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She was overwhelmed with warm, moist air and the sweet scent of flowers.
"Oh!" she breathed, as she examined her surroundings.
She was standing in a garden, and not one that she'd discovered in her explorations. It appeared to be open to the sky above, in which the stars were coming out and a round moon was slowly rising. However, instead of feeling February chill, Hermione felt as if it were an evening in late spring.
As her eyes adjusted to the falling darkness, she began to explore the garden around her. It wasn't a rose garden, though there were roses; it wasn't an herb garden, though there were most certainly herbs; and it wasn't a malevolent garden, though there were all manner of poisonous plants and sharp leaves and thorns. There were even beautiful mushrooms curling from beneath mossy logs that had clearly been placed there to shelter them from the sunshine. A tiny brook wound through the garden, and Hermione could just make out thick plants growing on its banks, and even some wisps of water plant flowing with the water. There were dainty trees, just now beginning to swell with new fruit, and the paths that led through the plants were covered with grass so thick that Hermione removed her shoes to walk on it.
"This is your potions garden, isn't it?" she asked softly of the man who had followed her silently as she admired his work.
"It is. Not only is it unplottable and free from monitoring spells, tending it has been one of the few pleasures I've enjoyed over these eight years. If there's one thing I shall miss about Hogwarts, it's this."
"You know that Neville would cut off his right hand before neglecting a garden like this."
"I know. But I'm not quite ready to give it up to him just yet. I had hoped that by showing it to you now, you would refrain from mentioning it to Molly or Neville if you happened upon it in your exploration of the castle."
Hermione meant for her sigh to be exasperated, but she couldn't summon the necessary annoyance in such a peaceful place. "All you needed to do was ask, Severus."
"But if I'd asked without bringing you here, I wouldn't have had the opportunity to proposition you in a way that does not put you in danger of getting splinters."
Hermione found the warm glint in his eye coupled with the sardonic twist of his lips utterly irresistible, but she knew better than to tell him that. "Please tell me the mushroom log isn't involved."
He took a step closer to her and gestured at her bare feet. "Perhaps the grass would be more to your liking?"
She laughed, anticipation coiling pleasantly in her belly. "It'd be a far sight more comfortable than a bench in the Potions classroom," she agreed, sliding her arms around his neck. "I suppose I'll have to let you convince me."
He was so close to her that she could feel his warm breath on her face. His voice was at least an octave lower than it normally was. "How do you suggest I do that?"
She pretended to think for a moment. "I'll lend you the Mag-Spec. You can take some readings and use the data to optimize—"
Her suggestion was cut short by his pressing his mouth firmly to hers. And suddenly, it was all too much. The flush of their victory over the Unbreakable Vow, the sweet night air, and the lightest taste of wine on his supple lips bubbled up inside her, and she began to laugh.
She was momentarily mortified, and she prayed that Severus wouldn't be hurt that she was giggling while he was trying to kiss her, but one look at his face allayed her fears. He was smiling. Not smirking, not sneering, but a real smile, with both sides of his mouth turned upwards in pleasure. She looked up at him, laying her hand on the side of his face, and her laugh turned to one of wonder. The realization that this was the first time she'd ever really seen him smile was a somewhat melancholy one. She felt tears stinging the backs of her eyes, even as she shook with laughter, and kissed him again and again.
His arms wound around her waist, and soon all thoughts of laughter and tears had faded into the need to feel his skin against hers. She drank in his scent of juniper and cedar, the clean, crisp notes welcome after the sweetness of the flowers, and found that his skin tasted even better than it smelled. She felt the artery in his neck pulse beneath her lips, and she could feel both of their hearts hammering in tandem as they slowly undressed one another. Hermione fumbled with his buttons, Severus fumbled with her brassiere, but soon their bare chests were pressed together, and even the warm breeze felt cool against their overheated skin.
