sit still and let the potion do its work," the wizard replied.

Instead of sitting on the sofa as Hermione did, Severus grasped the other armchair, slid it directly in front of the witch and sat down in it so he was quite close.

Hermione looked at the wizard…his brow was furrowed and his dark eyes seemed even darker as he waited for her to open up to him, revealing all her secrets. Her stomach felt full of lacewing flies and her mouth was dry. She swallowed reflexively.

Severus could feel Hermione's fear and apprehension wash over him. He knew what she felt as far as opening up went. She would be all right when the potion kicked in.

Presently, Hermione's eyes took on a glazed look and she relaxed. She was under the influence of the veritaserum. He began.

"In your second year, why did you brew the polyjuice potion that turned you into a cat-like creature?" he asked her.

"I was trying to turn into Millicent Bulstrode and infiltrate Slytherin House to find out if Draco Malfoy knew anything about the Chamber of Secrets," she replied hollowly.

Severus processed this. Pretty Slytherin for a Gryffindor.

"Who stole the ingredients?" he asked her.

"I did, when you were distracted by a diversion by Harry," she replied.

Severus quirked an eyebrow at her. He had been certain Harry had stolen those ingredients somehow. Hermione had been sneakier than he imagined at Hogwarts.

"In your third year…did you help Sirius Black escape?" he asked her.

Hermione hesitated. Severus knew she was trying not to answer.

"Did you?" he insisted.

"Yes," she replied, turning a bit red from her effort not to answer.

"I knew it!" Severus exclaimed, scowling at the witch.

He had so badly wanted to see Sirius receive the dementor's kiss…even if he didn't betray the Potters or kill all those muggles. He had hated the wizard. He still did.

"How did you save him?" Severus asked her, leaning forward in the chair.

"Harry and I used a time turner, went back and altered the original events. We saved Buckbeak the hippogriff from being executed, then flew up to the turret where Sirius was being held, broke him out and gave him Buckbeak so he could fly to safety," the witch replied.

Severus stared at her, remembering all the books she had that year. She must have been taking extra classes, using the time turner to access them all. He had a feeling Albus was in on Sirius' rescue as well.

"Did Albus help you?" he breathed.

"He told me three turns should do it," Hermione answered.

Severus shook his head. The old coot. Once a Gryffindor, always a Gryffindor. Well, those nagging questions had been answered. He still felt a little out of sorts Hermione had stolen his ingredients and got away with it. Well, up to now. A little punishment might be in order later on. His black eyes glittered. It was time to find out how she felt about him.

"Who is the best lover you have ever had, Hermione Granger?" he asked her.

"You," Hermione answered in almost a whisper.

"Did you ever think of me after you left Hogwarts?" he asked her. "And what did you think about?"

"Yes, I did think about you, but was ashamed I did. I thought about what you had done to me, and how I wished I could find someone like you…who could make me feel the same way you did," she replied, her voice quavering.

"Why were you ashamed of this?" he asked her.

"Because I knew you cared nothing for me and had manipulated me into the situation, but found I still liked what had happened. I liked you taking me the way you did. It made me feel like a twisted little bit of fluff. As if something were wrong with me," she answered. "It was a dirty secret."

"How did you deal with these feelings?" he asked the witch.

"I would fantasize about you and masturbate. Then I shagged a number of wizards, trying to find one like you for a while. When I couldn't find one, I turned to Ron. He was nothing like you, but he was a friend and I didn't feel bad sleeping with him. He met some of my needs and we enjoyed each other. It was better than sleeping with strangers. Then I found Vlad. He wasn't you. He was crueler to me than you ever were, but was the closest wizard to you. He gave me what I needed," she replied.

"Did you ever think about seeking me out?" Severus asked her.

"I did. But I couldn't bring myself to do it. To come begging to you after what you had done to me…well…"

Here Hermione paused.

"After what I blamed you for. I couldn't deal with the fact that you didn't actually force me to come to you. That I could have possibly found another way to do what I needed to do, even if it took a few more years. And there was something else…" the witch said, her voice quavering again

"And what was that?" he asked her.

"It excited me that you found me desirable, even though you were manipulative as to how you brought me to you, and selfish as to how you took me. You were so dark, so inaccessible…you seemed to have no feelings…but you wanted me. I made you feel something, even if it was only lust. I believed I was the only witch at Hogwarts that you felt that way about," she said softly.

Severus looked at her.

"On New Years Eve, I would have settled for almost anyone, Hermione. But after that, even though I did my best to push you out of my mind…I did still want you. I hadn't even scratched the surface that night with you. And you are the only student I ever put my hands on," the wizard replied, "They were all too young…too immature…too silly to be attractive to me. You were always a rather serious young lady, irritating as you were. I wanted to be part of your learning experience. I wanted you to remember me for something other than being your Potions teacher. I wanted to be inserted in your psyche…in that brilliant mind. Why…I can't tell you, but knew you could survive me intact and keep the secret. You wouldn't tell anyone."

