Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter or anything recognizable to the HP-Universe, JK Rowling does. I'm not making any money off the writing of this fanfic.

Warning: This work of fanfiction is rated Mature because of language and adult content. If you are not of the appropriate age to read this fic, please do not read any further.


Chapter 25 - Amantes Sunt Amentes

Much earlier than she expected or really hoped, the ticker counting down to the New Year reached the final minutes. Hermione stared at the glowing green numbers absently. To say the year had spun by quickly and almost without notice was perhaps a broad sweeping generalization, but in many ways, it had.

She riffled through her mental catalogue of achievements and nearly came up empty. In the prior twelve months she had launched three new inventions. Six more were in various stages of production. A further twenty-five were up and coming on the docket. She had made time to be at each of her friends' birthday celebrations and declined her own.

She had gotten married.

Married.

Her mind lurched and stalled, hitting an invisible barrier. The best thing she had to say about the outgoing year was she had gotten married. 'Till death do us part' and all that. The best thing she had to look forward to in the coming year was spending time with her husband.

Hermione glanced at Severus who'd come up behind her, awkwardly reaching for her shoulders and pulling her into his warm chest, as if he was uncertain she would rebuff his affections.

She didn't. The comfort felt good. Hermione leaned back and welcomed the feel of him, her eyes peering past the shifting numbers, not quite seeing them. Lying against Severus' chest was relaxing, and being in such close proximity to him she was able to thickly inhale his clean soapy herbal scent. His hammering heartbeat brought a small smile to her lips. This man was hers. As much as she belonged to him. Briefly, righteous feminist indignation rose to the forefront of her mind and she tampered it down.

Ten.

Severus folded his arms around her chest, his fingers grazing her own.

Nine.

Hermione closed her eyes, giving in to the sensation of being held. Of being warm, and wanted, and perhaps even loved.

Eight.

Severus' cheek nuzzled her own. There was a faint rasping from some stubble, but his skin was rather smooth and softer than she imagined.

Seven.

Blood pounded in her ears. Her heart thumped wildly beneath her breast, echoing the tattoo beat she could feel through their layers.

Six.

Hermione let him turn her in his arms.

Five.

Her arms intuitively wrapped around his waist.

Four.

She stared intensely at the line of cloth buttons running up his chest. Every thought process and higher brain function seemed to have shut down in order to feel. All nerve endings in her body tingled and sparked to each nuance of his touch.

Three.

His fingers tangled in her hair, reflexively massaging the knot at the base of her neck. Hermione fought the urge not to moan and failed miserably.

Two.

She knew. He was going to kiss her and her breath hitched.

One.

He didn't move.

She was about to voice her protest until her eyes glanced up to lock on to his own glittering black irises. Hermione was caught in his penetrating stare and offered her own wide-eyed acceptance in return. She'd berate herself and pretend it didn't happen later. 'Now' she silently ordered with her mind, willing him to know, 'Kiss me now.'

Hermione heard his sharp inhalation of breath before his lips lightly touched hers, silently begging for permission. She felt a sweep of desire brush through her body as his moist lips suckled against her own. His mouth opened and she delicately traced his lower lip with her tongue; the contact was electric and she curled her fingers into his sides bunching the fine fabric, drawing him into her. Severus gently reciprocated, swirling her tongue with his, encouraging her response and savoring her champagne taste. His soft kiss left her breathlessly dizzy and humming soft sounds of satisfaction. The fingers massaging the back of her neck, angling her head to reach him sent the most arousing tingles down her spine to the apex of her thighs.

Her knees could not support her weight, but he held her boneless in his arms. Delirious, Hermione sighed her disapproval when Severus lifted his lips from hers.

She stood for a moment, still grasping his robes to regain her balance as the world refocused and slowly righted itself on its axle. She had kissed Severus Snape. Willingly.

She stepped away and tried to let her analytical brain reengage. Never mind the fact that it was the best damn kiss she could remember… ever. Ignoring that she wanted it. Forgetting the arousal that was still there, pooling in her belly. Pushing out of her mind the desire to do it again. She had kissed Severus Snape.