Soon, all sartorial impediments were gone, and Hermione found that the skin on the head of Severus's penis was even silkier than she had imagined. Though she'd never had the opportunity to speculate on how it would feel to take his erect cock into her mouth, she doubted she could have imagined that it tasted more coppery than the rest of his skin, or the pleasure she would derive from feeling its warm mass on her tongue, or the soft, high-pitched sound he uttered when she began to gently suckle him.
After he had emitted a glorious cacophony of noises she had
never imagined him capable of making, he stilled her head with his
hand, caressing her cheek and jaw before withdrawing himself from her
He fell on his knees before her, and soon Hermione was able to confirm that his fingers were even more gifted than her own at bringing her pleasure. She allowed herself to be laid upon the grass, which was soft and springy beneath her. Severus spread her legs and began a thorough, though nonverbal, explanation of why men with sharp tongues are to be sought after. She felt as if she were an instrument and he a virtuoso from the way his fingers and mouth coaxed both small and grand pleasures from her body.
His hands were warm on her hips as he raised himself above her, and his eyes sought hers. His dark eyes shone in question, and his lips were quirked upwards in the half smile that she'd grown so fond of. She spread her legs to accommodate his knees, angled her hips upward, and gently pulled his hips down to meet hers.
He slid into her slowly, the blunt head of his cock nestling gently but inexorably into her. The delicious sensation of fullness coupled with the look of intense concentration on his face made her feel like laughing for joy, but instead of laughter, her muscles surrounding him flexed, welcoming him. He had been holding his breath until he was fully ensconced within her body, but at her squeeze, he released it raggedly, and he gave an enthusiastic thrust.
Hermione moaned her approval, and her hands grasped his buttocks, pulling him more deeply into her. He lowered himself to his elbows and seized the opportunity to kiss her, his tongue teasing and caressing her tongue and lips with the same warm teasing that he had employed so effectively on the rest of her body.
She was drowning in the sensation of being made love to by Severus Snape; the feel of his firm buttocks beneath her hands, the powerful flexion of his hips as he thrust into her with increasing frequency, his hot breath in her ear, and the way he nibbled at the spot on her neck that made gooseflesh ripple across her skin. Her blood was pounding in her ears like distant thunder, and she felt as if her body would burst into flames at any moment. Despite this, she jerked in surprise as a cool breath of air caressed her skin and a droplet of moisture splashed against her face.
Her eyes flew open to discern the source of the drop, and his body stiffened. And there it was again. There really was thunder. More droplets of water began to fall, and Hermione was delighted to find that the rain and wind weren't cold, but pleasantly cool against her hot skin, rather like the warm spring storms of her childhood that made her want to jump in puddles.
Severus groaned in frustration. "It's the bloody climate control. It's part of the garden. I can't do anything about it."
He started to withdraw from her, but Hermione stayed his hips and gave his buttocks a firm squeeze. "I'm enjoying myself. You're not cold, are you?"
He snorted. "Anything but."
"Then stay," she said, pressing a kiss to his sternum.
He looked down at her with a bemused expression on his face. "The prospect of becoming muddy doesn't concern you?"
"No more than the prospect of being electrocuted concerns you, I should think."
He scoffed at this. "What purpose would that serve in a climate control spell?"
His remark was punctuated by a flash of lightning and a rumble of thunder.
The timing was entirely too amusing to be the work of chance, and since Severus had no control over the spell, she was willing to bet that she knew who did. "How kind of the Come and Go Room to provide mood lightning," she said. "Now, we can let it have its fun while we have ours or go see what else it has in store for us by continuing elsewhere. What say you?"
A warning hailstone fell from the sky and bounced on the ground next to them, and Severus sighed. "I suppose we'd better get on with it, then," he said, sounding as if he'd been asked to do a particularly tedious chore.
"Yes, my dear?"
"Do shut up and make love to me."
