SS- Hey guys! Alright sorry about the delay! THANK YOU SO MUCH to everyone who reviewed, you guys honestly make this worth doing. I'm going to be extremely honest here. I was struggling, trying to get into this story but I honestly think this is the best chapter I've ever written. I'm so excited to share it with you and I'm worried all the next chapters are going to pale in comparison! Anyway, please let me know what you think! Happy reading!

Books were strewn all across the floor, dresser, and bed. Pieces of paper scattered, bookmarks bent in half, and used quills in the trash. Hermione lay on her bed, hair in an unruly mess, eyes tired and hands covered in ink splotches. She had been researching for days on end; Snape had allowed her use of his personal book collection. It was quite extensive, she mused, eyes flickering to the window; the sky was grey outside. She sighed, the beautiful crisp leaves had gone and replacing them on the ground was a light dusting of silver. Frost –and the beginning of winter—had settled in.

Her stomach suddenly lurched, an uneasy feeling settling in her chest. This had been a reoccurring feeling in the last few days, she couldn't quite explain it, but was ashamed at the knowledge that it was most likely her Professor's upcoming mission that had her stomach in knots. She balled her fists and pushed her books away, rubbing her eyes.

Why did he have a date?

Who was it with?

Was she pretty?

Unsettling questions circled in her mind, over and over. She knew it was probably childish but she couldn't help it. She felt tears of frustration begin in the corner of her eyes, but stopped them in their tracks. She would not cry over this. It was silly.

Hermione picked herself off the bed, her stomach rumbling. She made her way down the stairs, her spirits low. Not only did Snape have a date coming up, but Hermione felt no closer to figuring out how to destroy the Horcruxes. She knew no ordinary spells could break them, but the books she had weren't giving her any clues. Ron and Harry had contacted her every day since, assuring that she was indeed alive and well. Every day she had to remind them that, no, she couldn't disclose her location and no she could not simply meet up with them. Hermione told them about the purple mark, conveniently leaving out small details such as Professor Snape. Though they were frustrated, they were none the less happy to have the third member of their team back in communication.

Hermione made herself a quick sandwich and a pot of herbal tea. Sitting down at the table, she traced the lines in the cracked wood, thinking. Perhaps she would pull back out the Tales of the Beedle and the Bard. After all, she'd been studying for days straight and could use a book of entertainment rather than information.

Finishing up, she put her plate in the sink, washed it, and began heading up the stairs. The house was once again very quiet, chilling almost without Snape prowling up and down the halls. She even welcomed his fits and tantrums compared to the desolate silence and lack of human contact. Wrapping her arms around herself, she suddenly stopped half way up the stairs and sat down, her elbows on her knees.

She was so lonely, so empty. She thought back to the wedding, Bill and Fleurs wedding, so long ago that seemed now. That was the day Scrimgeour gave them the items Dumbledore had left in his will. Ron's Put-Outer seemed, so far, to be very useful. Her book she had yet to uncover its use, save for the small triangular symbol. She knew it meant something. Harry had gotten the snitch, which he said still wouldn't open, much too all their disappointment. But wasn't there something else?

At that moment the door swung open and Snape came striding in, a thick, woolly, black travelers cloak around his neck. He was carrying a small, beaded bag.

"Oh!" Hermione cried, jumping to her feet. She ran towards him and he handed her the bag without a word.

"Really? You found it?" Her face split into a wide grin as she cradled the small bag to her chest. Once again he chose not to respond and walked past her, sinking into a hard back chair. Hermione, despite herself, couldn't stop smiling. She walked over to him, summoned the pot of tea she had made earlier and poured him a cup.

"Thank you, Professor," she said quietly, noticing how he pinched the bridge of his nose.

"It was nothing, Miss Granger, I enjoy risking my life for glittering women's apparel," he said sarcastically, rolling his eyes. Hermione fixed him with a glare but was shocked when she heard a chuckle coming from her bag.

Snape didn't move, he didn't even twitch at the noise.

"Ah," he said, sounding bored, "I nearly forgot."

