The Time Traveller

Hermione Granger, bushy haired 'know it all', the brightest student in the year, was bored. It was potions class and they had been set a relatively easy potion to make for their mock – NEWTS. She had finished well before the rest of the class, and was now staring idly at the potions master, Severus Snape, who was engaged in the tedious task of marking first year essays. She watched the flick of his wrist as he graded them; most earning an 'S', and the occasional 'A'.

She didn't like Snape; nobody outside Slytherin house did. She respected his ability in potions, but that was it. He was mean, bad tempered, and in Ron's opinion, a 'snarky git'.

Gazing into space, she jumped when Neville Longbottom, the worst student in the year, and the person she usually helped in potions lessons, cried out in alarm. Worried, she twisted round in her seat to see his potion boiling over, and it definitely wasn't the required shade of purple. Ignoring the fact this was supposed to be an exam conditions lesson, she jumped up and went to the other side of his cauldron.

"Neville, add the shredded roots now," she said "Just a handful…."

Her words were drowned out as Neville, in his panic, swept most of the rest of his ingredients into the cauldron, which promptly exploded.

The blast caught Hermione full on and blasted her off her feet.

The class erupted into panic. For where Hermione had been standing, there was no sign of her. She had vanished from the classroom entirely.

Snape banged on his desk. "Quiet! Will everybody who has completed or nearly completed their potions bottle them and bring them to the front. All of you are dismissed."

The class gaped at him, and Ron and Harry, anxious about their friend, protested loudly.

"Silence!" he said again. "Potter, you will fetch the headmaster. Now, go!"

The class left in an unusual quiet. They were worried. Neville, convinced he had killed Hermione, was crying softly, and Ron had his arm round him.

None of them looked back to see their snarky potions master sink into his chair, head in his hands.

A large nose was swimming vaguely into Hermione's sight, accompanied by long dark hair.

"Sorry sir," she mumbled. "I wasn't…." she couldn't think how to answer the sentence, so stopped.

"I'm not a professor" said a familiar voice.

She blinked, and the face swam into focus. A very familiar face, but one, could it be, considerably younger?

She gaped at him.

"Severus Snape," the boy held out his hand.

She took it. "Hermione Granger." She struggled up, quickly let go of his hand and sat down at the nearest desk. Surveying the oddly empty classroom quickly she saw that, although technically the same room that she had just left, there were differences. The name 'Professor Slughorn' written across the top of the blackboard was a big clue, and the classroom in general had a lighter atmosphere than she was used to; pictures of famous witches and wizards were hung around the walls, and the general impression was cheerful. She looked again at Snape, who was standing against the wall eyeing her curiously. This was weird. He looked to be the same age as her. And given that he was in the same year as Harry's parents, then she appeared to have travelled to a time twenty years before her period.

Snape was leaning casually against the wall.

"So, Hermione Granger…"

"Yes?"

"Would you care to enlighten me as to why you have suddenly appeared out of thin air, disturbing my supposed quiet study period?"

That explained the absence of other people then. She wondered what to tell him, and decided a vague version of the truth would be okay, until she could find Dumbledore and ask for help.

"It was a potions accident. I appear to have travelled in time."

Snape quirked an eyebrow. "Yes indeed."

She looked at him, annoyed. Wasn't he going to help her at all? But of course this was Snape.

He sighed. "I suppose you want to go and see the Headmaster?"

She nodded. She needed to get back to her time, she needed to get out of this crazy past world. If her experience with the time turner four years ago had taught her anything, it was that time was not to be messed with in any way.

Snape stepped forward and opened a door. Walking out he looked back at her. "Come on then."

They made their way up from the dungeons in silence, but it was a long walk through the corridors (mercifully empty) to Dumbledore's office. Eventually Snape broke the silence. "So," he said, "the headmaster is Dumbledore. He's mental, but he knows his stuff. He'll get you back alright."

"Oh, I hope so!" said Hermione.

"Desperate to be back?" Snape asked quizzically.

She half smiled. "We're nearly up to our NEWTS. I don't want to miss anything."

"Hah" he snorted. "A swotty type then?"

"Hey!" she swung round, cross, to face him. "I like learning, okay. And it's none of your business anyway."

He frowned at that. "Look, I didn't ask you to burst into my study period out of nowhere. I had important work to do and I didn't need this nannying job of ferrying you safely to the headmaster," he spat.

"Fine! Fine then! Just leave me here! See if I care!" She faced him defiantly, not going to back down, not going to show how upset she was.

Strangely, he sighed. "I'm sorry. I'll take you to Dumbledore. Come on." And he swept off down the corridor.

She ran after him. "What's wrong?"

"Oh. Nothing. I'm just a grumpy git sometimes. I shouldn't have snapped at you, it probably wasn't your fault. It wasn't, was it?" he finished curiously.

Hermione grinned. "No. Just we had been set some work," 'by you! How weird' she added silently to herself. "And I usually help this boy, but I wasn't really paying attention to him" because I was watching you " and then I noticed he had gone horribly wrong, got up to help him and he just tipped everything in his cauldron, and the next thing I knew, I was here."

"Ah, a dunderhead. How fun for you." He seemed to have relaxed slightly.

"I guess ending up here was a fairly good punishment for not watching him like a hawk." She smiled wryly.

At that he turned to her. "Idiots are not your responsibility, and it is not your fault that you are here. Understand?" He reached out and gripped her shoulder. She stared at his hand, then at him, and something felt funny inside her. The pressure on her shoulder was firm and the look in his eyes was concerned. She gazed up at him, suddenly realizing how he towered over her. She gulped then, and instantly he dropped his hand and moved away.

"Anyway, Dumbledore will send you back alright." He said confidently. They approached the gargoyle that hid the staircase. "Berty Bott's Every Flavour Beans." Snape said to it, and it sprang open.

"Really?" said Hermione. "I thought he hated them?"

"Oh… so you know Dumbledore then?" he eyed her again. "When are you from, exactly?"

Hermione stuttered. "I.. that is… I… not sure…Sorry?"

Snape shook his head, and, having reached the top of the staircase, rapped on the door loudly. "Bye then Hermione."

"Thanks… S…" she couldn't say his name, it wouldn't work properly, so she compromised by smiling vaguely, then slipped past him and into the room just as Dumbledore cried "Enter!"

She stood in front of Dumbledore's desk, hands folded as he surveyed her.

"So, Miss Granger, a potions accident?" she nodded. "Can you possibly tell me the precise ingredients of the potion? That way we can create an antidote to send you back."

She shook her head. "I'm sorry sir, but I didn't see Neville making his potion, only after it had already gone wrong."

To her surprise Dumbledore just smiled. "Never mind. With your permission I could take your memories of the lesson, and study them to see if I can discover the details."

Hermione nodded. "That would be fine."

"Now Miss Granger," he picked up his wand, "I would advise that you don't let people you don't trust completely do this. Memories can have a certain… power."

She shook her head. "Don't worry, sir, I wouldn't."

"Good girl. Now." He pressed his wand to the side of her head. "Can you please think back to the moment you walked in the classroom."

Hermione thought. She had been standing outside with Harry and Ron, when Snape had opened the door in his usual cross manner and beckoned them in. And, she recalled with some surprise, had he smiled at her? Surely not…

As she was pondering this, Dumbledore was extracting a long white silver thread from her head. "Thank you Miss Granger, that seems sufficient." He pulled a small glass towards him, placed the memory in and stoppered it up.

"Now, as regards your continuing education." He placed his hands together and peered at her through his half- moon spectacles. "I see you are a Gryffindor, and a seventh year?"

She nodded.

"Now, we will say you are an exchange student, and you may carry on with all your newt level subjects. Would you like to be placed in Gryffindor for the duration of your stay with us?"

About to agree, wanting to see the comforting red and gold of her dormitory again, she suddenly stopped. Gryffindor; that would mean seeing, no living with Harry's parents, not to mention the other Marauders. Could she live with them without betraying any emotions? Without wondering whether she could attempt to change the future? She already knew that could have fatal effects; she had learnt so much from the Time- turner.

"Sir.. in my time, your future, I know quite a lot about many of the people here now. I don't think it would be wise for me to spend too much time with them…"

"I see." Dumbledore tugged his beard thoughtfully. "And would this apply simply to Gryffindor or the other houses as well?"

Instantly a vision of Prof… Sev… Snape swam into her mind. And then she recalled also the many death eaters who would be in Slytherin also. She supposed she would be okay in Hufflepuff or Ravenclaw, but she had never seen herself as a Hufflepuff, and it might make life easier to be houseless.

"I think it would be better if I wasn't placed in a house sir."

"Hum. Well, there is a room where you could easily live without too much trouble. It's called the Room-"

"The Room of Requirement!" Hermione interrupted.

"Indeed! Well, as you are aware of it, may I assume you will reach it safely?"

She nodded.

"Right then." He waved his wand once and her house markings disappeared from her robes, being replaced with the school crest.

"Your timetable will be delivered to you at breakfast. I will set the staff to work on your dilemma straight away. In the meantime," he twinkled at her "Enjoy your stay Miss Granger!"

"Thank you sir."

She progressed down the spiral staircase, lost in thought. As she neared the bottom, however, she heard raised voices and laughter.

"Snivellus!" sneered a voice.

"What were you doing here Snivellus?"

"I," Snape muttered, "Was helping someone."

"Did you hear that?" jeered the first. "Snivellus has a friend! Is he blind?"

"She," Snape whispered. "She."

"Snape's got a girlfriend!" the group; there must have been at least three of them she reckoned, laughed and she heard them move off down the corridor.

"I'll get you Potter!" she heard Snape yell furiously.

She exited the staircase, shocked to be confronted by the image of Snape dangling in mid air in front of her, and just in time to see a very familiar looking dark head disappear round the corner. Not Harry; James. And that must have been the Marauders. She was not impressed, after all the wonderful stories she had heard about them; this wasn't being pranksters like Fred and George; this was bulllying.

"Finite Incantatem!" she cried, and Snape collapsed in a heap on the floor.

She leant down to help him up. "What happened?"

Snape brushed her off, as though he didn't want her help. "I let my guard down," He said bitterly. "I was too busy thinking about other things and didn't have time to curse them before they got me."

She shook her head. "But… why are you cursing each other?"