And so he did. Lightning flashed, thunder rumbled, wind whistled, water flowed over their bare skin, and the scent of soil and green things was thick in the air. When the sensations surrounding her threatened to overwhelm her brain, her body did the only sensible thing and shuddered in protracted orgasm. This sent Severus over the edge, and he climaxed with a hoarse shout.
The earth moved.
Once Severus had caught his breath, he loudly threatened to dismantle the Room stone by stone if it had disturbed the roots of his hybrid heliconia. Hermione had to laugh again.
Though they never managed to get properly pissed, Severus and Hermione did continue exploring the possibilities provided by one another's bodies throughout the night. After their third round of enthusiastic lovemaking, this time in Severus's bed, they fell into an exhausted sleep.
Hermione was the first to wake, and she was gratified to see that not only had the house elves delivered breakfast for them, but there was also a salt shaker and a pepper mill next to the silver salver containing scrambled eggs as light and fluffy as she remembered from her student days. She was also pleased to see that the house elves had found and laundered the clothing that she had impetuously abandoned in the garden. She curled herself up against Severus and pressed a kiss into his bare shoulder.
He hummed in pleasure, which sounded very much like a purr, and stretched his long legs nearly past the foot of the bed. His expression was half contentment and half cat that ate the canary. "Miss Granger," he said in a gravely voice that made her look very much forward to waking up next to him again. "To what do I owe the honor?"
"I apologize for waking you," she said, shifting closer to him and sounding not in the least apologetic, "but I noticed that the elves have delivered a lovely breakfast for us, and I should hate for it to get cold."
He glanced at the platter on the nightstand. "So they did," he said in tones of wonder. "However, I must confess that I'm much more interested in devouring the rather luscious woman in my bed."
He seized her waist and drew her to him and was about to kiss her when an excited voice came from the wall of bookshelves.
"Hermione! Hermione, you must see this!"
To her shock, Neville Longbottom came tumbling from the illusion that concealed the entrance to the Aperterium. Severus let out a growl of frustration. It took Hermione a moment to realize that Severus was still under the Fidelius Charm and that Neville couldn't see him, and since he'd never been in her bedroom, he wouldn't realize that it wasn't hers. However, she wasn't wearing any clothes. She pulled the sheet up to her armpits.
"Oh!" he exclaimed, noticing her state of dishabille, "Sorry, sorry! But you have to come! You have to see!"
"Neville," she said, attempting to calm him from his distractedness. "What in the name of Merlin's blue pants are you talking about?"
"The school governors!" he exclaimed. "They're here! All of them! They arrived during breakfast! Coop must have told them about what happened yesterday, and they're on their way up to Molly's office right now! I'm sorry to burst in like this, but the Come and Go Room knew you needed to see it. I'll just pop back into the room and wait, but do hurry!"
He dashed back through the illusion, and Hermione looked at the scowling man in bed next to her.
"I suppose our breakfasts will have to wait," she said, slipping out of bed and pulling on her robes.
Severus followed suit with none of the grumbling she expected. So swift was he to don his clothes that he was ready before she had finished pulling on her socks.
"You don't look like a man who's had to skip breakfast," she commented, slipping her feet into her shoes.
"I am a man who is postponing breakfast," he corrected. "Furthermore, if what I suspect is about to happen does in fact happen, it will be nearly as satisfying as the breakfast I will be devouring afterwards."
They slipped through the hidden door to find Neville in the Come and Go Room. There was a large sofa and a table filled with snacks facing a blank wall, which Hermione first mistook for a movie screen. However, as soon as the door to Severus's quarters shut behind them, the blank wall lit up with the scene in Molly's office, which Hermione realized was the view through the One-Way Charmed door.
Neville gestured for Hermione to sit, which she did, making sure to leave room for Severus, and they watched the pyrotechnics, which were already in progress. All twelve of the school's governors were seated in the chairs in which Molly had previously seated the reporters at her press conference, but instead of looking like intimidated students, Molly was the one who looked nervous. Percy stood behind her, looking even more uneasy than she did.