He looked at the witch for a moment.

"Hermione, do you find me desirable now?" he asked her.

"Yes," she replied.

"Do you want to be my lover?" he asked her, his stomach knotting. "My only lover?"

Hermione didn't answer for several seconds.

"Yes," she said, her eyes glistening.

Severus felt relief wash over him, before he considered that wanting to be his lover and becoming his lover were two different things.

"Will you be my lover?" he asked her softly. "Mine alone? Engage no other wizard but me?"

The Potions Master was already feeling territorial about the witch. He didn't want anyone else to feel her fire but him…though they could never get the best of her as he could. It felt strange to want to possess another person so totally. But that was how he felt.

Again, Hermione didn't speak immediately. She began to shake.

"Will you be my lover, Hermione?" Severus demanded of her, his black eyes fixed to her face.

A single tear rolled down the witch's cheek.

"Yes," she said, her eyes flicking toward his, losing their glazed look. This meant she had said all she needed to say, and the potion was wearing off.

Severus felt a great throb of desire for the witch and desperately asked her one more question before the potion wore off.

"Will you let me stay the night?"

Hermione looked at him and he felt a pulse of desire roll off the witch.

"Yes," she said softly.

The Potions Master felt as if he could breathe again, and sat back in the armchair, studying the witch. His witch. He lifted Hermione's hand and kissed it.

"You have made me a very happy wizard, Hermione. I don't think anyone has made me truly happy before, except maybe Voldemort when he cracked his head open and died," the wizard said. "You will not regret this, witch. I promise you."

Hermione simply blinked at him. Then the wizard scowled slightly.

"But don't expect sweet nothings from me, Hermione. I am not the kind of man that gives flowers and candy. I am the kind of man that will come here in the middle of the night or even in the light of day and take my pleasure of you. But I will make sure you feel me beyond that. I will make sure you feel complete in every way."

Hermione looked at him, then said, "As long as you know, Severus, I will not be your personal plaything. You won't be able to just waltz in here and have me whenever you want. And I will expect you to respect me. No verbal or physical abuse. The minute you mistreat me, I don't care how good you are in bed…you will be out of my life. Do you understand me? These are called 'Ground rules.' I have no doubt you'll need them."

Severus studied her. A witch had never set boundaries for him before.

"I will be allowed to attempt to seduce you, won't I? A 'no' isn't always a 'no' with a witch. Sometimes she wants to be pursued," he purred.

As long as the wizard was connected to the witch, he'd know what she wanted. He'd be able to tell if she really desired him or not. This ability would certainly come in handy with the independent witch. He felt another pulse from her, more intense than before.

"Attempted seductions will be allowed," Hermione said, smirking.

She didn't know Severus considered backing her into a wall and ravishing her mouth and body until she submitted, or describing deliciously dirty scenarios until her knickers were dripping, or throwing her over his shoulder and carrying her off to the bedroom or other available private place 'seduction.'

Well, she'd learn.

Severus stared at her intensely until Hermione felt her belly once again tie itself into knots…but it wasn't apprehension this time. It was lust, pure and simple. Then the wizard stood and pulled the witch up against his body. Hermione gasped as she felt his erection press hungrily into her belly.

"We need to consummate our new relationship, witch," he breathed down at her, his eyes glinting hotly. Then he swept her up into his arms.

Bagheera peeked out of the guestroom at the pair.

"I told her I would have to sleep in the guestroom tonight," he thought to himself, ducking back into the room as Severus carried Hermione down the hall and turned into her bedroom. The panther stuck his head out again as the door closed and he heard Severus say a warding spell.

"At least the wizard provided me with something to keep me occupied for the duration," the panther mused, padding back into the guestroom and rolling over on the catnip ball, biting and juggling it between his paws ecstatically.

It seemed everyone was going to have a good night at 150 Lavender Lane.

Severus put Hermione down in the middle of the bedroom and stepped back from her, his black eyes resting on her face.

"I can't believe you used the veritaserum to find out what I did at Hogwarts," Hermione blurted out. "Those things happened so long ago, Severus."

The witch had been so caught up in the emotions of accepting Severus as her lover, she entirely forgot about his questioning on other subjects. Until now that is.

"I wanted to know the truth," the Potions Master said, starting to unfasten his robes, "And the opportunity was there…so naturally I satisfied my curiosity. I still can hardly believe it was you who stole the ingredients for the Polyjuice potion."

The witch folded her arms and scowled at him.