He looked at her in amazement, and struggled up from the floor, disentangling his legs from his robes. "Because they hate me of course, and I hate them."

"But… why?"

He shrugged. "Just because."

"Look… can you help me? Dumbledore can't send me back right away. I'm going to have to stay here for a while." She looked anxiously at him, for the incident she had seen had underlined how different this Hogwarts was from her own.

"Hermione," Snape growled. "I have a name. Severus. Will you please use it. And yes, ok, fine, I'll help." He glanced at her clothes. "Weren't you wearing Gryffindor colours just now?"

She blushed slightly. "I was…am… in Gryffindor, but… I thought, maybe it would be better to be house-less while I'm here. I'm going to be an exchange student, so nobody will think too much about it."

Snape finished brushing down his clothes. "Fine then, where are we going now then?"

"To the Room of Requirement; I need somewhere to stay." She headed off down the corridor as she spoke.

Snape took a few strides to catch up. "The what?"

"You've never heard of the Room of Requirement?"

He shook his head.

Hermione grinned. "You'll get a surprise then."

Hermione steadfastly refused to explain what the room was on their way to the fifth floor; she could tell it was driving Snape mad and she was quite amused. Finally they were opposite the tapestry of the trolls, and she turned to the wall, thinking quickly. She wanted somewhere comfortable to live, some clothes, a bathroom…

"What are you doing?" Snape asked curiously.

"Shh." She said, mildly annoyed. "I've got to concentrate!"

She turned again, and suddenly a door appeared on the wall right beside him. He gaped. "What?"

She laughed at the incredulous look on his face. "The room is what you require it to be. Lets look!" she opened the door and beckoned him in.

The room had provided her with a usual dormitory style bed, with hangings of purple; her favourite colour and completely devoid of house associations. The bedroom held a bed, desk and a number of bookshelves, all crammed with books.

Snape turned to her. "Hermione, will you explain now, please?"

Sitting on the bed she took pity on him. "This is the Room of Requirement. It turns itself into whatever the user requires. I required somewhere to stay while I'm here, so it has turned itself into a bedroom. In my fifth year we used it for a sort of club we had, and then it turned itself into a massive place with all the equipment we could want," she chuckled "the only thing it can't do is food."

"Fifth law of transfiguration." Snape nodded. "I see.

Severus pulled out the nearest.

"Hogwarts; a History." He turned to her. "I love this book!"

Her eyes glowed in surprise, and maybe happiness? "Oh me too! Nobody ever seems to have heard of it in my time…" she trailed off. Visibly upset, she sat down on her bed. It was sinking in. She was stuck, indefinitely, in a time twenty years before she should be, she was starting to what, be friends with? Like? her snarky potions master, who she now knew as an exceedingly attractive eighteen year old, and her best friend's dad was apparently a bully. When was she going to see Ron and Harry again? Would she ever see them again?

She turned and buried her head in her pillows.

Severus was concerned. What had he said, he wondered. With a faint pop, a box of tissues appeared next to him. Taking the room's hint, he carried them over to the bed, and sat down uncertainly.

"Hermione?"

Her body shook.

"Hermione…" He had no experience comforting girls, hell, he'd barely even had a real friend before! On an impulse, he reached out and stroked her wild brown hair. From what he could tell, this seemed to sooth her, so he continued this gentle movement.

After a few minutes, Hermione shook herself and sat up, smiling sheepishly.

"I'm sorry, Sev… Severus." She said his name determinedly. He handed her a tissue.

"I don't know what came over me. I guess I'm missing my time more than I realised."

Severus patted her on the shoulder and before she even realised what she had done, she had snuggled into him, and his arm was round her, comforting, protecting…

And she knew it was wrong. She had to make a decision, and make it now.

She straightened. "Excuse me – bathroom."

He nodded.

She opened the other door in the room and entered the most magnificent bathroom, which in any other circumstance would have thrilled her for its beauty. Now, however, she sank down onto the soft blue carpet and leant her head against the bath.

She had to make up her mind. On the one hand; Severus Snape was her potions master. She had disliked him for nearly seven whole years! And she had no idea what a relationship with him now could do; wasn't that the reason she was avoiding Gryffindors? He was twenty years older than her. He wasn't nice; he was probably a Death Eater.

On the other hand; she was stuck where she was. Dumbledore had given no indication of how long it would be before she returned. And she was so attracted to him! It would make a nice change to be around somebody who appreciated learning as much as she did, and she judged from the fact that he was an amazing potions master, and somebody who also liked Hogwarts; A History, that he would be good to work with. And it wasn't as if she could now erase the last few hours; they had still met, he still knew that she wasn't exactly a legitimate exchange student, and he knew her real name. No, she decided. She would stay friends with Snape, or Severus, and see what happened.

Standing up, she flushed the toilet and left the room.

Severus had lain back on the bed and was staring at the drapes hanging above him. As she re- entered the room he smiled. "Better now?"

She couldn't help wondering what had changed this caring boy into the git he was later.

"I'm fine thanks. Less emotional I hope!" Maybe because she had agreed to let herself feel, she was now very aware that she was alone in her bedroom with a boy. A very handsome boy, who was lying on her bed! She had had a little experience with Viktor Krum, but Severus was something entirely different. He could say her name properly for a start… She knew she was blushing and ducked her head to hide it.

"It's time for dinner in a few minutes." Severus suddenly said. "What are you going to do?"

"I guess I'll come down. I may as well start getting used to it all. But I don't have a house table." She paused.

"You could, you know, sit with me?" Severus blushed slightly.

"I'd really like that…"

She looked up and their eyes held. It was the most intense moment she had ever had with a boy. They weren't even touching but she was unable to look away from him. His eyes seemed to be piercing her. She shuddered. He gulped.

Finally the loud clanging of a bell broke the spell. She looked up, surprised. "You have bells?"

"Only for meals. You don't? Weird." He reached out, as though to take her hand, but changed his mind and made for the door. "Come on, or we'll miss out!"

She realised the truth of what he'd said as they reached the Great Hall. It seemed to her to be full of the most ravenous people ever. She looked at him.

"Lunch isn't the best." He explained.

He led her to a place at the end of the Slytherin table. All the pupils seemed too engrossed in their food to notice the new student.

"So," he asked after they'd both begun. "What newts are you taking?"

"Potions, Defence against the Dark Arts, Transfiguration, Arithmancy and Charms." She rattled off.

"Charms?" he snorted. "Foolish wand-waving."

She chuckled at that, and he looked puzzled. "I once heard somebody else say something similar." It seemed that eighteen year old Severus wasn't entirely different to thirty eight year old Snape after all.

"So what are you taking?"

"Mostly the same actually. But I'm doing Herbology, not Charms."

"Really?" she said, surprised. "You don't seem like the Herbology type."

"Well, I want to be a potions master, and it's good to know all about the plants you're using."

She nodded. So Severus had wanted to be a potions master when he was younger. She wondered when the desire to teach Defence against the Dark Arts had crept in.

They passed the meal in easy chatter, getting to know about each other and their interests. Hermione was careful to give no clue as to her real place in time, and to her relief Severus seemed aware that she didn't want to be pushed on the matter.

As the meal came to a rowdy close, Dumbledore knocked on his table. Silence fell immediately.

"I just have one quick announcement." He surveyed the room and located Hermione. "We have with us an exchange pupil, Hermione Granger." He beckoned Hermione to stand up. "She will be staying with us for a while, and I hope everybody will make her feel welcome here. That is all." He finished and both he and Hermione sat down.

Hermione was blushing. Severus patted her hand, and instantly whistles broke out from the Gryffindor table. A group of boys was coming towards them.

"So this is your girlfriend, Snivellus?" A boy with long curly dark hair leant across the table.

"Go away, Black." Severus muttered, flushing red.

"Not till we've introduced ourselves." Said another, "Can't have you keeping a pretty girl to yourself can we?" the boy turned to Hermione. "I'm James Potter, I'm in Gryffindor House, and we can help you a lot better than this piece of scum can." He jerked his head at Severus. Hermione frowned, and James shrugged.

"I'm Sirius Black." Said the first boy. He flashed a charming smile at her but she wasn't taken in.

A shorter boy introduced himself as Peter Pettigrew and it took all Hermione's efforts not to curse him on the spot.

As the three moved out, another boy approached. He was pale, thin and his robes looked quite old. "I'm Remus Lupin." He seemed ashamed of the fact. He turned to Severus. "Snape, look, I'm sorry…"

"Get out of here Lupin." Severus snarled. Lupin shrugged and hurried to catch up with his friends.

Hermione looked at Severus with concern.

"What's their problem?"

"Oh, they're the 'Marauders'. McGonagall –she's head of Gryffindor – loves them and thinks they can do no wrong. They get away with everything." He added bitterly. "They get all the girls, all the glory. Potter," he spat the name "is the star of the quidditch team. And it's their hobby…" he trailed off

"To make life a misery for you?"

"Correct." He sighed.

Hermione was confused. If she had been told two days ago that she would be in this time now, she would have been excited about meeting the famous marauders, and about getting to know Harry's parents. But it seemed they really were incredibly horrible. What James had said to her seemed to be exactly what Malfoy had said to Harry, when he met him with Ron for the first time. Implying he was better for some reason.

Severus walked her back to her room. They stood at the door. He was unwilling to go, to leave the company of someone who genuinely liked him, and she was both unwilling to let him go, and equally to let him in, as she was unsure she had the strength to resist jumping on him and kissing him senseless. She thought the latter might not be the best thing for their developing friendship.

Eventually, Severus made the move.

"Goodnight, Hermione." He bent down and kissed her on the cheek.

She smiled up at him, making his heart lift. "Goodnight, Severus."

She watched him walk down the corridor, then retired into her bedroom, to reflect on the strange happenings of the day.

She lay in her bed, thinking. Mainly thinking about Severus. How Severus the bullied, kind teenager who had shown her such sympathy and understanding had become Snape the snarky teacher. Recalling the moment, when seeing her memories, she realised he had smiled at her… What would happen now, if she got back to the future? Equally, what would happen if she remained? How would Ron and Harry take it? Would they ever hand in their homework completed and on time? Chuckling slightly, she rolled over and buried her head into the pillow.

