The usual disclaimers apply.

xx

My name is Severus Tobias Snape. I'm 45 years old and I'm the survivor of the odd snake bite, 67 Cruciatus Curses, 3 Imperius Curses, 2 Sectumsempra Curses and about six or seven dozen other potentially life threatening curses, jinxes and hexes. I was a Death Eater, I was a spy, I am a Potioneer, I've killed, I've tortured, I've repented my sins, I've atoned for them, I've been forgiven.

My name is Severus Snape and I love Hermione Granger and Hermione Granger loves me.

I suspect she knows I love her. I have not yet told her, despite the fact that she likes to tell me every night, her face resting against my neck just before she presses her good night kiss on my skin and sighs once before closing her eyes. She likes to remind me that she loves me and she does. I've realised it more through her actions than through her words though. The way her eyes shine when she sees me again, or the way she waits for me in my flat when I return from a day brewing for sodding St Mungo's. So, in short, we know we love each other but nobody else does. I can't remember who had the idea of keeping this a secret in the first place. Maybe it had happened because we weren't sure at first ourselves what this could turn into. Maybe because at first, Hermione only felt a mere physical pull towards the supposed bad guy, the dark hero. Yes, I snort those words. I might be a bad guy, but I am definitely not a hero. She usually laughs when I disagree with her on that finer point and I let her. Anyway, I seem to remember that it was her wanting to keep it quiet and I agreed. I did not then, a mere year ago, and I do not now, want her to face the wrath of the two dim-witted Gryffindor heroes and their attached families. Well, one family only, to be honest. She has, however, made it clear right from the beginning, that she was not in any way, shape or form, ashamed of being with me. There were moments, a mere year ago, when I doubted her words but she was a willing body, and a very passionate one at that, always moaning my name at the right times. Today though, I know she is not ashamed of me. Now, it is me who wants to keep it quiet, who wants to keep this, whatever it is, a relationship, a secret.

However, I suppose I should really tell her soon that I love her. Because I do. More than anything in the world. Not that I'd admit it to anyone but her. Remember, I am Severus Snape. I do not admit to anything until I'm tortured or almost bleeding to death. But she deserves it. Very simply deserves this. And maybe I should finally ask her to move in with me. Or that we move in together though my flat is extraordinarily beautiful and even she thinks so. I don't think either of us are the marrying kind. Otherwise, I'd ask her to be my wife. Still, people will know that we're together once I ask her to move in and I don't know if she's ready for that yet. I am. Well, anyone would be. She's a beautiful, young, intelligent witch, one of a kind. Special. And I love her. I'm about ready to throw all caution in the wind and shout from the rooftops that I love Hermione Granger (I would never do that but I'm trying to get a point across).

I realised that, especially in that moment when Lucius kept on babbling like this. Well, either I will shout from the rooftops that Hermione is mine and mine alone and that she loves me and that I love her – or I would have hexed Lucius into the next millennium (and considering that a new one has just started, that's a long way to be hexed). Or maybe I'd throttle him. Or punch him. Or throw him in a cupboard with, well, the two dim-witted Gryffindor idiots and have them listen to his waffle. And let them hex him. Or throttle him. Or punch him. Or whatever.

I couldn't take this any longer.

"You want what?" I asked, trying not to sound too angry. Presumptuous dunderheaded idiot. Should have been put into Azkaban for longer than only a year. And spending that year in the equivalent of the royal box. Money could buy a lot of things. But, I smirked, not everything.

"I have to further my standing with society again," Lucius explained again, slowly as if I was the idiot. Which I'm not. But let Lucius think so once in a while. If he still believed it.

"Yes," he drawled. "And for that you intend to do what?"

"Marry Draco off," the blonde idiot had the audacity to smirk.

"Yes," I drawled off again.

"To a Mu-Muggleborn."

So I had indeed heard correctly.

"To Hermione Granger," the dunderhead smirked still. "Isn't it genius?" he looked at me with that look of utter confidence on his face. I wanted to punch his nose. Wanted to hear it crack underneath my knuckles, wanted to be in pain from the punch myself, wanted to hear him wince. I was a Death Eater once.