"Still, you shouldn't have done it. I took an oath not to ask anything else…you should have too," Hermione said, frowning at him as he opened his robes and pulled them off. He wore a white button-up shirt and black trousers. Severus began to undo his cuffs.

"You didn't try to make that a condition until after you took the potion. I was under no obligation to take an oath then. You had lost your bargaining power at that point," the Potions Master replied, starting on his shirt buttons. He looked at Hermione, who was standing in front of him with her arms still folded.

"Are you going to undress?" he asked her, "Or do you wish for me to tear your clothes from your body? It would be quite an interesting start to our night if you do."

Severus felt a dark pulse wash over him for a moment, but it eased. Obviously, the idea of him tearing off her clothes titillated the witch for a quick second, then she decided against it.

"I prefer to keep my clothes in wearable condition, thank you," she said a little snarkily.

Oh ho. So the witch was going to try to assert herself now that they were on equal footing as lovers. The wizard smirked. They might be on equal footing in theory, but when Hermione was flat on her back getting shagged within an inch of her life, she'd know for certain that he held the dominant position in this relationship, at least when it came to sex. He had no intention of going soft on the witch because he could feel her emotions. He had needs too. Strong ones. Besides, he knew she appreciated his ability to make her break apart.

"Well then, I suggest you get naked witch," Severus replied, peeling off his shirt. Hermione's eyes fell on his pale torso and she began to undress, her breathing becoming faster and her growing need washing over him.

The wizard felt a strong reactionary throb and undid his belt quickly, opening his tented trousers. Then he backed up to the bed and sat down, removing his shoes and socks, his eyes on Hermione as she removed her robes, then pulled her t-shirt over her head, her chestnut curls falling wildly over her shoulders.

Severus stood up and pulled down both his pants and his boxers, his tool springing out, swollen with desire. He wasn't playing games tonight. He was on a mission…a mission to claim the first woman he could call his own in no uncertain manner. The weapon was drawn and ready for war.

Hermione faltered a moment as she looked at the naked wizard, who stood poised and tense before her. The hunger in his eyes was palpable. The witch's amber eyes dropped to his erection, and a gush suddenly rolled out of her, wetting her inner thighs. Severus felt it. Hermione stood there in her white cotton bra, her hands resting on the button to her jeans, unmoving.

Severus enjoyed the feeling of her hunger, loving that her desire for him something he could actually feel. He thrust his hips out a little, making his engorged tool bounce a bit. Hermione's eyes bounced with it. He smirked.

"Have you forgotten you're supposed to be getting naked?" Severus finally asked the witch.

Hermione started and looked up at him, reddening.

"N-n-no. I haven't," she said starting to undo her pants.

Severus watched her fumble a moment.

"You're too slow," the wizard said walking toward her, erection extended. He moved Hermione's hands, undid the silver button and pulled the zipper down. He then hooked his hands into the sides of her jeans and beneath the elastic of her knickers and knelt, pulling them both down, his dark eyes resting on the neat triangle of hair between Hermione's thighs. He could scent her arousal and his mouth watered. Hermione placed a hand on his shoulder and stepped out of them. Severus stood up and grasped the sides of her bra.

"Lift your arms," he said in a low voice, his eyes meeting Hermione's.

The witch obeyed as if under the Imperious curse. Her full breasts fell into view and Severus' eyes glittered appreciatively. Her need was on her now.

Severus knew that since this was to be their first consummation as lovers, he should be gentle and tender with the witch. However, that wasn't his nature. His nature was covetous and he wanted to claim Hermione and have her acknowledge his claim to her. There would still be connection…but he needed to let out what he was feeling, and he could only do that one way.

Severus' black eyes swept over the witch and his nostrils flared.

"I'm sorry, Hermione. I'm not a wizard to hold back or pretend when it comes to matters like this. I want you under me. Now." the wizard said, his voice hoarse with urgency. He grabbed the witch who shrieked in surprise.

Severus lifted Hermione up and swung around, striding with her to the bed. He dropped her into it and fell on top of her hungrily, positioning her quickly against the pillows, throwing her legs over his shoulders and grasping her wrists. He could feel her dark excitement at his treatment.

"Severus, wait," she protested weakly, her body betraying her even as she struggled beneath the wizard.

Severus ignored her protestations. He knew she wanted this as badly as he did.

"Now, you are going to tell me who every inch of you belongs to, Hermione Granger. Over and over until it sinks into both our psyches," he breathed, positioning himself at her entrance and looking down into her wide eyes.

"I will be everything you want," he whispered, plunging into the witch powerfully, burying himself in her heat and softness, her sleeve wrapping around him as she shrieked from his hungry penetration. The wizard felt a strong sense of satisfaction as Hermione pulsed around him. She was his witch. No one else would do this to her but him.