She was woken by an alarm clock that the Room had evidently decided to supply her with. She checked the time; 7.30. That left plenty of time to enjoy a shower and get dressed. She stood under the jet of hot water, feeling its flow relax all her muscles, and take away the sleepiness of the night. When she stepped out she felt ready for anything the day might throw at her.

As Hermione dressed she wondered idly when she would next see Severus, and whether he would save her a seat at the table for breakfast.

She was surprised, then, to open the door to find Severus in person, waiting outside.

He smiled at her sheepishly. "I thought…."

"Thanks."

Sitting at the same place as the night before, Hermione made short work of her breakfast; time travelling had apparently made her very hungry. When the owl post was delivered, a tawny one flew down by her plate and stuck out its leg. Retrieving the tightly rolled scroll, she realised this was her new timetable. Severus peered over her shoulder.

"Come on, open it! I want to see whether we have lessons together!"

She grinned at him, touched by this display of eagerness, and unrolled it. Realising that it meant little to her, she handed it to Severus, who scanned it quickly.

He smiled. "Yes, we've got all subjects together! Except for your Charms obviously."

"That's great," Hermione said, honestly relieved. "And potions first today."

"Professor Slughorn takes it. Do you know him?" he shrugged when Hermione didn't answer. "Sorry! Well, he's okay. Has favourites who are in the 'Slug Club', which is a bit weird if you ask me. He's a decent teacher though."

Hermione got the impression that Severus considered himself far beyond Slughorn's level.

"I don't have any equipment with me. Could I share with you?" she asked.

"Of course." He said, surprised. "We'll work well together, I should think."

Hermione couldn't help thinking back to her last potions class. She was mildly amazed that her criticising professor could ever have considered working with anyone, let alone well!

"I've got Charms straight after though. Do you know anyone taking that?"

He paused for a second. "Well, there's Lily Evans. She's a Gryffindor and she's pretty intelligent. And quite friendly as well." He added as an after thought. "And she'll be in Potions so I'll introduce you."

He frowned. "She is quite friendly with a few of the Marauders though…"

Hermione smiled. "Let me guess; James Potter!"

"No." Severus said puzzled. "I don't know where you'd get that idea. No, it's Sirius and Lupin. She and Potter don't get on. It comes of him asking her out three times a month." He grinned slightly. "Apparently she doesn't like him being quite so egotistical!"

Hermione studied him. "You liked her though?"

He blushed. "A while ago, I had a crush on her… I knew her a bit before we came to Hogwarts. She's a muggleborn, you know."

"So am I." said Hermione quietly.

"It's okay! I don't judge; I just don't like stupid people."

Remembering Neville's torment, Hermione nodded.

"Okay, potions, here we go!" Severus pushed open the door – so odd as she was used to it being his door, and she entered her first lesson of the 1970s. It was a bit of a let down; it looked identical to her usual classroom.

She introduced herself to Slughorn briefly. He just smiled, said welcome, and of course she could work with Severus. So she joined Severus behind his desk, right at the back of the room, which is where she would have pictured it, if she'd ever thought about it.

Slughorn laboriously wrote out the instructions on the blackboard. Hermione, used to Snape's 'quick flick' wondered why he didn't just use magic. Severus seemed impatient too; maybe why he always used a spell in later life.

The potion he was writing up was quite a tricky one, but one that Hermione had tackled in the last few weeks; apparently her newt class was slightly ahead of this one.

"Come on," said Severus, snapping her out of her reverie, "Chop this gillyweed."

"Yes, Sir!" she joked, snapping to attention.

He looked startled, then grinned. "I'm sorry, I'm so used to working with dunderheads. Tell me if I start to boss you around."

She nodded and started chopping. Neatly and precisely, she had it all done in moments. Snape looked momentarily surprised, and then happy to have found such an efficient partner.

The pair of them completed the potion well before anybody else, and it was done perfectly. Slughorn gave Slytherin 10 points, and, unable to reward Hermione any other way, told them they could relax, quietly, for the rest of the lesson.

As the class filed out, Severus directed Hermione towards a tall girl, who had brilliant red hair and startling green eyes; Lily Evans, Harry's mother.

"Lily, wait up!" he called.

She turned, and smiled slightly. "Hi Severus." Hermione felt a jolt of jealousy in her stomach as she saw the smile.

"Hi Lily, this is Hermione."

Lily, recognising Hermione from the evening before, smiled. "It's nice to meet you, Hermione."

"You too." Hermione said honestly.

"I was wondering whether you could look after Hermione in Charms? I don't take it, and I've pretty much been showing her around."

"That's fine, Sev." 'SEV'? thought Hermione. How close were they? "We'll see you at lunch then."

Snape nodded and walked off.

The girls smiled at each other.

"So, how long are you staying for?" queried Lily.

"I'm not really sure. As long as Dumbledore lets me I suppose!" laughed Hermione nervously.

Lily glanced at her. She wondered what was going on there, and, more to the point, what she was doing with Severus….

"So, you and Severus…?"

Hermione blushed very bright red. "It's not… what you think. He was the first person I met when I arrived yesterday and he's been very kind."

"Hum. Well, Severus and I were very good friends a while back. If he has spent that much time with you without trying to hex you, he must like you a lot."

" 'Very good friends'?" said Hermione sceptically.

"Yes, and that's all it was. We've grown apart a bit over the last year or so, but we still respect each other. Oh, we're here."

Charms was not as much fun as Potions had been. Although Lily was an intelligent partner, Hermione suspected that she was missing Severus. His sarcastic comments had made Potions much more interesting.

When she saw him in the Great Hall at lunch her heart gave a massive bound. At that moment she realised that she could never be 'just a friend' with Severus Snape. And, it appeared from the brilliant smile he shot her across the hall, that he might feel the same way. She sat with him again for the meal, although Lily had invited her to join the Gryffindor table. Although she liked Lily a lot, she didn't think she could stand any length of time with Sirius Black leering at her.

The last two lessons of the day were Transfiguration and Defence. She didn't know the Defence teacher, but she was quite looking forward to seeing a younger McGonagall. The lessons passed quickly and pleasurably as she was seated with Severus in both.

Then the time came, after dinner, when he was standing outside her door, and she was wondering what to do. They were both in the corridor, when he looked at her and said gently, "Could I come in for a while tonight Hermione?" His black eyes were soft as he looked at her, and she felt thrills go through her as she threw caution to the winds and said

"Yes."

She pushed the door open. Obviously they had been standing outside long enough for the Room to have picked up some idea of their feelings; the hangings were now a deep red colour, and the lights had been replaced by hundreds of candles which shed a flickering light over the scene. The floor was heaped with cosy rugs and cushions, and on one wall, a blazing fire now crackled merrily.

Hermione gulped. This was the perfect setting for a seduction, which she had had no idea of carrying out.

Severus, if he was perturbed by this, did not show it. "Come on, then." He drew her by her hand in to the room, and shut the door behind them. He led her to a cosy couch that now sat in front of the fire, and pushed her gently down. She stared at him. His dark features were illuminated by the light of the fire, and the flames were reflected in his eyes.

"I had no idea you were imagining a room like this." He smiled quietly, and Hermione relaxed.

"I wasn't really. It just sort of happened…"

Severus sat next to her.

"Lots of things 'just sort of happen'." He murmured, as he brushed a stray curl away from her face.

"Like what?" she whispered.

"This." He leaned down and gently brushed her lips with his. She gulped again but did not draw back. This was not like kissing Viktor had been. Severus's gentle touch had sparked as though electricity had run through her. Timidly, she moved her hand to place it behind his head. His hair felt silky, not greasy, she noted vaguely.

He deepened the kiss, his lips firmly against hers now, and the slightest suggestion of a tongue. She moaned, and this made him pull away.

"Hermione," he growled. "I'm sorry if this is too fast. It's just, gods, you're amazing!"

She smiled at him, suddenly totally confident. "You're the amazing one. I only met you yesterday and now look at us!" She sat up, and gently pushed him down so he was lying flat on the coach. He looked amused by his position. "Have you done this to many guys then?"

She didn't answer, but lay on top of him, totally aroused by the way their bodies were touching, and kissed him passionately. She momentarily wondered about the fact that he was her future teacher, and then placed Snape, potions master, firmly out of her head. This was about Severus, 7th year, best kiss of her life….

His hands were wandering all over her back; the only part of her he could reach. Then they were back tangled in her hair, which was covering the pair of them like a rug. He was amazed at the passion of her kiss. He wanted more…

Struggling to move, he twisted his head away.

"Hermione, I, we've got to stop."

"Why?" she panted.

"Because, I, I, don't have enough self control…"

Sitting up, she glanced down at the bulge in his robes and took the hint. Letting herself fall gently off the couch, she surrounded herself with cushions and stretched out her arms. "Come on then."

He fell into her arms gratefully. He was sitting in the cradle of her arms, his back to her front, with the gentle flicker of flames and candles on his face. He had never felt so safe, so wanted in all his life as he did now, with this girl he barely knew in this strange room.

"Hermione, I.."

"Shhhh" she whispered. She stroked his hair gently, loving its soft touch. This was heaven, sitting here, with this boy in her arms. She was mildly surprised at herself really; she had not known him long and she wasn't usually so quick to get into relationships, but everything about him was right; his looks, his intelligence, his friendliness, his compassion. He was the right person for her and she knew it instantly. She tightened her encircling arms, and he nestled closer.

After a while she felt herself drifting off. She wasn't bothered.

She was not aware that while she was asleep, Severus gently removed her shoes and outer robe, and carried her carefully to her bed. As she slept he looked down at her, seeing her beauty, and realising that he never wanted to be apart from her. He removed his own shoes and outer clothing and climbed on to the bed. Tentatively, he positioned himself so that he was curled round her, arms across her front, spooning her. He was worried it might wake her, but her total reaction was a small sigh, and to wriggle closer into his body.

His sleep that night was the most peaceful and contented it had been for a long time.

They woke, bleary eyed and happy, with the sound of the bell the next morning. Hermione rolled over and grinned at Severus.

"Morning!"

"Morning." He mumbled back, as he stretched lazily.

"Come, on; breakfast!"

He groaned. "Do we have to? Can't we just stay here?" he grabbed her suddenly and placed a kiss on her neck that made her shiver delightfully.

"I wish we could." She sighed.