But I controlled myself.

"And why," I asked silkily – Hermione loved me - "should Miss Granger agree to marry your son? Or Draco agree to marry her?"

"Draco has to obey," Lucius explained and his tone had changed from gleeful to calculatingly cold. "And as for the Mu-Muggleborn, well, she will realise that she cannot possibly make a better match and if I show a little interest in, no, if Draco shows a little interest in her house-elf-cause or whatever it is these days, I'm sure she will fall at his feet. From what I hear, she only rarely meets her friends any more, the bloo... Ronald Weasley is about to marry Lavender Brown, a good marriage, by the way, and Harry Potter is, as I heard, expecting his first child with that blood-traitor's daughter. Erm, Ginevra Weasley."

That much was true. But I was sure that Lucius envisioned her sitting alone with her books and studying, or reading, or fighting for house elves. She wasn't. Had moved on to werewolves these days (not that I whole-heartedly agreed but she understood that) and she spent her time indeed with books. In my library. Surrounded by books. Doing things that had nothing to do with books. Even though, well, sometimes, we just sat and read. With my head on her lap. Not that I would admit that ever. Not even when our relationship became public knowledge. Not even then. An evil, sneering, dark Death Eater bat could not possibly enjoy to have his head in the lap of a beautiful, talented, powerful, young witch who loved tangling her fingers in his hair.

I shook myself internally. No time to fantasise, or rather, not time to make plans for that evening yet. Had to focus on the idiotic man sitting there, his legs crossed arrogantly, his fingers toying with his cane (well, rumour was that Narcissa was not fully – satisfied in her marriage), his lips twitching in that stupidly arrogant smirk that I'd have loved to just wipe from his face. I would. Eventually.

"This sounds all very nice, Lucius, but I doubt Miss Granger would fall at Draco's feet just because he's suddenly interested in elves. Besides, she'd see through it immediately," I argued seemingly passionlessly.

"Maybe. Maybe not," he smirked. "We'll see. But just imagine what doors it would open for me. For my family."

I rolled my eyes. There was nothing else to do. Well, apart from the fact that I wanted to make love to Hermione to remind her that she was mine and mine alone. And maybe telling her that I loved her. Just to make sure she knew.

I had taken my leave soon after that. Anything else would have been anticlimactic in any case and I did not want to hear anything more about my witch, my woman being means to one of Lucius Malfoy's ends. Well, put like that – maybe means to an end was, well, no. A punch to the nose and a bit of cursing and hexing would do the job just fine. In all honesty, most of the time, and I know this is even more arrogant than Lucius is and sounds, he amused me with his constant plans to get back on top, back into respectable (more or less) society. It was like an animals, struggling to get out of the water and drowning further in the process. Something like that anyway. And yes, I know that a thought like that is mean-spirited and would probably bring me straight to hell (should I believe in hell which I don't, thank you very much) but it nevertheless I knew Lucius. And Lucius was capable of things that I would not even consider doing. Had always been. He still believed, strongly, in pureblood supremacy. He still believed he, just because he carried the name Malfoy and had married a Black (and had, miraculously, produced an offspring), that he was better than the rest of the Wizarding World put together. He wasn't. At the moment, he had no job, no work to do except his scheming and whatever else it was he was doing and sometimes, I thought it would have been helpful had he found some kind of hobby. Hermione says knitting is nice the muggle way, if you want to keep your hands busy. Or maybe crochet.

I let out a bark of laughter (since I was back in my flat, I allowed myself that small extravagance) as I imagined Lucius Malfoy desperately trying to knit a jumper. Or crochet a shawl. Or a hat.

"Someone's in a good mood," I heard from the hallway just as the door to my flat clicked shut and I sighed almost happily. My witch was home. Well, in my home. Soon, I hoped, her home too. But for now, even though she spent almost every night there, it was still my home.