Hermione recognized all twelve, who were influential men and women both in the Ministry and in private industry.
Henrietta Zweibel, Deputy Secretary of Internal Affairs and head of the board of governors, was reading aloud a list of school expenses.
"Six thousand Galleons for food in the past quarter?" she exclaimed. "Helga Hufflepuff would have retired her ladle before allowing the students to eat on the cheap like this! And what's this twelve thousand listed as 'Services Rendered?' I don't recall giving approval for that."
"The twelve thousand was for a special project I took on as a favor to the Minister," said Molly. "A consultant was hired to ensure the safety of the school by uncovering all of its hidden rooms. As you can see from this list," she said, offering it to Zweibel, "it is a work in progress, but already we've neutralized a number of threats to the students."
"I don't care if the consultant was hired at the behest of Merlin himself," declared industrialist Bartholomew Suggs. "You are required to submit all non-budgeted expenses exceeding ten thousand Galleons for board approval."
"You've never enforced that rule in the past," objected Molly.
"You've never had to fill five vacancies at once," said Marjorie Wineskin, head librarian of the Ministry Archives. "The bookkeeping irregularities are only part of the problem."
"But look at the fundraising projections!" exclaimed Molly. "We've already endowed two of the chairs that need to be filled."
"We all know just how much you had to do with that," said Zweibel scoffingly.
Spots of red appeared on Molly's cheeks. "Without my leadership, none of these fundraising projects would have come to fruition."
"Poppycock," said Kingsley Shacklebolt. "You did everything you could to stop them."
Molly looked wildly about her office. "Who dared tell you such a thing?"
Wineskin let out a sharp laugh. "My dear headmistress, didn't you know that your teachers sought approval from us before starting their projects? None of them wanted to say anything against you, naturally, but why else would they have come to us but to ensure that you'd have no grounds for refusal?"
Hermione inwardly applauded Coop's planning and Neville's execution. She never would have thought of using the board of governors to trap Molly.
"All of this is beside the point," shouted Marcus Muckraker, who owned The Daily Prophet and was nearly deaf. "What I want to know is how she's going to fill so many positions when her own family is leaving in droves!"
"What I believe my learned colleague is trying to say," clarified Wineskin, "is that we've given you extraordinary leeway to lead the school as you see fit, in spite of some grave doubts about your experience and judgment. We were willing to give you the benefit of the doubt, provided the school prospered."
"And it has!" exclaimed Molly. "Never before have the students been safer and better prepared for their lives after school."
"Frankly, Molly, we've seen no sign that that's true," said Shacklebolt gravely. "And in fact, we've seen numerous signs to the contrary."
Molly spread her hands before her. "I don't know what to say to convince you that everything is under control."
"You might explain this letter from Minerva McGonagall," said Lily Cheng, the most senior member of the Wizengamot.
Molly's mouth narrowed at the mention of the former Headmistress's name. "You cannot take anything that woman says seriously," she said tightly. "She is well beyond her prime and hasn't been the same since the war, if I may be so bold."
"I had tea with her last week," said Shacklebolt mildly. "She's no more senile than I am. Furthermore, I wonder that you protest the content of a letter that you haven't even read. One might suspect you had an axe to grind."
"Oh, I'm sure it's the same nonsense she spouted when I became headmistress," said Molly.
"After seeing the results of your tenure, Minerva's protests seem more and more prescient," commented Zweibel.
"As are Pomona Sprout's," shouted Muckraker. "Both she and Minerva have stated that they would be willing to return to teaching, but only if you're removed."
"If you are all so unhappy with the job I'm doing, why don't you replace me?" asked Molly, whose nasty smile made Hermione wonder what she had up her sleeve.
The governors were clearly not expecting this change of tack. Shacklebolt cleared his throat. "In such situations, the deputy head would ascend, but Headmistress Weasley has no deputy."
