Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.

Albus Dumbledore stood at the parlour door, thumping on it gently so as not to awaken the portrait of Mrs. Black. Someone on the other side of the door thumped back, no doubt attempting some primitive form of Morse code communication. He turned, a puzzled look creasing his aged brow, as he was approached. "Miss Granger, Severus…would you happen to know why there's a bunch of people bottled up in this room?"

Severus, at that moment, decided that fate didn't like him; in fact she really must have it in for him, what with Albus waiting outside the dunderhead-ridden room. Years of maintaining his cool whilst under fire, however, came to his rescue. Giving no outward indication of his inner turmoil, he quickly considered and discarded various ruses. The problem was that Albus was well versed in seeing through Severus and his explanations. He was saved any ignominy, though, by Miss Granger suddenly voicing, "It's the Snickersnee, Headmaster!"

The Headmaster might have looked askance at him for such an outrageous claim, but he accepted it, hook, line and stinker, from the Gryffindor know-it-all.

"Yes Headmaster," he said calmly, "we were luckily able to contain it to that room, but unfortunately a number of people were adversely affected. You caught us just as we were about to deliver the antidote." He kept the expression on his face a bland mask of boredom.

"We've already taken the antidote ourselves, so we're safe to enter and risk exposure to the spores," Hermione added, "but, erm, I'm afraid we don't have enough brewed for you, too. So, if you could vacate the corridor, for your own safety?"

Severus was impressed, Miss Granger had hidden depths. 'I'll make a Slytherin of her yet', he thought to himself as he watched her pull the wool over the Headmaster's eyes. "Of course," Severus said with more than a hint of snark, "having to waste my time brewing an antidote for a room full of Gryffindors-who are patently too stupid to actually consider that something in this house might be dangerous before fiddling with it-when I'd rather be enjoying the fruits of my labours on behalf of the Order over the past years, does not exactly sit well with me."

Albus took one look at the banked fury in Severus' eyes and actually stepped back.

"If you wouldn't mind vacating the area, Headmaster," a touch of respect in his tone, only a very small touch, "and keeping any nosy busybodies away whilst we administer the antidote and decontaminate the area, we would appreciate it… Sir."

Albus, who would have been well aware of the horror that was Snickersnee having lived through the last major outbreak, beat a hasty retreat from the area. He might have been one of the greatest wizards that ever lived, but Severus was sure that even Albus would not like the thought of contracting a dose of Snickersnee. In point of fact, even without the aid of Legilimency, Severus was able to predict exactly what was going through Albus' mind. He was all too well aware of the epidemiology of Snickersnee, and he would have run as well. In its early stages, the symptoms were relatively benign: namely, plaid skin tones and exceedingly reduced inhibition levels. It was the later stages that people feared.

Dying in eventual agony, for the male suffers at least, as a result of the septicaemia that would result when the pustulant boils that would erupt on the victim's priapismic penis finally exploded and allowed the Snickersnee spores to enter the blood stream directly. Females were considered-by male sufferers anyway-to be lucky as they never really appreciated how painful the symptoms were when they were localised to one or two boils on the clitoris. Yes, Albus departed quickly, leaving the two plotters in peace.

Severus watched joyfully, or as close to joyfully as he was able, as Hermione added additional verisimilitude to their tale by going through the process of casting warding and decontamination charms whilst he stood by holding the tray of antidote vials. He had two extra vials tucked into one of his robe pockets that contained nothing more that a bit of apple juice. If they needed to convince the fools that the only way to leave was to drink the potion they had brought with them, then they'd drink the juice; it was the act of drinking something from the vials that would allow them through the wards, after all.

It was the little touches that made a plan really come together. When Hermione finally opened a portal into the room, he followed behind her and stood back to enjoy the view. It was the stuff to warm the heart of many a cold-hearted, Slytherin bastard. Such as himself.

The boy-who-snapped and his paramour were as far as possible from each other, given the confines of the room. Neville, with typical Gryffindor subtlety-that is to say none whatsoever-was casting puppy love glances at Harry. It took a fair amount of Severus' fortitude not to lose the contents of his stomach at the sickening display. The sight of Finnegan also trying to edge closer to the Boy-Who-Might-Like-Arse was something he'd rather not contemplate. Severus was just glad that none of his Slytherins were in the room, there was more than one who might have considered Potter a worthwhile conquest, if, he did actually catch for the other team. The youngest Weasley was seated as far away from Potter's sidekick, there must be a story in that, whilst fending off looks from the Sybil clone Miss Brown.

Most of the others in the room seemed to find their shoes inordinately interesting; so much so that Severus was tempted to point out that if they'd studied Potions half as well as they were currently studying their shoes, he'd have had to take them all into his advanced class. The final cast member, Ronald Weasley, was obviously suffering the after-effects of the prolonged drinking bout that had precipitated the entire farce. The look of desperation became even more marked, Severus noted, when the male noticed him walk in behind Miss Granger.

After considering the tableau before him, and weighing up the instant gratification of letting his scathing tongue have its way against the possible pleasures said tongue might enjoy later with regards to the young woman beside him, Severus decided to forego scaring the last wits out of the fools. Instead, he indicated with a quickly raised eyebrow that Hermione could do the honours with regards to terrorising the dunderheads. She, after all, was supposedly the wounded party in this and sometimes revenge was best served by sitting back and enjoying the show. Hermione was probably aware that he intended to just enjoy the spectacle but he didn't mind if she understood him that well, it would save communication problems later. Miss Granger stood tall-or as tall as she could-and proudly as she faced the room; he glowered at her audience over her head and smiled 'nicely' at Ron Weasley as the young man staggered forward.

Ron Weasley staggered back.

"Don't even bother, Ron," Hermione said dryly. "The whole room is warded. There is only one way to leave: you must drink… a toast to our happiness."

Severus stood quietly when Hermione stepped back and reached into his robe to snag the vials of apple juice that rested in his inner pocket; he hoped she didn't notice the slight bulge her actions had encouraged into life. Showing no sign of discomfort-either she hadn't noticed, or she was not going to react in front of the crowd-she pulled out the two vials of apple juice. She unscrewed the cap on one and lifted it in salutation.

"You must hold your own vial, like so," she began to explain falling into pedagogical tones. "Unscrew the cap … and drink, draining it dry. Then, while still holding your own bottle, you will be free to step through the door. No one else can drink the potion for you… and if you don't hold the same exact bottle that you drank from, you will not be able to leave."

Severus was impressed. Hermione had even managed to keep the instruction to words of two syllables, or less. She obviously knew her audience.

Hermione drunk the contents down, a soft sigh escaping her lips; it sounded like she had just drunk from the fountains of Nirvana. Having supposedly taken a dose of the potion required to activate the portal from the room, Hermione proceeded to demonstrate its effectiveness, that she could now leave the room. She smiled with Slytherin sweetness from the other side of the door.

Severus noticed the disquiet and discomfiture of the young Weasley male as he tried to sneak past him, and how the freckled idiot was unceremoniously forced back when he bumped into an invisible barrier that still blocked his exit from the room. He went on to smirk when he saw that Ron was now watching the two of them warily. It seemed the young male Weasley still had some functioning neurones if he was worried about what Severus and Hermione had been up to whilst he and his cohorts had languished here at Grimmauld Place.

Severus decided to give the fool a little prod along. "You could always just piss on the floor," he said crudely, "I do so enjoy the sight of fully grown men cowering before Molly Weasley's wrath." When that failed to hurry the little twerp, Severus, after setting the tray of vials down on piecrust table near the door, quickly downed his own vial of juice and strode out of the room. His cloak billowing sensually about him, he decided to enjoy a little of those fruits of labour that he had mentioned to Albus earlier.

Stepping up close to Hermione, he gently cupped her chin with his left hand and lifted it slightly. Allowing his gaze to capture hers, he bent his head ever so slowly down so that his lips brushed against hers. He let his tongue slip between his own lips to brush sensuously along her lower lip; without words, he asked permission to enter the Promised Land. Her lips parted in acquiescence and his forces moved in through the breach to plunder deeply all that they found.