"Not really," I replied as I got up to greet her, greet her decently, that is. And greeting decently consists of sweeping her up in my arms (because this is where she belongs, though I won't admit that), pressing her, maybe a little against any kind of wall that is near, cupping the back of her head or burying my hand in her hair while the other hands pulls her closer and kissing her. Not passionlessly. Quite the contrary. I knew I had succeeded in greeting her decently when she either moaned, or pressed herself against me. Quite wantonly, mostly. Or both. Then the greeting had been very, very successful. Even though I must confess that I was, I think, a little differently that day. Yes, I was just as forceful and claiming as ever but I hoped, rather, that I could convey how much I loved her. In that kiss. Of course, well, I'm not sure how much you can actually truly convey by a kiss. But on some level, it seemed to have worked when she slowly opened her eyes as I pulled my mouth away from hers but kept her in my arms, tightly. She looked at me with that unwavering affection, love, she had for me. And I knew that that look was only for me. I had seen her interact with other people she liked. Hell, I had even seen her interact with the Weasley boy and Potter. And nobody had ever been on the receiving end of that look. Only me. Only ever me.

"I missed you too," she whispered with a smile.

I, on the other hand, merely growled. I wasn't someone to, you know, offer soppy words of undying love and whatnot. I'd have to tell her, yes, but oh well, she should truly figure it out. She was bright and intelligent and – mine. So instead of telling her that I had truly missed her, that it had been a long day for me, and for her and that I disliked it when she worked overtime, I bent down again, and kissed her neck. I usually begin by pulling her robes, or sweater, or shirt, or whatever it is that she is wearing (if she is wearing anything) away from her shoulder and kiss her there, there is, after all, a system to my madness. Madness about her, that is. So after pulling whatever bothersome, inconvenient part of her clothing there is, I pull away with my hands and press a kiss, open-mouthed naturally, against her shoulder, the move closer to her collarbone, dragging my lips along there, just to get the full experience of tasting my Hermione, before I move on to her neck, lingering there for long moments. It's not only for my benefit since I do love kissing her there and tasting her and feeling her but also, I think for hers when I hear her breathing my name or something else which usually includes the words bed or bedroom, or, in rare cases (but it has been known to happen), right here. And in the meantime, she usually wraps one of her legs around me and pushes closer against me and that day was absolutely no exception. First she whispered my name in that amazing, sexy, breathless voice of her, and a moment later I could feel her inner thigh against my hip, her calf against my backside and her heel digging into the back of my thigh.

This was my cue to pick her up, carry that treasured, precious, amazing, lovely, soft, warm human being that is mind in my bedroom (which almost looks as if it was ours already, her clothes strewn everywhere) and put her on the bed before I follow her and get to unwrap my present. Mine. Mine. Mine. Nobody else's.

Our gazes usually lock some time during. She looks into my eyes and I have to stare back into hers and I know that I have never, never felt the same way about anyone else. It hits me every single time that she is the one for me and that she is there with me and that day, when I heard that ridiculous plan from Lucius, had been no exception to that rule, quite on the contrary. I paid special attention to her that day, I put her, more than ever, before myself and fulfilled all her wishes. She is mine and she will remain mine. For the rest of our lives.

Amongst the things that I truly love about Hermione is the way she feels after we've had sex. She seems boneless and floppy and warm and soft and gentle and smells good and is a bit sticky from intermingled sweat. But she usually puts her head on my chest or on my shoulder and graciously (well, more or less) throws her leg over mine and as much as I hold her, she holds me. It has never been any other way, right from when we had done it for the very first time. She never once failed to look at me after and whisper something in my ear, anything, but those words, spoken in a breathless voice are dear to my heart and for a while, she had been telling me, after making love and before going to bed (and those are sometimes not the same time but hours apart) that she loves me. Sometimes, I wished I just had the, what is the word, courage?, to just say it back. Mind you, I'm no coward. Never have been but it's difficult to just say it though I feel it with all my crippled heart.

