Hermione paused just outside the entrance to the Ministry, hastily straightening her dress before making her appearance. Normally it wouldn't have mattered so much, but the Ministry's third annual Celebration Ball demanded a certain higher standard – especially for those honored as heroes of the War. Not to mention the inevitable presence of the press, desperate for a picture or fifty. She sighed, wishing that she could have spent the end of a very long week at home, wrapped up in blankets, settled down with a good book.

Head held high, she pushed her way into the festivities, plastering a dazzling smile on her face for the world to see. Almost immediately a drink was shoved into her hand and the flashes of a dozen cameras blinded her. Muttering excuses, she removed herself from the hoard and made her way to safer areas of the magnificent atrium.

"Hermione!"

The familiar call was followed by a jolting hug that nearly knocked her off her feet. "Hello, Harry," she laughed.

"Gods, it's great to see you," he smiled in return, black hair flopping into his face. Harry swept back the rebellious locks, famous scar momentarily making an appearance. "Been a while, hasn't it?"

"Most definitely," Hermione agreed.

After the Final Battle, Hermione had returned to the school to complete her N.E.W.T.s before attending University for higher education; Ron and Harry had chosen not to finish the final testing, but were instead accepted straight into the Auror training program at the Ministry. As a result of their divided paths, Hermione and the boys rarely met as a trio anymore. Of course, the Ron-Hermione fiasco hadn't helped either.

"How's Ginny?" Hermione asked politely.

Harry grinned. "Locked up at home. She's due in about a month, so we thought it best she not attend tonight."

She gasped, "Wow, Harry. That's just fantastic." She hugged him briefly.

"What about you, Hermione? Any family in your future?"

Hermione blushed crimson. Her personal life hadn't improved much since her Hogwarts years. "Not right now, Harry. I'm at University, which takes up practically all of my time, and –"

Harry held up a hand, stopping her. "Still the same Hermione. I get it," he said with an easy smile. "School first."

She nodded, biting her lip nervously. Harry jerked his head toward the open floor where the dancing had broken out. "Care for a dance?"

"Sure," Hermione said, taking his outstretched hand.

The silence between them was comfortable – two old friends, dancing and catching up – as Hermione absorbed the elegant music floating about the atrium. Harry was getting a majority of the interest, of course, being the Savior of the Wizarding World and all. They had only been dancing a short while before the current Minister, Kingsley Shacklebolt, strolled up to the pair. He nodded to Hermione.

"Good to see you, Hermione," he said in his deep voice.

She nodded back. "And you, Minister."

Shacklebolt laughed. "No need for formalities; we know each other too well." He turned his attention to Harry. "Harry, I really hate to steal you away, but some foreign diplomats have arrived and would like to meet . . ."

"Not at all," Harry said, after an apologetic look at Hermione. "Lead the way, Kingsley." He glanced over his shoulder. "We'll catch up more later?"

"Of course," Hermione replied, watching them leave, chatting in low voices. She awkwardly shifted in the middle of the floor, not quite sure what to do. Maybe she could slip out early – she'd made her appearance, after all. Hermione played with the hem of her dress, eyes downcast, cursing silently. Perhaps she should just walk away, alone, off the floor and out the front Ministry doors . . .

A pair of hands slipped into hers and began to lead her in the familiar steps of the waltz, saving her from the embarrassment.

"And they say Gryffindors are an honorable lot," chuckled a deep voice, one that flowed like melted dark chocolate. "So nice of your friend to abandon you."

Hermione knew that voice. She gasped and spun around in the arms of one Severus Snape, who stared down at her with an amused smirk and continued dancing without missing a step.

"Professor!"

He snorted. "Hardly. Don't remind me; if you must call me anything, Miss Granger, you may call me Severus."

"It doesn't seem at all fair that I remain Miss Granger to you, then," she countered. "I'm twenty, now, you know."

"Congratulations," Severus said with a sarcastic drawl.

She grimaced. "It's Hermione, if you please."

"And if I don't please?"

"I'm sure you do, though," the words slipped out before she could stop them, and she blushed furiously.

He smirked again, eyes alight. "You would be quite right, Hermione," he said, letting her name drip off his tongue like ambrosia.

His words only caused her blush to intensify. The song abruptly switched to an upbeat tango, and Hermione made to take her leave. Severus's grip on her hands tightened.

"Oh, no, you don't," he growled. "Give me this dance, Hermione."

His strong but gentle hold indicated she had little other choice, so she allowed him to lead her in the exotic dance of touch and emotion. Hermione was surprised by the ease at which he led them around the floor, and even more so by the intensity with which he caught her gaze as he danced with her. His dark eyes, anything but cold, smoldered as they locked with hers. Her lips parted.