Her hands wrapped themselves into the fabric of his frock coat as she melted against him. He took that as a signal to continue the assault, regardless of, or possibly in spite of, the audience. He let his tongue play about her mouth; sending it deep into the recesses, pulling it back to tango with her tongue, and occasionally inviting her to reciprocate. After a while, all thoughts of the dunderheads, who probably looked on in the same sort of horror one usually reserved for train crashes, receded from his consciousness. All he was aware of was his need to claim the young woman in his arms.

Finally, the need for oxygen drove him to end the kiss, though it did nothing to abate his need to mark her as his, and his alone. He drew a deep breath, then began to acquaint himself intimately with the skin that was lucky enough to grace the right side of her throat; teasingly, he nipped and lipped at her throat until he worked his way to the collar of her shirt, a collar that was way too tight in his mind. The hand which had been caressing her face drifted down to work the top button loose; then, given he wanted more access, the second and third button were also undone.

The creamy expanse flesh that he exposed silently cried out to be branded. Preferrably by his lips and teeth.

His greater height meant that he needed to bend down low to enjoy the flesh offered up, his left arm stiffened to support her weight as she leant back; her left leg rose up onto his hip as she probably sought to gain a sense of balance. When he felt sure she was secure, he allowed his lips to follow the line of her collarbone, until he reached the strap of her bra. Severus nudged cloth out of the way as he continued to kiss her skin. His hand reached in through her opened neckline to cup her breast, his fingers sliding under the silvery-grey cloth to caress the underside of her other breast as his mouth traversed down the line of her brassiere.

The taste of her flesh was as sweet as her remembered; her body as responsive as he felt her buck against him. An animalistic need stake his claim on her finally overrode any consideration as a gentleman. He fastened his mouth on the soft, succulent flesh that escaped from beneath her bra and began to suckle like a newborn babe. He felt her breath shudder through her chest, he heard her whimper and moans as he ran his tongue over the flesh he was marking, he felt the slackening of her stance as pleasure rocked through her, and knew she was his. But taking her in a hallway wasn't right, for her first time.

As she panted in his arms he nuzzled his way back up her body that sagged replete in his arms. Purring into her ear he said, "Just marking my place for later…"

Having righting her, he stepped back and surveyed his territory; it looked suitably claimed. He'd planted his marker with a passion that only a true Slytherin could display. He didn't even bother to check on those voyeuristic idiots-he safely assumed they would have been watching, horrified, as he and Miss Granger had danced the tango before them-he simply moved with a billowing grace that belied the difficulty he was having walking, as he allowed Hermione to drag him through the kitchen, past the Floo and out the backdoor. From there, they both Apparated away.

Severus reached out and snagged Hermione as she led the way up the stairs, "Just a moment Miss Granger," he said with liquid silk. "There is one small matter that must be dealt with before we go any further."

"What small matter?" Hermione asked looking back over her shoulder, a look of confusion crossing her features.

"Just the small matter of that abomination that hangs in your room, Miss Granger," Severus said with a cauldron load of implacable steel. "I have no intention of performing for an audience, even an audience of myself."

"I can move it to the guest room-" Hermione started to say before Severus interrupted.

"-Moved? I don't want the bloody thing moved! I want it destroyed!" He was still uncomfortable with the fact the thing existed in the first place. Once more than one person knew a secret, the entire world knew it; that was one of the pearls of wisdom the Muggles had worked out.

It appeared Miss Granger wasn't particularly happy with that idea. She turned to face him fully, and-squaring her shoulders as if readying herself for a fight-said, "I'll destroy it on one condition."

"You want to set conditions? The very existence of that thing is enough to get me sent to Azkaban. I may not enjoy having to teach generation after generation of Longbottoms but even that is preferable to another stay in Azkaban," Severus said reasonably. "Either it goes or I do."

"Would you bloody well hear me out?" Hermione snapped. The young lioness had a temper it seemed.

Drawing himself up to his full, impressive, height, Severus folded his arms across his chest-in no way, shape or form could the gesture be seen as a defensive move-and allowed his left eyebrow arch up; his stance said clearly, 'well, I'm waiting.' Waiting like a Muggle hand-grenade with the pin pulled.

Hermione obviously got the hint as she quickly moved to explain, "Listen, I'm well aware of the danger to your reputation, if that particular portrait comes to light. But… I'll destroy it if you promise to sit for a new one."

'Sit for a new one?' he thought to himself, 'she actually wants a portrait of me?' The very idea didn't make sense; sane people wanted to forget ever having had to deal with Professor Severus Snape as soon as humanly possible, on graduating from Hogwarts.

Whist he was still turning the idea over in his head looking for the logical flaws, Miss Granger continued. "A formal sitting," she said with some degree of emphasis. "You're not my teacher anymore, and my having a portrait of you made after I've left Hogwarts would not be inappropriate.

"I'll go up there and burn it myself," she offered, "if you swear on your honour you'll sit for a new one that I'll get to keep in its place… and… it wouldn't be amiss if you took a look at my and Colin's notes and helped us figure out what's wrong with our formulae. It's not a requirement like the sitting is, more of a request." She looked at him hopefully.

"Let me get this straight," Severus said as he finished processing her request. "You want a formal wizarding portrait of me?" Snape, the master of control, cringed at the tone of surprise in his voice. "Why?"

"Severus," Hermione said softly as she lifted her hand to caress his cheek, the gesture was soft and gentle, like a summer's breeze or a mother's kiss. "Eventually, you're going to leave me. Whether it's to return to the school and never see me again, or just going as far as the lavatory, I'm going to miss you, while you're gone. I'd like to know I have a little part of you to look upon, and talk to, even if it's just a personality-enchanted copy of your face."

When her thumb feathered over his lips he felt them part of their own volition and he leant forward slightly. That step she stood upon placed her at just the right height he decided as her lips pressed against his. "I miss you when I can't see you, and I miss you when I can't hear you…and I miss you when I can't touch you, even when I'm standing near you." She continued to speak, her lips dancing over his, before she pulled back and licked his lower lip. "And I'll certainly miss tasting you, now that I've had the pleasure of your kiss."

She might have intended to draw further back but Severus was having none of that. As she had leant into him he had let his arms drift about her; she now stood encircled in his embrace. When she went to lick his lower lip he darted his head forward he capture her tongue between his teeth; with slow, deliberate nips he drew her tongue deeply into his mouth, feasting on the taste that was Miss Granger. "The pleasure has been all mine," he murmured into her open mouth, "…a pleasure I intend to allow myself to appreciate fully."

"Oh, god," Hermione sighed as she wrapped her own arms about his back.

Being the sneaky Slytherin he was, Severus took advantage of her unspoken acquiescence. Using his right arm to support her back and neck he leant forward and slightly to the right forcing her to rely on him for balance and stability, all the while maintaining contact with her soft, pliant lips. The move, carefully orchestrated, allowed him to bring his other arm around so that he could sweep her off her feet, literally. Settling her against his chest he carried her up the stairs; years of hefting cauldrons paying off as he was able to effortlessly carry the girl up to her bedroom.

He stopped at her door, the symbolic threshold that he would carry her over. When next she left that room she would no longer be a child, not in any sense. For the first time in almost a lifetime, he allowed concern for another to show on his face. Looking deeply into her eyes he asked with great formality, "Miss Granger, will you grant me the gift of leading you to adulthood?"

Hermione's reply was just what he would have expected from the young know-it-all. "On two conditions," she said, "One, you call me Hermione, and two, you promise sit for me as soon as reasonable, so I can destroy that portrait as soon as we're inside. And three…I'm an adult and have been one in the wizarding world since shortly after the start of my sixth year. You're going to carry me in there and lead me into the joys of womanhood, thank you very much! And I'll thank you even more to get on with it."

Severus had to sigh. 'Never ask a Gryffindor a simple question,' he thought to himself. "A yes or no answer was all that had been required. Of-age is what you have been Hermione," he said gently. "Adulthood is more than just age; your childhood has never been what is should have been, and you and your compatriots have had to grow up faster than necessary, but in the wizarding world the final passage to adulthood is marked with the loss of the body's innocence, male or female. So I ask you again, will you grant me the gift of leading you to adulthood? Without compulsion or fear will you grant me the gift of leading you to adulthood?"