In the guestroom, Bagheera stopped playing with the catnip ball and looked up when Hermione's screech sounded throughout the house. The couple hadn't used a silencing charm, but even if they had, the panther still would have heard his mistress.

"Very strong and very dirty," the cat said to himself. "I believe the mistress' yoni is in for quite a workout."

He went back to playing with his ball, his tail lashing.

Immersed in Hermione, Severus looked down at the panting witch.

"Yessss," he hissed at her, dropping for a moment to possess her mouth greedily, not moving inside her yet…just reveling in her receiving him. After a minute or two he stopped kissing her, his black eyes glinting.

"You're mine, Hermione Granger. You will need no other wizard to meet your needs witch…physically or emotionally."

Severus raised himself up on his hands and began to stroke Hermione hard and deep, groaning as she keened. The wizard jerked her body back and forth, impaling her over and over, his pale body flexing, hips rising and falling as he watched his shining organ piston between Hermione's open thighs, pleasure streaming through his body as her dark delight flowed over him like the tide.

Hermione was already close to orgasm as the wizard's hardness sliced through her again and again, pulling cries and moans from deep inside her, completely turned on by his hungry possession, his dark lustful eyes burning down at her from within the curtain of hair framing his face, swaying rhythmically with his motions.

"Who do you belong to, Hermione Granger?" Severus panted down at the witch. He felt she was close to the edge and he hadn't begun to take her. He hit her harder. "Tell me, witch. Who do you belong to?"

"You!" Hermione gasped, and he thrust into the witch so deeply, she buckled.

"Who?" he asked again, holding his position, whirling his hips and winding his girth inside the witch, who groaned from the sensation. Gods he was so deep.

"You. Severus Snape," she whispered, barely able to hold on to her lucidity as he began to stroke her again, his sweet ache driving her upward and outward.

Hermione's eyes drifted downward and she watched his body curl into hers, his abs rippling and flexing, his huge tool appearing and disappearing, covered in her juices. The wizard was overwhelming her, each stroke taking more and more of her mind away, the primal part of her rising to the fore as the wizard sought the very core of her. Hermione felt herself slipping away.

"Gods, Severus…you're so…so…" she gasped up at him before exploding with a cry.

Yes, I am," he groaned as she melted around him, her release rolling hot and thick over him..

Instead of stroking the witch through her orgasm, Severus stopped moving inside her and let himself down on to her body gently and began to kiss her, his mouth claiming hers at first, then moving over her throat as he began to caress her arching body, whispering how beautiful she was and how blessed he felt she was his alone.

The wizard's words and actions seemed to intensify Hermione's release.

"I never would have believed you could be so kind," she said in a shuddering voice as the wizard moved downward, his lips, teeth and tongue moving over her flesh. He suckled both her breasts and continued downward, not answering her until his lips pulled at her pubic hair.

"You will find when it comes to you witch, my kindness has no bounds," he murmured, diving into her core and making Hermione cry out and buckle as he drank her in, his long tongue, caressing, licking and tickling her tender flesh, soothing the burn he caused as he swallowed down her gift to him, the witch arching and babbling with pleasure.

Severus lost himself in the taste, scent and feel of the witch, her thighs clutching his head convulsively as he indulged in the most intimate part of her, his chest tight with her emotion. He could feel her strong need for him, her satisfaction, her sense of being appreciated and it was an amazing feeling to know without a doubt that he affected Hermione so positively…that he made her happy. He was not a man who brought others much happiness in his life and to be the source of Hermione's happiness was something new…something immensely satisfying. He was no longer just a source of darkness and fear. There was another human being on this earth who thought him wonderful.

Having drank the witch dry, Severus licked his lips and slowly made his way back up the witch's body, mouth first, licking the sweat from her skin and blowing on it lightly, cooling her as he ascended over her belly and her heaving breasts, stopping to tease and appreciate them until her nipples stood at attention. The witch's hands caressed his back gently, tracing his scars and grasping at his muscles as he pulled himself upward, finally claiming her mouth and sharing her own flavor with her. He kissed her hungrily, rolling over on his back and pulling her on top of him, hoping she would reciprocate as she did the last time they were together…and the witch did…kissing him hungrily before sliding her mouth over his throat, kissing and licking. Suddenly Hermione latched on to the side of his neck and began to bite and suck at his flesh.

"Arrrgh!" he hissed, but he didn't pull her away. He took the tender pain as Hermione marked his pale skin with a large, red love-bite. Finally, she pulled her mouth away from his throat and studied her handiwork. Yes, it was a true work of art. She shifted over and looked down at him.

"Now you have been marked and claimed, Severus Snape," she said softly. "You are as much mine as I am yours."

