Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter or any affiliated characters... as much as I might wish I did. Everything original is mine, everything you recognise belongs to Rowling.

WARNING: Age difference; if this offends please try elsewhere.

This piece has only been proofread by myself and Microsoft Word so if there are any errors brought to my attention I will try to fix them promptly.

Rating: T

The soft chilling snowflakes fell in dazzling spirals and landed soundlessly on the already brilliant white ground, working steadily to erase the signs of human passage.

Hermione Granger looked up at the sky for a brief second and allowed a cascade of them to fall on her face, catching in her already laden hair and covering her dark lashes. Dipping her face towards the floor once more she began to dream of crackling fires and steaming mugs of hot tea. With the comforting thought that neither was far away, she sped up a little and trudged towards the inconspicuous shape of a large slab of stone, which formed part of the masonry of Hogwarts Castle.

Face to face with the unyielding granite she pulled out her wand and tapped. Waiting expectantly she stomped her feet free of the snow and buried her nose a little deeper into her scarf. The sound of stone on stone reached her ears and she looked up to meet the grim face of her former Potions teacher.

He nodded to her and stepped back to allow her in.

Quickly tracing the now familiar route through the Castle walls Hermione became agonisingly conscious of the warm body following close behind her .Her mind flashed to deeply carnal images of two intertwined bodies, heat, fire, passion, a burning need which surely had the power to end winter. She could feel her breath quicken and her heartbeat speed up and forced herself to be calm, must focus she told herself. With her mind once more on work she felt the chill seep back into her limbs.

Finally emerging into a set of chambers Hermione began to really feel warm. Hurrying over to the fireplace set deep into the wall she mindlessly began discarding her outer garments.

The dark figure still by the door watched seemingly impassively as one boot was removed and left by the low coffee table, another by the chintz arm chair and a coat, scarf, mittens and hat all following, dotting themselves presumptuously about his living space, as if claiming little islands of their own which now no longer belonged to him.

Severus Snape reflected then that, really, he rather liked it. A warmth which had nothing to do with the fire spread through him. He liked that she didn't ask, that she felt like she could, so completely intrude on him, that she knew he wouldn't object. Most of all however he liked that there was no other witch in the world he would allow to act so, liked that he was so utterly content to have her in his home that nothing about her, not her bad habits or her admonishments or the thousands of liberties she unthinkingly took of a deeply private and tidy man, had the power to draw anything but a soft smile from him.

Well... when her back was turned of course. Otherwise she was a damn inconvenience as far as he was concerned.

Fixing in place his scowl he seated himself opposite her.

"I suppose you wish to know what progress I have made in your absence?" he asked.

She shot him a wry half smile.


Severus nodded.

"Drink?" he asked pouring a steam cup of tea from a waiting service on the oak side table to his left.

"Please" she smiled.

He poured a second cup and handed it to her, adding a generous amount of Brandy to his own and adding a smaller shot to Hermione's. Both once more settled themselves into the deep upholstery and sipped the dark liquid.

Hermione let out a soft sigh of satisfaction and looked expectantly at the man opposite her.

She afforded herself a moment of reflection.

His eyes were by far his most alluring feature she mused. Deep and piercing, they symbolised everything the man was, everything which drew her too him, intelligence the likes of which she had never encountered in anyone else, the lure of the unknown, the desire to know what he knew, just to be able to stand as his equal and defy that self assurance and certainty. Authority which demanded deference, the influence of which she felt constantly, the influence that only once overcome would allow you the opportunity to earn his respect. Looking back she realised even in her defiance she had desperately felt the need to impress him and have him look at her without the consigned disappointment or the weary acceptance of her inferiority. But above both of these things was the power, raw and pure. Though he seldom demonstrated it in his classroom, to his colleagues or even to his peers a vast majority of the time, if you could grasp enough of his complex character you could see it glowed there in the inky depths. Severus Snape left her in no doubt of his aptitude as both a wizard and a potions master, she had witnessed the last and felt the former at the core of her being, as only magic can recognise magic, the primal, almost lost sixth sense which resides within all witches and wizards, the ability to recognise sheer mastery of their own art.