"Why is my permission so important to you?" Hermione asked, her face a mask of confusion.

"Because, Hermione, the rite of passage can be a power and a blessing or it can be a curse; the strongest witches and wizards can be twisted, maimed or broken as they lose their innocence. There is, after all, a reason that many a dark wizard has arisen from my house and it is has nothing to do with a child being inherently evil at eleven. This breaking…it is not something I wish to see happen to you.

"It won't happen," Hermione replied quietly. "I know you won't let it. And you had my permission when you spun the bottle that second time. I thought you were going to ask me if I'd mind you collecting my virginal blood. Which you can have half of, but only half, since it is ruddy expensive otherwise, and I'd like some of the profit by it." Before he could do, or say anything, to sooth the frown that settled on her brow, she continued saying, "And I entered adulthood the moment I killed Dolohov."

He wasn't really going to be able to contradict that, he realised, given his history; his first kill had been before his sexual maturity as well, though he wasn't ready to mention that fact to her-his kill, unlike hers, hadn't been in self-defence, but in initiation to something he'd rather forget. His maudlin thoughts though weren't given time to take further hold, as Hermione was still speaking.

"I suppose there's something wrong about a virgin killing before she's been deflowered, but it was done. So, yes, you have my permission, Severus, for what little is left of the final threshold I can cross."

He would never admit, not even under the influence of Crucio, but her ready acceptance removed any doubts about what he and the young woman in his arms were about to do. "I suspect that threshold will be well and truly crossed tonight," he murmured into her ear as he stepped into her room.

Hermione shivered in his arms though he was certain the room temperature had little to do with her reaction. He briefly wondered if Hermione gave any thought to the future beyond this night; he had little knowledge of the customs of Muggles, apart from what he'd had to learn back in the dim dark past in Muggle Studies, but he had vague memories of similar traditions with respect to the carrying of a beloved one over the threshold. The question he had to ask himself was, did he have any thoughts about a future with her? Just the fact that he was contemplating an extended liaison sent fierce shivers of something though him-even the now thoroughly deceased Dark Lord had failed to send such a shiver of fear rippling through his bones.

The strange path his thoughts were taking was luckily interrupted by Hermione, who craning her neck over his shoulders, instructed him to set her down.

"I think not, Miss Granger," he purred. "I rather like having you at my mercy; you wouldn't want me to drop you, would you?"

Whatever answer she night have made was cut across by a snarkily familiar voice, "I'd rather you dropped Miss Ganger, than dropping anything else."

Before he had chance to react Hermione snarled "-Ingrate!" whilst squirming so much that he was forced to set her down before he did, inadvertently, drop the girl. Showing just how fast and skillful she was with a wand-he wondered sardonically, would she handle his wand as confidently-Hermione had hers out, aimed and spell-casting before he had her feet firmly planted on the floor. The painting was separated from the Muggle Poster that backed it, the poster sent back to the wall, the painting incinerating as she murmured, "It's been fun, but it's time for something new. Thank you for being an unwitting test-subject…"

Something akin to worry crossed her features as she turned to face him; possibly she was worried about how he'd react to the destruction of her wizarding portrait of himself. 'She really shouldn't have worried,' he thought, rather glad the monstrosity was no more. "Thank you Miss Granger," he said nodding his head at the small pile of ash before he allowed his eyes to travel back up her body until his gaze rested on the spot where he had so recently marked his territory. "Now where were we?"

"Calling me Hermione," his companion said rather forcibly as she grabbed the lapels of his frock coat and began to tug at its buttons. "What do I have to do to convince you to call me by my name?"

"I'm sure I can think of something, Miss Granger." The last, her name, was said with slow, deliberate grace, rolling his tongue lovingly about the 'r'. "Perhaps a touch of summer wine?" he continued as he licked his lips and let his infamous eyebrow quirk upward, ever so slightly.

"Summer wine? What's summer wine?" Hermione asked in obvious confusion.

"Why that sweet, summer wine I tasted earlier," Severus said as his gaze flowed back down her torso until it lingered at her groin.

She actually managed not to whimper; he was rather disappointed, he must be losing his touch. In fact she managed to retain sufficient self possession to be able to silently spell his buttons away. "Hermione, not 'Miss Granger'. If you don't get it right, I'll have to find some way of correcting you until you do!" she had the temerity to say as his frock coat fell open.

"Would you rather I called you Mrs Snape," he asked archly, determined to rattle the girl. 'Where the blazes did that question come from?' his mind screamed at him as the words left his mouth. He wasn't able to come up with a suitable answer; for Merlin's sake, he wasn't able to come up with any answer to his internal question, but part of him-that part he thought James Potter and his band had tortured, killed, buried and desecrated-had the unmitigated gall to sit up and hope.

"Well Severus,' he thought to himself, 'you definitely managed to rattle her then, didn't you?' The supreme Slytherin in him wondered at what game he was playing. His generally silent heart-that bit that had been thoroughly Pottered in the past-was trying to work out whether it could get away with tying up the rest of his psyche up, placing it in a full body bind, and tossing the whole thing into the lake at Hogwarts-latched onto Hermione's rather graceless declaration of, "-Well, yes, actually!" and blurted out in return, "-I'll see what I can do!"

Then, because the occasion really called for some sort of reaction, Severus stepped forward to capture her lips and plundered them; he used his greater weight ruthlessly and pushed Hermione backward until she lay across her bed.

When he determined that she was sufficiently mussed, he pushed himself up, his arms resting either side of her torso, and looked deeply into her eyes. Her pupils were dilated and her skin flushed. Severus smiled lazily at the picture she presented.

Never challenge a lioness-he should have remembered that from his days as a student and having to deal with Lily Evans. Hermione Granger definitely characterised the spirit of her house; lust-glazed she still managed to retain enough strength of will to be able to cast the disrobing spell, "Sartorlagen!"

One moment he was fully closed and leaning over Hermione in a position of power, the next he was fully naked. But as no Slytherin worth their salt relied on their state of dress to exude a sense of power he gained rather than lost something in the transaction; his skin, scarred, naked and pale, lay against hers…and the feelings of lust that washed over him were communicated to Hermione quite clearly as his manhood hardened against her.

"Such impatience," Severus whispered, lingering over the sibilants. "Surely you would rather savour the sensations slightly longer?"

The soft moans of pleasure that his sweet whispering elicited was everything a hot blooded male could hope for. As her head had tilted back, exposing the lush line of neck just begging to be tasted, Severus slithered forward as she writhed beneath him, begging him to make love to her with his voice; a task he was only to glad to perform. Slowly, he slavered his tongue up the line of her carotid artery, until he was nibbling at her pulse point. "Sweet, soft, sensual succubus," he hissed into her neck.

"Isn't that the cat calling the cauldron black, Mr. I'm-A-Ruddy-Incubus?" Hermione's breathless voice washed over him, distracting him only slightly from the pleasures of her flesh.

"I suspect that you are suffering delusions, Hermione," Severus said softly, still emphasising the sibilants. "I'm no Incubus, though gossip has it I might be a vampire." Then, to prove the point, he nipped lightly at her neck, just barely drawing blood to the surface; wordlessly, he incanted a claiming charm. She was his, and anyone with even a miniscule degree of sensitivity was going to be aware of the fact, aware like a bludger to the back of the head, delivered full-force by Fred Weasley, should they dare to touch her without permission.

The body beneath him shivered and convulsed as frenzied steps of the pre-coital dance were performed. Hands clutched at his back and buttocks. The angle of Hermione's body shifted, opening the dewy petals to him, allowing the slick, pre-cum coated head of his penis to rub against her clitoris and to slide dangerously close to the heart of her womanhood; the heat of her teased and seduced him, drove him to the pinnacle of his control, but not beyond.

As the glorious moment of completeness was upon him, Severus' phenomenal self-control kicked in; years of service to two masters had ingrained in him the ability to subjugate his body to his will, and it was only that which prevented him from taking Hermione Granger virginity and damning the consequences to Hades and back. The gift of her virgin blood was too precious a thing to throw away on a moments whim, however. Stilling the movements of his body, Severus dropped his head to place a chaste kiss upon her forehead, "Hermione, as much as I wish to complete this…if we are to use you virgin blood, I must stop now."

