In her mind, he was nibbling at her collarbone, the sharp graze of his teeth soothed by the velvet warmth his tongue. She arched her neck and her head fell back against the shelf, imagining the deep rumble of his purr vibrating in her skin. His hand came up and cupped her breast, fingertips brushing along the sensitive flesh that curved beneath, thumb playing over the hard nub of her nipple. He laughed when she gasped, doing it again in concert with a delicate bite right where her neck and shoulder met. Her entire body thrummed in response, twisting and curling around him, hands fluttering ineffectively as she fought the urge to push him away because it was too much.

"Granger, is there a problem?"

She froze, her eyes opening wide even as she pulled back into the deep shadow of the storeroom. "Uh -- No, sir. Still trying to find it." She swallowed, silently cursing herself for a moment of weakness her first month on the job. She knew he was a Legilimens, and she was always terrified that he would glance at her and know exactly just what it was she'd been daydreaming about. She knew it wasn't that simple but still. She had enough strikes against her -- Gryffindor, Gryffindor, oh and let's see, Gryffindor? She didn't need him to know she was hopelessly infatuated with him on top of everything else.

"It's in the same place it always is," he muttered, standing in the doorway and blotting out what little light there was. "Perhaps if you lit the lamp?" His wand tip flared and the sphere of light left it and moved into the hanging lantern.

"No need for that. See, it's right here." She emerged from behind the shelves, looking a touch flustered, holding the dusty jar of Boomslang Skin. "It just took a moment." She breezed passed him and back into the research laboratory.

He turned to watch her go, his brow knitted in consternation. "Is everything all right?"

"Fine, now can we get back to this?" She released the stasis wards on the jar with a flick of her wrist, and with deft hands, laid out the best pieces on her cutting board. "I'd like to actually be done by dinner time."

He raised an eyebrow at her, his lips pressed together in a fine line. "As you wish."

Severus lay his quill across the pages of his scroll and sighed. She'd been organizing the same three shelves for an hour. The soft clinking of bottles kept distracting him, as did the way she hummed under her breath. And the way she knelt on the counter and sat on her heels. He wished he'd never let her wear jeans instead of proper robes. 'Only for tidying,' she'd said. He had no idea why he'd acquiesced so easily.

Every so often, she would glance up and catch his eye, only to look away quickly.

It was enough to gain a glimpse of her surface thoughts. She had grand plans for his storeroom. And perhaps for the research lab. And hold on, what was this?

Beneath her work concerns, behind her desire to appear professional and diligent, there was a figure. A figure, all in black. At first, he thought he recognized himself but it couldn't be, he thought. It was entirely without head or hands.

He resisted the urge to peer deeper into her thoughts, but a strange image caught his attention, and his curiosity got the better of him. He watched as she lay her head upon the figure's shoulder. The figure's arms came up and enclosed her in an embrace. In her mind, he heard the contented sigh from her lips. He closed the connection and forced his eyes back to the page.

Hermione looked up when she heard the snap of his quill, but she knew better than to ask questions when the storm clouds gathered on his brow.

For the third night in a row, she made her way back through the twisting hallways, down to the dungeons. He had insisted she take a dinner break, chased her out muttering something beneath his breath about giving him a chance to catch up. She'd eaten in her room, flipping through the latest trade journals and making notes.

She tucked the scrolls under her arm and then reached out a hand to touch one of the tapestries as she passed. They worked well together, she thought. Three new potions in as many weeks, all documented and ready for trials. She had taken over the odious task of documenting their experiments, leaving him time to research and experiment. They'd discussed different methodologies, often for hours at a go, and other times, they worked all day without exchanging a word. Hermione admired working with someone who didn't have to think out loud. After two years at university, Hermione was glad to be in a lab where her partner didn't mind working to begin with.

Save they weren't really partners, she mused, her fingertips trailing along the cool stone of the wall. He directed the research. She did all the grunt work. He lectured. He'd always been good at lecturing. Now that they were one on one, he tended to be more tolerant of her questions. Lines of questioning turned into theoretical discussions. He even occasionally admitted to not knowing the answers, and joined her in thumbing through some of the more esoteric texts in his collection to find the answer. He'd even lent her a book or two.