Severus felt his neck with his hand and winced.

"Do you have any vampire blood running through your veins, witch?" he asked her.

He was still hard, but for the first time in his life didn't feel as if he had to use his tool constantly on the witch. Normally he would not have stopped shagging until he came. But Hermione wasn't going anywhere and neither was he. There was no urge to finish and go. He could take his time with her.

"No…not that I know of," she breathed down at him, "though the way I feel I may have a succubus gene or two."

Severus hissed as the witch fell to his flesh again, her soft mouth dragging over his skin. He sighed in pleasure as Hermione once again showed her appreciation of his body. Gods, she felt so good. The wizard's eyelids fluttered as her mouth moved over his belly and down to his loins. He could feel her warm breath on his erection. Hermione studied it.

"Sometimes I don't see how I manage to take this," she said, lifting his organ, the Potions Master's hips bucking in reaction to her hot little hand wrapping around the base of him.

"You take it because you have to," he groaned down at her. "It's part of the package."

Hermione smirked.

"And what a package you are," she murmured, going down on him.

Severus' hands clutched the sides of the bed as the witch went to work on him, her warm mouth sliding over his head and upper shaft. He made a choked sound when her supple tongue swirled beneath the flange and tickled the two small points of pleasure on the underside.

Merlin, Hermione was talented.

Every vein in Severus' neck stood out in clear definition as he threw his head back deep into the pillows as Hermione sucked his nads into her hot mouth and juggled them over her tongue expertly.

"Gods, witch…" he gurgled at her, his hips rising from the mattress.

He was ready to beg for mercy as she sucked one sensitive globe then the other, her tongue moving behind them to tap the small sensitive stretch of skin between his legs. Severus buckled, panting as the witch applied her intimate knowledge of his body's erogenous zones, doing all the things she wished she could have experienced when she occupied his form. Severus had never felt anything like it…hissing as her teeth pulled at the skin on his member gently, scraping his shaft in the process and letting it snap back. It was both frightening and exhilarating. But she wouldn't actually bite him…would she?

Then he felt her tongue slipping over his flesh, the witch moving upward again toward his leaking head, then engulfing it and sucking hard.

"Shit!" the Potions Master gasped, his hands still clutching the edge of the bed as Hermione worked him over.

Finally, he could stand it no longer, sitting up and throwing Hermione on her back, then straddling her, thrusting into her mouth as deep as he could, gagging her several times before he regained control. But he could feel her lust rolling over him…she wasn't angry, but excited at his domination. He pulled out of her mouth and slid to the side, catching the teary-eyed witch by the arms and pulling her up in the bed until she faced him. She was panting heavily.

"Blame yourself. No witch should be able to perform that good," the wizard said to her, his black eyes studying her face and feeling a little surge of jealousy. She'd been practicing.

Hermione swallowed then said breathlessly, "Am I complaining?"

"No," he replied, "Because you loved it, you little wanton Gryffindor. Loved me between those luscious lips of yours," he breathed at her, pulsing hungrily.

"You flipped me over because you couldn't take the pleasure," Hermione retorted, her nostrils flaring a bit. "I was rocking your dark little world and you couldn't handle it."

"I'm going to like having you for a lover," he said, sitting up and wrestling Hermione into his lap, her legs bent on either side of him. "You think you can challenge me, maybe equal me…don't you, witch?"

Hermione looked at him rather defiantly as she brushed his long locks out of his face. She studied his features, his dark eyes, aristocratic brows, pale skin, hooked nose and sensuous mouth that was twisted into a mean little smirk. She liked the way the wizard looked. She really did. Severus felt a pulse of appreciation from the witch and gathered her a bit closer.

"Now that we are on a more even keel…yes…I think I can match you when it comes to making you feel pleasure," the witch replied, shifting her core closer so the shaft of his organ rested against her heat. She was anxious for him to start possessing her again.

"Really?" he asked her, cocking his head to the side, his eyes glinting at her.

"Yes, I do," Hermione said, not knowing she had just unleashed the beast in the wizard.

Severus began to rub her back gently, sliding his palms over her skin slowly, caressing the witch the way she liked. Hermione sighed, wrapped her arms around his neck and leaned forward, kissing him deeply, feeling connected. Severus returned her kiss just as sweetly, but his eyes were predatory as he tongued and suckled the witch's mouth, working her emotions, feeling the waves of her pleasure as he slid his hands around and began to fondle and tweak her breasts.

"Oh Severus," she breathed into his mouth, deepening her kiss, becoming inebriated by the wizard's apparent tenderness.

Severus let his hands slide down, stroking the outside of her thighs then sweeping over her buttocks before returning to her back, Hermione sighing and moaning into his mouth. She was putty in his hands, and he intended on molding her into a lump of screaming, shuddering witch in a moment.