The girl sighed softly and stretched as he limbered his hard, needy, body off of hers; to make matters worse, she appeared to be settling in to sleep as she snuggled down into the bedding. 'I thought that was a man's prerogative,' he thought sardonically to himself. Any further thoughts of self congratulations were driven from his mind as the almost somnolent girl asked "-Did you just enchant me, somehow?"

'Of course she had to bloody well notice', he admonished himself. She was, after all, an over achiever when it came to noticing things. "Yes," he replied softly, the truth after all was oft-times more deceptive than a lie, "You did accuse me of being a demonic being, Hermione. Though in this case I have no demonic intentions; it is just that there are spells that will ease the release of your powers."

He almost snickered as Hermione responded by doing a fair imitation of himself; her brows rose, giving her a slightly sardonic expression. Just as he was about to comment, Hermione seemingly relaxed back against the bedding on which she lay; relaxed in the studied way that a cat would 'ignore' the world. He had to admire the way in which she arched her back, displaying her pert breasts to him, unknowingly drawing his attention to the loving mark he had placed there earlier. Her legs parted slightly, letting him settle more comfortably over her and her lips parted as they smiled, "I'll trust you," she said. "Tell me what you're going to do, and I'll let you do it."

Leaning into to kiss those pouty lips, Severus murmured, "I am going to sate your senses, sip slowly the sweetly scented sap that flows from you my young succubus. In short, I'm going to love you." The last was said very softly.

His words worked liked magic, "Oh, god, Severus!" Hermione said as she shuddered beneath him. "Love me!" she gasped, as her hands clutched at his ribs, her mouth nipped at his. "Please, love me, Severus…love me as I love you."

'Man was not meant to survive this sort of torment', he thought. 'He was not meant for this sort of torment!' The girl-woman-beneath him was bewitching his mind, ensnaring his senses, and he found he hadn't the power to resist. He had found a partner who could understand the delicate power of liquids that flowed through human veins. A woman who could understand what lay beneath the protective armor of his snarks and his sneers-not softness, never that…but a human being. It was that thought that drove his mind into the arcane store knowledge that was his; he would, with Hermione, brew the most powerful of elixirs, when it came to her awakening. There was a Tantric rite that he knew, one that would unleash all of her passions, magical as well as sexual…

"Yes," he hissed, "I will love you; love you as you deserve, my own sweet siren." With that comment, with the excited flavour of his name bursting from her lips, he released some of the control on his own passions and delved deep into her mouth, tasting her, dominating her, submitting to her. He kissed her as though his very life depended on the touch of her lips.

He was lost to the world as she returned his kiss with equal fervour. His control was pressed further as her hands, those relatively small hands he had once denigrated as being solely attention-seeking devices, began to explore his body. Her fingers reached up, touched his shoulder blade gently before they danced down his torso, where they brushed against the hardening nubs of his own nipples. One finger flicked over the top of his right nipple, and he felt as though a lightening bolt shot through him; electricity flared down his spine and coalesced in his sacks. "Hermione," he groaned in a voice so deep and slow that it made molasses look like a fast flowing river, "Hermione…"

Sweet torture. His lips were still entangled with hers, his desire to possess her mouth unabated, and yet she tortured him with gentle caresses across his chest. Severus was a man torn; he longed to arch his back, to press his chest forward to her mouth, to invite her to nip and nibble at his buds, yet he was loathe to release that sweet mouth. His manhood pulsed; his balls began to ache as the pleasurable bolts of lightening continued. Finally the deep ache in his breasts won out and he released her mouth, but only to ease his body forward until his right nipple brushed against her lip.


Hermione, it appeared, needed no other coaching as her tongue, so recently entangled with his, danced out and flicked across the bud he offered whilst her other hand continuing to minister to the needs of his left nipple. Severus could only moan in pleasure, a deep, vibrating moan as the combined sensation shorted out his higher cognitive functions.

His body shuddered, and he pressed his weight forward wanting more, more touch, more sensation, more subjugation as he surrendered control to her lips, her tongue. He revelled in the feelings as he felt himself hardening further, his erect cock rubbing against her belly, occasionally dipping into and across the well of her navel. Desire built and flamed through his body as he rocked against her, almost trying to meld his body to her, and yet nothing had prepared him for the mind blowing sensory overload that hit when Hermione, ceasing the gentle torture of tonguing his nipple, drew his right bud into her mouth and began to suckle like a babe upon him. Tt wasn't the feelings of a mother for her babe that flooded him; it was pure, unadulterated lust. A lust he intended to sate in a different matter than mere frottage against her stomach.

Any hope to act on that impulse was derailed as Hermione switched her attention to his other nipple. With a strength he hadn't been aware that she even possessed, the girl had pulled him sideways and latched onto the left areola. For a man who prided himself on his iron control, Severus was discovering the hard way that he could be broken; he had withstood the pain of multiple curses, the fire of branding, the breaking of bones, all without once crying out, losing his control…and yet the gentle ministrations of a young woman seemed too much for him to bear.

Later, he would swear it was her teeth, but at that point in time he truly had no idea what it was that sent the last vestiges of his restraint straight to Hades. His areola was being treated to gentle suckling, the sharper pain of teeth-scraping, the swift, soothing stroke of her tongue; under such a fervent assault, the painful pleasure built, and built, and built. When Severus finally thought that he could be driven no higher, Hermione let out a guttural moan. The sound washed over him, vibrated through him, and as she sucked hard once more on his nipple-harder than before-his control broke.

He let forth a scream of pleasure, a keening cry of pain, of delight; her name fell from his lips. He felt his body tighten, his back arched away from her driven by the almost unbearable euphoria that swept over him. His balls contracted, pulsed, spewing forth a fountain of seed onto soft curve of belly that lay beneath him, accepting the needful thrusts of his flesh. He felt a sense of peace settle upon his shoulders as he collapsed onto the girl, then onto the bedding next to her, and without being fully aware of his actions, he cuddled her close as he rode out the storm of sensation.

Severus, sated beyond belief, found himself drifting on a calm sea, softly rising and falling. The sea moved, shifted beneath him, causing a spray of emotions to wash over his face, soaking into him. A slight pressure on his arm finally registered and he opened his eyes to the merest of slits, his gaze resting on the smug woman beside him.

"Hey, no fair falling asleep on the job," she murmured.

"I was not sleeping," he lied, taking a leaf from the book of Messrs. Potter and Weasley, "I was resting my eyes." Still, the comment had rankled. Did the girl not think he was up to the job?

With his gaze still locked on the creamy flesh before him he felt his interest stir again. 'Maybe surviving the odd revel had some use after all,' he mused as his body recovered quickly from its earlier exertions at the sight of her, ready to mount a new attack.

Her comment of, "-I'd rather you were feasting your eyes," had him repressing a smirk. Of course he was going to feast his eyes-and a few other things if he had his way. These pleasant ruminations were interrupted as she continued speaking, "What else do we have to do, to capture my virginity-blood, and Tantrically unleash the rest of my potential?"

"We could also make love somewhere in there," he snarked slightly. Her timetable sounded just a bit too much like a blasted timetable.

It was amazing, Severus though to himself, how the state of a person's demeanour, in this case Hermione's, could be telegraphed by parts of the body not normally associated with communication. He was fairly certain the young minx was currently biting her lip, a habit he'd found rather irritating in the Gryffindor know-it-all but he rather enjoyed in the woman grown. His gaze firmly fixed, enjoy the sight of minute tremors crossing her breasts as she attempted not to laugh at his last comment.

His gaze was redirected by a gentle hand that travelled from shoulder to jaw; she drew his face up and his eyes met hers. "Severus, we will definitely be making love. A lot of love, if I have anything to say about it," she emphasized, smiling beatifically at him.

"Lots," he purred.

"Yes, lots," she agreed. "Later. But I only have one virginity, and-perfectionist that I am-I'd like to get it right on the first try. That does require at least a little foreskin…er," she blushed furiously, charmingly, "I mean, forethought, and planning."