"I hear you're attending University," he said lowly.

"Yes," Hermione replied, slightly breathless. "And you apparently got out of teaching."

"I began a private, special-order potions business. The pay is even better, and it's more interesting than preventing twelve-year olds from blowing themselves up."

"I would imagine so."

"Plus my life isn't hanging in the balance."

Hermione chuckled nervously. "Also true."

"Seeing anyone?"

Her eyes narrowed. "I hardly think that's any of your business."

"So no."

She scowled darkly. He took that as answer enough.

"Forgive me if I am too forthcoming, but your split from what's-his-name was hardly a surprise," he remarked with the air of one commenting on the weather.

Hermione grit her teeth. "Yes, Ron and I were not exactly … compatible outside of school."

Severus lifted an eyebrow. "That wasn't the way the Prophet told the story."

"Well, what do they know?"

To her surprise, he refrained from throwing another jibe in her face. The story had, in fact, been exactly correct, to Hermione's fury. A half-page picture of Ron Weasley's sins displayed to the world and accompanied by the scandal of the century.

She finally spoke into the silence, "I should have seen it coming."

"I am aware my opinion doesn't hold much weight, but you were always too good for him to begin with."

Hermione was shocked into silence again. Severus merely looked down at her as he continued to lead their dance. He only spoke what he knew was the truth. She needed to hear it. Her silence was simultaneously disconcerting and refreshing. Apparently she'd learned something after leaving Hogwarts – no need to constantly fill a void space with her questions. He gazed down at her look of introverted contemplation and decided that that needed to change.

A devilish expression suddenly appeared on his face.

"Still have those fun fantasies about me?"

Well, that certainly caught her attention. Hermione gasped, a sudden spin away from the former professor and a quick snap back, and the abrupt dip, taking her breath away. Severus righted her, smirking profoundly.

"How – you –" she sputtered.

"Your Occulmency skills were severely underdeveloped during that month you came back for final N.E.W.T. testing," he informed her with a knowing glint in his eye. "You have quite the imagination, Hermione."

Her face flushed and she chewed her lip fretfully. "Well, I … that is to say …"

He chuckled, a sound that shot straight to Hermione's core. Her blush intensified. "No need to make excuses," Severus said. "It was amusing, to say the least. Your lack of subtlety especially. I only had to glance at you to send that brilliant mind of yours into overdrive, didn't I?"

Hermione was beyond words, unable to form a reply in her mortification. He had known the whole time? What he must think of her!

Severus continued speaking as they moved. "Imagine my disappointment when you left Hogwarts without saying goodbye."

She was slow on the uptake, but his words eventually found their way into her comprehensive thought process. "Excuse me?" she wondered, her brown eyes wide and seemingly innocent.

He knew better. "You have no idea, do you, witch? You cannot possibly know how those images affected me, how many cold showers I had to take between classes, how many nights I feel asleep with your name on my lips …"

Hermione blushed again, but the reasoning behind it was entirely different this time.

"What are you saying?"

"You left me wanting," he growled into her ear, pulling her closer. "No Gryffindor bravery when it came to me, Hermione? You walked out those doors and never came back to seek me out, to act on what you felt."

"You never would have wanted …" Hermione muttered.

"You?" he hissed. "I saw those bloody fantasies in your head every day for a year, and you think I wouldn't want you?"

She bit her lip again, remaining silent. Severus let out another growl of frustration.

"Silly woman," he whispered, daring to touch the lobe of her ear with his tongue. He tightened his hold as Hermione's knees buckled slightly. He smirked. "You never answered my question, you know," he said softly.

"What?" Hermione breathed. What was he doing to her? It was like two years ago, her dreams haunted by the thought of his touch, of his kisses. She couldn't think when he was holding her, close enough for her to feel the heat radiating from his body even though his layers of robes. She remembered longing to touch his skin, feel the muscles contract under her fingers … but perhaps the memories weren't as distant as she had thought.

"My question," Severus prodded. "About whether you still have those delicious fantasies about me." He withdrew just enough to catch her eye and quirk his brow at her. "Or shall I just have a look for myself?"

She shook her head wordlessly.

"No, you don't have fantasies starring me?" he smirked, "Or no, I shall not have a look for myself?"

Now he was just taunting her. Her eyes stared into his with trepidation. "What's the point of all this?" she whispered.

Severus cocked his head slightly. "How do you mean? Maybe I'd like to explore some of those avenues myself, Hermione." He brought his mouth dangerously close to her ear. "Maybe I'd like to make some of those fantasies a reality for you."