Hermione tried to make a face of distaste and couldn't. She settled on reproach and self-recrimination. Severus noticed the grimace immediately; hell, he expected it. It was history repeating itself. Lily Evans – Hermione Granger, it didn't matter; it was all the same story. The saga of a Muggle-born Gryffindor witch, a well trodden path to destruction. She would not love him either; she could not even bear his touch. This time he just hoped the girl would spare an ounce of compassion for his heart before she broke it.

"It's tradition," he soothed.

"Of course it is," she nodded numbly. The placating excuse could cover the kiss. It could not however cover her response, or the stomach clenching desire to kiss him again… No, the desire was to do more than just kiss the man. This was not what she signed up for. Definitely not the plan. She couldn't do this, couldn't let herself desire her ex-Professor.

How would she be able to face anyone again? How could she face him if he knew she wanted him? Oh, he'd tease her. Decades stretched before her, and she couldn't be married to a man who laughed at her weakness, laughed at her desire for him. He'd exploit that. No. That could not happen. Would not happen. She wouldn't give him the ammunition he needed to break her.

'It's tradition,' he had said. Just a tradition. The kiss meant nothing to him. He didn't really want her. And he'd likely mock her if she let on that she wanted him.

'Shit,' she gulped to herself. 'Shit!'

Panic was starting to set in as she drew breath faster, but shallower as if the air somehow lacked all oxygen. The tightness in her chest gripped her harder, causing her to pant as Hermione scrambled for her beaded purse.

It felt as if Death's icy fingers were clutching around her chest. 'No no no no no no no…' she repeated in her head, in her heart. It was wrong. Everything was wrong and tinged in gray. She clenched her teeth so they would not feel like shards of glass in her mouth as she rummaged deeper into the bag's recesses.

"Hermione?" Severus called out, anxiety tipping his rich voice. She swallowed thickly and ignored him. Allowing herself to pretend he cared for her was wrong. She was only duping herself by accepting his concern. Severus Snape cared for no one save himself.

"Where is it?" she hissed nearly sticking her face into the bag.

What was she thinking? Clearly she wasn't thinking. No, not about anything. She could feel Severus' presence as he shifted behind her. He was probably gloating. Had she not insisted that she would Never-Ever touch him? The smug bastard had to have been greedily rubbing his hands together, plotting her ruin and ogling her backside as she recklessly tore through the damnable handbag.

Ron's words from long ago taunted her, 'Are you a witch or not?'

Drawing her wand, Hermione aimed it at the blue bag and raggedly screamed, "Accio physician's case!"

With stiff troubled fingers Hermione wrenched the case open and quickly found the whiskey colored vial she so desperately sought. Somewhere, from the end of a long tunnel someone yelled at her not to drink the elixir. As she poured the golden relief down her throat Hermione didn't give a damn about the voice.

Her eyes closed tightly, shutting out all light; she knew when they reopened her world would have taken on a brilliant, slightly amber-ish hue, but for the suspended moment in time she wanted to hold on to the feel of the potion coursing through her veins. She just needed this bliss. The feeling of her bird-like heartbeat returning to normal. The beads of sweat now feeling cool against her skin instead of feeling clammy and burning up. The faint voice was raging, but she shrugged unconcerned. She'd deal with the voice later. Whenever. For the moment she felt woozier than the time she took up the Headmaster's offer of a lemon drop.

Severus clenched his wandhand intuitively, silently praying for self control. He had never once hexed a student, a feat alone that should have garnered him an Order of Merlin at the very least. He just didn't know if he could keep from strangling his wife.

He couldn't hit her. Severus swallowed knowing he couldn't touch the witch. If he laid an angry hand on her, he'd never stop. His fist connected with the god-damned calendar clock duo and it hit the floor violently. With little effort he kicked it across the cell again, smashing it against the wall. It wasn't enough. As Hermione looked on, her sleepy eyes half closed, Severus grabbed every book he could reach.

Distantly, she could hear the cell being destroyed. The loud noises made her jump a bit.