Eyes flickering slowly downwards they came to rest on his slim, but powerfully built chest. The latter she only knew about because of the stolen glances when the lab had grown too hot for robes, when the linen of his shirt had revealed the toned and defined physique of the brooding, dungeon bound professor. They drew a line down the length of his buttons, looking as though the seamstress had crammed as many as possible onto the garment, but which, she realised with a swallow, only succeeded at drawing the thick black material tighter over his frame, hinting at the surprising sight beneath.

Black was definitely his colour, it added to his mystique, covering the man beneath the masks in one more layer, one more wall against the outside world.

"I have determined that the infusion of Anemone and Goldenseal that we believed showed some promise would be ineffective" he began, snapping her mind once more back to the business at hand.

"Damn it! But the calculations said that it would increase the potency of the potion three fold!" she protested vehemently.

"But the practical application disagreed. Whilst I am the first to admit the logic of arithmacy can be highly useful in some potions, you must learn to accept it is not a substitute for the art itself. Magic is instinctive, elemental; wizards have only forced order upon it. Occasionally you will find yourself forced to remember that. We may name the processes, but they are as unruly as the tides, they existed before there were words to describe them." The voice of her work partner was controlled but there existed behind it a pent up passion for his craft that she had learnt to recognise.

"Ah!" she grumbled. "It should have worked."

The ebony haired man simply raised an eyebrow but did not pursue the matter further. Their academic methodology was, most of the time, so utterly in tune with each other that one could almost liken it to a clock, the cogs and wheels revolved in a complex harmony that, to an outside observer was utterly impossible, but to the two of them, just worked. Therefore, here, on the one ground they did differ he allowed it to pass.

Perhaps that was part of it he wondered; that growing desire that stirred within him in her presence. He had wrestled with its ludicrousness for some weeks but had finally accepted it as simply the product of working in close proximity to a half attractive woman with more than two brain cells to rub together. A perfectly natural response he reasoned, a purely physical one. It wasn't as though he were completely virginal in his experience of the opposite sex. Well did he know the heat of sating himself in the arms of a woman. Again, it was logical. Lust was a distraction, affected the human capacity to function at its peak, the logical way of ridding himself of it was to succumb and allow it to pass. And usually he would not hesitate to do so, usually there was nothing complicated about it, an hour or so in a secluded spot left he, and with little arrogance he knew his partner, far more agreeable. With Hermione however it was different.

That was where the logic of Severus Snape ended. He had no hypothesis, not equations and no reasons for it, but she was different. He could not simply invite her to share a tryst and then carry on as though nothing had happened, could not ask her to cleave to him for pleasure's sake, no matter how briefly.

He was, he confessed in the inner depths of his own soul, completely dumbfounded by her. Professionally he was more than her equal, but beyond that all boundaries were blurred. He was certain he could please her, did not doubt his own abilities as a lover, but was not certain he could keep the two separate. Could he lay with someone he, Gods forgive him, actually liked, as an individual, respected as a woman and a... friend?

Here again the answer eluded him.

There were he concluded, no definitive answers where she was concerned, and not knowing, not understanding was what stayed his hand.

"Have you considered... well I know it's really highly unlikely, but given the farfetched theories we have been floating about recently..." Hermione's garbled thought process afforded Severus the chance of once more retreating into the relative safety of what his companion, quite accurately he supposed, called his 'teacher robes'.

"Hermione..." there was a hint of warning in his voice.

She mock glared at him in what was a now all too familiar exchange.

The pair had been working together for almost eleven months now, beginning not long after the final battle at Hogwarts. Their task, appointed to them by the Ministry of Magic, partially in acknowledgement of the biting letter they received from one Master. S. Snape, demanding, with no room for compromise, absolute privacy, and one H. Granger's slightly politer, but equally unyielding request for the same, and partially out of necessity.

One of the more unexpected results of the war was the alarming number of witches, wizards and muggles left in magically induced comas. Towards the end of his reign of terror, Voldemort had introduced a devastating new weapon, one that killed a person slowly and painfully, one that every physician consulted was powerless to stop. Adficio Somnus compelled a person to sleep without waking until all magical energy and then life force had been drained. The only advantage they now had was that the process of decline had halted when Voldemort had been defeated; the victims however had obliviously continued to sleep.

