She takes the lit cigarette from my hands. It's much smaller now, and I realize just how affected I am. I feel an unusual stirring in my groin and hope that my bizarre arousal goes unnoticed.

For a while, she smokes and cries in silence in my arms, eventually pinching the lit end with her finger and tucking the extinguished thing back into her robe. She smiles at me.

"This strain in particular takes root pretty easily. Wouldn't want to disrupt the natural ecosystem."

And that strange bubbling feeling in my stomach suddenly makes sense, as the laughter tears free from my lips. She is laughing too, though we don't know why, and my arm is around her, and I can feel her breathing.

Finally, we stop. She looks up at me, tears still in her eyes.

"Take me home." She says, as though the phrase has some strange significance to her.

"I don't know where you live, and I hardly think Ron would approve…"

"I don't live there anymore. I meant, can I stay with you tonight?"

I've blushed more tonight that I think I have in my entire life. I nod and grab her arm. The force of apparating is one I'm very used to, but it leaves her reeling, falling back into my arms, and then we're both on the floor.

"Won't they wonder where you are?" I ask, trying to ignore the way her warm body feels against me, breathing hard, the dark silk of her gown brushing my fingertips.

"Fuck them all! I'm sick of 'supposed to'."

"Hermione, you're drunk. And I don't think what we just smoked has done much to improve your judgment."

"Then for my own safety maybe you should keep me here."

I'm in no condition to object. "You should get some rest. I'll show you to a spare bedroom."

"Severus, I don't want to be alone tonight." The words shake me to my core.

"Do you… do you want to join me in my bedchamber?"

She nods, looking oddly abashed.

I lead her there a little too fast to retain my dignity, but she feels so warm and inviting in my arms. I don't want to feel this, I know nothing good can come of it, but the tenderness building in me is overwhelming. Her lips look so inviting…

She staggers a few steps away from the bed and starts struggling with her dress.

"Severus, please! Help me get out of this thing!" She's nothing like the dignified woman I've been watching from the shadows all night, but this side of her in undeniably endearing. I help her peel away the fabric, and she stands before me in black lace undergarments that make me shudder with desire.

She plummets onto my bed, letting out a contented sigh. "I'm cold." She insists. How could the most graceful and dignified woman in the room a few hours ago be reduced to this silly girl?

I crawl into bed beside her, pulling a blanket over her body. She shudders against the cool fabric, and shifts closer to me.

"Hermione, I don't think we should-"

Her eyes bore in to mine. "Do you want to?"

"More than I care to admit, but-"

I am silenced by her kiss. Her lips slip against mine for a few seconds before parting, before I feel that hot, tiny tongue darting between my lips, creating a new path. My head is swimming, but I kiss her back with every ounce of passion I've carried for her through these endless years, the flame that started burning so long ago finally roaring to life, making my heart race and my palms sweat.

"Hermione, we shouldn't." I try to sound like I mean it even though I want to slap myself for saying it.

"I'm bloody tired of being told what I should and shouldn't do! Now shut up and give me what your eyes have been promising all night."

I groan against her neck and she shudders with desire. I can't stop this anymore. My tongue traces intricate patterns in a meandering trail from her earlobe to her navel, before I look up at her, hypnotized by her intoxicating scent, unable to believe what is happening.

I'm hard. Harder than I've been in years, and her sweet, musky aroma actually makes my mouth water with desire. Her fingers tangle roughly in my hair, forcing my face to go where it so desperately wants to.

And she tastes even better than she smells, tastes like the air before a rainstorm, beautiful and full of meaning. I drink her juices like a man dying of thirst, and her hips buck against my face, her fingers twining more deeply in my hair, pulling, pushing, and she's crying out in ecstasy.

I dare to slip a finger inside her, and within seconds she's climaxing hard against me, making my own arousal almost unbearable. She uses fistfuls of my hair to yank me up, then her fingernails dig into my hips as she pulls me close, and finally, I plunge into her.

I have known a lot of pleasure in my life, and even more pain, but never have I felt something this overwhelming. My groans are deep and feral as I drive into her, letting my mouth graze her delicate breasts as I drive my length inside as hard as I can, behind it, all the force built up in years of longing unfulfilled.

The climax is almost blinding, and her hoarse screams are enough to tell me that she's peaking with me. Our hips crash frantically together, and we collapse in each other's arms, riding the last small waves of bliss.

I draw her close and look down into her eyes in the dim light. We share an incredible silence, listening to the night whispering around us.

Before I can stop myself, I say the words that could ruin everything. "Please stay."

"Here?"

"With me."

"Forever."

"Are you serious?"

"I'm afraid so."

"Okay."

"You will?"

"And never look back."

Startled, amazed, I hold her so close I wonder if my embrace is painful, inhaling the scent of her hair. No words can describe the bliss, the peace I feel. I want tonight to never end, but I feel sleep wrapping tenderly around me, and I can't fight it for long. I can feel her breathing against me, and I know she's already drifted off.

"Hermione," I murmur into her hair, terrified she'll hear but half hoping she does, "I love you."