Instead, and again missing an opportunity to say it, as she lay in my arms that day, I kissed her forehead and ran my hand down her side, her back, her thigh and almost the same way up again. I knew I had to inform her what I had heard. And had to inform her that I had absolutely no intention whatsoever to let her go. Ever. In her life. But first and foremost, I had to caution her, monitoring foods and drinks for any kind of love potion (I wasn't exactly sure whether Lucius would sink so low but it never paid to take chances), look out where she was going, whom she met. And well, I would have to, somehow, make sure that she wanted to stay with me. And not marry Draco Malfoy. Usually I wouldn't be so insecure. It had been her, after all, who had made advances towards me in the first place, not the other way round. But maybe by now, I thought, she had realised that I wasn't the dark, romantic hero but someone, well, just me. Former Death Eater, survivor of two wars, scarred, murderer, even. Not that Draco was much better but – I had to make sure.

"I met Lucius Malfoy today," he told her as she lay in my arms, her head on my shoulder, her leg thrown over mine, her fingers tracing weird patterns on my chest and playing with the black hairs there, her breathing evened out again.

She groaned. "Why do you still meet him? You're either in a bad mood when you return, or you think he's absolutely daft with the stupidest ideas ever."

"It's the latter, today, actually," I explained.

"What did his brilliant mind think up this time? Another newspaper? Or free balloons for every pureblooded wizarding child? Or, I don't know, what else is there? Overthrowing the Ministry? Revolution?"

"Hermione," I poked her in the ribs (which caused her to squeal which is a sound I love to hear), "no, this is much more serious."

"Seriously?" she asked, looking up at me and for a moment I thought I'd gotten lost in her beautiful eyes again.

"Yes, seriously. He wants to find a wife for Draco."

"Lucky Draco. Lucky girl," she grimaced, her old animosity towards the blonde bloke never quite vanished. "To whom?"

"Well," I drawled, "he seems rather crafty. And don't underestimate what's going on inside his brains these days."

She snorted. Oh I love that sound.

"I told you it was serious," I complained. "Now listen. He thinks it's a good idea to have Draco marry a Muggleborn. And in Lucius's mind, the obvious choice is the most famous Muggleborn."

My dear, sweet, angry Hermione sat up briskly (and I tried hard not to stare at her breasts bouncing) and glared at me. "What?" she asked, eloquent as ever.

"Just what I said," I replied, pulling her back into my arms (again, trying not to look at her breasts), "He thinks his reputation will improve when he gives his blessing to a 'mixed marriage'."

"I hate Draco," she snapped. "I haven't spoken to Draco in, I don't know, 3 years? Where the hell does he get those ideas?" she asked, pushing herself on her elbows (not looking. Well, trying). "What did you tell him?"

"I told him...," I paused. I had not told him much, had I? I had not protested, I had not complained, I had only, well, told him..., "that you're too smart to marry Draco and that you'd see through a ploy straight away. That you'd be immediately suspicious if Draco began to treat you like a human being."

"That's what you told him?" she glared at me. I had no idea why she glared at me but she did. With her eyes.

"What else could I tell him? That you're otherwise, well..., we agreed, Hermione," I argued and surprised myself with my calmness. I was extraordinarily calm and I didn't know why.

She huffed. "I know," my Hermione said after a moment then and let herself fall back into my arms (where she belongs). "But marry Draco? Going out with him? Why should I? Does he think I'm stupid?"

"He thinks...you know what he thinks," I explained. "In his opinion, Muggleborns are still somewhat...shall we say deranged. Not quite able to look a decent wizard in the eye. That's what he thinks, I just wanted to warn you."

"I can take care of myself," she huffed again.

"Yes," I drawled back, pulled her closer (she has been known to kick from time to time) and trapped her feet between my calves. "Probably."

"Probably?" she shrieked as my fingers found their way to her ribs and tickled, just gently.

