Disclaimer : Yeah...I still don't own Harry Potter. I stole it once but a Russian Spy called Beth ninja-kicked me out of a window and gave it back to J.K., so it's not mine :(

Author's Note : Well...I'm back. PLEASE DON'T KILL ME!!

I just feel so guilty. You lovely people read my work and put up with my ramblings and I leave you for so long without an update! You people are even SO AWESOME that you beat my record for the most reviews I've ever got!! Thanyou sooo much!

I have no real excuse for my lateness. I guess I could blame how crap my life's been lately. Or the fact that I've been out and about a lot. For example, today I went down town and brought Breaking Dawn and had my hair cut rather than typing this up earlier. But be fair, my new haircut IS awesome. And I typed this up rather than reading Breaking Dawn. That was pretty good of me xD

Umm, sorry. I'm rambling again. :D I'll get on with the chapter now.

Enjoy!

"Ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch…" Hermione winced with each step she took and there was no doubt in her mind - her new shoes were lethal.

"Yeah, no worries 'Mione, you just leave us lads to carry everything." Ron grumbled sarcastically. He and Harry were holding the ice box full of treats while Draco was weighed down by all the bags.

"Oh, I will thank you Ronald." She forced a smile and quickly flicked off her shoes, snatched them up, and scurried down the slope in her bare feet.

"Oi!" One of the boys yelled, but she didn't look back. The concrete path was red hot under her little feet, and she could only stare longingly at the golden sands that lay before her, just at the bottom of the slope.

With a dramatic leap she landed on both feet on the sand, letting it sift between her toes. She sighed with content. Was there anything more beautiful than sand beneath her feet, the warmth of the sun on her back, the sound of her friends laughing over the lapping of the sea?

Then Hermione opened her eyes and let her ruby lips widen into a smile.

With a hop and a skip in her step, Hermione bounced her way over to Professor Dumbledore and McGonagall, who were fanning themselves with their hands.

"Glorious weather, is it not Miss Granger?" Minerva asked her as she approached. Hermione nodded her agreement, and pointed to the small pile of bags next to them.

"Can I leave my bag here?" She asked and Dumbledore beamed.

"Why of course, my dear, of course!" The old man answered, and she dumped her bag of things she would need overnight gratefully. It was one less thing to worry about.

"Oi, Hermione! You gonna join us or what?"

Hermione turned to see the boys collapse in the sand and throw down their heavy loads. She waved happily, and was about to rejoin them when Dumbledore started to speak.

"I think they are the last of the students to return, am I correct?"

"Yes, I believe so. Shall we put our little plan into action?"

"Yes, now would be a good time."

The two adults stopped talking and turned to Hermione, whose eyes were burning with curiosity.

"Miss Granger, I assume you are wondering what plan Minerva and I have concocted?" Dumbledore smiled up at her from where he sat on the sand. "We have organised a game of beach cricket. You are aware of the rules of the sport?"

Hermione nodded, glad for her Muggle upbringing.

"Excellent!" The old man grinned, showing a mouthful of pearly white teeth. "Then while I explain the rules to the rest of your school mates, would you mind terribly in going to fetch Severus for me?"

"Of course I wouldn't mind Professor! …Where is he?" The woman glanced around, but could see no sign of the surly Potions professor.

"Over there." Hermione followed Dumbledore's arm down to his pointing hand and looked at the huge rocks on the other side of the beach, which stretched out, far out, into the sea. Right at the end, where the rocks (which were so high at that point they were more like small cliffs) was a small dot she could only assume was Snape.

"All-" Hermione's voice came out very quiet and breathy. "Allthe way out there?"

"Yes." Minerva chipped in with a stern, slightly impatient tone. "I would go myself, but I'm afraid my legs aren't what they used to be. You wouldn't have a problem…?"

"No, not at all Miss!" Hermione said with false enthusiasm and she tried not to groan reluctantly. "I'll be back as soon as I can Professor!"