"The charter says that then the job goes to the next most senior teacher," said Wineskin.
"That would be Arthur, my husband," said Molly triumphantly. "I needn't tell you that if I leave Hogwarts, he will leave with me. As will my son Percy," she said, jerking her head at the miserable-looking man over her shoulder. "I'd like to see any new head replace seven new teachers!"
Shacklebolt looked sternly at Percy. "Is this true, son?"
Percy's eyes shifted quickly from side to side, as if looking for an escape. "I— I—" he stammered. Then, to Hermione's amazement, Percy's chin rose. "I will stay as long as I am needed," he said, "though I do eventually plan to return to the Ministry."
Neville let out a loud laugh and began to clap his hands. "I didn't think he had it in him!" he crowed.
Molly's face grew stormy. "How dare you—" she began, but Percy cut her off.
"Mother, this really isn't the place for this conversation," he said. "Have some tea, answer the governors' questions, and we'll discuss this later."
"You're in on it too!" exclaimed Molly, as her face turned a deeper shade of red. "You and that woman! You're all trying to get rid of me, and I won't have it! Do you hear me?"
"Would you excuse us?" Percy asked the governors. "I fear my mother isn't herself today. She only found out about the other teachers leaving yesterday evening, so she isn't as prepared as she might otherwise be."
"I think we've heard all we need to hear," said Zweibel.
Percy nodded. "Thank you all for coming." He took his livid mother by the elbow and led her into her private quarters.
"Well!" exclaimed Cheng, clearly scandalized. "The woman is clearly unhinged. I move to immediately dismiss Headmistress Weasley."
"I would second the motion," said Shacklebolt, "but the question remains as to who will replace her."
"Well, Percy Weasley seems more stable than his mother," said Zweibel.
"Sweet Merlin, preserve us from more Weasleys!" exclaimed Muckraker.
"Well, who is the next most senior teacher?" asked Cheng.
Shacklebolt consulted a scroll. "Parvati Patil and Neville Longbottom were hired at the same time."
"Patil is already teaching three subjects," commented Wineskin. "She would need daily doses of Calming Draught if we added to her workload."
"Longbottom certainly has the leadership skills," said Cheng, "but do you think he has the experience? That is where we got into trouble the last time."
Neville was chewing his nails.
"Poppycock," bellowed Muckraker, "experience had nothing to do with Molly's failure as headmistress. It was ego, pure and simple. The woman stood by while Bellatrix slaughtered dozens during the final battle but couldn't be bothered to raise her wand in defense unless one of her own blood was threatened. By contrast, Longbottom defied You-Know-Who even when he believed that all was lost. Their characters couldn't be more different."
"I agree," said Shacklebolt. "All in favor of removing Molly Weasley and replacing her with Neville Longbottom?"
The governors were unanimous in favor of the motion.
Neville let out a squeak and promptly burst into tears. Severus sighed expressively, pulled a handkerchief out of his pocket, and handed it to Hermione, who handed it to Neville.
There was a timid knock at the door to the headmistress's office, and Percy entered tentatively.
"Sorry, I'm not interrupting anything, am I?"
"Nothing that I'm sure you haven't guessed, Weasley," said Zweibel.
"Mum's out, then?" he asked, not sounding terribly surprised.
"Would you like me to tell her?" asked Shacklebolt kindly.
Percy squared his shoulders and swallowed hard. "I'll do it."
"I'll come with you," said Shacklebolt, placing a comforting arm on Percy's shoulder. Percy leaned infinitesimally into the big man's hand and they walked into the headmistress's quarters together.
The door shut behind them, and the other governors began to discuss the dramatic turn of events while Muckraker took a zizz until waking with a start.
"Longbottom!" he exclaimed. "Has anybody told Longbottom?"
This brought the conversation to a screeching halt.
"He'll probably be in one of the greenhouses," said Wineskin. "Does anybody know the names of any of the house elves?"