Severus made his way into the entrance hall. Caught up in his unusual happiness, he did not notice Potter and Black sidle behind him, not until-

"Tarantellegra!" shouted Potter, and Severus's legs started flailing wildly.

Cursing he managed to swing himself round, and performed a non-verbal hex, 'levicorpus', which swung Black into the air. Severus was panting with exertion now, Black was hanging in mid-air, and Potter was looking wild. It was this scene that Hermione walked in on.

She reacted instantly. "Finite Incantatem!" she pointed her wand at Severus, who stopped dancing with relief.

"You," hissed Potter. "Why are you interfering?"

"Don't you think two against one was a bit unfair?" she grinned mischievously. "I'm just evening the odds…" silently thanking Ginny Weasley, she cast a perfect Bat-Bogey Hex at Potter. Then she turned and offered her hand to Severus.

He took it, and their fingers entwined. They were about to walk into the Great Hall holding hands. Severus could only wait to see how amazed people would be at the sight…

He turned to Hermione. "You know, you really should have been in Slytherin!"

She grinned again. "Maybe I should…"

And with that the most despised boy in school walked into breakfast, holding hands with no less a person than the mysterious new exchange student.

Although this caused quite a disturbance, the uproar was increased as Potter ran in, waving his hands desperately trying to get rid of the bat bogies that were attacking him, and shouting that it was all that blasted Granger's fault! And would somebody please get Black down from mid air! As the Marauders had quite a reputation within the school, and not a good one from the point of view of the Hufflepuff's, Ravenclaw's and Slytherin's, quite a large amount of cheering greeted his frantic shouts.

Dumbledore, surveying the scene, cast a glance at Hermione as she sat, positively glowing, entwined with Severus. He had been careful not to ask questions that could compromise either of them, but he was highly intrigued. This small, clever, bushy-haired girl had managed to upset the order of the school in only a few days. And he respected her for that. Severus especially had been far too gloomy for far too long.

His staff was working on the problem of getting her back. They had figured out the approximate potion she had been hit with. Now they were just working on a potion that would be an antidote.

He stood up and the hall fell instantly silent; even Potter writhed more quietly.

"Finite Incantatem." He cast. Potter relaxed with the bat bogeys gone and a loud thud and "ouch!" was heard from the hall.

"Miss Granger, would you please come to see me directly after breakfast." He sat down and the noise resumed.

Hermione gulped. Either he was going to punish her or he had figured out how to send her back. She did not particularly like either option, although she would willingly clean out bed-pans with elbow grease (which had been Ron's worst detention) than go back to her time. Her hand tightened round Severus's.

He kissed her on the cheek. "It'll be okay." He whispered.

It was at that moment Hermione realised that when she did leave, which was inevitable, she would have to leave some sort of letter behind, attempting to explain things a little better to Severus…

With heavy steps she climbed the spiral staircase that led to Dumbledore's office.

"Come in Miss Granger." He called as she reached his door.

She pushed it open and stepped inside with trepidation.

"Lemon drop?" he asked.

"Um, no thanks sir." She looked at him. "What did you want to see me about sir?"

"First of all, I would like to congratulate you on that remarkable spell you used earlier."

"Sir?" she gaped.

"Oh, it was very amusing. And good, I think, for Mr Potter to receive a taste of his own medicine for a change."

Hermione could not think of a reply to that.

"And further, Miss Granger, to let you know that the staff have managed to deconstruct the potion that sent you here."

She couldn't help it; she gasped, and a tear threatened to leak out.

"I have noticed that you have formed an attachment with Mr Snape."

She nodded.

He sighed. "Well, that was your decision." He paused. "The potion that will send you back will not be ready within this week. I will give you due warning when it is. You may go."

She turned to leave, but he called her back. "One more thing, Miss Granger… do please be careful…"

That puzzled Hermione, but she nodded anyway, and departed to find Severus and her first lesson.

She enjoyed classes with Severus. They made a good team; working with equal skill and determination to get the perfect result, whether it was in potions or transfiguration. They also did not act 'stupidly' as Severus had said. In class it was all about the work. Occasionally they would look up from a potion or paper and exchange a heart-stopping smile, but that was as far as it went. Their real time was after classes, in every free moment they could manage.

They spent a lot of time in the library. Severus was conscientious about keeping on top of his work, and Hermione saw no reason that she should allow herself to slack off simply because she was currently in the wrong decade.

After a week they were closer than ever. She had no idea how this had happened; in her previous relationship with Viktor Krum she seemed to have spent more time teaching him good pronunciation than actually getting to know him. Severus was so different. He also never pushed her into anything that she didn't feel comfortable with. Although they spent all their evenings together, and one or two of their nights as well, they had not slept together properly. He had explained this to her on their fourth or fifth night: "It's not that I don't want to, Hermione" he had said earnestly, "It's simply that we haven't known each other very long, and I wouldn't want you to regret it."

She had thanked him for that understanding.

The weeks stretched into a month, and she was still there, still with him. Some days she missed her old life terribly, especially as James had taken to being as nasty to her as Severus, and she sometimes had nightmares that it was not him, but Harry. She sometimes missed the happiness, the general camaraderie that the Gryffindor common room had possessed. She hadn't realised how excluded being house-less would make her feel. She didn't know who to cheer for at the quidditch matches. And her only true friends were still Severus and Lily.

But somehow, most days, Severus alone made up for all of this. She told him this at the end of her third week. He hugged her. "I'm so glad Hermione." He looked at her and then away. "Before you arrived, I… I didn't have anybody who I was close to. Slytherins disliked me because I'm only half-blood and I worked too hard; like a bloody Ravenclaw, they said. And everybody else despised me because I was a Slytherin, but mainly because the Marauders did, and it's best not to get on the wrong side of them."

Hermione nodded in understanding.

"I had Lily, but then there was a terrible incident in fifth year." He hung his head.

"What happened?" she whispered.

"I called.." he looked at her in anguish, "I swear I didn't mean it! But they had pushed me so far and I would have said anything. I called her… a mudblood"

Hermione managed to suppress her instinctive movement away from him.

"That was terrible Severus. I've been called that, and you have no idea how much it hurts…"

He buried his head in her shoulder. "I know, and I was so sorry and although she did forgive me eventually it was never the same." He looked up at her.

"You saved me. More than you know."

Hermione looked down at him. Maybe not more than she knew. Had she somehow prevented Severus from taking the Dark Mark? What would happen if she had changed him to that extent?

That had been a week ago. Now, it was late and she and Severus were standing on the Astronnomy tower, admiring the full moon. As Hermione peered down at the grounds, she gasped.

"Severus look! A stag!"

Severus did look, but was not so excited. "Oh, that. That's only-" he trailed off.

Hermione, recalling her supposed intellect, put two and two together. It was James. Suddenly the full moon took on a new light.

"Poor Remus." She sighed.

Severus looked at her sharply. "What do you know about Lupin?" he asked.

"I know he's a werewolf. And I know, I know that they nearly killed you once…"

"Hermione, how?"

She didn't answer, but put her arms around him and held him tight.

"You're a brave man, Severus Snape." She recalled suddenly her third year, when he had put himself in front of her, trying to protect her from the werewolf; knowing what he faced, again.

She looked him straight in the eyes, and said "I love you, Severus."

He blinked. Then he smiled. Then he kissed her. "I love you too, Hermione Granger."

And that was that.

That night, as she lay in bed with Severus's arm over her body, she recalled, for the first time in a long while, Severus Snape, Potions Master, 'git of the dungeons'.

She recalled her first year, and the look of worry that she had barely noticed on his face as she sat in the bathrooms with Ron and Harry, an unconscious troll at their feet.

She recalled her second year, and the care with which Snape had herded their class through the corridors, a desperate attempt to save them from Slytherin's heir.

Third year; she remembered the werewolf incident. She also remembered him trying to protect them from what he had supposed was a mass murderer. She winced, as she also remembered them knocking him violently unconscious with 'expelliarmus'.

Fourth year; she had been in less danger. But now she knew his facial expressions so well, and she remembered the narrowing of his eyes as he saw her walk in to the Yule Ball with Viktor Krum.

Fifth and Sixth year she hadn't seen so much of him, except in lessons.

She wondered why she hadn't noticed all he'd done for them all at the time. She supposed that the occasional insults (and the one about her teeth had hurt her for a long time) and the many points lost, and the detentions gained, had stopped them realising.

And then, the day she left, he had smiled at her.

She turned in bed and hugged Severus as he slept. "You have no idea how much I love you."

She received a note during breakfast; Dumbledore requesting her presence in his office. She showed it to Severus, and shivered violently.

"They've found a way for me to go back" she whispered. "I know it." A few silent tears fell down her cheeks.

He wiped them away with his thumb, caressing her cheek as he did so.

"Hermione, whatever happens, please remember that I love you."

She nodded. "I'd better go. But I promise I'll see you before, before, I go."

He looked like he was barely keeping control of his emotions, and gripped her hand wordlessly. Squeezing his, she left.

She stood, head hanging, in front of Dumbledore.

"Miss Granger, we have had a success! The potion is perfected. It will get you back to your time in the evening of the day you left, to the place that you left from. Is this satisfactory?"

She gulped. "Sir, Sir, I…" and she burst into tears.

He stood and patted her shoulder awkwardly. "There there Miss Granger. I look forward to meeting you in the future." He winked at her and motioned to Fawkes, his phoenix, who flew to her shoulder and sang a few golden notes. She felt strangely comforted by this and managed valiantly to stop crying.

"Arrangements have been made for you to leave tomorrow, at this time. I expect to see you here. Hopefully this will give you time to say any goodbyes you need to." He eyed her shrewdly. She had the sudden idea that he knew exactly how much time she and Severus had been spending together.

"Thank you sir" she whispered. "I'll see you tomorrow."

She joined Severus in potions. He looked at her anxiously as she sat down next to him.

"I was right," She whispered, "I'm being sent back tomorrow. Severus, I don't think I can do this."

He hugged her surreptitiously. "Hermione, you have to go back, you know that. But I will always love you, I promise you that."

"I'll always love you too." She choked.

Their potion that day was not up to their usual standards. Slughorn was disappointed. "What's come over you two then?" he boomed.

"We're sorry sir," answered Severus, "But we've just heard that Hermione is leaving tomorrow."