He heard her breath catch, and he knew. He knew she wanted him still. She wouldn't admit it, though. And she certainly wouldn't want to show it in front of these people here, some her friends. Severus inwardly smirked. He could handle that. He didn't have much of a reputation to protect, anyway.

He traced the shell of her ear with the edge of his teeth, feeling her tremble under his hands. "Care to dance again, Hermione?" He loved tasting her name on his tongue, loved how she quivered when he said it. "I assure you … you'll find this particular dance a tremendous pleasure."

Hermione heard the promise in his voice, and knew he would deliver. Severus Snape could be snarky, cold, and harsh, but at that moment all she saw was heat and lust. He was doing an extremely thorough job of seducing her.

"Dance with me, Hermione," he whispered sensuously. He stroked one finger down the trail of her spine. She felt the line of fire that followed his touch.

Not trusting herself to speak, she nodded once into his chest.

Severus smirked (because he would never be seen with a smile upon his face) and wrapped his long fingers around her wrist in a firm but gentle grip.

"Come with me," he commanded softly.

Hermione could only obey.

He tugged her though the massive hoard of people, the imposing persona he radiated parting the crowd easily; a few giving him nervous glances as he pushed past them. Hermione allowed herself to be led, her eyes fixed on his hand where one finger rested over her pulse point. She vaguely heard her name being called, but it hardly registered and she ignored the voice.

Severus saw the flash of red hair before Hermione, but he pressed on. If he had to hex the idiot out of the way he would. Tonight, Hermione Granger would be at his mercy and no one was going to deter his plans.

He knew the instant she saw; the tension ran through her body like a current and she almost stopped dead in her tracks. Severus backpedaled slightly, wrapping his arm around her waist instead and forcing her to walk in tandem with his steps. Only his commanding actions kept Hermione moving toward the Ministry exit.

The urge to hex swelled when Ron Weasley deliberately moved into their line of movement, looking right at them as they approached. Severus growled under his breath. Hermione was like stone under his touch, and that definitely wasn't the way he wanted her. The redhead opened his mouth to speak and Severus's hand twitched toward his wand.

"Hey Mione," Ron said, eyes sweeping over her. "Some party, huh?"

"Mr. Weasley," Severus hissed, "remove yourself from our presence, immediately, or I will move you myself."

Ron turned his eyes to the ex-professor, frowning. "I'm talking to Mione," he said, as though it were obvious.

"Anything that comes out of your mouth is unwanted, Mr. Weasley, I can assure you," Severus's eyes glinted. "We are rather in a hurry, so if you would get out of the way …"

The younger man suddenly seemed to realize how Severus's arm rested around Hermione's waist and the way she was staring up at the dark wizard, ignoring Ron completely. His face went red. "Oi," Ron exclaimed rather loudly, "what's going on here? Where are you taking her?"

"Wherever I damn well please," Severus replied, an edge to his voice. "I believe you gave up Miss Granger some time ago. You have no claim on her, Mr. Weasley. Do make yourself scarce and allow someone else to win her affections."

"Who?" Ron barked in laughter, "You?"

Severus scowled and tightened his hold on Hermione. "Yes," he stated simply and barreled past the redhead wizard, ignoring Ron's sputtering indignation as he swept the witch at his side toward the exit. "Say goodbye, Hermione."

She mumbled something unintelligible, too distracted by his authority to pay much attention to anything else. Severus smirked as they escaped into the night air, pulling her into a tight embrace and Disapparating them both with a gunshot pop!

They Apparated directly into the entry hall of a modest little house, presumably far from London if the landscape outside the window was anything to go by. Hermione scarcely had time to take in her surroundings before Severus trapped her against the wall with his body.

"Mine," he growled into the curve of her neck, his lips ghosting over her skin. He shifted, staring into her whiskey eyes intensely. "Say it, Hermione."

"Yours," she breathed dizzily.

Severus smirked, but quickly sobered as she held his gaze. She was a truly remarkable woman, really. Watching Hermione closely, he bent his head and touched his mouth to hers.

At first contact, she could not restrain the moan that unwillingly escaped. His kiss was gentle, probing. Hermione hadn't known the man capable of such softness; none of her fantasies had permitted for anything except demanding and experience. Oh yes, experience he had.

Severus chuckled. "Perceptive as always. I am a demanding lover, Hermione, but I wouldn't want to push you into this too quickly." It wasn't a lie, but 'demanding' might be a misguided term. He liked his sex a little rough, but one like Hermione (having only been touched by mere boys, which he certainly was not) had most likely never been exposed to an encounter such as he offered.