After four months of research and experimentation both had agreed that the only possible answer had to come in the form of a potion, they had since been combining thousands of different ingredients in dozens of different ways, in an attempt to alter the properties of an obscure restorative draught.

"I recently came across an article in 'Innovation in a Cauldron', and don't laugh..." at this he simply raised an eyebrow. " I know you think it is a ridiculous journal, but sometimes it has a shred of a good idea, it seemed to suggest inversion of the inherent properties of an ingredient might be achieved with wand magic, combined in the making of a potion, amplified and stabilised with certain roots." Hermione regarded her colleague intently for a moment, attempting to discern a reaction.

"Do you believe the idea to be of real merit?" The question was neutral.

Hermione breathed an inward sigh of relief, that he hadn't immediately dismissed the item was a good sign.

"I do." She answered firmly. "Frankly, and I don't say it often, but I think it one of the few new ideas in recent times which I might consider a candidate for 'exceptional'. I was genuinely astounded at how well developed, well theoretically anyway, it was, it really is inspired. It was anonymous, which is a shame." Here she paused to frown, then her face shifted visibly and she looked up excitedly.

"But of course, you might know who it is! I have definitely read the same style somewhere before. Oh please say you will look, it would only take a minute, and you never know... it might even be what we are looking for!"

Severus Snape revelled in the moment, he remained outwardly completely unmoved, his eyes boring into hers, but refusing to reflect his conclusions. He knew the article intimately, he had after all, penned it himself. He had pondered the possibility and had intended to run it past his Gryffindor ally after some further research, her discovery of the aforementioned piece however had brought this conversation forward slightly.

No matter he decided.

"I will not look at the article in question..." he began.

"Well really! I have never known anyone so... I mean, at the very least I thought you able to set aside prejudice for the sake of your work!" she interrupted.

Her cheeks were tinged with pink he noted with sudden intensity. The rose colour seemed to seep into the air around her, colouring her tightly drawn lips a vibrant red. His heart was suddenly very loud. She was still speaking he realised, but he couldn't hear the words. Her eyes flashed brilliant gold and brown, riled and filled with pent up frustration and passion. He noted that her hands had clenched themselves into small fists... challenging him.

That realisation almost tipped him over the edge. She, that senseless, reckless... that... Gryffindor! That blasted, intoxicating woman, who had thrust her arm through his shields and shook his inner being with a violent and completely irresistible defiance was challenging him! The almost crippling wave of sensation which consumed him was for a few, agonisingly long moments, completely indefinable. He couldn't decide if he wanted to stand up and leave, or move forward and consume her.

Every fibre of his being commanded him to meet the challenge, to fight; to... he didn't know what. There brewed inside him the incredible force, the need to act, to do something. He realised then that he had no real desire to win, or to make his point, he wanted to give into her. He needed to surrender, to let himself be devoured by the desire, the arousal within him. This he realised was what he had been waiting for, the final piece in the puzzle. He had needed her to realise the power she possessed, needed her to claim that authority she had been skirting around for the past four months. He, Severus Snape, realised his hand had never been stayed. He had never had that choice. She, this woman, was his equal, he could not ask her to cleave because in truth, he had already given himself to her.

He was jarringly brought back into the reality of the situation.

"... really are impossible sometimes... I" she paused and frowned at him.

"Why are you looking at me like that?"

He collected himself and, with inhuman constraint mastered the jabbering wreck that was 'Severus'. He instead brought out the closest thing to him, 'Snape'.

"When are we going to stop this Miss Granger?" he asked icily.

He observed with discomfort the flash of what looked like hurt cross her features.

"Stop what sir?" She countered.

He raised an eyebrow,

"Pretending that we are only here because of this potion... for 'the work', 'the sake of those who need us'... or whatever else you may have named our cause?"

Hermione was torn between anger and confusion. She was irritated beyond belief that he was again showing himself to be incapable of actually acting like a human being, with an ounce of respect for anyone besides himself, and curiosity. There was something not quite right about his tone, the way he stood, his eyes. There was no frustration or annoyance which usually characterised an outburst. Only a dark smouldering demand.

She swallowed and felt her anger begin to dull even as she clung to it.

"What on earth are you talking about?" she glowered.

He stood and walked towards her; she unconsciously rose too, but did not move to meet him. He stood very close to her.