"Tomorrow?" his eyebrows raised. "Shame. You're a good little brewer, and you two work well together." He patted their desk, and walked back to the front of the room.

The rest of the day passed in a haze of misery for the pair. It was inconceivable that their time together had to be drawn to an end. They made it through the day, however, until they stood after dinner outside her room.

"Severus," she began awkwardly, nervously.

He pushed open the door and led her in. Sat on her bed, he brushed back the hair from her blotchy face, and kissed her gently.

"Are you sure this is what you want?"

She nodded. "God's yes, Severus." She whispered.

He crawled up the bed to the pillows, and closed the drapes around, shutting them in a secure, safe, warm environment. "Then come here." He held out his arms to her, and she fell into them gratefully.

With a silent spell he removed their shoes and robes, so they were sitting there in just their plain school uniform.

He kissed her again.

"Severus, I've never done this before." She murmured.

"Neither have I." he replied, and then strangely grinned. "But we can learn together."

He kissed her again, more passionately this time, and she melted against him. Carefully, not breaking the kiss, she undid his tie and tossed it away.

His hands were at her side, stroking her gently, and she felt more confident; they had been further than this. Her hands went to his shirt, undoing his buttons. Unknowing, innocently, she stroked his chest as she did so, which was a small torture for him. Gently she pushed his shirt over his shoulders, and he tugged his arms out. She sat, uncertain as what to do next, staring at his body. He reached out and undid the top button of her blouse. She shuddered.

"It's okay Hermione," he whispered. "We've got all night." His hands worked their way down her top until finally all the buttons were undoing. He took a deep breath, and gently eased her out of the garment. She was wearing a plain blue bra and Severus suddenly had the urge to kiss her, right on the bra. So he did.

Hermione couldn't believe what he was doing, what she was doing, how this felt so right. She ran her hands over his chest, and he responded in kind, his thumbs making circles over her breasts. She gasped.

"We can always stop…" he suggested.

"No, no." she looked at him with such need in her eyes that he nearly lost all his control; he was having a very hard time keeping it slow as it was.

He reached round her back, and as they stared at each other, he undid her bra. This was the beginning of it then; he had never seen her topless before. Hermione wanted to cross her arms over her chest, protect herself from his examining gaze, but as he touched her she lost the feeling of uncomfortableness.

He gently turned her and laid her on the bed. Trembling at the passion, he began to place light kisses all over her exposed skin. She reached out blindly, grabbing his hair.

"Severussss" she moaned.

Her instincts kicked in. Sliding her hands down his body she reached for the button on his trousers. She could feel already how very much he wanted her, and it didn't frighten her any more. He paused his kissing as she undid his trousers, sliding them as far down as she could reach; he had to pull them off himself.

He turned back to Hermione and thought how beautiful and wonderful she was, lying there, waiting for him. He couldn't believe how lucky he had been to find such a girl.

His pants were tented hugely. Hermione couldn't stop looking at them. He needed to distract her, so he ran his hand down her stomach to rest on the waistband of her skirt. Gently, he ran his hand just underneath. She squirmed in need, and he took pity and carefully drew her skirt off.

So after what seemed an eternity, they were nearly there. Nearly…

Severus kissed Hermione full on the mouth. "You can always tell me to stop, if you want."

She shook her head. "I need you Severus." And she spoke nothing but the truth.

His hand slipped down, brushing the outside of her knickers, stroking the inside of her thigh.

"Please." She moaned, without really knowing what she was pleading for.

Biting his lip, Severus pushed her knickers aside slightly, so that he was stroking her, right at her core.

Hermione shuddered and arched backwards. This was more, so much more intense than anything she could have imagined. She gasped as she felt him slip one long finger inside her. "Gods Severus!"

She was so wet. Inexperienced as she was he knew that was a good sign. And this intimacy that was happening between them… Experimentally he moved his finger in and out of her. Her response was greater than he could have expected; she was virtually writhing around on her bed. He knew he had to be in her now.

"Hermione…" he placed her hand on his waistband; this last obstacle between their union. She took the hint and removed his pants.

In his last moment of sanity, Severus remembered to perform a contraceptive spell.

"Are you ready?"

She looked at him, so beautiful, so full of need. She nodded.

"It's going to hurt."

"I know. Just do it now."

He carefully placed himself at her entrance. Then, with their eyes locked, he pushed himself hard inside her. He felt the barrier break, he saw Hermione arch up with a cry, but then he was holding her and she was holding him, and he was in her and moving and it was all far too intense, too amazing.

Sometime later they were collapsed in the bed, exhausted.

Hermione smiled shyly at her boyfriend, her lover. "That was wonderful."

He remembered the intense orgasm she had had, which had caused him to come instantly, and he agreed wholeheartedly.

"No regrets then?"

"No regrets." She said firmly. "Severus, I can't even begin to explain how much that meant to me." She snuggled her body against his, loving the fact that their bodies were touching everywhere.

He kissed her forehead, brushed her hair away from her sticky skin.

"I love you, Hermione."

"Oh, Severus. I love you so much."

"I don't want to sleep tonight." He murmured. "I don't want to wake up in the morning knowing I've wasted these precious few hours with you."

She smiled at him. He was going to miss that smile.

"I've written you a letter. You can't read it until I've," she choked "till I've gone. I hope it'll help."

He held her close. "I never want to let you go, kitten."

"Kitten?" she laughed quietly.

"Because you're as sweet as a kitten, and you scratch!" he kissed her nose.

"I – scratch?"

Severus turned his back on her, and she saw her handiwork. Across his back ran several nail marks. She hadn't even realised.

"I'm so sorry!"

Severus just chuckled, but she couldn't leave it at that. Slipping lower in the bed, she began to kiss each and every one of the scratches. His first scars, she realised, and a tear threatened to leak out of one eye.

She clung to his back, despair almost overcoming her.

"Severus!" She wailed.

He twisted instantly, gathering her in his arms, stroking her hair, rocking her. He knew he had to be the strong one, he had to be the one to let her walk out of his life, forever. But for now he would comfort her as much as was humanely possible.

The dreaded hours rolled round, as much as the two lovers wished time would stand still. They didn't go to breakfast, couldn't bear to waste their last hour together with other people. Instead they made love for the second time. Hermione cried her way through, unable to believe that she was about to lose this bliss. Severus tried to make up for it by making her orgasm as intense as possible, and this did calm her down for a few minutes.

But then it was time for her to go. To walk to the headmaster's office, and then be transported… he didn't know where. They walked holding hands, gripping each other as though they were about to die, which in their opinions, they were about to, as they couldn't see how they could survive without each other.

Finally they reached the door. The point of no return. They held each other close, trying to drink in the essence of the other.

Eventually Severus said "It's time." He moved away from the distraught girl. "Hermione, I love you. I love you no matter where you are, or when you are. You're mine and I am yours."

She gulped. She could not say anything that had so much passion or truth in it. "My letter, Severus, read my letter. I love you." And before her nerve broke she opened the door and left him.

Letters

Severus, my own wonderful Severus;

This is such a hard letter to write, but I know it has to be done; to save you from wondering and to save me from the agony of knowing that you won't know.

Severus, you will meet me again. It won't be in the way you expect, and I won't know you, not like I do now. I swear to you, I fell in love with you, kind, beautiful eighteen year old you. When you next see me, I won't understand. It will take me making this trip for it. I know what I am going back to; I know that my feelings for you now will not be changed by time- yours or mine.

I will understand if you can't wait for me. If you find someone else and fall in love with them, as we fell in love. I will understand. If you find the idea of us repulsive, I will understand. But I will love you Severus Snape.

In the meantime, please be happy, as happy as you can, for my sake.

I've just realised that this sounds like I am dying. I suppose this is because that is how a small part of me feels. 1976 me is dead. Gone.

Try to make friends with Lily again; true friends I mean. She will help you I think, she promised me she would support you when I left.

I am writing this in Charms, and am getting very odd looks from our professor. She can't understand why a Cheering Charm could backfire so badly! You'll appreciate that I know, with your dislike of foolish wandwaving!

When, in your life cycle, this event happens for me, it will be quite obvious. I am going back a different person to how I left. Better in a different way. When I am back, will you let me know what your feelings are? For me, this time difference will be less than a heartbeat, but for you it will be so much longer. We will both have to cope with that.

So, I suppose, what I am trying to say in this roundabout, rambling way, is that I love you, and I hope you'll wait for me.

I have given you this letter so that you know there is still a future for us, if you want it.

All my love,

Your ever-loving Hermione.

Xxxx

(your kitten!)

Severus,

As you are aware, Harry Potter will be starting his time with us this year. However, I think you will find it of more interest that a young woman by the name of Hermione Granger will also be joining us.

Do try and be sensible Severus!

I look forward to seeing you on September 1st.

A. P. W. B. Dumbledore.

Lupin,

I feel required, for both of our sakes, to warn you now. You will recognise a third year student. Hermione Granger. Ring a bell? If you dare let on that you know her, you will be poisoned with the worst potion that it is in my ability to brew.

Not at all looking forward to seeing you

S. Snape.

Back to the Future

Hermione woke up, shivering, on the floor of the dungeons class room that she had left over a month, and a few hours, ago. Her eyes were still damp with the tears that she had shed as she had drunk the potion that had sent her back. She was still numb with shock, as she repeated Severus's last words to her: "I love you, no matter where you are, or when you are." Would he even remember saying that to her? She howled in misery.

Suddenly the door burst open, and Dumbledore appeared, with his usual twinkle. "It is lovely to see you again, my dear."

She shook her head in mute misery. He helped her off the floor, displaying an amazing strength for a man of his age.

"Now, you have someone to talk to, I think."

She looked at him, and he directed her, not out of the classroom, but towards the back; to Professor Snape's headquarters. He knocked briskly on the door, and then opened it.

"Good luck my child." He said as he pushed her through.

Her heart was beating wildly. She stood, in what she could see from her downcast eyes, was a large, spacious room, totally devoid of the silver and green she might have expected. A fire crackled in the corner.

She sensed somebody entering the other side of the room, and looked up nervously.

Snape stared at her, blankly. He had a piece of parchment clutched in one hand.

"P..Professor…" she stuttered.

He looked at her. For all the time she had spent with him, she couldn't read the expression in his dark eyes.