"There was one elf that used to serve in the kitchens when I was a N.E.W.T.s examiner," said Cheng. "Winky!"
A forlorn-looking elf appeared and looked horrified. "Celestina is sorry! Celestina is sorry! Celestina is recognizing her old name but headmistress is saying that Winky is to answer to only Celestina! Celestina must be punished," she declared, pulling out a drawer of the headmistress's desk. She was about to slam her fingers in it when Zweibel intervened.
"Headmistress Weasley has been removed," she said, "and therefore, any name that she forced you to accept is no longer your name. You will not punish yourself because we need you to search the greenhouses for Neville Longbottom and summon him to this office at once."
Winky's eyes filled with tears of gratitude. "Madam is so kind!' she squeaked. "Winky will bring Herbology Master at once!" She disappeared with a crack.
"Oh!" exclaimed Neville. "I've got to go! I have class in ten minutes and I need the governors to be able to find me. I can't thank you enough, Hermione!" He threw open the door, which now led to his office in Greenhouse Six, and clambered through with the grace of a newborn puppy. The door slammed decisively shut behind him.
Hermione let out a breath she hadn't been aware that she was holding. She was suddenly very tired. "Well, now that that's been taken care of, what next?"
"Breakfast," said Severus. "And then second breakfast. Then possibly a third, if you're feeling up to it."
"And after that?" she asked, suddenly aware that the sofa they had been sitting on had lengthened and twisted itself into a chaise lounge. She leaned back against the luxurious upholstery and smiled playfully at him.
He lowered himself next to her and put his arm around her waist. "I'll teach Potions until the end of the year," he said, kissing her neck just below her earlobe, "and you will continue compiling all the Mag-Spec data your heart desires, free of all demands by Molly Weasley."
Her eyes fluttered shut. "Sounds lovely," she said, leaning into him. "Then what?"
He pulled her more tightly against him. "That, my dear, is entirely up to you."
Hermione sighed in contentment as one of his hands found her right breast. "Well, we do need to dismantle the Aperterium," she said, wriggling her bottom against his stiffening member. "Leaving all the hidden doors in place for the Come and Go Room, of course."
"Mmm, yes," he said.
Encouraged, she turned to face him and began to rub him through his robe. "And I figured that since you already know how to use the Mag-Spec, I could formally separate from the Ministry, license the Mag-Spec technology for a trifling percentage, and we could start an analysis and consultancy firm that's so private that nobody would need to know who they're hiring."
"Oh, God yes, Hermione!"
She unfastened just enough of his buttons to allow her hand access to the silky, stiffening flesh inside his robe. "Does that sound amenable to you, Severus?"
He seized her hand abruptly and removed it from his person. He scowled at her and began unbuttoning her robes, jerking several buttons open at a time. "You are, without a doubt, the bossiest, most provoking, and most transparently manipulative woman I have ever known. And if you continue doing that, I won't be able to ravish you on this absurd piece of furniture."
She was making equally short work of his remaining buttons. "Is that a yes, then?"
He whipped his wand at her, and her brassiere popped open. "Provided you don't make me take any sort of vow, I'd say we have a deal."
"Nothing Unbreakable, certainly, but I don't think we should rule out vows entirely," she said, and then gasped as he buried his face between her breasts.
He raised his eyes to her face and she felt warmth pooling in her belly to see what was shining in their depths.
"Have it your way," he said, with a dramatic sigh.
She clambered on top of him and did so.
Author's Note: Enormous and enthusiastic thanks to the SSHG Exchange Moderators and Administrators, without whom there would be no story. Gigantic thanks to Mr. 42, my beta-reader, whose excellent advice and editing have improved this story more than words can tell.
A Note on Reviews: I am delighted by comments, but because this story was written to someone else's specs and has been completed for months now, so I am neither seeking nor responding to constructive criticism on it. Thank you very much for reading. I hope you enjoyed it!