It was the blush that did it; he would later swear to that fact on a stack of 10 potion texts. It was the blush, not a word that she'd said, just the blush. Either way, Severus Snape, the snarky bastard of Hogwarts, finally lost it; it started out as a snicker, low and quiet, but very quickly mutated into a rumbling chortle before setting into a deep, bass laugh… A little foreskin…, he'd show her a little foreskin! Surging up along the line of her body, he captured her lips all the while laughing with an unspoken joy.

"Hermione," he murmured into her mouth, "the one perfect know-it-all virgin."

With her chin lifting away from him momentarily, she gave him a look that could have come from the standard catalogue of 'Snarky Snape'. She even had just the right inflection on the eyebrow. "If I weren't so insistent upon achieving perfection, sirrah, I wouldn't be in bed with you!"

"It would seem, Hermione, that you are again demonstrating the superior judgement that a mind such as yours should be capable of," he said with a smile. "A mind so delightfully packaged," he added with a self-satisfied leer, "is not something I intend to waste."

So saying he brought his lips back to hers and began to demonstrate the virtues of close observation and serious study; in this case the close observation and serious study of one Hermione Granger. Having catalogued her reactions over the past twenty-four hours, he knew how to aurally stimulate her; sending his voice to the lowest of the bass registers he could reach, he began to hum her name as he kissed her.

It seemed he had pitched the tone just right, for she murmured back to him, "God, I love you."

She was using the backs of her fingers to gently stroke the jet strands of his hair from his temple. It only added to his conviction of her words; her touch was gentle, unasked-for but granted anyway, sending shivers though his body, shivers of a type he'd rarely experienced before. If she asked him now to give her the moon, he would. Somehow, he'd manage it. He'd managed to survive the bloody war against all odds, after all.

Leaning into her touch, he closed his eyes and just concentrated on the feeling of being loved-not the love of a parent, something he'd never really experience anyway, but the love of another person, freely given. He'd spoken words of love before to this siren, but they were mere words in comparison to the sheer depths of feeling her touch now awakened. Like the sailors of old, he was caught in the siren's song and he would soon crash on her reefs. "Hermione, let me love you."

Her body moved away from him and for one frightened moment he thought he'd gone too far, telegraphed too much. Then, just as he was about to draw back into the shell of himself, very much like a creature of the sea, he opened his eyes for one last look at Nirvana…and Nirvana looked back. There, lying before him, smiling and relaxed, was the woman who had sung him to the shoals and now not only promised, but revealed a safe harbour in her purring words. "I give myself to you."

"Thank you." He let all his defences down, all shields, all lies, and all layers of protection. He laid his mind naked and open before her, knowing that even without the skill of Legilimency he was now completely vulnerable to the woman before him. Still, for the dance he intended to lead her on, she had to be able to trust him heart and soul. It was a trust that could only come if he were willing to trust her to the same level, and so he left himself open and waited.

Severus held himself still above her, gazing down into amber-brown eyes filled with complete belief in him. This girl, unaware of her own power, healed a wound he'd felt would never heal, and for the first time in his living memory, his heart was whole. Smiling softly to himself, Severus thought of Hermione, the child she had been and the woman he desired; holding the later image firmly in his mind, he began to draw his upon in his own formidable powers, centering himself before he took the first step in the ritual that would end with Hermione finally seen as a woman grown in the eyes of the wizarding world. If his heart had its way, she would be seen as more than woman grown; they'd see a wife. His wife.

The thought was terrifyingly sublime to contemplate.

The bite he had taken earlier had given his power a taste of hers; now it was time to give her powers a taste of his, though at least he wouldn't have to be bitten for that to happen. He suspected the young woman might object to that, but… He knew her power, and he would use that knowledge to craft the vessel that would 'collect' her virgin blood.

"Hermione," he whispered as he leant forward, "let us begin." With that, he placed a kiss upon the very top of her head, a light pulse of power. He felt the first mark, Knowledge, settle. Nuzzling her hair, and breathing in the very scent that was her, he waited patiently, allowing Hermione the chance to integrate Knowledge into her psyche. When the mark took hold, he felt an answering flare in his own Knowledge mark, this time soft and gentle, not like the brutality of his original breaking. There was still a terrible taint upon his own marks, but her power echoed into his like a soft zephyr caressing a storm-ravaged shore.

He moved again, this time to place a kiss upon her temple, the mark of Sight. The pulse of power was deeper this time, more pronounced; the answering flare brighter. The third kiss, the mark of Voice, was the mark that would actually set the tone for the rest of the ceremony: relatively chaste, or erotic. His lips unerringly captured hers; this 'ceremony' was going to be anything but chaste. Gently, teasingly, he kissed until they parted, then with slow, deliberate strokes he thrust his tongue in and out of the soft sweet opening that was her mouth, a foreshadowing of what was to come. He tasted, he drank, and he reintroduced himself to everything that was Hermione Granger and her mouth. Power pulsed and flared between them as Voice took hold.

Enjoying the interplay of their tongues and their power, Severus continued to deepen the kiss, holding onto the sensations for as long as possible; still, the body required air to breathe, and it was only for that reason he ended their kiss. Breathless, but still riding high on power, he nipped and lapped his way down her throat and breast-line until his lips touched the skin above her heart. Whilst Voice set the tone for the ceremony it, was Heart that set the strength. His Heart had been broken by what had happened to him; hers, he would cherish. In doing so, it felt as if the strength of her Heart healed his.

He could literally feel the racing pulse of her heart as it quivered below the lips pressed to her sternum. A soft flutter of power caressed deep within his own chest, as Heart took hold.

The taste of her skin continued to intoxicate him as he grazed his lips down her centre towards her navel; the line of life stretching all the way back to Eve was captured in that small depression. He ran his tongue around the edge of her bellybutton, once, twice, three times before he thrust it into the place that joined Hermione to those before her. Lapping at her like she was a bowl, he committed the depth, feel and shape of her navel to memory as he set the Power mark. Their very existence gave a wizard or witch their powers, and because they reproduced, their magic bestowed itself upon their descendants as well, each one tied to the one before by the umbilical cord of motherhood. For Hermione, this was an even more potent place than it was for him; she had the ability to tie a cord of power between herself and the next generation, something he could only do indirectly as a father…

Moving to set the last two marks, he felt her body trembling beneath him. She parted her knees allowing his body to settle into the cradle of life. These last two marks were the marks of the future, Heat and Life.

The warmth from her groin warmed him, stimulated him, and enthralled him, as he moved to place his mouth over her womb, just below her navel. His chin brushed against the soft curls that marked the start of her mound, the top of his head rested against her belly with the Power mark flaring against his mark of Knowledge; from that touch, Power learnt where Knowledge intended to take them and pulsed its agreement. Suckling at the skin above her womb, Severus began to hum; the music was the incantation of bodily heat: slow, deep, sensual, and pulsing with need, with want, with desire. The sound drew forth the very essence of life's dance; it called to his powers, his need to create, to continue his bloodline, and that power, now freed, began to seep into his core, into his seed.

He felt, rather than saw, Hermione move slightly. Glancing up though hooded eyes he watched as the sound affected her as well; her hands shifted until they cupped her breasts, her fingers gliding out to slide over her nipples. The sight was as sensual as a Titian painting, lush, ripe and full of potential.

Continuing to hum, the sound now supporting the non-verbal incantation, he took his love of potions, the skill, knowledge and desire to create the most magnificent of elixirs and bound that power into himself. Feeding that power into his own seed, he began to make of himself a potion that was ultimate expression of his ability to create. Two ingredients remained: the first he would collect as he set the last mark; the final ingredient would be added as he breached her maidenhead.

Taking a deep breath, one that would allow him to drink deeply at the font, he lowered his head to the folds of her womanhood. His tongue slid between her folds, stopping at her entrance. Here, like with her navel, he let his tongue lick about the edge of the hole, once, twice, three times, before he drew it back into his mouth, savouring the sweet nectar caught upon its surface. Her body move beneath him, her hips arching, presenting her to him, almost begging him to drink deeper; the scent of musk and sweat teased his senses, the heat and damp that rose from her calling forth an almost animalistic desire to feast.

