They had been circling each other for months.

It was a dance of advance and retreat, sometimes coming close enough to touch, coy, almost flirtatious but never enough to be sure. And Severus Snape was not one to proceed without the proper reconnaissance. He was a patient man, prepared to hang back for as long as it took.

Hermione, however, was rapidly losing patience. The man was inscrutable. Just when she was sure she was reading him correctly, sure that he would take that last step towards her, he would change direction and leave her baffled again. The frustration was killing her. Enough was enough.

iAt least we've graduated from meeting in the Potions lab or staffroom to meeting in our private quarters/i she thought.

Looking around her bedroom, Hermione smiled. The bed was laid with soft cotton sheets and luxurious feather blankets just begging to be warmed by more than the crackling fire. The lights were dim, firelight casting long shadows on the stone walls and warming the room slightly. To one side of the room was a tray piled with fresh fruit, juice and biscuits. A wave of her wand was followed by strains of soft music flooding the room. She was ready. It was his birthday today and Severus would never know what hit him.

Hours later, curled on the couch together, sipping wine and enjoying a comfortable lull in their animated conversation, Hermione saw her opening.

"Severus?"

"Hmm?" He turned towards her, his dark gaze intense.

"I haven't forgotten your birthday. I have something for you, something that I've wanted to share with you for some time now…"

His gaze sharpened. "Indeed?"

"Yes," she rose fluidly from the couch and reached for his hand to draw him along with her. "Come, and I'll show you."

Silently, he rose to accompany her as she led him across the room to the door of her private chamber. He paused for a moment, and looked startled. "In your bedroom, Hermione? You have something for me in your ibedroom/i?"

She smiled, "What I have for you, Severus, is not only in my bedroom, but that is where I would like to be when I give it to you." Without a backward glance, she continued through the door to the dimly lit room, the soft music greeted them like a warm embrace. She stopped near the bed and turned around to find Severus standing just inside the doorway, eyes devouring her. She smiled and opened her arms to him.

"I've been waiting…"

The sound of his voice sent a shiver of anticipation through her. "Far be it from me to keep my lady waiting…" He moved swiftly into the circle of her arms and drew her more firmly against his body. She could feel the rapid beating of his heart and without pausing to think, lifted her mouth to kiss the pulse point on his neck. His hiss of surprise and pleasure sent her pulse soaring.

"Are you ready for your present, Severus?" she asked softly between soft kisses planted along his jaw.

He nodded, watching her through hooded eyes. His hands had roamed from her back and shoulders to tangle in her wild curls. Hermione pulled them free, gently, and kissed the palms of his hands before taking a step back from him.

"Your gift, Severus, has been yours for the taking for months now. I've not been sure, though, that you wanted…" she hesitated, as she loosened the bindings of her robe and let the silken garment slide from her body to pool on the floor at her feet. She stood before him, clad only in the firelight, for a moment the look on his face was unreadable, masklike. And then he laughed. Joyful, jubilant, even, the sound of his laughter and the image of the smile that accompanied it lit his face and transformed it. Before she could respond, he moved towards her again, this time to cup her face with his strong hands and to lower his mouth to hers in a searing kiss.

Triumph and relief flooded Hermione in equal measure. She pulled away for a moment to catch her breath, and gasped at the look of lust and adoration in Severus' eyes. "Does this mean that your gift meets with your... satisfaction?" she asked, coyly.

He growled, and swept her into his arms. "Allow me to... demonstrate my satisfaction," he drawled as he moved to the bed. Hermione shivered and reached for the fastenings of his robes as he laid her in the centre of the bed. With trembling hands, she finally succeeded in releasing him from his outer garment and hurriedly fumbled with the buttons of his shirt. Impatient, she pulled his shirttails free of his trousers and attempted to lift it over his head.

"Allow me, my dear," said Severus in a low voice. Standing alongside the bed, he slowly removed his shirt, and then unbuckled his trousers as he toed off his shoes and socks. Divesting himself of the layers of his fabric armor, his gaze never wavered. Transfixed, she watched as he stripped, finally shaking free to allow her eyes to take in the details of his body.

He was lean, just as she had imagined, his long limbs graceful and strong. Hermione let her eyes wander along the lines of his broad chest and flat abdomen, noting the sprinkling of dark hair leading to a treasure line and… iSo that's why it's called a treasure line…/i Hermione thought to herself as her eyes found the evidence of his arousal. Hermione licked her lips in anticipation as her eyes devoured him. His deep chuckle roused her from her absorption and she lifted her eyes to his piercing gaze.

"It would appear that I am not the only one in receipt of a gift tonight…" he murmured as he moved swiftly towards the bed. Before she could respond, his hands and mouth were on her again and she was lost to the taste and smell and ifeel/i of him as he kissed and nipped and stroked her body to a fever pitch. Without conscious intent, her hands were roaming, too. Caressing the smooth skin of his arms and tracing the firm curve of his bum until finally, she began to stroke his abdomen in a way that drew a growl from his throat.

"Touch me, Hermione," he gasped, shifting his body so that she could grasp and stroke him with both hands. "Ahhhhhh, like that, yes." The sight of him, reclining next to her, head thrown back, eyes closed, body flushed with arousal and anticipation, coupled with the increasingly needy and inarticulate sounds of pleasure he was making pushed Hermione to the edge. Throwing one leg over his prone body to straddle him, she sensually rubbed her body against him, drawing a deep moan from Severus. He opened his eyes to find her poised above him, hair wild, cheeks flushed, skin golden in the soft light.

He moved swiftly, strong hands gripping her hips, guiding her until they were joined, his hips rocking upwards, meeting her with strong thrusts. They moved together slowly at first, eyes locked as their rhythm gradually became more rapid, urgent. Hermione ran her hands over her body, desperately seeking ever more stimulation and Severus groaned, voice rough with his arousal. "No, let me…" he whispered as his hands took over, stroking her until she cried out her need.

The sound of her voice was met with another deep groan as Severus grasped her hips and rolled them both so that he was above her. Hermione wrapped her legs around his lean back and rocked in rhythm with his increasingly powerful thrusts. His mouth on hers, one hand clutching her head and the other stroking her where they were joined, his murmurs of passion and adoration were as thrilling to Hermione as the sensations caused by his body in and above her. Her voice joined his in a high-pitched keen of desire as the intensity of the pleasure they were giving one another built to a fever pitch.

And with a few powerful thrusts, Severus pushed them both to the precipice. His roar of pleasure, met with her cries were followed by the sounds of frantic kisses and muffled murmurs whose words were less meaningful than their melody.

Long moments later, still tangled together, he spoke. "Your gift," his hands languidly stroked her hair, "it is just what I have been hoping for." He gazed at her, and she thought she detected a hint of uncertainty in his expression.

"Your gift, Severus," she said softly, "is packaged here," she grasped his hand and ran it along the length of her body. "But it is what is beneath the packaging that I've been longing to give to you." She hesitated for a moment before bringing his hand to her chest and pressing it to her heart. She held his gaze as he absorbed her words.

Tenderly, he brought his lips to hers and murmured, "It is just as well, then, as my heart has already been given, and surely you don't have room in there for two…" The hope and vulnerability in his face warmed her nearly as much as the heat from his body as he lowered himself to her once more.

Finite