Hermione swore under her breath. Damn Legilimens. "I'm not so breakable," she whispered against his lips. "You've been inside my head, seen my fantasies. You know I don't want you to hold back. Not with me."

"You don't know what you're asking."

"See for yourself."

With their eyes already locked, Severus easily slipped into her mind and pulled out almost immediately with burning eyes. She practically screamed the image of him taking her right there in the hall, her legs wrapped around his naked waist; his wild thrusting making her scream his name to the gods.

"Little minx," he growled, diving in for a second kiss.

More passionate but no less thorough, Severus plunged his tongue into her mouth and Hermione eagerly accepted the intrusion. The intimate dance of mouth, tongue and teeth made her blood boil. She slid her hands into his hair, tugging him closer, and he returned her fervor by smoothing the curves of her body to grip her ass. Hermione tightened her hands into fists; Severus hissed at the light pain, drawing her lower lip into his mouth and biting gently.

Hermione threw her head back, breaking the kiss. "Severus!"

"Say it again," he demanded, nipping a trail down the column of her throat.

"Severus," she breathed, "take me. Now. Gods…"

"Not here," he murmured into her neck. "You had me wait three years, Hermione. I do not like to wait. I am going to take you the right way, to start with, but believe me – your hesitation will not go unpunished…" he whispered. He took her hand. "Come."

Again, his tone left little room for argument, so Hermione willingly followed the Potions Master down the short hallway and through the living room to an imposing door that could only be the bedroom. Under normal circumstances her curiosity would have her looking around the house, seeing how this mysterious man lived, but all her thoughts were consumed by the delicious promise of his words.

The bedroom was clearly a reflection of Severus Snape. The king-size bed dominated the space, a mahogany four-poster covered by Slytherin-green sheets of Egyptian cotton. The remaining floor area allowed for a dresser and mirror and a comfortable-looking armchair. Hermione absorbed all this in a second before Severus scooped her into his arms, carrying her across the room and tossing her to the center of the bed.

She bounced, breathlessly staring up at his predatory smirk. The expression on his face, and the gleam in his eyes, made her stomach flip over in an exciting, unfamiliar way.

"Last chance to run, Hermione," his eyes glittered in the semi dark. "Still want to dance with a Death Eater?"

"I've waited three years," she echoed his previous statement, choosing to the inaccuracy with which he described himself, acknowledging the reminder of his darker nature and dismissing it. "As long as I'm here, conveniently laying in your bed…" Hermione grinned mischievously.

"So convenient," Severus breathed. The bed yielded to his weight as he moved – slithered, Hermione's mind supplied – to join the witch. He stared down at her with inscrutable eyes, reaching out with slender fingers to trace the curve of her jaw; her eyes fluttering shut of their own accord. Severus's lips followed the path of his touch, planting little kisses across her skin and drawing a moan from her throat.

"Severus," she whimpered.

He hummed his approval, feeling Hermione writhe beneath his and suppressing a groan of his own. He gently nibbled at her throat and she gasped, her hands flying up to grip his shoulders. Severus continued his assault down the unblemished canvas of her chest, tracing the line of her dress with his tongue. She arched into him, desperate to feel his body against hers. The wizard took the opportunity to release the catch and zipper of her dress, even as he held her closer.

Severus withdrew slightly, watching Hermione's enraptured expression as he slipped the straps of her dress off her shoulders, pulling the material down her body and slowly revealing more of her beauty to his eyes. He threw the outfit to the floor, forgetting it immediately. His gaze took in her womanly curves, the dark lace of her panties against her creamy skin, her slightly parted lips, her round, full breasts, and his mouth watered.

"Why is it," Hermione's voice reached him lazily, "that I'm very nearly naked, but you remain fully clothed?"

Rather than bothering with a reply, Severus wordlessly shrugged off his cloak, revealing a sharp Muggle suit – all black, of course – to Hermione's appreciative eyes. The jacket followed the cloak to the floor, and he started on the shirt buttons. His pale hands were a startling contrast against the dark material, and Hermione's gaze never wavered as she watched his unveiling. When that too joined the scatter of clothes, she swallowed convulsively. His skin was alabaster, stretched across subtle muscles but smattered with scars; the outline of the Dark Mark, even paler than the skin itself, could barely be seen on his inner left forearm.

"Better?" Severus said huskily.

Hermione crawled to her knees and stretched out her small hand to gently brush over one of the many lines that painted his body. Severus tensed, but did not stop her exploration. Hesitantly, she pressed her lips to the thin stripes that criss-crossed his skin and he let out his breath in a sigh. Her mouth was warm and imploring, worshiping his body and his sacrifice.