Perhaps they were partners of a sort. Perhaps there was something to strive for there. She pushed open the door to his lab and was pleased to see him checking over her latest batch of results.

"Ah, you're back. Good." They settled into to their routine with hardly a word needing to be spoken. Not even when she offered to take his coat and he accepted.

She lingered as she hung it on the hook, letting her fingers mark each button on each sleeve. She brushed lint off the shoulders and straightened the collar. Her hands trailed down the front, as her skin devoured the fading warmth of his body.

Snape pretended not to watch.

There came a moment when her yawning would no longer be suppressed. She rubbed her eyes and stared at the contents of the cauldron. No change. She stretched her arms wide and sighed as her back cracked. A quick stasis charm ensured that the mixture wouldn't be disturbed, and she could finally get some sleep.

She glanced across the laboratory, through the open door of his office where she could hear the murmur of paper and quill. The soft orange glow of his fire warmed the shadows. He was probably still grading first year scrolls. She stood and collected her notes, slipping her robe back over her shoulders. She made a final pass over the counter tops, touching instruments, marking that the ingredients phials and jars were secured, making sure everything was in its place.

When she was certain that all was accounted for, she stuck her head into his office. "Sir, I'm quitting for the night. You'll be happy to know that..." Her voice trailed off as she realized he wasn't seated behind his desk.

His tea still steamed in its mug, his coat was draped over the back of the chair instead of hung on the hook, and his glasses were tucked into the seam of his book. She stood at the front of his desk, her fingertips resting on the ancient wood, just looking at the empty spot he was supposed to be filling.

As it had countless times before, the black frock coat drew her eyes. How such a simple garment could trap and keep her attention wasn't as much a mystery as she might like to suppose. It wasn't the softness of the wool, nor the contents of its pockets, which did inspire her curiosity. It wasn't even line of buttons that marked the front and the sleeves, the buttons she had counted over and over again, trying to distract herself from the gravelled treacle of his voice as he lectured.

No, it was much simpler than that. It smelled like him. Yes, it had a tint of noxious fumes, and the dinge that clung to everything down here in the dungeons, but underneath, his scent. She knew this because she'd brought it to him once or twice, after he'd left it behind in the laboratory. She'd left it hanging on his coat rack, and he'd never so much as said thank you for the simple courtesy.

It was more than courtesy, she knew. She rounded the desk and reached out to rest a hand on the wool clad shoulder, pretending for a moment that it wasn't a chair beneath. She was doting on him, like some lovestruck teenager, and he probably wished to spare her the embarrassment. Either that or he hadn't noticed at all.

All things considered, he was, and always would be, a git.

For some reason, that simple truth had never mattered to her. She eased herself down into the chair, her legs off the side. As if it was his lap she was sitting on. From here, she could fuss with the collar of the coat. It was worn, but not frayed. And yes, it did smell like him. She leaned closer, drawing the scent in with a deep breath and sighing.

Even Severus Snape might appreciate a pretty girl sitting on his lap, she speculated. The barest ghost of a grin teased the corner of her mouth.

He had impossibly long arms, she thought as she stroked down the sleeves. She held them out to the sides, just to gauge for a moment. The next moment, she had wrapped them around her waist as she nestled closer in his imaginary embrace. The wool was warm, as she imagined his body would be. She rested her head against his shoulder, closing her eyes as she imagined the feel of his cheek pressed against the crown of her head.

What would he feel like, she wondered? Would he hold her gingerly, like a porcelain doll he was afraid to break? Or would he hold her tightly, his strong arms pressing her close, unwilling to part with her? Would he pet her head? Or would his fingers weave beneath the brambles of her hair to stroke the nape of her neck? She shivered at the very idea.

"I'm sorry, shall I leave you two alone or would you prefer to go some place more private?"

Time stopped for Hermione.

She forgot to breathe. How long had he been standing there? She didn't know, but there was no casual explanation for this. She clenched her eyes shut tight, and prayed for some greater catastrophe to call him away. It didn't manifest and she opened a single eye to find him peering at her with what might have been a touch of concern.