"That you haven't wondered what it would be like. Haven't asked yourself what we could do together. Wondered if all that heat, that energy, that drive for perfection that goes into our work, would translate into something... less theoretical." The last word left no ambiguity in its meaning.

Her eyes widened. He watched as responses warred within her, outrage, fear, desire and stark shock, shock that he had given voice to those forbidden little musings she indulged in from time to time.

She settled for mostly shock, with a hint of fear.

"I have never pretended a thing." She breathed.

"Not with words no, but with every action, with every movement away from me when you catch my eye, those looks we seem to have agreed don't really happen. The way you cross the entire dungeon on some nonexistent errand when you are afraid you won't be able to maintain the pretence any longer."

The lure of that voice was incredible she thought to herself.

He was right of course. He always was. She desperately wanted to tell him so, for the first time wanted to be wrong. A surge of hope which branded her soul coursed through her. She needed this man, as much as the air she breathed and the earth she stood upon. She needed every aspect of him, from the dry cynical humour, the sarcastic wit, the way he made her feel, with a look, more than any man ever had with touch.

So the moment of truth had finally come. To stay or to take flight, to meet the aspect of her innermost desire and strive to map that character and to discover the depth, the truth of her own feelings, or to flee now and live in safety and regret.

"If you object to me walking away, then don't let me." She managed at last.

"I won't we toyed with, and I most definitely will not coerce. You know what I am, who I am. If you do this, it is of your own free will. I am past playing games and tired of trying to predict the next moves." His voice was like cool silver, caressing her tantalisingly.

She stepped forward and became aware of a thousand little things all at once, her senses were overwhelmed by the sight and smell of him, smoke and cinnamon, black and marble.

She hesitated.

"Can you swear, promise, I mean." Her eyes were slightly wild.

"I can promise to be constant and faithful. That is all." He answered, knowing what she was asking.

She wanted to know, the same as he did, that if he allowed himself to care, that he would not wake expecting her to be there and find her gone; that this, whatever 'this' was or could be, would not be some rash coupling, soon forgotten. Frankly, he felt too old to do that. If he had thought she was fickle he would not have even considered laying himself so utterly bare before her whim. He craved certainty and human companionship. He wanted a lover who he could rely on and who he could sink into and support himself upon.

"I'm not walking away this time." She stated.

He felt a wave of relief and release wash through him.

He met her gaze and reached up with a pale, skilful hand and with a single finger tip, traced the span of her brow, a scarce millimetre from her skin. He allowed the years of attuning himself to the most insignificant of human movements and changes to guide him.

Her breath caught and she swayed slightly in response to the desperate need to close that final gap, and the compulsion he placed upon her with that intent look, to remain perfectly still.

He allowed the shadow of his hand to play across her face, her eyes closing in response. Leaning forward he traced the curve of her cheek with his lips, still refusing to allow that touch, his breath too warmed her neck as he became entranced by the fragrance of rose oil and a scent which was wholly her. He heard her whimper slightly in response.

It is he knows, as agonising for her as it is for him, to know he is allowed to touch her but still denying himself. He reminds the raging ball of frustration fighting to control him that she needs to know what he can do without even laying his hands on her. He wanted this woman to understand he is not about satisfying himself at her expense, or rolling into bed then rolling out again, as he knows her other lovers must have been. Briefly the thought of another man's lips on what is his fills him with a torrent of jaded anger and then he checks himself. He would make sure that he showed her how much more he could be, how much she had missed.

At last he drew back slightly and she opened her eyes, they were void of the usual thoughts and processes and instead were shrouded in a haze of desire and confusion at the cessation of his ministrations.

"Are you certain?" he asked.

"Severus..." Her voice was pleading and clouded with want and need.

The sound of his name coming from her mouth invoked a myriad of sensations, a hot surge of pleasure shooting towards his groin. His eyes darkened with desire and almost dangerous passion.

"Do you want me to touch you?" his voice was like silk and was now teasing her, the tip of his nose almost brushing the soft, highly sensitive spot beneath her ear.

"Mm." She answered with a tiny noise in her throat; the only she was currently capable of making.