"What," he asked her quietly "Were your last words to me?"

"I love you." She whispered.

"And… does that hold true?"

"What about yours to me?" she suddenly had to be sitting, and sank into the closest chair to her.

"Miss Granger," he started, but she looked as if she was about to cry. "Hermione," he relented. "You have not known me for twenty years. I have waited, I have watched you grow up, to be a beautiful woman," his voice cracked, and she suddenly realised how difficult this was for him too. She held out her arms, and although he didn't take them, he did sit down next to her.

"All these years; they have been difficult for me…"

She looked at him closely, at his hand. At what he was holding. "Please," she said, careful not to use his given name or his title, "Can I see what you are holding."

He held it out to her, not looking at her, and as she unfolded it, he turned away.

She recognised it instantly. It was odd seeing it so worn only a few days after she had written it. "My letter. You've kept my letter."

His back was still to her, but she knew him; she knew he was barely keeping his emotions in check.

"Severus," she said quietly. "Look at me."

He turned, and what she saw first were his black eyes, eyes full of sorrow; the same eyes as she had left this morning.

"Severus," she said firmly. "I love you."

"I…. you don't know me, Hermione."

She put a gentle hand to his cheek. "I know all the things that you've done for me and for my friends all these years. Even helping bring down Voldemort last year. You didn't have to do all those things. You put yourself in danger so many times for me. Do you think I couldn't love you just for that? I knew who you were, what you were, when I fell in love with you at eighteen. I could have walked away that first day, but I didn't. You were, you still are, the most amazing man I know. And because of that, because of everything we shared, I love you." She half-laughed suddenly. "Don't you know that for me, it was only this morning that I woke up in bed with you? Only last night that we made love for the first time? Can you remember what that was like Severus?"

He drew back for a moment. "Hermione, there are things I need to tell you. Everything we did together, everything we said, is etched on my mind forever. The night that you told me that I was brave… that changed so much for me Hermione. I realised that I could be more than I was. When I protected you from the werewolf in your third year, part of me wanted to run away, as fast as I could. And then I remembered you, telling me I was brave; and you were there. I couldn't abandon you. Not when you had so much potential, and when…." He trailed off. "When you were going to be mine."

She drew a breath. "Severus." She breathed.

He spoke again. "There has been no-one else, Hermione. You were the first and only woman I have slept with. It was hard at times, but then I read your letter, I read your promise to me that we would meet again. And when Albus told me you were starting Hogwarts, I knew there were only seven years left. Seven years of torment, I might add," he smiled lightly. "But I watched as you grew to hate me, when you cast Expelliarmus against me… I knew you didn't know, didn't know what was in my past and your future. But Hermione, it hurt so much!"

And Hermione, bushy haired 7th year know it all, held the Potions Professor, 'the git' as he broke down in tears, for the first time in twenty years.

"Shhhh" she murmured as she rocked him. "I'm here now." A thought occurred to her. "Severus, for me its only been a day and I've been craving you, your body.. How terrible has it been for you?" he chuckled slightly as she had hoped he would, and straightened. "You have no idea, kitten."

She blushed as he used that pet name. "Severus, I know it will be difficult, but I meant what I said in my letter. I knew what I was coming back to. I would like it, if you didn't mind, if…"

"If we gave 'us' a chance?"

"Yes." She breathed. Her eyes glowed as he lowered his head to hers. The kiss was gentle to start with, then grew more passionate as they both realised that nothing had changed between them. The passion, the longing, the awareness of each other, it was all still there. She ran her hand through his hair, enjoying the feel of it against her skin. He gasped into her mouth. "I've been waiting for you for so long."

Epilogue

Needless to say, the vast majority of people at Hogwarts were surprised, dismayed, cross even, when at the end of her seventh year Hermione and Severus announced their engagement. However, the few that had known them in both times; Minerva McGonagall, Albus Dumbledore, Remus Lupin, even Horace Slughorn, all those sent them their congratulations.

It hadn't been easy. Severus had been on his own for far too long, had to adjust to sharing his rooms, his thoughts, his life with another. Hermione, despite her brave words in her letter, had sometimes struggled to reconcile her varying memories of the 'snarky git' and the innocent, kindly eighteen year old with the reality of Severus as he had become. Not that she didn't recognise all those qualities which had made her fall in love with him, but she had to put up with abuse from Harry and Ron for a considerable period, in which they made sure she remembered every unkind word or action Snape had even said or done to the three of them. However, when they finally accepted that she did, truly, madly, deeply love Severus Snape, they grudgingly let the couple into their lives.

She also struggled in explaining to Harry why she hadn't come back full of interesting insights and memories of his parents. She had to keep telling him that Lupin was a better source of information than her.

But when it came down to it, she and Severus realised the magic of what they had together.

The Missing Years:

Philosophers Stone

Dumbledore folded his hands on his desk and eyed Severus.

"Sit down, my boy"

"Albus. It's the middle of August. It's my holidays; a precious, solitary month without hoards of children bursting into my life at every turn." Severus sat down bitterly. "Do tell me what was so important you felt it necessary to drag me all the way back here."

Dumbledore shuffled the papers on his desk, fidgeting. Then he coughed. Severus was annoyed.

"You got me here, do please do me the courtesy of telling me why!" He pushed back a strand of dark hair irritably from his face, wondering vaguely when it had got so greasy. Not that he could be bothered to do anything about it; he rarely took an interest in his appearance these days.

"My boy," Dumbledore began hesitantly, "I have studied the attendance registers for the coming academic year, and there was one name in particular that I noticed."

"Oh yes" Severus interjected, "I am well aware that one Harry Potter will be joining us in September."

"Harry" mumbled Dumbledore, "Well, yes, of course, Harry will be here and I hope that he will enjoy his time with us. However," he looked sharply at Severus, "the name that caught my eye was that of a Miss Hermione Granger."

Severus's jaw dropped. "Hermione…Hermione?... Not.." he leant forward, and then back just as suddenly, his hands gripping white on the arm of the chair.

"Yes my boy, the same Hermione that visited us fourteen years ago. Minerva has been to explain all things magic and Hogwarts to her family, and she says that it is absolutely certainly your Hermione." Dumbledore finished up with a twinkle.

"My Hermione?" Severus quirked an eyebrow. "What gives you that idea?"

"I am aware of almost everything that occurs in this building Severus. I was certainly aware of the attachment that formed between you two." He shook his head. "What the girl was thinking though, knowing that you had taught her…" Suddenly serious, he continued "Severus. I understand that this may be difficult for you, but I must have your word…"

The sallow man sitting opposite him stood up with a jerk. "Headmaster!" He bellowed. "This is a child we are talking about. An eleven year old! How dare you insinuate..?"

"Sit down, sit down! And have a lemon sherbert." He suited the action to the word, passing the dish across. Severus took one and unwilling put it in his mouth.

"Severus, I do not mean to besmirch your honour. But the last few years, the last fourteen years in fact," he smiled wryly, "have been very difficult ones for you. I do not know whether seeing the girl will provoke a reaction in you, however much you wish it would not. She is a child, and I need your promise that you will not go near her."

"Albus, you trusted me as your spy for years, and you quail before the thought of an eleven year old girl?" Severus shook his head. "I give you my word that I will not interfere with MISS GRANGER," placing a heavy emphasis on the words, "in any way, while she is a student under my care. Do you wish me to make the Unbreakable Vow?" He finished bitterly.

"I would not ask that of you Severus. Thank you for your assurances. And do remember, you may come and speak to me about this if you feel the need."

Severus looked as though he would rather die than do that, but nevertheless he nodded. "And now, Albus, may I leave? I was in the middle of rather a good book."

"Yes, yes, by all means. I will see you on September 1st, if not before!"

It was an unusually nervous Professor Snape who took his place at the staff table, ready for the Sorting to begin. He had relieved his nerves by taking an inordinate amount of points from some Hufflepuffs who had had the misfortune to be in his way in the entrance hall. He was rather proud of the fact that he had made two of them cry; a new record for him. He hadn't previously managed it until his first class.

A commotion in the door at the other end of the hall made him start from his reverie. Minerva was leading a line of children between the Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff tables. Inevitably, within seconds, there were mutters, at first muted and then increasing in pitch and eagerness.. "Harry Potter!" "Look! That kid, next to the ginger one! That's Harry Potter!"

Severus looked at the boy in question. He was shorter than many of the others. Messy black hair, a scar that was barely visible under the curls on his forehead, round glasses; the very image of Potter. And then the boy happened to look up, across the hall, and Severus was shocked by the greenness of his eyes… Lily's eyes… he was doomed to spend the next seven years staring at the eyes of the woman whom he had condemned to death.

Trying to shake Lily's image from his mind, he scanned the line, searching… The sorting had begun… And then like a jolt to the heart, he heard:

"Granger, Hermione!"

And Hermione, six years younger than he had last seen her, moved forward to the Sorting Hat. He surveyed her eagerly. Her hair was bushier than he remembered, her teeth decidedly longer; he wondered when she had charmed them shorter. She looked so young, so innocent.

He had read her letter again last night. He could recite it by heart, but sometimes it was more reassuring to read those words, the way her pen had pressed on the page, and the smudged sections where tears had fallen. She had known when she had written this what would stand before him. He wondered, vaguely, whether he would be mad with frustration before the six years were gone.

The hat had shouted "Gryffindor" but of course he knew that already. Every tiny, tiny detail that Hermione had told him, or accidentally let slip, he had remembered.

There was suddenly a tremendous roar, and Harry Potter was sorted into Gryffindor. A despicable chanting had broken out from the table in question. Dumbledore did nothing to stop it. Severus imagined this was just the beginning of seven years of having the Boy who Lived in the school, in his class, surveying him with Lily's eyes. He sank his head into his hand, and Professor Sprout, sat next to him, patted him gently on the shoulder. "Come on Severus! The start of a new year!"

Severus toyed with his food. The insane impossibility of the next seven years was being brought home to him every time he looked over to the Gryffindor table. Hermione seemed… he wasn't sure, really. She was talking, definitely. Was she happy? He couldn't read eleven year old Hermione like he could eighteen year old Hermione. He stared across at the table and suddenly Harry Potter looked up and Severus was suddenly hit by the idea that it was James, James returned to taunt him and his facial features twisted into an incredible grimace. He watched as James…Harry jumped and turned to his companions.