He cocked an eyebrow her in question. "A curious man might wonder what you're doing with his coat, but it seems fairly obvious." He stood tall, arms cross over his chest. The terrible and imposing figure of her Potions Master. She could not face the whole of him in that excruciating moment. Later, she would remember only the details. The thin line of his mouth. The set of his jaw. The cuffs of his white shirt, rolled up to just below the elbow, the top few buttons undone at the collar, revealing a tantalizing glimpse of his throat.

"Professor," she stammered.

"I wonder if I need fear for the virtue of my quills or worse, my glassware." His brow furrowed at the last sentiment.

Her cheeks flushed crimson and she tried to rise from the chair, tried to elegantly arrange her limbs as she stood, tried to meet his gaze without flinching. It didn't work. She almost fell, caught herself, and banged her knee against the desk, hard enough to bring tears to her eyes.

He took a step forward and she held her hands out, palms outward. "No, I'm -- it's fine. I'm sorry." One hand still gripped the arm of the chair. The arm of his coat felt like a life line in her fingers.

"Hermione," he started and then stopped, his eyes going to her hand, white knuckled around the fistful of fabric.

She released it as if it were a red hot poker. "Look, let's just pretend you never saw this, all right?" She caught sight of the open door behind his shoulder and it seemed like a good idea to bolt for freedom.

Snape took one step to the side, the mass of his body blocking her path. She was too quick and darted around the other side of him. He waved his hand and the door closed shut in her face, the resounding concussion ringing in the small space. She came to an abrupt halt, her hands pressed flat against the smooth wood of the door.

He took a breath and sighed. "Don't go," he said, his voice modulated into a keen whisper, a command wrapped around something that might have been a plea.

She rested her forehead against the wood and willed herself to breathe. She heard a footstep and then another as he approached. She couldn't hide the frantic tone in her voice. "I didn't mean anything by it, I was just--I mean I knew you'd be back any minute--" A log popped in the fireplace and she jumped.

"Shh, it's all right." He loomed over her, leaning forward to rest a hand on the door beside her own. She could hear his breath, steady and deep, could feel the weight of his shadow, the force of his regard. "You've been acting strangely recently. Distracted, almost."

Her chest burned and her mouth had turned bone dry. She didn't dare move a muscle.

"I had suspected perhaps you and the Weasley boy were having problems. But then I heard you and he hadn't spoken for months. In fact, you haven't been seen in the company of any young gentleman since you left University. Rather unexpected for a young woman as..." He hummed, struggling to find the word, and then to voice it. "Attractive as you are, Hermione." Had he not been so close, he might not have heard the tiny gasp she made. "And yet you arrive early for work and you leave at the last possible moment?"

Words failed her completely, and all she could do was nod.

"You bring me sandwiches from the kitchen. You make my tea. Just the way I like it. " He raised a hand to brush a strand of hair back from her cheek, amazed when she shivered at the sound of his voice. "You hang up my coat."

She swallowed hard, and drawing on deep reserves of Gryffindor courage, turned to look at him, her eyes focusing on the unbuttoned collar of his linen shirt. She marked the line of his throat and his chin. The corners of his mouth were drawn down, and the furrow between his eyes was deep and dark. But his eyes were different. Dark as pitch, the normally harsh lines now grown soft.

He looked expectant. "Have we, perhaps, misunderstood each other?"

"Sir?" Her voice was barely more than a whisper.

He chose his words carefully, as if explaining something gently to a skittish first year holding a volatile combination of ingredients over a lit flame. "You did notice I adopted your shelving methodology, didn't you?"

She nodded.

"And your research grants were the first ones I approved." She looked confused for a moment. He blinked, trying to think. "Flourish & Botts, the special orders. For the parchment that you prefer?" He leaned closer and this time she didn't pull away.

"That was you?"

He closed the gap between them, pressing his nose into her hair and humming his affirmation. She whimpered as she felt his right hand come to rest on her hip, even as the fingers of his left hand wove through her own. "And all this time, I never realized you were only interested in my coat."

"You're my boss!" she said. "And the coat--" She exhaled sharply as he slipped his arm around her waist, echoing the way she'd been wrapped up mere moments before.