At last he pressed his body firmly to hers, grasping her waist with an arm, snaking the other up her back and placing a searing hand on the back of her neck, the kiss he placed on her lips was like fire, almost feather-light but fuelled with inextinguishable power. The touch of skin on skin, the way he lay claim to her, and the tenderness and respect he showed in that gesture left Hermione reeling.

He drew away again and grazed her cheek, the hand that had been on the back of her neck now moved to the front and drew slow lines over her throat, an act which should have left Hermione feeling exposed and uneasy only made her heart beat even faster, she trusted him completely and revelled in knowing she was at his mercy. He placed his fingertips under her chin and tipped her head back slightly, covering each eyelid in a feather light kiss. Her chest now rose and fell rapidly, she felt heady with lust and something much deeper and far less primal, something she had neither the capacity nor inclination to examine at present.

"What do you want Hermione?" His voice was so quiet she thought it might even have been inside her mind.

She opened her eyes and regarded the onyx orbs which pulled her into their depths and forbade her to leave again.

"Just... need... need you to..." she found herself incapable of constructing a coherent sentence, the only thing she knew was that she wanted him to keep touching her.

She licked her lips and in a laboured breath tried again. "I want you."

One corner of his mouth creased upwards in a distinctly satisfied manner, before smoothing out into its usual imperceptible shape.

He closed the gap again, cupping one cheek in his palm, his fingers disappearing into the depths of her untamed mass of curls. He reclaimed her lips with a compelling urgency and moved his other hand up to rove up her side, tantalisingly close to her heaving chest.

She pressed forward, desperate to have as much of his body touching hers as possible, she found herself inexplicably needing, without restraint, to feel the warmth of his wiry frame wrapped around her.

At last he brushed a thumb in an arc around her right breast, she felt her already hard nipples strain against the fabric of her bra, her entire body now achingly responsive to the slightest movement of his hands or lips. A flash of him skilfully brewing appeared in her mind's eye, those same careful, controlled movements which had distinguished him as one of the most talented and accomplished Potion's masters of this age were now being used on her, she was the unformed matter beneath the crafter's hands, waiting to be moulded into something spectacular and explosive.

The next hours altered the dynamic of the relationship she shared with her enigmatic colleague forever. She would find herself unable to recall the experience without awakening the insatiable need to seek his embrace again, to relive it. It was ingrained in her memory, from the way he removed her too loose shirt and caressed her shoulders, trailing kisses over them, to the way her ran graceful fingers under her bra and around the waist band of her fitted jeans. She recalled losing the remainder of her clothes and feeling him on every part of her, finally allowing their naked bodies to fit snugly and fully against each other, his fingers grazing her inner thigh and then with exquisite slowness, bringing her to brink of climax and sending her over the edge, screaming his name, aware dimly that such was the intensity of the sensation that she momentarily lost all sense of self, she would not have been able to see even if she could have opened her eyes.

It was at this point that she thought there could be no way she could possibly feel anything more than she just had. This was an opinion shattered when he finally took her to bed and made love to her. He was there, the same as he was everywhere else, controlled, powerful and precise. Every action was a dance performed to perfection. The sound of his blissful groan as he joined her, falling into the chasm of hedonistic euphoria however was what was truly mind blowing. The knowledge he had exposed himself in such a fundamental way only added another layer to their union.

Underneath the raw physical nature of what they were doing however was the mental aspect. As he had entered her she had met his eyes, both man and woman were in that moment completely unguarded and she had felt something brush against her mind. A pervasive presence had seeped into her thoughts and she became dimly aware, even as she gasped at the feeling of him moving inside her that his conscience had joined with hers, she felt his desire and her own, at times separately and at other as a completely indecipherable mesh of both.

She lay warm and deeply satisfied at every level of her being, his arms wrapped securely about her and her body curved to accommodate each contour of his, two forms utterly in tune with each other. No words were exchanged, they were unnecessary. She realised after a time that the curious joining of minds she had noted earlier was still there, she could still faintly 'hear' the rhythm of his thoughts and feelings beside her own. It was a peculiarly comforting sensation; his conscience did not intrude on hers, but instead surrounded and held it, in an almost curiously protective manner.

Lulled by the contentedness which laid heavily upon her she snuggled deeper into the crook of Severus' neck and drifted into a dreamless slumber.