Yes, it was going to be an interesting few years.

First potions class. Gryffindor and Slytherin. Young Draco, Harry Potter and MISS GRANGER all in one class. What, he wondered, had he done to Dumbledore to inspire such a terrible group?

He began with his usual awe inspiring lecture. Hermi.. Miss Granger was predictably scribbling away everything he said. He suppressed a smile; this was an aspect to Hermione that had definitely not changed as she grew older. But Potter on the other hand… he looked with dislike at the boy, who was toying idly with his quill.. "Potter" he snapped "Can you tell me…."

And so the lesson progressed. To his relief, sticking to his usual plan seemed to be working. Compliment and support the Slytherins, take points at every opportunity from Gryffindor, and added to his usual plan: being horrible to Potter constantly. Oh, and the Longbottom boy was clearly useless, which would definitely add to his amusement. He tried to ignore MISS GRANGER as much as possible. Not that this was easy, given that she was waving her hand in the air every three seconds. In the end, mindful of his promise to Dumbledore, he resorted to meanness. He realised that if he was to get through this year, let alone the next, he had to suppress his Hermione from the current reality of Miss Granger. And if he let Miss Granger irritate the hell out of him, then, so much the easier.

The autumn progressed. Dumbledore mentioned, casually in passing, that he might want to keep an eye on Quirrell. Thanks, Severus thought annoyed, for adding to my already busy schedule. But then again, time spent in activity was time that could not be spent on pondering Miss Granger; so he took up stalking Quirrell with great delight.

It was Halloween. The hall was bedecked with bats and lanterns and pumpkins, and Severus was miserable. The evening was progressing with as much hilarity as usual, when Professor Quirrell burst through the door, claiming a troll was in the dungeons, and then fainting. The students, not quite in chaos, were herded back to the dormitory. Severus, pausing briefly to be thankful that Miss Granger would be quite safe in the Gryffindor tower, followed Quirrell. By making it quite obvious that he was following him, he managed to prevent Quirrell from heading wherever he was going, making sure that he was back in the presence of other teachers before heading back down the stairs to the dungeons.

He heard raised voices and headed for the loos. The girl's loos? He wondered what on earth was going on. He burst round the door to be confronted with the image of Potter, Miss Granger and the latest Weasley sat in attitudes of abject terror under the sinks, and in front of them… the troll, unconscious on the floor.

"She is CRAZY!" he shouted at Dumbledore, stomping up and down the six feet square in front of the desk. "She went after a TROLL! She's a FIRST YEAR. She's been here not quite THREE MONTHS!"

"My dear Severus, you're talking in capital letters." Dumbledore waved his wand and a chair abruptly shot into the back of Severus's knees, forcing him to sit. "Hermione is quite unharmed, as are Mr Potter and Mr Weasley."

Severus waved his arm in despair. "I don't CARE about them Albus! I care about Herm… MISS GRANGER."

"Severus…" warned Dumbledore quietly.

He subsided with a sigh. "I know. I know, okay? But you have to admit that I have a vested interest in her reaching her seventh year safely. And me." He added as an afterthought. "Goodness knows what treats there are in store for me."

"Oh, Severus… Have a lemon drop… And you may find that the years go faster than you think."

Severus raised one eyebrow, expressing eloquently in that movement a sense of disbelief, took the lemon drop and left without another word.

He managed, almost successfully, for the rest of the year to ignore Miss Granger as anything other than a particularly annoying first year. Her friendship with Potter and Weasley helped him to cultivate an aura of dislike; whenever he looked at her, he simply saw them instead. Quirrell was increasingly taking up more of his time. Until the fateful day at the end of the year.

Potter and his faithful sidekicks, as he usually thought of them, had gone after the Stone… After HIM, as they had thought, mistakenly. And it was only when it was all over he had heard about it. 'Oh Hermione!' He thought, 'If this has been your first year, what is going to be happening later on?'.

He heard from Dumbledore, with a certain pride, that Hermione had been the one to break his code. Her intelligence, which had shone so startlingly when they were eighteen, was already so clearly in evidence. And as much as he disliked her choice of companion, he had to admit that she had proved herself both a steadfast friend and a helpful companion. All of which boded well for the future…

The future… And then it was the summer, and she was gone from his life for nearly two months. He tried to be glad of the absence, and failed miserably. After years of absence, an eleven year old know-it-all Hermione who knew nothing of him and them was infinitely better than no Hermione at all.

Chamber of Secrets

"The chamber has been opened." Dumbledore pronounced, solemnly, to a stunned, silent staff room. "We will keep the school open." He gestured as Minerva opened her mouth, and she refrained from speaking. "We will stay open, until the last pupil has decided that he or she wants to leave."

Privately, he said to Severus. "Watch them. Watch your Slytherins. Almost certainly one of them has hold of an incredibly powerful object."

And that had been that. Severus had watched, with fear and a distinct feeling of helplessness, as students and ghost had been petrified. He felt somehow removed from the situation.

Students were stealing from his stores. Boomslang skin. Want on earth could a student want with boomslang skin? It must be Potter; it was always Potter. Wanting to confront the boy, he tracked him the Hospital Wing, where he found Weasley and Potter in some agitation. Curious, he waited until they'd disappeared, and questioned Poppy.

"Oh Severus!" Poppy was half laughing, half close to tears. "The boys claim that it was just a joke gone wrong… But poor Miss Granger!"

Severus leaned over, threateningly. "What has happened to her?"

Poppy gestured towards a bed enclosed by curtains. "See for yourself! She's asleep."

Severus drew back the curtains quietly so as not to disturb her. Unfortunately he spoilt this by jumping a foot and landed heavily. He whisked the curtains back together and turned to Poppy. "She has tried to turn herself into a cat." He said flatly.

"Oh yes" she agreed. "She'll be alright in a week, the potion just needs time to wear off."

"Hmmmph." Severus mumbled. Stalking off, he resolved to confront Potter as soon as possible. This was clearly all his fault. But life continued, and Miss Granger was un-cat-ed.

Severus was still studying his students as closely as could possibly be permitted and none of them was behaving in any way differently to normal. Malfoy was being a cocky arrogant little toerag, but this was nothing unusual. He knew nothing about the events; Severus had made sure of that before anything else.

And then…

Dumbledore had approached him cautiously, and that had been what alerted him to the impending danger. When was Dumbledore ever cautious?

"Severus… sit down."

He did not argue, simply did as he was told, sat behind his desk. Dumbledore perched himself on a desk in the front row, and stared at his folded hands again.

"I am sorry to inform you Severus, but Miss Granger has become the latest victim."

Severus's hands clenched, but he showed no other sign of emotion.

"She has been Petrified. Luckily the mandrakes are growing nicely, so hopefully in a few months time she will be alright again."

He looked anxiously at the man, but Severus showed no flicker of emotion or movement. Quietly, Dumbledore left the room. Ten minutes later, there was an almighty crash as Severus swept the entire contents of the top of his desk onto the floor.

That night he crept into the hospital wing. Much too tricky to go during the day; Poppy would only ask awkward questions.

Miss Granger lay in the end bed. Moonlight slanted through the uncurtained windows and fell on her form, making her seem even more granite-like than the Petrification should have made her. He fell into the visitors chair by the head of the bed. Twelve years old, she was. Twelve years old and she had already faced Voldemort and now this. He stretched out a hand to touch her, and then pulled back, hesitating. He had had no contact with her in this form, and somehow to touch her seemed an incredibly momentous thing. The moonlight moved round, slowly, and threw her face into relief. He pulled his chair closer to the bed, so he was sitting level with her waist, staring at her face. It occurred to him that this would look incredibly odd to anybody else, but he did not care. Miss Granger, who would in a few years, if she survived- which at this rate was seeming increasingly unlikely- would become Hermione… his kitten. He shuddered, and his resolve broke. He stretched forward his hand, and gently touched her cheek. So cold. He leant back then. He needed to go, but he could not bear to leave her, not now, not like this. He moved his hand so that it covered hers. She was cold, unresponsive of course, but somehow holding her hand he could pretend that he was helping her.

He must have dozed off, for shortly before dawn, when the sky was just tinging with pink in the horizon, he woke to a gentle cough. He started, and then jumped guiltily, relaxing slightly when he saw that it was Dumbledore, not Poppy standing there.

"I apologise, Headmaster." He said formally.

Dumbledore smiled sadly. "You do not need to apologise, Severus. But you had better be gone, before Poppy awakes."

Severus nodded, and, attempting to look as collected as possible, performed his usual cloak-swish on exiting the hospital wing.

After that, he spent one night every week with Miss Granger, without fail. His other duties could go sod themselves for all he cared. This was time with her, safe time, perhaps the only time, until seventh year…

Eventually, all was sorted. It was Voldemort, acting through the latest Weasley. Severus was glad it was over, no-one had died, save for a memory of Tom Riddle. But the moment that brought joy to his heart was when Miss Granger ran through the Great Hall to embrace her friends. And for a few moments, Severus was happy.

Prisoner of Azkaban

When it was all over, Severus reflected on what a truly terrible year this had been.

Lupin, his old enemy, teaching in the school (and, carefully pre-warned, not jumping at the sight of Miss Granger). Black, his old and much more hated enemy, on the run from Azkaban and trying to break into Hogwarts to kill Harry Potter. A conflict of interest, almost, but Severus was by this point resigned to the fact that his penance for Lily's death involved saving her son at every turn.

But the most painful fact of all. That she, Miss Granger, had sided with the aforesaid Lupin, Black and Potter (and Weasley, though he barely counted) to attack HIM. He knew he had gone out of his way to make himself unpleasant, but seeing her draw a wand against him was not something he had known he could endure. And yet endure it he did. And the fateful werewolf incident; one that had made infinitely more sense once Lupin had started teaching again…

Lupin had transformed. And Severus had reacted instinctively. Grabbing Miss Granger, pushing her behind him, vaguely knowing the two boys were there too… Telling them to run, while he stood there holding out against a werewolf which had nearly killed him before… all for the sake of saving Miss Granger… It was a desperate kind of bravery. He wanted, he needed to preserve her… For his past and their future. In that instant he would have given his life for her to live. But yet, of course, terrifying though it was, he knew that he would survive because she had told him so herself! The vagaries of time travel.