"This is good, isn't it?" he asked, his lips pressed lightly to hers as he continued to caress her.

"So good, Severus," Hermione replied, snuggling into him.

"Nice. Gentle. Tender like you've always wanted?" he asked her, drawing away fully now.

"Yes…just like I've always wanted," she said softly, smiling at the wizard, who reached between their bodies, shifting the witch back so he could position himself at her entrance. Then he began to caress and kiss her again, making the witch relax once more, moving his mouth down and kissing her throat gently before leaning her back and suckling her breasts, listening to her moans and feeling her lust rising.

"I can be a very tender lover, can't I Hermione?" he asked the gasping witch. Gods, his mouth was amazing.

"Very tender," she responded.

"You know that isn't my nature, however," he said silkily.

"Yesssss," Hermione sighed, her eyes closed in pleasure.

"Good," he replied, sliding his hands to her waist and yanking the witch forward with a loud grunt, impaling her hard, stretching her around him. Hermione keened, her eyes flying wide open with shock as Severus started riding her viciously, wrapping one arm around her body and trapping her in place, pulling her into his stroke with all his might.

Hermione screamed as he drove through her, but she never once said stop. Severus was a masochist's dream. Make no mistake about it, Hermione was a masochist. And her dark need was being fed to the hilt by the Potions Master, his pale face contorted with pleasure and concentration as he tore into her jerking body, sheathing himself as deep as he could go, showing the witch when it came to sex, potions wasn't the only art he was the master of.

The wizard pushed Hermione down so she lay on top of his legs and pulled her knees up on his shoulders, his dark eyes wild with lust as he pulled her over him by the waist, staring down at her jerking body, her breasts bouncing wildly, the witch arching upward and crying out as he pummeled her body.

"Yes, witch. You got your tenderness…now I get mine," he gasped at her, Hermione too incoherent to hear him…she could only feel him as he spread his legs and leaned forward, grasping her shoulders as she lay on the bed now, her thighs around his waist. He began to pull her into him by her shoulders, his veins in his arm standing out from his efforts as the witch slid over him deliciously, her warm, wet sleeve gushing loudly as he thrust into her, perspiration streaming down his chest, his hair sticking to his face. Her fluids coated his loins and the scent of sex was heavy in the air. This was what the wizard loved. No holds barred shagging.

Hermione began to shudder and the Potions Master pulled out and flung himself on top of her, driving as deep as he could go in the witch, who was coated with sweat. Severus pressed his toes into the headboard for leverage, stroking the witch so hard and fast he began to drive her body down the bed. He followed her, walking on his hands until her head hung over the end of the bed. Then Hermione burst, screaming the wizard's name at the top of her lungs.

"Yes…fuck yes!" Severus hissed, falling to her exposed throat and sucking on it hungrily as he approached his own climax, flexing into the quaking, orgasming witch desperately as she pulsed around him, tightening and releasing, squeezing pleasure from his thick organ. His nads drew up sharply into tight stones and the wizard let out a long, shuddering howl as he ejaculated, arching into Hermione, his seed blasting through him, the bedroom seeming to whirl around him as he pitched over the edge of bliss, locked in the witch's body, feeling part of her once more.

She dimly heard Severus howl before he filled her, his body shuddering powerfully. The witch couldn't tell where he ended and she began as the wizard's organ pulsed inside her pulse, her throb, her release. Their bodies were locked together as if one beating heart, one trembling, throbbing entity…she couldn't ever remember experiencing such closeness with any man as she did now.

She could feel the wizard's climax come to a close and heard Severus sigh as he shifted and moved back, slipping out of her, then his strong hands gripped her shoulders, gently pulling her back into the bed so her head rested on the mattress. Then he lay back on top of her, locking his mouth to hers and kissing her deeply, still breathing heavily.

Hermione wrapped her arms around the wizard and held him, feeling him go boneless as he broke the kiss and relaxed on her, his face resting in her hair. The wizard seemed unwilling to break contact with her body. She couldn't stay like this for long…he was heavy, but for right now she could take his weight. There was a delicious ache between her legs that Hermione knew would turn into real pain if she didn't get hold of some purple potion within the next half hour or so, but she loved the sting of him.

Suddenly Severus shifted and lifted his head, looking down at her, fire still evident in his dark eyes.

"Gods…that had to be the best orgasm I ever had witch," he said to her, pushing her tangled hair out of the way and studying her face. Was she really his?

Yes. She was. All his for as long as she wanted him. Severus intended to make her want him forever.

Hermione gave him a tired smile.

"I told you I could give you equal pleasure," she said softly.