"What does the coat have to offer you that I couldn't give you, hmm?"

"It doesn't care that I'm--"

"What, Gryffindor? Muggleborn? My assistant?" A dry laugh escaped his lips. "I find when faced with the competition, I don't much care either." He bent and placed a chaste kiss on her shoulder, his embrace tightening as her knees gave way slightly. "Ah ah, no fainting allowed." He held her tight until she was steady on her feet. And then he bent and lifted her off the ground as if she weighed nothing.

Her arms threaded around his neck and she lay her head upon his shoulder, as she had imagined doing so many times before. Save now there was no coat between them. "I should go."

"You can't leave yet," he replied, carrying her a few steps to the leather, wing backed chair that sat beside the fire. He settled down, arranging her across his lap, her shoulder resting against his chest. One hand came up to brush her hair back from her face and to stroke her cheek. "You just got here." He spoke in a gentle voice she'd never heard him use before. "Is your knee all right?"

She nodded, trying not to tremble as she nuzzled against his hand. "You're not angry?"

"I'm livid," he said, his tone dry and a touch playful. "How dare you touch my things, Hermione?" His fingertip caressed down her jaw to her chin and he gently urged her to look at him.

"I'm sorry," she whispered. "I just couldn't resist."

"Oh well then. That's an excellent reason," he purred. He cocked an eyebrow at her in question, and she could see the ghost of a smirk hiding behind his eyes. He blinked and the smirk faded to something shuttered. She felt the subtle rising tension in his body. "Unless you've changed your mind--"

"No, please." Her hands caught his shoulders. She dared then to raise her hand to his face, her touch reverent as she brushed his hair back from his eyes, consciously echoing his earlier gesture.

He studied her face, his expression unreadable. "It is a fine coat," he postulated, letting the words calm the air between them. "It has no hands to grasp you. No mouth to speak harsh words."

"No lips to kiss," she corrected gently.

"It has no -- untoward desires. At the end of the day, you could hang it on the hook and be done with it." An unintended sharpness edged into his voice.

"It isn't the coat that I want, Severus." She toyed with the front of his shirt, terrified to meet his gaze.

"Tell me then," he whispered.

"The coat knows. I whispered my secrets into your pockets."

His hand shifted at her waist and he pulled her closer. "Tell me your secrets, Hermione."

She worried her lower lip between her teeth for a long moment, working up her courage even as she leaned so close to him, she could smell the hint of tea on his breath. "I'd prefer to show you."

On the surface, everything about him was sharp and cold as obsidian. Now, sitting on his lap, his hand fretting at her waist, she knew better. She forged on, committed to this, folly though it might be. His lips were warm and dry, and his grip at her waist tightened. She brushed her mouth over his and then ever so gently, her tongue darted out. There was a breathless moment when she thought she might have gone too far, and then he was yielding to her, each mouthful more eager than the last. His hand came up to weave in her hair and he turned his head slightly to deepen the kiss. She whimpered into his mouth and he made to pull away, but her grasping hands and her wordless protest changed his mind.

In a span of heart beats, she was kissing him frantically, fingers clutching the front of his shirt. He purred deep in his chest, one hand stilling hers before slipping beneath her mass of curls, fingertips caressing along the base of her neck before weaving in her hair. She sighed, savouring the feel of his mouth, his hands, his body. No daydream could ever compare to the sound of his voice and the warmth of his breath.

"I am a dead man," he growled and she made a questioning sound. His fingers tightened in her hair and he tipped her head back, kissing down her jaw, his teeth grazing over the tendon, making her moan. "McGonagall is going to have my head on a pike." She laughed, shivering as he nibbled at her collarbone. His own dark chuckle rippled over her like warm honey, and she melted against him, barely able to breathe.

Gasping, she pressed her hands flat against his chest and pushed, creating some distance. He looked up into her face, his expression one of smug satisfaction. "Too much?"

"No. No, not at all." Her fingertips covered her lips, as if in amazement, and then she touched his mouth. "I've just--my daydreams were never so--vivid."