Hermione Granger's body was like an oasis to a man starved of liquid; she tasted sweet, fresh, and clear. He drank his fill, savouring the juices. He tortured her as his nose brushed gently, repeatedly against her clitoris. He loved her as he worshiped her body with his hands. He desired her, and that desire he fed into the silent spells he was weaving as he melded her juices into the potion of his his body, the brew of his loins.

The mark of Life was set.

Crawling up her body, keeping as much of his flesh in contact with hers, Severus had to fight his desire to take her roughly, there and then. Instead he levered himself up slightly. Then frowned as her body rose with him. About to question, he was silenced by a touch, her fingers brushed his lips before her hand slid down to his shoulder. With a strength he hadn't suspected she possessed, she pushed at him, rolling him onto his back before she quickly straddled him. Her fingers again returned to his lips to silence the question forming on his lips.

Grasping her waist, he tried to maneuver her downward, towards his erect penis that ached with need. She surprised him, however, by leaning forward and capturing his face in her hands. A soft smile graced her face as she bent forward and placed a searing kiss atop his head. That kiss caused the mark of Knowledge, set there many years ago by one who sought to use and abuse him, to flare visibly in a sickly green, widening his eyes. It changed under her touch to that of the crisp, clean green of new spring growth. She, too, began to glow, in all of the places where he had poured himself into her, but with a clear, liquid gold untainted by the magic he had infused into her.

He felt her power as it reached into places he'd never even known were damaged, reaching in deep and healing him. It gently washed away the scars of youth, the obscuring cataracts of years spent living a lie, the bitterness of years believing that anything Slytherin was tainted, particularly when compared to the irritating, glowingly clean light of Albus' precious Gryffindors. His eyes, always dark and shaded, looked up in disbelief at her; that she saw something in him worthy of loving in spite of her knowing innocence cleansed him, brightened him. He felt a blackness that had crept into his soul, reflected in his bitter-tainted eyes, finally seeping away. He would not recognise his own eyes when next he saw them, of this he was sure, for the world seemed different, as she gave him the mark of Vision.

He lay passive to her touch, letting the healing magics work their way through his soul without resistance; Severus discovered he really did trust her completely.

Recognising that she was caught up within ritual magic-though what ritual, his prodigious knowledge failed to identify, since this was not a part of the rite-of-passage that he knew-he held himself carefully under control as she slid further down his body. He eased his legs apart just as she had earlier, but where he had safely been able to settle into her feminine valley, she was presented with a pointed obstacle to overcome first.

His penis bobbed and swayed as her shapely rear pressed up against it, and then slid over the top of his throbbing crown as she settled her knees between his legs; this action required him to exercise all of his considerable restraint, as he was so tempted to just sheath himself in her depths. 'I should get a second bloody Order of Merlin First Class for this', he thought to himself, before all chance to think was lost in the sensations of her lips upon his heart, under the painfully pure, achingly sweet, cleansing gold fire that burnt through him. His breathing deepened as the meta-physical poisons of the past were washed away under the flood of her very self invading and infusing his willing Heart.

Understanding the pattern that she followed, Severus felt his stomach muscles tighten in anticipation. His manhood quivered; he could almost see the incipient verdant energy leaking from his tip as she angled her head to lap at his navel. That inadvertently brushed the soft skin of her cheek against his need. A deep moan escaped his throat as she repeated the ritual kiss to his navel that he had used earlier, wisps of her curls now tantalizing him. The moan deepened further until it was a soundless whimper. Soundless, but visible nonetheless, for his breath highlighted the dancing dust motes in the air with emerald green-with two more chakra-marks to open, he was already glowing from within, thanks to her efforts on behalf of his Power.

He continued screaming in silent, exhaled ecstasy as the young woman moved to mark his seat of procreation. Her lips, warm and welcoming, opened over his testicles. Severus felt her inhale his laden balls into her mouth, tears leaked from his eyes as she rolled his sacs gently over her tongue. Her nose was resting at the very base of him and he could feel soft blows of air from it as she breathed. The elixir he had been creating, held within his sacs, was fed her power with her humming Heat, and he took that gift and wove its threads into the silent incantation that he held ready in the back of his thankfully disciplined mind.

Severus stilled as Hermione released his balls, now heavy with their combined magic, from her oral caress. His manhood stood straighter as it waited to be worshipped in the final stage of the ritual. He watched though lidded eyes as she licked her lips before bending, reverently, to take his shaft into her mouth. Those tender, rose-pink lips slid slowly down his length, taking him in deeply. Her nose brushed the hairs that nested about his base. He felt her suckle at him, felt her tease him, yet it was without malice; he felt her love for him and the last vestiges of darkness were banished from his soul as she filled his manhood with the pure magic of Life.

Moments before his need became too great, she shifted, sliding up his body until her lips brushed his. She rolled to one side, guiding him until his weight settled eagerly over her. "Husband," she whispered into his mouth, claiming it as he claimed her.

"Wife," he answered as his erect penis nudged gently at her folds.

He could feel the slickness of her entrance, still ready from his ministrations, and his desire mounted. He brought his lips crushing down on hers. Severus eased his length into her opening folds until he rested against the barrier. The vessel was prepared, the ritual almost complete; a final, mental enchantment, and she would be his. Somehow, he knew that he would now also be hers. That thought quickened his heart with exhilaration, not dread.

"Wife," he groaned aloud again as he thrust quickly inward, breaching her maidenhead with one sure stroke. The silent incantation ended at the exact instant he had breached her causing power to flare, bright gold and emerald green; his seed, prepared and ready, spilt forth mixing with the virgin blood that seeped from the broken head.

"-Husband!" she gasped.

Under the ritual's magic, he did not soften, but maintained his erection as he withdrew, almost leaving her body before he thrust back in. Dark amber eyes looked up at him as he repeatedly thrust into the tight tunnel that was Hermione Snape; each time he reached the bottom of his thrust he would twist slightly, rubbing his pubic bone against her hardened nub. He continued to thrust deeply, twisting his hips and grinding his penis at the base of penetration to continue to bring pressure on her clitoris.

He rode her with all the passion locked in his soul. He bent his head forward willingly as she raised her hands to drag his mouth back down to hers. Only too happy to oblige, he let her lead the kiss as he continued their dance. Fire built in his loins again, the need to brand her, to mark her as his and his alone gaining strength; fed in part by the desire he felt flowing from her, the sheer pleasure that was building in her fed itself back into him like an ouroboros.

He knew to the instant when she would leap from the precipice, thanks to the magic glowing figuratively and literally between them; Severus leapt with her; falling, twisting, turning, catching her and being caught by her in turn, he fell spiralling down in a vortex of pure pleasure. Her muscles clamped down upon him, milking him of the second wave of seed that spurted forth, draining him, filling her, and sating both of them.

He cried out, soundless, as the world, the universe, exploded before his inner eye. He could see his seed as it pumped within her, he could see the path it would take, and he could see the past, the present, and the future within her. Companion of his life, mother of his children, there was one perfect word to describe her. Sated, he collapsed on her and whispered, "Wife!" as the last vestiges of ritual-driven vision receded from his eyes; for a moment, he fancied that the last thing he saw with his inner vsion was the birth of a new star.

A chuckle escaped her; it took him sex addled brain a moment or two to track down the cause, at least this time he found he didn't leap to any silly conclusions. When he had said 'wife', she had said 'husband'; they'd both spoken simultaneously. He lifted his head as her chuckle faded; his eyes widened briefly as he noticed their auras flaring again, green and gold intertwined. Where the power should have faded away, he still felt a small warm core of it nestled in his heart, something that felt entirely like Hermione.

He didn't even try to fight the smile of contentment that planted itself on his face; if having this witch beside him meant the snarky git got permanently laid to rest, or at least was firmly made to take a little downtime now and again from his personality-which was more likely, given his temperament-he was not about to complain. Just as he was about to make some hopefully suitable comment, Hermione moved like lightening and kissed him noisily, sloppily, and loudly before trying to make a quick 'get away'.

Fearing he looked shell-shocked, and eternally grateful that the manipulative old coot known as Albus fucking Dumbledore wasn't here to observe, Severus looked down at his newly awakened lover. She looked up at him with a very naughty grin, and and equally cheeky, "Well, that was certainly fun! How soon can we do it again?"