And that evening had ended with Lupin sacked, Black free, an impossible story about Peter Pettigrew, Weasley with a broken leg, and Potter and Miss Granger.. well… disliking him slightly more than they had done before. Frankly, summer holidays at the end of third year were a vast relief.

Goblet of Fire

A new year; new responsibilities. Oh well done, Dumbledore. Lets invite an ex Death Eater and a giant to our nice castle! Oh, and lets throw in the Triwizard Tournament, when rumours of Voldemort are growing, and oh, yes, putting Potter in danger yet again. Won't this be absolutely thrilling! Sometimes, Severus could have cheerfully killed the man.

Somehow though, this extra anxiety, both for affairs in and out of the castle, managed to make Miss Granger fade into the background somewhat. Only a few moments of true interaction occurred.

Potter and Malfoy's attempt at a duel, for instance. Their spells had rebounded and Miss Granger's teeth had grown,

Severus had made an effort to force his features into an image of revulsion as he spat the words "I see no difference." He tried not to see the wounded look on Miss Granger's face, and yet… his words had been true. Just take away the revulsion. It was hard not to notice at such close quarters that Miss Granger was growing up fast these days. It was true; he had seen no difference. She was still beautiful. His own sentiments sickened him.

It had been worse, at the Yule Ball. Oh, it had been amusing to watch the boys faces drop in amazement as they saw her enter, yet he knew his face held the same expression of awestruck wonder. If he had needed any reminding that she was beautiful, she had provided it amply. Severus knocked back several Firewhiskeys as she began to dance. To his shame and embarrassment, he wanted more than anything to be with her, to hold her…

FOURTEEN, SEVERUS. He mentally yelled at himself. For a wonder, Dumbledore said nothing as he swept majestically from the hall.

Order of the Phoenix

So, it had started again. Voldemort, Death Eaters, Spying, Constant Vigilence as Moody would put it.

Miss Granger had been hanging around headquarters, so Severus had made it his business to be there as little as possible. Since the Yule Ball dance he had felt increasingly uncomfortable in her vicinity. Mindful of his promise to Dumbledore, he resolved never to be with her in a private situation.

And at least the constant threat of death, he thought to himself wryly, kept his mind from her.

He ignored her in classes, but there was nothing new there.

Year Six

The year that Potter was the Boy who Lived once again. And his faithful sidekicks had helped. Voldemort was no more. Life.. was back to normal, if it could ever have been called normal in the first place. Voldemort-killing-antics had kept Miss Granger from school for a significant part of the year, though on return she showed that she had lost nothing in those months. Severus was just glad that both she and him and come through the experience intact. And he did his utmost to avoid her, for seventeen year old Miss Granger was far too much like eighteen year old Hermione and his willpower would only stretch so far.

Year Seven

The year started with a kind of hopefulness. Every class that Severus walked into, with Miss Granger sitting there, eager to learn, in the front row, was a kind of torture. He wished he had thought to ask, all those years ago, which month she had left in. At least then he wouldn't be waiting on tenterhooks constantly.

He had taken to smiling at her, almost imperceptibly, when she passed him. Things had changed since the death of Voldemort and maybe his students could take a lighter side to him.. maybe.

This particular lesson, Severus was not approaching hopefully. He was setting them a mock-Newt. A fairly easy potion that most of them should have no trouble with. He had reckoned of course without one Neville Longbottom; still as scared in potions as he had been in first year. He had been marking papers, idly, when suddenly Miss Granger had jumped up from her seat and was issuing rapid instructions. He had not even had time to stand up himself when the air exploded and Miss Granger had disappeared from sight. Severus managed to issue some coherent orders, and then sank down to his desk, head in his hands… thinking only one thing; that she would be back, in just a few short hours. Twenty years of torment would be over. He wanted to cry.

And Dumbledore came in, proffering as usual a lemon drop. Severus took it, hoping that this would hold back the sobs that he felt sure would take over his body before long.

"Well my boy," said Dumbledore, "She's gone back. She is living your seventh year now." He paused, and crunched thoughtfully. "She will be back here this evening. Have you given any consideration to what you are going to do?"

Severus looked up. "I gave you my word, Dumbledore. Nothing while she's my student."

"My boy, I don't know if you recall the state she was in when she left us?"

Severus nodded.

"You may not, however, know that during her third year, Miss Granger made extensive use of a Time Turner."

Severus frowned. "I wondered."

"Then you will understand that Miss Granger is one of the oldest in her year group anyway. Her time turner usage in the third year gave her several extra months." Dumbledore crunched again. "I am trying to say, Severus, that Miss Granger is, mentally and physically, nearly nineteen. By the way, how is her potions skill?"

Severus shrugged. "She could pass her Newt now. She could probably have passed it in third year if she'd been allowed."

"Then I suggest this. I rescind your promise."

Severus's eyes gleamed suddenly.

"But," Dumbledore continued, "I would very much appreciate it if, whatever arrangement you may or may not come to is kept from the school at large until after the academic year is completely over, and you will no longer teach her potions."

"I accept those terms." Severus suddenly looked back at his desk. "But… Albus… I am.." he nearly chocked getting the last words out, "I am afraid." Having started, he forced himself to continue. "I am twenty years older than her. I realise in Wizarding years it's virtually nothing, but she was brought up Muggle. Will she… still want me.. when she comes back.. to find me, nearly forty.. With grey hairs." He tugged a strand of hair irritably.

"My dear boy," said Dumbledore, "That is completely up to her. And you. I had better be going now, Minerva wants to see me, something about the Giant Squid and Hagrid, I really do dread to think!" He chuckled and left the room.

Severus stood up forcefully, and went to his chambers. Carefully, reverently, he unlocked a small wooden box that was clearly meant for treasures, and took out the only contents. A very, very worn piece of parchment. Sinking heavily onto his couch, he read, again and again "I love you". She had known, hadn't she, that entire time they had been together, she knew the reality of what he had become, and yet she had chosen to be with him. Hours passed in silent revery. He stood up to stretch his legs, and there was a knock and he turned to see

His Hermione

Tear stained, slightly dishevelled, the exact way he had last seen her, twenty years ago. Beautiful. His breath caught. He had to know.

"What," he whispered, "Were your last words to me?"

She faced him square on- she had never lacked in courage. And she looked him directly in the face as she said "I love you" without a pause or a hitch.

He gulped. "And do they hold true?"

Somehow, though, she seemed uncertain of him

"What about yours to me?"

"Miss Granger," he started, but she looked as if she was about to cry. "Hermione," he relented. "You have not known me for twenty years. I have waited, I have watched you grow up, to be a beautiful woman," his voice cracked, and she held out a hand to him. Carefully, he sat beside her, not touching her, not yet.

"All these years; they have been difficult for me…"

"Please," she said, "Can I see what you are holding."

He held it out to her, not looking at her, and as she unfolded it, he turned away. He didn't want to see the reaction, he kept bracing himself for rejection.

"My letter. You've kept my letter. Severus," she said quietly. "Look at me."

He turned, and looked at her. Really looked, in her eyes, into her soul, it seemed.

"Severus," she said firmly. "I love you."

"I…. you don't know me, Hermione." Too many years, too many terrible things had passed.

She put a gentle hand to his cheek. "I know all the things that you've done for me and for my friends all these years. Even helping bring down Voldemort last year. You didn't have to do all those things. You put yourself in danger so many times for me. Do you think I couldn't love you just for that? I knew who you were, what you were, when I fell in love with you at eighteen. I could have walked away that first day, but I didn't. You were, you still are, the most amazing man I know. And because of that, because of everything we shared, I love you." She half-laughed suddenly. "Don't you know that for me, it was only this morning that I woke up in bed with you? Only last night that we made love for the first time? Can you remember what that was like Severus?"

He drew back for a moment. Memories that he had tried to suppress for seven years came crashing down on him, and he wanted more than anything to hold her in his arms again. But first, first they had to talk.

"Hermione," and she was, now, finally 'Hermione', "there are things I need to tell you. Everything we did together, everything we said, is etched on my mind forever. The night that you told me that I was brave… that changed so much for me Hermione. I realised that I could be more than I was. When I protected you from the werewolf in your third year, part of me wanted to run away, as fast as I could. And then I remembered you, telling me I was brave; and you were there. I couldn't abandon you. Not when you had so much potential, and when…." He trailed off, not totally wanting to admit it, yet at the same time needing to say it. "When you were going to be mine."

She drew a breath. "Severus."

He spoke again. "There has been no-one else, Hermione. You were the first and only woman I have slept with." How sad to admit that. "It was hard at times, but then I read your letter, I read your promise to me that we would meet again. And when Albus told me you were starting Hogwarts, I knew there were only seven years left. Seven years of torment, I might add," trying to smile lightly. "But I watched as you grew to hate me, when you cast Expelliarmus against me… I knew you didn't know, didn't know what was in my past and your future. But Hermione, it hurt so much!" To his utter shame, tears that he had held off all these years pricked in his eyes, and finally he could no longer hold them back, and let all the emotion flow.

And Hermione, bushy haired 7th year know it all, held the Potions Professor, 'the git' as he broke down in tears, for the first time in twenty years.

"Shhhh" she murmured as she rocked him. "I'm here now." She laughed suddenly. "Severus, for me its only been a day and I've been craving you, your body.. How terrible has it been for you?"

He chuckled slightly; she could barely imagine the torment that the recent years had had on him. "You have no idea, kitten." He noted the reaction that his use of the word had on her, she sat up, eyes glowing.

"Severus, I know it will be difficult, but I meant what I said in my letter. I knew what I was coming back to. I would like it, if you didn't mind, if…"

"If we gave 'us' a chance?" His breath hitched, this, then was the moment of truth…

"Yes." She breathed. He made his decision then. He had waited too long for her, for this. He lowered his head to hers, slowly, tentatively. Her lips, smooth, just as he remembered. The kiss was gentle to start with, then grew more passionate. Severus felt himself being transported to a brief period, years ago, when he had felt truly loved. The passion, the longing, the awareness of each other, it was all still there. She ran her hand through his hair, and he leant against the touch. He gasped into her mouth. "I've been waiting for you for so long."

He finally felt complete; she was there, and he was home.

47