Disclaimer: I own nothing but the plot of this story.

Hogsmeade weekends were the only time Harry got to see Ginny. The Saturdays spent in the tea shop, pretending to be in love had become slightly more bearable since Ginny had been carrying her filthy little secret, but she still dreaded these days.

She walked through the castle gates knowing Harry was waiting for her already, dreading the look of joy and desire that spread itself so plainly across his face when he saw her. Severus was one of the chaperones this afternoon, but that didn't matter, since on the surface, nothing between Ginny and Professor Snape had changed. He didn't even glance in her direction as she passed; the feel of his eyes on her back had become all too familiar.

Ginny sat down across from Harry, expecting the usual cup of weak, over sweetened tea, accompanied by talk of a marriage Ginny was starting to consider killing herself to avoid. She was surprised by the sparkle in his eyes, and even more shocked when he asked her to go for a walk with him. Since Voldemort's defeat, Harry had been… less than adventurous. She followed him meekly into a patch of trees, until he spun to confront her.

"What is Snape doing to you?" Harry asked, cheeks flushed with rage.

"Nothing!" Ginny cried, desperately trying to grasp the reason Harry might suspect such a thing.

"I've heard rumors," he began, "that you're being picked on, but I have to ask, what are you doing in his chambers in the middle of the night?"

"What are you talking about, Harry?"

"The map doesn't lie!"

"Fuck!" Ginny had forgotten Harry's habit of checking the Marauder's Map, searching for her dot when he missed her.

"Why are you in his room?" Harry shouted, losing his temper.

"Harry, I'm seventeen! Why do you expect me to have the rest of my life planned out? Do you think I'll be happy, really happy, pumping out a bunch of babies just like my mum?"

"What about my happiness? I love you, Ginny!"

"You love the idea of me. You want to marry into a big family and for your best friend to be your brother-in-law. Hermione is already taken, so you figured, why not me? Who else was lying around, waiting to be snatched up? Who else even knows you? How many people have you allowed to really know you, Harry? How many women have you turned away because they didn't understand parts of you that you refused to even talk about?"

"That's not the point! Don't you think I've been through enough without my one true love betraying me?"

"Do you think the title really fits, if that's what I've done?"

The sound of his palm hitting her cheek rang out through the silence of the trees. Suddenly, Harry found himself pinned against a tree.

"Mister Potter," Professor Snape sneered, glaring down at him, "I'm afraid I cannot allow you to physically harm one of my students."

"She's not your student, she's my fiancée!" Harry bellowed.

"Ginerva Molly Weasley is not a possession, Mister Potter." Severus' voice was now filled with venom, and Ginny couldn't help but wonder how much of the conversation preceding his arrival he had heard.

It was a terrible idea for Harry to take a swing at his former professor, but he did have a habit of getting himself caught up in the passion of the moment. Severus hit him, hard, and stared coldly down at the man who was now sprawled across the forest floor.

"I believe," Severus said to Ginny in a surprisingly dignified and formal tone, "that it is time for us to return to the castle."

Stunned, Ginny accepted the hand he offered her and allowed herself to be led back into the streets of Hogsmeade.

"Thanks." Ginny couldn't hide her humiliation in her tone.

"I was merely doing my job."

"I don't know what I'm going to do with myself now. Everyone will know that I've hurt Harry, and a lot of people will try to hurt me, to punish me for what I've done."

She was shocked to feel a warm arm snake over her shoulders.

"You've done nothing wrong." A low, silky voice assured her.

"It doesn't matter." Ginny fought back the hysterics she imagined would consume most other women at a time like this.

Severus sighed. "I am," he said, after a long pause, "seeking an apprentice. I believe Hogwarts is a very safe place for one who encounters a large amount of… misunderstanding. If you are able to demonstrate a level of competence I fully expect of you, you would be well suited for the position."

"You don't have to-"

Severus cut her short. "Do not," he said, "mistake this for anything but what it is. I am offering you a job, nothing more. Anything that takes place between the two of us during our free time is entirely unrelated." His voice grew quieter as a crowd of students drew near. "If, for example, certain activities that have taken place between us were to come to an end, it would not affect your position in any way whatsoever, just as any personal relationship we have will not salvage your career should you perform substandard work."

"I understand, Sir." Ginny hoped that the sexual release she had found with her professor would continue, but something much more important was taking place in that moment.

For the first time in years, Ginny saw the path ahead of her opening up, and knew she would, for the first time in her life, make decisions unencumbered by what others thought proper.

For the first time in the seventeen years she'd been alive, Ginerva Weasley felt free.