Words were over-rated in this instance. Severus decided to just demonstrate how soon…

Eventually, they had to return to Headquarters; if nothing else, he was getting a little hungry. It had been a long time since he'd gone through similar levels of energy expenditure as he had endured in the past 24 hours: a game of wizarding spin-the-bottle; a power-infused potion; and a surprisingly mutual, Tantric sexual awakening.

Spinning through the Floo at Hermione's side after a somewhat extended discussion on who should go through first-he'd wanted to go through in case Albus was in the kitchen at Grimmauld Place (or at least that's what he told Hermione, though he was rather hoping he'd get the chance to hex someone else, like the prats they'd trapped in the drawing room), she'd argued that she should go first after all the residents at Grimmauld Place were less likely to hex her. In the end, they had gone together, Hermione on his right, as he could hex equally well left- or right-handed.

Spinning through the Floo network with your hand held was a new experience for Severus; one he found he rather enjoyed. The post-landing dizziness forced him to relinquish Hermione's hand. Given the number of people present to witness their return Severus decided he'd rather still be holding Hermione's hand; that way he'd have been able to drag her back into the Floo before anyone noticed them. Of course, fate, as always, wasn't about to co-operate; by the time he'd registered who was there and their positions relative to Hermione and himself (in case a hex or two was required), someone noticed them: Arthur 'normally I'm as dim as a single candle' Weasley.

The patriarch of the Weasley clan looked directly at them both as they emerged from the whirling flames. There was no time to escape. Strangely, Arthur dropped his fork with a look of utter shock. What followed the clattering of his silverware was a 'typical Gryffindor' response; not one wand came out to defend against unannounced attack. No, the fools had to see who could see what had upset Arthur the quickest; heads turned fast enough that one or two cases of whiplash were going to be added to the health bill for the evening's entertainment.

Molly, hands full of food -as they always seemed to be when more that two people gathered-dropped the bowl of whatever it was she was about to serve as she observed the pair; that shattered bowl lay completely ignored at her feet as she demanded incredulously, and almost uncharacteristically, given how she almost never swore, "-What the bloody hell have you two been up to?"

Severus' left eyebrow went skyward; wasn't it ruddy obvious what they'd been doing? He was about to make suitably scathing reply to Molly's stupid question when his hind brain finally managed to kick his forebrain (with much malice and forethought). It wasn't a stupid question, and Molly-who, he noticed, actually seemed to have a slight, not entirely visible glow to her that was resonating with a similar glow around Arthur-wasn't actually enquiring about their physical activities, as such, but what they'd been doing magically. Looking at the younger witch at his side he could see why. Hermione glowed, and his aura resonated with hers; their spring green was different from the Weasleys' rose-lilac, but it glowed just as distinct to his senses.

What the bloody hell?

A quick scan of the room showed only he and Hermione, and Molly and Arthur, actually had any sort of 'aura'; Remus and Tonks, Bill and Fleur, not one of them held a trace of extra magical energy. That ruled out shagging the living daylight out of one another as the cause. Pleasurable though it had been.

'Mine!' sang his hind-brain as he looked at Hermione again, seeing that golden-green glow emanating from her soul. 'Mine, all mine!'

Before he'd had time to fully process the caveman-like possessiveness of his thoughts, Arthur Weasley rose from the table and rather commandingly addressed the others in the room. "-Do excuse us, will you? Molly and I need to have a word with these two."

Molly quickly and efficiently (probably a skill born of years of practice) dealt with the spilt potatoes; they were cleaned, the bowl restored, and the lot dropped in front of her youngest son. Arthur, a pointed look on his face, simply flapped his hands at Hermione and Severus, herding them towards the door into the hall.

Given he'd prefer the following discussion to remain somewhat private, Severus complied with the unspoken order; possibly, it was the first time he'd ever done as Arthur had asked without putting up at least a token resistance. Hermione led the way, obviously (to his eyes anyway) avoiding the front parlour where the games had began; instead, she headed upstairs and unerringly towards the room he normally occupied when staying at Grimmauld Place on Order business. Not a bad choice of location, as he doubted any of the Gryffindors possessed enough courage to beard him in his personal den.

Looking every inch the hostess, Hermione opened the door to 'his' room, and, after stepping inside, held it open graciously, allowing the others to enter. Severus didn't even bother trying to hide the smirk that crossed his features. That the elder Weasleys were put to a blush just added to his silent delight. His delight lasted all of three seconds, as that was how long it took for the Weasley Matriarch to spell-lock his room; the woman even beating Hermione to the cast. It was one of Molly's Imperturbable Charms; no one was going in (or out, a disturbing thought) until she personally released it. He could break it, but that would take time; time he didn't have, given his companions would likely object to such a blatant escape attempt.

Sitting himself down on his bed, he was pleased to note that Hermione joined him there. Once settled, he let the Weasleys have it with both barrels; he quirked his right eyebrow as high as it would go, and asked in a voice dripping with disdain, "You wanted to discuss our mating?"

Arthur suddenly looked like he'd rather be back downstairs; the very 'Gryffindor-ish attack', coming as it did from one of the most Slytherin males around, flustering him. As expected. Unfortunately, Molly was made of sterner material-given that she's survived bringing the twins up, it wasn't all that surprising. Still, Severus would have preferred it if the woman had kept her mouth shut instead of answering him with another question. Questions, after all, were a jiggling red-rag to Hermione's bull.

Molly snapped, loudly, "Yes! Just what do you think you were doing, binding the girl in a bloody Ancient Fertility Rite?"

To which Hermione replied, honestly, and as predicted, "-Actually, we didn't know what we were doing, per se. It just sort of…occurred. But we're very happy with the results, all the same. Now that we've figured out what happened."

"WHAT!" the Weasley matriarch screamed, out-doing a Howler for sheer decibel level, even the one she'd sent her own son. "You didn't know what you were doing? Bloody hell!" Polite language seemed a thing of the past. Severus carefully hid his amusement at the sight of the redheaded Mother Of Them All (the Weasley brats, that was) unhinged a bit at Hermione's revelation. "How could you not know what you were doing? How in Circe' name could you," and at this point she skewed Severus with a look, "cast a ruddy mating ritual without knowing what you were doing? I'm surprised at you, Severus Snape for even allowing something like this to happen!"

Severus sat silent through the category 5 aural, storm thinking about all the times in his life where he'd watched others somehow or other manage complex magics, without the least idea of what they were doing, or how, and yet also managed to come up smelling of roses. It had always frustrated him, and given her sons had managed more than their fair share of complex magics in that way; because of this, he felt perfectly justified taking a leaf out of George Weasley's book. Now, if only she'd stop gusting long enough for him to use it…

Arthur reasserted the marital reins saying, "Give them a bloody chance to breathe, let alone reply!"

Taking advantage of the eye of Mrs. Molly Hurricane, Severus just smiled and said, "Oops."

"It was just supposed to be an awakening ritual," Hermione interjected before Molly had a chance to reply to his rather deliberate attempt to provoke the woman.

Hermione continued, her tone gaining strength, "Mine, to be precise-yes, Molly, I was a virgin, but it was entirely our idea, as in a mutually-made decision, with no bloody coercion about the matter-and so help me, if you try to make Severus' life miserable over this, I will hex you where the sun doesn't shine!"

'Merlin, she's magnificent', Silently silently exalted as she paused for breath. His mate was more than capable of taking on even Molly Weasley the humanoid hurricane. He was proud of how strong-willed she was. Moving his hand to cover hers, his first real, deliberate show of support since the entire farce began, he squeezed her fingers lightly. Hopefully he managed to convey that fact that'd he stop trying to provoke their unexpected companions, and that he'd let her deal with them. Miracles didn't happen overnight, and Slytherin scales didn't turn all soft and fluffy, but he'd keep his 'snark' under control whilst they sorted things out. Even if that meant leaving off on the Gryffindor-baiting, amusing though it was.

"Anyway, I simply returned the favour, since his own awakening-" his hand squeezed hers tightly in warning, "-was less than ideal," she finished quietly. "And that's when it started happening, whatever it was that finished the whole thing, and made us…mates…for lack of a better term. Now, since the two of you obviously know more about this than we do, why don't you explain what you know, Arthur?"