Severus arched an eyebrow at her. As far as he was concerned he did most of the work. A great orgasm was the result of a great effort, after all. But he didn't say anything. Yet. He simply kissed the witch then slowly rolled off of her body, aware his weight was making her breathing labored.

Severus lay on his back, stretched out his arm and slipped it under Hermione's shoulders. For the first time in his life, the Potions Master drew a woman close against him, wanting her contact after sex. It felt rather good. He felt Hermione softly kiss his cheek and closed his eyes, sighing contently as he felt her satisfaction wash over him.

Yes. Hermione Granger was just what the healer ordered to cure a cold, unfeeling life.

Several months later Severus and Hermione were still going strong, the Potions Master keeping clothes in the witch's wardrobe and shoes under her bed. Hermione found him excellent company outside of the bedroom as well and enjoyed having someone intelligent and informed to talk to, debate and downright argue with.

It took some patience on the witch's part to make the wizard understand he could not order her about, patience and banishment from her bed until he saw reason. Usually by the time he saw reason, Hermione was cross-eyed with need. This suited the wizard just fine because whenever he returned to her bed after a separation, he took her brutally, reclaiming her thoroughly. But Hermione always knew what would happen. In fact, she couldn't wait for it.

Severus was quite possessive and jealous. He did not take kindly to any wizard even eyeing his witch, much less talking to her. Hermione had a time with him about this, but Hermione was his first real relationship and he was taking no chances on losing her. Yet, he almost did when she discovered he had put a tracking charm on her to see where she went each day. The witch was livid when she found out and broke up with him. It took several weeks and an admission from him that he was scared of losing her that made her accept the wizard back, on the condition that he trust her.

"It's not you I don't trust, Hermione…it's other wizards like me," he said, his nostrils flared.

"You're just going to have to trust I can handle any potential suitor, Severus," she replied, her hands on her hips.

The wizard had no choice but to trust her. As they spent more time together, he realized that he had nothing to fear with the witch. She was as good as her word. And it was a good thing she could handle the occasional interested wizard, because if Severus had to do it…he would be transfiguring corpses and hiding them away.

As for Vargas, Fletch and Jackson, each received fifty years in Azkaban for their crimes. Vargas' lawyer argued his sentence down from seventy-five years. The Potions Master had to make a public apology to the wizards whose work he had stolen, pay reparations and his estate was dissolved to restore lost residuals. His victims received credit for all of their work.

Severus thought he got off easy.

Ron married Susannah and seven months later they had a red-haired blue-eyed son named Harry Arthur Weasley. Hermione and a scowling Severus attended the wedding, the Potions Master distinctly uncomfortable at the glazed look on the face of every unmarried witch in attendance, including Hermione. He was never so happy to leave an occasion in all his life.

And Raucous happily continued to live at Hogwarts, never visiting Hermione's domain and shitting on unsuspecting students and teachers alike.

Both Severus and Hermione were rolling in galleons from the licensing of the "Aisle of Non-magic" spell, and new interesting potions were popping up at potions conventions all over the wizarding world, demonstrated by new and old Potions Masters and Mistresses alike, the five-year rule having been overturned.

Severus wanted Hermione to purchase a larger home in the country, but the witch liked her little house and her neighborhood.

"Think of Bagheera, Hermione. He would be able to run about freely and work off that thick middle he's been developing."

Bagheera, who was lying on the sofa, gave Severus a narrow-eyed look.

"I am not fat," he said to the wizard, showing a bit of fang. But then again, the cat always showed fang. He had sabers after all.

Severus was unfazed by the display. He and the panther got along fine.

"You are well on your way, Bagheera," the wizard replied, his black eyes resting on the cat's round middle.

He had been eating quite well since Hermione came into her own, having learned how to make orders for deliveries himself. And he always believed in treating himself well.

Bagheera snarled at the wizard and rolled over, facing away from him, his tail lashing like a whip.

"He's going to get as fat as Crookshanks was," Severus said to Hermione, who was leafing through a magazine. They had been over this before. She looked up at his comment.

"Crookshanks was not fat. He was fluffy," she retorted.

"Thirty pounds is a lot of fluff," Severus replied. "The poor cat only had one life instead nine, he was so overweight. He might have lasted longer if you treated him like a cat instead of a king."

Hermione's eyes slid over to Bagheera. He was getting quite thick around the middle, and was nowhere near as active as he had been. Even the catnip ball failed to get him going anymore.

Hermione loved her familiar.

"Maybe you're right," Hermione said, looking at the panther.

Bagheera rolled over suddenly, his eyes wide with shock.

"You think I'm fat?" he asked Hermione, his golden eyes hurt.

"No. No, Bagheera. But I think a place where you would be free to run around might not be a bad idea," she said soothingly.