With a small pout on her face, she stomped her way over to her friends, and gave a small smile.

"Look, I've got to go for a bit. I won't be long…hopefully. Professor Dumbledore asked me to fetch Professor Snape."

"Where is he?" Draco asked, looking around. Hermione sighed and pointed to the faraway rocks.

"There."

The boys mouths all fell open into little "o's" of shock at how far she had to go.

"Good luck with that." Harry said finally. Hermione rolled her eyes. She was under whelmed by their many offers to help (!). Nice to know they couldn't be bothered to go with her.

"Huh!" She huffed and thundered away from them, starting her long way across the beach. After a few minutes she ran a hand through her curls tiredly. Why had Snape seen fit to go so far away?

The sun was gradually making her feel hotter and hotter, so she walked through the wet sand, letting the waves wash over her feet relaxingly.

Eventually she broke into a jog, wanting to actually reach the rocks sometime soon. After a couple of moments of non-stop running, she finally got there, and fell against a boulder, gasping for breath. Hermione tucked her hair behind her ear to stop it from falling into her face, and stepped up onto the rocks, carefully stepping over the little pools.

"Ouch!" She suddenly cursed, as she accidently stood on a rough shelled creature. With a shake of her foot she realised she had put her shoes down with her bag, all the way back by Professor McGonagall and Dumbledore. Then she shrugged and carried on. There was no way she was going all the way back now.

So, with a deep breath, she continued picking her way carefully up the slow incline. Once or twice she slipped into rock pools, yelping as her feet slid into puddles of water.

She sighed heavily, and checked the water carefully, hoping she hadn't crushed an innocent little creature by accident.

Hermione growled lightly at her misfortune and wished she hadn't agreed to her tedious task.

But to her relief, the little dot became a blur, which became a splodge, which became a figure, which - finally - became Professor Snape.

The young woman fell onto a small rock, massaging her sore feet and stubbed toes. She took a moment to just relish the warmth of the sun on her face and the break from walking.

Snape stood mere feet away from her, inches from the edge of the cliff top, staring down into the raging sea, As she watched, the man held something at arm's length to his body.

Hermione's eyes widened. It was a single white lily. Perfect. Innocent. Full of mournful beauty. Snape opened his hand and let the flower drop from his grasp into the deep blue below.

Tears sprang to the woman's eyes as she remembered what the Potions Master had said earlier:

"Where Lil- where she brought me in my second year."

Lily Evans. His childhood friend, his first love. Lily Potter. The woman he couldn't save.

Hermione felt a sudden surge of sympathy for the wizard before her, and almost without realising what she was doing, she walked up silently until she was stood next to her teacher, and put a gentle hand on his shoulder. Then everything seemed to happen in slow motion.

Snape jumped with shock, causing Hermione to flinch and stumble away from him. Her foot landed on a smooth, unstable pebble, which slipped away from under her, and without warning she was toppling over the cliff top.

A scream ripped itself from her throat. Without her wand she couldn't accio a broom or apparate to safety - falling from this height onto the jagged rocks below would surely result in death! But then, she wasn't falling, and stopped in mid-air with a jerk. A burning pain shot through her shoulder, and she looked up to see the frantic face of Severus Snape as he gripped her wrist in a vice-like hold. She whimpered, and curled her fingers around to cling onto his arm for dear life.

"Hold on!" The man gasped, and gritted his teeth as he tried to pull her back up. Hermione scrabbled at the rockside, but only succeeded in scratching her fingertips.

Achingly slowly, Hermione started to rise upwards and tears of fear crawled down her face as she did so. The only hope of survival she had was this…a weak looking man who appeared to have never seen the sun. A large baby sob hiccupped out of her.