Prying fingers wrapped around her own and she fought for control of the now empty glass. Her eyes opened to stare into the enraged face of Snape, his uneven teeth directly in front of her, close enough that she could smell the hint of strawberries and alcohol. Vaguely she understood he'd been shouting. As her pupils warred between contracting and dilating, the distant shouting became clearer, sharper… damned bit louder too.

He seemed to be expecting some kind of answer from her. Not that she knew what the question was. Well, whatever the question was, it didn't matter.

"I don't answer to you, Snape," she replied blandly, feeling as if the statement quite appropriately applied to any question he posed.

"The hell you don't," he snarled. "What the fuck is wrong with you, Granger?"

"Stop shouting in my ear," she said dully. "It's so unnecessary, I'm right here."

"I'll shout wherever I god-damned want, you stupid fucking bint!"

"In which case it's probably best I leave then." Hermione scooped up the heavy physician's case and fumbled to replace it in the bag before Severus snatched it from her fingers. "Whatever," she rolled her eyes, "I'll get it later."

Her pea coat dragged across the floor, feeling like the wool was saturated in water as she wrestled with it. And damn that man if he didn't grab that from her too.

Hermione tried to glare at him in the eye… with the eye that was mostly open. He was still yelling. Perhaps a screaming tirade was a better description, as there were quite a lot of cuss words involved. Severus Snape appeared to favor the 'F-bomb.' He also spit when he shouted. It was oddly fascinating. When Hermione realized she was staring at his flying spittle, it slowly registered that staring was considered rude, and she came to the conclusion that she needed to make another stab at leaving.

The wizard had her case, her coat, and maybe her purse… it might have been someplace about… but she had her wand, which she leveled in what should have been a threatening way at his chest. His chest, which was really hard to get a lock on because of all the swaying he was doing, but it didn't matter; she was done for the evening. Or maybe she'd stop for a drink with the boys.

Hermione raised her voice shrilly to be heard over his growling shit-fit. "If you're quite finished, I'll be going now."

She turned rather too quickly, stumbling drunkenly, as she lurched for the exit. She was nearly there when his hands clamped down hard on her shoulders causing her to squeak.

"If you take another step towards that door, I'll really give you something to scream about."

There was something sinister about his tight clipped voice. The way it quietly dripped with venom cut through the dense fog surrounding her head, and she didn't doubt him. She swayed slightly, not trusting her own voice to give an acceptable reply. His hand grasped around her forearm and he tugged her back to the bed where she ungracefully sat dumbfounded.

For his part, Severus was desperately trying to remember why he wasn't allowed to kill her. There was some reason why he mustn't kill the Muggle-born witch, but he was damned if he could remember why. It certainly seemed like a good idea… if she didn't O.D. first.

His face thrust into hers as he knelt between her legs. Severus' concerned eyes flicked over the thick rivulets of sweat that were pouring like seawater down her brow. Hermione watched his lips moving trying to focus on them even though he was so close she felt her eyes crossing up. She smiled just a bit at his large dark cycloptic eye. What a funny looking man.

"Hermione," he badgered her over and over again, repeating her name until she gave an indication of paying attention. Her eyes were disturbingly glassy and fully dilated, her lips slackened and slightly parted. Her breathing had finally slowed down from the earlier panic, but now was so light her chest barely rose. He didn't like the sudden sickly pallor of her skin either.

As much as he wanted to beat her senseless, and rage at her foolishness, and scream obscenities all night long, and possibly plunge her head into a tub of ice water, he was honestly worried for her safety. Even with her full physician's kit at his disposal, there wasn't a single potion he could safely administer to her. The best he could do was wait it out and hope she didn't develop a fever.

"You silly girl," he whispered into her hair. "You can't mix alcohol with anti-depressants."

Hermione snickered.

He'd take it as a good sign.


A/N:

This chapter is dedicated to the indestructible Snapes_Goddess. Give him hell babe.

Chapter title: Amantes Sunt Amentes - Lovers are lunatics

I must thank Christev20 for her awesome beta skills. If it weren't for her all of my sentences would end in prepositions.

Thank you for reading. Please be kind and leave a review. -AV