"You think I'm going to keel over before my time like your other cat," the panther said accusingly.

"No, that's not going to happen," Hermione said.

Severus smirked.

Gryffindors were so easy. He had manipulated Hermione, but not for sex…so the oath she took didn't protect her from him in this matter.

In about two months, Hermione had purchased a large eight-bedroom home. It had a huge basement and she set up a killer laboratory. Severus promptly broke in each bedroom with the witch, dragging her from room to room until they got through them all, then starting at the beginning again. He also broke in the kitchen, dining room, the pantry and several broom closets. Hermione was exhausted.

Severus himself still resided at Hogwarts, seeing no need to purchase a home when he could stay at Hermione's house whenever he wanted. However, since he did convince her to buy the house, he helped pay for it, but did not put his name on the deed. It belonged to the witch.

And the witch belonged to him.

Hermione stood in her lab at the Ministry nervously. She had been working on the Switching Potion and it was time to test it on human subjects. Hermione really didn't want to do this. It seemed so cruel to use prisoners who had no say in the matter.

Several nifflers waited in their cages…the witch deciding that it would be easier to tell if any residual connection existed if she did the switch with an animal and human subject. Animal behavior in a man would be easy to observe, rather than an emotional one.

She tapped her foot and looked at the clock on the wall. Her subject should have been here an hour ago. Suddenly there was a knock on the lab door.

Hermione spun.

"Come in," she called.

The door opened and two Aurors entered with a prisoner between them. He was protesting fiercely. Hermione took one look at him and her eyes widened.

"Master Vargas?" she said in amazement.

The prisoner looked at her, then immediately began to struggle.

"NO! NO!" the wizard cried as the Aurors dragged him over to a very strong wooden chair, bolted to the floor with built-in restraints for his wrists and ankles.

Hermione gave him a very nasty grin as the Aurors bolted him into the chair.

"There you go, Mistress Granger," one Auror said, "Hopefully you'll do something about that mouth of his. It goes on and on."

The Aurors left.

Master Vargas' gray eyes watched Hermione as she extracted a niffler from its cage, took out a syringe and drew a bit of blood from it. She put the niffler back in the cage, then walked over to another counter, picked up a small bottle and pulled some liquid into the blood-filled needle. She shook it, eyeing the wizard.

"What kind of experiment is this?" the wizard demanded as Hermione approached him with the needle, a grim look on her face.

"You'll see in a minute," Hermione replied, sticking the needle into his arm through his uniform and injecting him.

The wizard swore at her, then after a moment, his eyes rolled up into his head and he slumped. Hermione looked over at the niffler. It had fallen on its side, out cold.

After about fifteen minutes, the wizard in the chair roused. His eyes were empty and his nose quivering. He looked about the room in confusion. He tried to talk but all that came out of his mouth was babble.

"Niffler," Hermione said, jotting down her observations. Suddenly a loud rattle came from behind her and Hermione turned to see the niffler that she drew the blood from standing up on its hind legs and rattling the bars with its paws wildly, chittering in rage.

"Vargas," Hermione said with a smile, jotting down some more notes.

When she contacted Azkaban by two-way mirror for information about Vargas' behavior, she was told that if anything made of gold came within fifty meters of him, he'd go berserk, that he had developed a habit of licking himself all over and that Azkaban no longer had an insect problem.

Nifflers loved bugs.

Hermione thanked them for keeping tabs on the wizard and closed the connection. She was just putting her notes away when Severus entered the lab.

"Ready?" he asked her, his dark eyes resting on her lab coat.

For some reason, seeing Hermione dressed like that stoked his libido. He had taken her on several occasions with her wearing it. It was the intelligence factor. He loved putting it to such a brilliant witch until every coherent thought was lost and all she knew was him. His black eyes glinted.

"Damn," Hermione said as she looked at him. "I should have taken this coat off before you got here."

Severus smirked at her.

"Too late now witch. You've flicked my 'on' switch. You know there's only one way to cut it off," he purred at her. "You might as well wear it home."

Severus knew about on and off switches because the magical world now had electricity in some parts thanks to the manipulation of the "Non-magical Aisle" spell. He had invested in the building of a power plant as well as a cable company and a construction company that specialized in running electrical wiring. He was making a fortune as it caught on. The Potions Master still worked at Hogwarts, however. He couldn't imagine living life without pupils to browbeat and terrify.

Hermione sighed, but Severus caught the naughty pulse that signified she was quite amicable about getting royally reamed. He smirked again, silently thanking the gods for the connection he shared with the witch. It made life so much easier.

Indeed, life had never been so good.


A/N: And that is the end of the Bang Series. I hope you enjoyed it and thanks for reading.