Arthur glanced at his wife before he drew a deep breath, and began explaining. "Well, you see…we ran across this spell, ages ago-back when we were dating-that permitted… well… it sort of…" The man was going as red as his hair Severus noted.

"It was a fertility rite we found in an ancient textbook," Molly cut across her husband's ramblings, "dating from before the founding of Hogwarts."

"Hush, dear; I'm telling this," Arthur said as he patted his wife's hand.

"Well, then, get on with it!" the Weasley matriarch snapped back.


Severus remembered once watching a Muggle tennis match, admittedly only because it was the target of the current Death Eater raid; Arthur and Molly's conversation reminded him of that little ball…back and forth, lob and volley. Any inclination to snicker, however, was cut short by Arthur's next comment; delivered whilst staring firmly Severus.

"It can only be activated by couples who are compatible…and who love each other very deeply, as love is what empowers the magic that is used."

"-Basically, fumbling around as you did, the two of you got yourselves married like a couple of Pictish heathens," Molly summarized unhelpfully.

"And the, erm, entire point of the rite, aside from a primitive form of marriage," Arthur hedged, "is, well…ensuring fertility in a couple. Which, as you can see from our own, erm, success…"

Children. Multiple children. Many multiple children. He was going to be a father, and not just once, probably not even only twice. He was looking at the possibility of a Quidditch team, perhaps even with emergency relief players. And he liked the idea…

'Slytherin will reign supreme for an eternity', he thought for one brief, insane moment. Ok, the conceiving part was always going to be fun-his manhood literally jumped at the idea of prolonged, and repeated, energy expenditure in that particular endeavour-but what worried him was the idea that he liked the idea of children.

Clearly, he was in shock.

Arthur, apparently aware that both he and Hermione were shock-numbed, continued explaining. "From this point forward, the two of you will only cleave to each other. You won't want to be with anyone else, and you won't want your mate to be with anyone else, either. For your own sake, for the legality of it, and for keeping the others off your back…the two of you are going to have to get married. And the sooner the better. I won't have you trying to hex my youngest son's balls off, just for looking at Hermione the wrong way!"

"Arthur!" Molly chided him.

"Given that your son has given me more than enough cause in the past to want to hex his balls off, I'm fairly certain I will be able resist the impulse in the future," Severus stated blandly, slowly getting over his shock.

"Well… Watch your language," the older witch scolded quietly.

"Sorry, Molly, but they've got to know," Arthur protested, before returning his attention to the couple across from him. "The Ministry doesn't recognize the fertility rite as a legal marriage, either. You'll need to go through a proper Anglican one, though I can at least help to waive the banns and get you a special license, if you like. I've got some pull in the Licensing Department."

Pull in the Licensing Department; of course Arthur would have some 'pull' in that department, but… It was here that Severus' Slytherin side came to the fore. Yes, they could waive the calling of the Banns and get married hurriedly like a couple from those trashy regency novels he often had to confiscate from the Muggle born 6th and 7th years. Or they could do things properly. He decided on properly. Properly, with all the attendant ceremony; that it would rub the Boy-Who-Was-A-Pain's face in the fact that Hermione Jane Granger would be formally and legally his beloved wife was just a nice bonus.

Sliding gracefully off the bed, Severus knelt on the floor in front of Hermione and took her hands in his. Lifting them to his lips, he bent his head down to kiss her knuckles, all the while maintaining eye contact, "Hermione Jane Snape, would you do me the honour of accepting my lonely hand, my tarnished heart, and my battered soul as your own? Would you marry me and be my wife?"

He couldn't help the small frown that escaped as Hermione replied, a little too flippantly but with a warm smile, "More than all the world, Severus Sebastian Granger." The frown quickly vacated the premises, though, as she continued, "Because I do love you, and I would be greatly honoured to be Mrs. Snape."

Whatever they had done, it seemed that one of the side effect was a slightly heightened awareness of each other and some of their surface thoughts. O at least that's what he hoped, as he caught a fleeting image of 'Mine' scrawled across his backside. Surely such an idea couldn't be entirely his own. Hermione's eyes sparkled with gentle mirth and her lips quivered with unspoken delight. All this spoke to Severus of silly thoughts and he was tempted to try Legilimency to find out just what amused her so; doing so, however, was an abuse of trust he wasn't about to entertain. Not without her permission, and he wasn't about to ask in front of the Weasleys.

As he turned his head slightly to skewer Arthur with 'the look', Severus allowed one eyebrow to quirk upwards in question at Hermione before he informed the Weasley Patriarch that there would be no need to waive the calling of the Banns.

"You, Arthur, may have married in haste," he said pointedly remembering tales of a rushed wedding often alluded to by other Order members whenever Bill Weasley's age came up, "but I see no need to subject Hermione to that sort of 'speculation'." He would enjoy the consternation of the entire Gryffindor house, as they played out the time honoured tunes of a traditional Wizarding Wedding. Just the sort of Wedding present to warm the cockles of his heart, watching the Boy Who Irritated To No End forced to give him the traditional toast of marital bliss. Hermione would no doubt want him to stand in as Brother Of The Bride, given how she was a single child.

Enjoying the quiet contemplation of House Gryffindors' horror, Severus almost missed spotting the grim set of Mrs. Weasley's mouth, but her words quickly penetrated his haze of self-congratulations. "You are a beak-nosed fool, Severus Snape-obviously, you cannot see past the end of it!" the woman snapped as she waved one hand in front of his nose. "You mated each other in a fertility rite! She's already up the duff!"

'Shite,' Severus thought as he felt the blood drain from his face. He wasn't the only one shocked by Molly's words however as Hermione touched her stomach saying, "But, I don't feel anything!"

"You will in about seven days," the older witch asserted smugly. "You'll feel a flutter when the embryo implants itself in your uteral lining." Severus wondered if he could get away with a small hex or three, given Molly's infernally self-righteous tone; given the woman had survived the twins' antics, however, it probably wasn't advisable.

It was Arthur who maintained an aura of calm, stating blandly, "And I wouldn't advise any potions or hexes to terminate it, either. Those fertility rites are awfully potent."

"Why?" Severus asked warily, eyes narrowing as he studied the other wizard. "What could possibly happen?" he asked whilst his primitive hind-brain tried to block its ears and shout 'lalalalalalalalala' at him.

"Twins." The blunt answer was a succinct horror to Arthur's audience. "We wanted to stop after Percy, and when we tried…it didn't terminate the embryo; it just split it in twain!"

Severus tried to think rationally in the face of such a bald statement, tried being to operative word.

"Twins?" he heard himself squeak in a tone not unlike Neville Longbottom. 'Oh how the mighty have fallen', he though sardonically to himself. Twins. Two children. Two children at once. Two children, who would likely inherit both his and Hermione's innate brilliance, and were likely to give the Weasley Twins a run for their money in sheer mischief level-Slytherin cunning mated to Gryffindor enthusiasm? Severus, who had faced down Voldemort and lived to tell the tale, did what any sensible man faced with such thoughts would do.

He fainted.

Sweet summer wine, a gentle breeze blowing soft across his face, a hard unyielding beach… Severus woke with a start, his pleasant dream of white sandy beaches and a bikini-clad Hermione's receding in the face of the hard woollen carpet that was scratching at his back. "Hermione?" he asked, unsure of his welcome, given her definitely less than virginal state, mixed with the prospect of her bearing a Quidditch team or two.

She smiled one of her brilliant smiles at him, "Yes, Severus?"

Maybe things weren't as dire as he expected.

"Molly is going to milk this for all its worth, isn't she?" he asked his fiancé with a lop-sided, uncertain grin. "I probably shouldn't have mentioned the speed with which she and Arthur originally wed," he continued, half-muttering to himself. "I suppose we've been ordered to present ourselves downstairs at the soonest possible moment?"

She nodded, and opened her mouth to speak.

With all the speed of a cobra-and the cunning of a Slytherin-he struck.

"Soonest possible moment," he scoffed as his hands caught at the back of her head and began to pull her face back towards his. "I have better things to do than face a firing squad…"

At which point Severus proceeded to demonstrate, fully and completely, that he did indeed have better things to do.