"Yes," I drawled. "Probably." She knew I was teasing her, as my fingers, teasing her skin could attest, but that didn't stop her from struggling – it never did. And she struggle she did but what an amazing feeling it was, is, to feel her skin on mine, so close. Maybe, I have to admit, I sometimes tease her just to feel her that kind of struggling. And it is so simple to tease her. Just mention thinking about acquiring an house elf, that usually does the trick and she will glare wonderfully and try to kick.

"Severus!" she shrieked but without sounding to arrogant, I was stronger than she was and pinned her to the bed, silencing her with a kiss.

xx

A few days later, after I had greeted Hermione decently again, we found ourselves in my kitchen. She had somehow gotten it in her head that it would be nice to cook together. Mind you, I am a master brewer of potions but cooking is just tedious. I need to eat, yes, but the Chinese take-away around the corner cooks well, the chippy around the other corner is doing alright and and their food edible and if all else fails, I am not averse to using a phone and ordering in a pizza. I should not tell my former Death Eater colleagues. My witch on the other hand thinks that I should eat healthier and I suppose she thinks it's romantic to cook together. Or she was probably angry that I wouldn't let her into my lab. Maybe I should rethink that – it would safe me from her constant nagging at me for her romantic notion of cooking together. I'll think about it.

Anyway, that day was the first time she had convinced me to cook with her, had brought bags full of things that you could not eat raw but had to indeed cook or simmer or boil or whatnot. When all I wanted to eat was, well, Hermione. And if forced, I'd even take her out to dinner (we usually went somewhere in a Muggle restaurant, somewhere in the UK. Apparating is a very nice invention) and have a decent meal with her there but cooking? In my ancient kitchen? The only good thing about that was that she was there, and when she stirred in something, her bum wriggled nicely and that was a sight that I liked. So I let her cook, and watched her and even though she was a bit miffed at me for not helping at all, she merely glared and made those snarky comments that were usually my speciality. At least, I thought, she knew I didn't mean it, it just was the way I am, is the way I am. And she was quite content, it seemed, when I stopped her bum from wriggling with my own body and helped her, after a moment, to cut those vegetables she brought. Aubergine. Onions. Garlic. Courgette. I helped her, yes, the knife in her hand and my hand around hers, my front pressed against her back and my nose pressed against her neck and she sighed deeply. I love when she makes that content noise and knew that I could make this even better, louder. I just had to nuzzle her neck, then kiss her neck as I let my hands wander to her front, to the underside of her breasts, then cupping them. Her sighs then got louder and eventually, the knife fell from her hands (and I opened my eyes quickly to see that she hadn't hurt herself).

"Severus," she whispered and it sounded almost like a moan.

"Yes?" I replied against her collarbone.

"Stop or we'll never get that done," she informed me breathlessly.

"I'll take you out to dinner," I argued, nibbling on her soft skin.

"No, we'll cook. And...stop. Later, Severus," she breathed.

With a growl, I pulled myself away from her and focused on her bum (not wriggling) again.

"And stop staring at my arse," she admonished, looking over her shoulder. "Now could you get the big pot that's been gathering dust over there?"

I nodded, still grumbling a little that she had interrupted this beginning of what could have been a lovely intermezzo and flicked my wand in the direction of the pot.

"And the salt please?"

I don't know, not until this day, what came over me that day, that moment. It was only her question after the salt and somehow, it all seemed so easy and so clear and as she stood there, cutting those infernal vegetables, I felt a sudden rush of something, an urge to – express myself but for a long long moment, I could only stare at her and she stared back at me, quite puzzled. And it was simple, in that moment. I smiled. A smile free of malice and free of any kind of sneer and smirk. Just a smile.

"Severus? The salt? Have you gone gaga?" she asked, rolling her eyes at my expression. "Or deaf? Dumb? Severus? The salt?"

"I love you, Hermione," I told her in that moment, turned around and summoned the salt. Just like that. It had been easy. And it felt good. For me. She just stood there in that moment, and stared at me as if I had gone completely gaga. But I hadn't. I just had told her. Full stop. Now she had to deal with it.