But then she could see the top, and soon her head was there, and she grabbed a secure hold. When Snape was assured she wouldn't fall immediately, he let go of her arm and hooked his hands under her armpits, so he could get a better leverage. Then he heaved her up, and staggered back a few steps so he could lower her lightly down onto her knees a suitable distance away from the cliff edge. Then they both collapsed - half lying, half sitting - panting with exhertion and adrenhiline.

"Next time," Snape growled, when he had quite recovered. "Warn me before you go flying off a cliff. I nearly had a heart attack!"

Hermione smiled weakly.

"I didn't know you cared." She joked in a wobbly voice. Snape glared.

"I care for the use of my hand! Do you know how may forms I'd have to handwrite if you died?!"

"Nice to know my death would have devastated you." She remarked sarcastically, but then her face crumpled as the seriousness of the situation sank in. "Oh God…"

Snape frowned as Hermione started to shake, and his expression only deepened as her tears overflowed and flooded down her pale face. He awkwardly patted her shoulder and wished silently that she would stop crying.

"S-Sorry," She stuttered. "I-I just realised how much danger I was in - I could have died! Th-thank you for saving me Professor…"

She looked up at him with large, watery eyes and he had to look away uncomfortably.

"Ah. Don't mention it." He replied in a low voice. "But why on earth were you all the way out here anyway?"

Hermione blinked, remembering her original task which had brought her to the desolate and barren cliff tops in the first place.

"Umm…Professor Dumbledore asked me to tell you to come back to the beach, because we're all about to play a game of beach cricket. You know how to play it?"

Snape nodded once.

"Team sports: such vile games. Make one mistake and the rest of the team blame you for any misfortune." The man spoke as he picked himself up and brushed the dust off his clothes.

Then he offered Hermione a hand up, while she smiled secretly as the private teacher opened up a bit.

"I hate how they choose teams." Hermione agreed. "I'm always picked last, because people assume I'm no good at sport. I mean, fair enough, I am terrible at most sports, buts I've had years of holidays playing beach cricket!"

Snape nodded ever-so-slightly that Hermione almost didn't notice. Then, he surprised her further by whipping a black handkerchief from his breast pocket and offering it to her. Despite her amazement she took it and delicately dabbed her eyes, and held it back out to him. When he declined the young woman wound the dark fabric around her fingers and rubbed a corner, suddenly feeling very shy. Suddenly the smothering silence was broken by Snape clearing his throat.

"Shall we?" The man asked, gesturing towards the beach, and Hermione could only nod mutely, wondering who had replaced the miserable git with a polite gentleman.

"I don't want to be stuck on some godforsaken rock in the middle of nowhere with a clumsy, bushy-haired chit of a girl all my life."

Oh never mind, Miserable Git was back in action.

Hermione brushed past him, muttering words to herself that almost turned the air blue, and smoothing her hair down self-consciously. Snape smiled victoriously. Severus Snape: 1, Hermione Granger: 0.

They picked their way back across the rocks in silence for a few minutes, Hermione wondering just how he managed to look so effortless while crossing their rough terrain.

"Where did you go?" Snape asked quite suddenly, and she frowned in confusion.

"What?"

"Which school did you attend to have such an experience of team sports?" He elaborated.

"Oh. It was a local Muggle primary school called Saint Paul's. It was a lovely little place, and I got to spend most of my lunchtimes working as a helper in the library. Huh, no wonder I didn't have many friends. I'm not exactly what you might call popular." She finished.

Snape inclined his head, and was going to leave it at that when he remembered his promise to Dumbledore that he would attempt to talk to someone on this trip. Well, it was a long walk back to the beach; he had nothing better to do.

"I had a very similar upbringing myself. I did not converse with the other children, so they grew to dislike me. I became used to it, which is just as well, because I am disliked to this day."

Hermione was quite for a few seconds, and then she spoke in a very quiet voice.

"I like you."

Snape's eyes widened, he lost his footing and he stumbled in the most undignified manner.

Severus Snape: 1, Hermione Granger: 1.