He kissed her fingertips, and then gently sucked her fingers into his mouth. She made a sound in the back of her throat. He released her after a moment, leaning in to whisper. "It gets better."

She rested her forehead against his. "You tempt me. Dearly."

He pulled her even closer, but made no move to kiss her. After a long moment, he spoke, low and intense. "My heart is yours to do with as you please."

"What if I want to keep it?"

"If that is what you want..."

"For the rest of my life."

The corner of his mouth twisted upwards. "On one condition."


"That you give me yours in exchange. Merely as collateral."

Again, he completely overwhelmed her with his voice, his touch. The truth was on her lips before she had a chance to think. "You've stolen it already." She leaned in to kiss his mouth again.

He returned the kiss, fervent and gentle. "Also, you must promise not to accost my coat. I have to teach in it, and the idea of you..."

"You shall have to buy another to teach in," she teased.

He grumbled, his hands dipping down to skim beneath the hem of her shirt, boldly touching bare flesh. "Let's negotiate on that point, shall we?"

She hummed her assent, and then gasped as he skimmed his hands up her sides, lifting her shirt over her head. Her hands folded around his head as he buried his face in her cleavage. "That's not negotiating!"

"Pay attention, Miss Granger," he growled. She squeaked as he undid the front clasp of her bra with his teeth, his hands quickly slipping the straps down and baring her breasts to his hungry mouth. He pulled her close, one hand between her shoulders and bent his mouth to suckle a nipple, worrying it with teeth and tongue.

All coherent thought fled from her mind as he devoured her, and she made no move to resist when he undid the top button of her jeans. Long elegant fingers slid the zip down, tugging and pulling to make room for his hand, he burrowed between her legs. He groaned when he reached his destination, slipping a finger along the side of her knickers, moving it aside to caress along her slit and tease her pearl. A cry rose in her throat and he smothered it with a kiss and a groan as he pressed into her slick warmth. He did not coax, he demanded satisfaction, and in a span of heart beats she was writhing against his hand, crying out her pleasure as he held her tightly in his embrace, crooning encouragement.

She opened her eyes to look at him and was greeted with the smug grin she knew so well. She licked her lips and awkwardly shifted to kick off her shoes, trying to strip out of her jeans without leaving the circle of his arms. It didn't work and so she found herself, feet on the ground, laughing as he tried to steady her. When she'd accomplished her task, she returned to his lap, straddling him this time, her hands going straight for his own belt.

"Now, hold on--"

"Not fair," she hissed, breathless, hands shaking as she worked the belt through its clasp. "More buttons?"

He did laugh aloud this time and the sound buoyed her heart. His hands moved to help her, making quick work of his trousers. He barely got them pushed over his sharp hip bones when she grasped his cock in her hands and settled herself onto it. The laugh faded into a groan, and his hands fastened tight to her hips, pulling her flush against him. "Sweet fuck, but you're hot," he hissed.

She wove her fingers in his hair and pulled his mouth to hers, flexing her thighs, raising herself up a bit before lowering back down, changing the angle to grind along the hard length of him. All the while, a litany of sounds emerged from her, and he drank them from her lips, trembling as he held himself in check. His hands brushed over her back, over her thighs, up into her hair, moving back to settle on her hips, his grip tightening to urge her on. His own hips rose off the chair and the first hitch in her breath was his undoing.

He bent his mouth to her ear and whispered her name, whispered it in utter supplication. She clung to him and felt herself dissolve into sensation, felt him thrust deep and cleave to her as he came, repeating her name over and over again, until he had no breath left to speak. Until he could only mouth the syllables against the skin of her bare shoulder. She answered him with a long, tender kiss, painting his face and lips with wonder and gentle awe.

After a long sweet moment, the chill of the room began to assert itself. She dared to speak, to break the stillness. "Shall we adjourn to your bedroom, love?"

"Should I bring the coat?" he teased, scooping her up into his arms again. A section of bookcase fell away to reveal his sleeping quarters.

"What did you mean by fearing for the virtues of your quills and your glassware?"

"I would think you might be able to infer the answer to that question, Little Miss Know-It-All."

The knowing smirk on his face made her shiver.

finite incantatum

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