She knows, Severus thought hazily through the sparks of electricity racing over his body, she understands. She accepts. This knowledge overwhelmed him, and he became impossibly hard against her stomach.

Hermione gasped as Severus wrapped his arms around her lithe body and took them both to the mattress. He muttered under his breath and suddenly they were naked against each other.

She gaped at him. "Wandless magic?" she wondered aloud.

"You can't honestly be surprised," Severus smirked, stealing a heated kiss. "A story for another time, witch."

He rolled them over so that he looked down into her eyes, glazed over with need. Without a word, he slowly entered her, inch by pleasurable inch. They groaned in tandem, struck by the exquisite connection derived from the other. By the time Severus tapped bottom, he was panting from self control – as desperately as he wanted to slam himself into the heaven that was Hermione's body, he didn't himself not to hurt her. Three years was a long time to wait for a prize like her; he wouldn't lose the witch after tonight.

"Move, please," Hermione moaned. "This is torture."

Severus held back a smirk as he began to move, adopting a steady rhythm of in, out, in that seemed to touch Hermione everywhere, if the sounds escaping her mouth were anything to go by. He snaked his head down to her lips, drinking in those sounds like a parched, starving man.

"Harder," she gasped against his lips. "Stop holding back."

"Hermione, I don't …"

She dug her fingers into his shoulder, nails biting flesh. "Not – breakable," she groaned.

Severus thrust into her almost viciously, just once, hearing her shriek with a burst of pleasure. Hermione panted beneath him, gazing up with heated eyes. "Yes," she hissed. "Just like that."

He hid his surprise well. No doubt the former know-it-all had a streak of masochism hidden under her cool exterior. His mouth curved into a knowing smirk, just this side of cruel.

Hermione's cries soon filled the bedroom, jerky and punctuated with each of her lover's thrusts. Severus could detect the upward spiral of her body's response as her voice rose and her skin turned to molten fire beneath his touch.

Hermione had lost all sense of time and space, only aware of Severus and his touch, his taste, his complete possession of her body. Every thrust, every deliberate roll of his hips, every kiss seemed designed to give her indescribable ecstasy. A shadow of his dark tendencies showed in his eyes, but she didn't care. He was bringing her closer and closer to the edge of bliss and she was quickly losing control.

Severus suddenly threw Hermione's legs over his shoulders and seized her wrists, effectively pinning her to the bed and putting him inarguably in the position of power. His hips moved faster and Hermione could feel her insides shifting; simultaneously, her pleasure doubled and, unable to meet his thrusts, her cries grew louder.

Sweat rolled across Severus's skin as he possessed the witch, reduced to senseless babble and sounds beneath him. Her body shuddered and he read it expertly, delivering a deliberate twist and thrust to her core.

She exploded around him. Severus tightened his hold on her wrists as she came undone; unable to move, Hermione screamed her pleasure for him, his name a hoarse shriek on her lips. It didn't take much to pull Severus to the peak with her, and he groaned her name as he spilled into her.

Time seemed to extend and still before he collapsed, trying not to crush Hermione under his weight. He rolled to the side slightly and gathered her to his chest. When she finally looked up, he noted her glazed, satisfied expression.

"All right?"

"Fantastic," she rasped, wincing slightly. Her throat was screamed raw.

Severus chuckled and kissed her lightly. "I was rather … rough. Are you hurt?"

"Good hurt," she replied.

He nodded.

"I'm glad you stepped in tonight," Hermione told him quietly.

"My pleasure." He idly stroked the curve of her hip and gave her a lazy smirk. "And yours too, from the sound of it."

She slapped him flippantly. "No comment."

After a comfortable, lulling silence, Severus spoke. "So. Are you planning to run off at morning's first light?"

Hermione detected the slight sneer in the undertones of his voice, as though he expected her to leave.

"I might stick around for a while," she said casually. "It's not everyday I can wake up next to tall, dark, and dangerous."

He raised an eyebrow. "You think me dangerous?"

"I'd be stupid to think otherwise," she said honestly.

"I see," he murmured noncommittally. "Smart witch."

"Thank you."

"How long will you stay?"

"Oh, I don't know. We do have some time to make up for."

"Three years, to be exact."

"Sounds about right."

"Let's start now," Severus said lowly, pulling Hermione into a deep, domineering kiss.

She smiled into the kiss. They would be dancing this way for quite some time, if either of them had anything to say about it. Thank the gods.

"Let's."


Based *very* loosely on the Breaking Benjamin song of the same name -- which I do not own.

Reviews are loved!