"W-what?" He choked.

"Well you're a very talented Potions Master, a successful teacher and a gentleman fundamentally, despite the…less than charming manners."

Snape merely blinked.

"Harry respects you, Draco looks up to you, and you're like a son to Dumbledore."

Snape blinked some more.

"All in all you're respected and idolized by all the wizarding population for being a brave and courageous hero."

"Quite Miss Granger, you're making me sound like a Gryffindor."

"Is that really so bad?"

"To a Slytherin it's torture."

"Yeah, well." Hermione smirked to herself. "You're not a real Slytherin."

"Excuse me?!" Spluttered Snape. "Are you trying to say that I'm…more of a Gryffindor?!"

"Yes!" She beamed smugly. "And I can prove it!"

Snape raised an eyebrow, and their eyes met. His obsidian orbs burned with a challenging glare. Hermione raised her eyebrows back at him. Game on.

"You saved me just now."

"For my own benefit: So I wouldn't have to fill out heaps of forms."

"You were a spy for the Light rather than the Dark."

"So I wouldn't have to get stuck with the Dark Lord if he won."

"You sacrificed yourself and your respectability."

"I was under an oath!"

"…You bumped up Neville's grades half a level so that he could take a Herbology course."

Snape was silent for a long moment, and all that could be heard was the cries of seagulls.

"…How did you know?" He muttered lowly. Hermione grinned.

"I was partnered with Neville for six years. I know he couldn't get that grade."

"…Hmm."

Snape's silence was equivalent to a written confession. Hermione Granger: 2, Severus Snape: 1.

"So Sir, you concede to the fact that you have Gryffindor attributes."

"Why, because I gave someone a higher level so that they could study for their dream profession? That is neither brave or noble. In fact, it is more of a kind-hearted act; a Hufflepuff trait."

Hermione stopped in her tracks and turned to stare in shock at her teacher.

"I'm sorry, I must have misheard you. Did you just imply that even being a Hufflepuff was better than being a Gryffindor?"

"Yes…" Snape nodded, then paused while an expression one might wear while eating a toe-fluff and hair toastie. "Wait, I take it back. Nothing could be worse than being a Hufflepuff."

Hermione burst out laughing, and the corner of Snape's mouth twitched. It had been a long time since someone had found him funny…

"Severus! Hermione! You're just in time!" Dumbledore greeted them suddenly, making them both jumped in shock. Dumbledore: 1, Hermione and Snape: 0.

Hermione blinked. She had been so caught up in the conversation with her Potions Master that she hadn't noticed they had reached the group.

"Now, Severus, Minerva, you shall be the team captains. Please pick a student to be on your team, in turn." The pupils crowded forward as the headmaster spoke, and Hermione rolled her eyes. This way of choosing teams was exactly what she had been complaining about earlier! She sighed, and prepared herself for being the last person chosen, again.

"I'll begin." McGonagall scanned the crowd before smiling. "Potter." Harry strode forward to stand behind the Transfiguration teacher.

"Hmm…" Snape flicked a bored eye over the sea of students. "Granger. We can't be having the Golden Trio all on one team now, can we?"

Hermione's mouth fell open. Second. She was chosen second to be on a sports team. Surely she was dreaming?! As she made her way forward her classmates gave her sympathetic looks at having to be separated from Harry and undoubtedly the rest of her friends. Little did they know, she was on top of the world for having escaped the humiliation of being last.

All eyes were on McGonagall as she made her next choice, so when she was certain no one was looking, she flashed Snape a huge thankful grin.

A few minutes later the teams were chosen, the stumps and other equipment were readied, and each student glared at the other team competitively.

Game on.

End Notes: Well, well, well, there you are my pretties. Plenty of Snape/Hermione interaction to keep you happy. And this chapter was longer than the last one, to make up for it a little.

Please press the review box on your way out :)

Next time - Beach cricket and and an invitation to a party!!