I moved again behind her, taking the knife, encircling her with my arms, trapping her with my body but not saying anything. And instead of saying anything more, I just cut the red pepper into perfect cubes.

She was still just standing there, breathing shallowly for a long time. Actually as long as it took me to dice the pepper and then another one. She seemed to calm then and I pressed a gentle kiss against her neck. I did not want her to think that she had to answer. I had just wanted to inform her. Just that. And she caught herself, leaned against me slightly.

"Draco Malfoy invited me to that bloody function to the Ministry on Saturday," she informed me, casually, her bare foot moving up my calf (and why did she always take her shoes off when she came into my flat after my decent greeting?).

"He did what?" I growled. There I was, telling her that I loved her – for the first time – and she informed me, casually, that Draco sodding Malfoy had asked her out.

"He asked me out," she replied, calmly, her leg foot still caressing the back of my leg.

I huffed (something I do not do often) but she only giggled, pressing her back against my chest and wrapping her leg around mine. "And I will go," she explained softly. "But I want you to be there, Severus."

xx

I utterly dislike it when Hermione has a plan that I don't immediately see through. It doesn't happen very often, in fact, I think that had been the first time that I had not seen through it. It was simple, really. Going there, telling Draco off in front of everyone and having me there, not as her partner but just me being there because she wanted me to be there, and wanted me to see that she truly probably only wanted me.

And so she stood there for a moment, showing me her dress and I know that my mouth stood wide open then. It was a deep shade of blue, almost black, soft fabric, flowing over the curves I loved, and had a slit right up to, well, too high up for Draco to ever see her like this.

She left then, with a kiss that left me wanting for more and as we talked about, I followed about a few minutes later in my good robes. I hate those functions. Every year the same. And so far, I had managed to avoid those things and the moment I stepped into the tackily decorated Atrium of the Ministry of Magic. There were flocks of people staring at me, flocks of people surrounding me and there was my witch with Draco Malfoy's arm around her. The rage. I wanted to flip the little sod's arm. Or kill him. Him and his father.

"Severus, what a surprise," I heard the voice of the sodded Lucius Malfoy next to me.

"I'm fickle," I replied, coldly.

"Oh, look, it's working," he remarked and it sounded oddly excited. For someone like Lucius Malfoy anyway and he nodded towards my witch and his son. What he did not see was that Hermione threw me a 'rescue-me-glance' or at least I interpreted it that way.

"Excuse me," I said, barely able to contain the rage I felt as Draco Malfoy led my Hermione to the dance floor. I couldn't stand this. She was mine. Mine. Not his. And she would never be anyone else'. No argument about this. Self-assuredly, I strode around the Atrium and towards the dance floor, her plan didn't matter anymore. If someone was to dance with her, it was me, not the blonde wannabe.

I loved her. Not him. He had no right to love her, none at all. I knew everyone was looking at me but I didn't care. I wasn't about to kiss her in the middle of the Ministry of Magic but I did want to hold her in my arms.

"May I cut in?" I wrapped my words into a polite request when in fact Draco knew that it was an order.

"Erm," the little twit had at least the audacity to blush. "Er..."

"Go," I growled quietly. "Mine."

"Oh," the twit muttered, blushing. "I'll tell my father then to..."

"Yes," I drawled. "You tell him."

It was all I could say and Hermione looked at me, trying desperately to hide her grin as I growled again and pulled her in my arms. Dancing stance, naturally.

"I had it all worked out, Severus," she told me, amusedly.

"I don't care," I replied and she immediately stepped closer, and despite all the glances, all the people staring, put her head on my chest, and tightened her hold on me. I held her back, I must say but it still only looked as if we were dancing. Closely.

"Move in with me," I surprised myself by telling her and she surprised me by nodding immediately and smiling.

"I'd love to kiss you right now," she whispered after a moment. "But I think we should break all of this a bit gentler."

"Or," I replied, "we let them figure it out by themselves."

She smiled at me before she put her head on my chest again and danced with me in the Atrium of the Ministry of Magic.

xx

The End.