"Oh my dear boy, I know you would not forget about me," said the voice from her bag. Snape turned to her, a look of pure annoyance on his face, and reached his hand out for the bag. Hermione gave it to him reluctantly and watched as his arm disappeared into it. Seconds later, he pulled his hand out followed by a large portrait of Albus Dumbledore.

"For your company, Miss Granger," Dumbledore said pleasantly, the paint in his eyes twinkling. "Severus felt you could use someone to speak with."

"That's quite enough, Albus," Snape snapped, hanging the painting on the wall. Hermione smiled slightly, having sworn she saw the faintest of pinks appear on his cheeks.

Snape stepped back, next to Hermione and they both stared at Dumbledore's smiling face.

"Thank you, Severus, that was quite an enjoyable journey, nice to stretch my legs," Dumbledore said, smiling. Hermione laughed, covering her mouth with her hand. Snape rolled his eyes and stormed off, muttering to himself.

"My how you've grown, Miss Granger," he said, his eyes warm. Hermione pulled up a chair and sat in front of the painting, her heart delighted.

"Please, Professor, call me Hermione," she smiled, almost laughing; it was a wonderful feeling to be in his presence again.

"As you wish, Hermione. If I were you, I would check your bag once more. I believe Severus has left you one other surprise." Hermione grabbed her bag eagerly, sifting through its many contents. She gasped, her hand clasped around a jewel encrusted handle. With one swift tug, Hermione pulled out the sword of Gryffindor.

"Of course!" She cried, her eyes suddenly wild, excitement flooding through her. "The sword is goblin made; it only takes in that which makes it stronger!" At that moment Snape entered the room once more, clad in his usual black cloak.

"Oh, Professor Snape, it's the sword, the sword will eliminate the Horcruxes!" She almost yelled, her excitement getting the better of her, but something about the way Snape's lip curled popped a hole in her bubble.

"You already know, don't you?" She said disappointedly, still grasping the sword so tightly her knuckles shone white. He nodded curtly and moved the armchair so that it faced the mantelpiece, sinking down gracefully into it.

"But if you already know, why didn't you tell me?" She asked, dejected, sitting down on the edge of the couch.

"Relax, Miss Granger, I only found out a couple days prior to yourself." Truth be told, Snape was mildly impressed with the young Gryffindor, it had taken him much research to figure it out himself. He was sure Albus was aware but it seemed as though the old man wasn't willing to divulge any of his secrets.

"We will have to find a date in which to return it to Potter," Snape said curtly, trying not to think about the encounter. He saw Hermione about to open her mouth and put up a hand to stop her.

"Yes, yes Miss Granger, you may accompany me so long as all goes well tonight," he sighed heavily. He was aching, exhausted. He did not favor an evening away from his fireplace and a good book. His eyes flickered over to her once again and noticed how she regarded her feet quietly, her eyes troubled. He had to admit an ulterior motive to inviting Granger on his so called 'date'. They were going to a popular pub and he hoped Granger would find a suitable, young man to divert her attention away from himself. He was uncomfortable with her pursuit of his affections, it was unnerving to watch a young, beautiful woman with such potential pining after a much older, worn out spy whose time was coming to an end.

Snape repressed a shudder, his eyes locking with Albus'. The older man was watching him curiously, if not a little sadly. He tried not to think of the coming months, in which he knew Voldemort would have no further use for him.

Irritation began to bubble in his chest as it so often did these days. He checked the old clock on the mantel piece and clutched the ends of the chair tightly so that his fingertips dug into the soft, green fabric. He raised himself suddenly, his eyes hard, glittering.

The sudden movement frightened Hermione, whose head snapped up nervously.

"Get ready, Granger. We are leaving in an hour," he snapped at her, his shoulders tight. Hermione stared after his retreating figure apprehensively, what had him in such a foul mood? Shrugging her shoulders, Hermione raised herself from the couch and waved goodbye to her previous Headmaster before traipsing up the stairs. She stared into her Professors room as she reached the top landing and saw him filtering through his closet, looking for something to wear.

With a sudden wave of determination, Hermione locked herself in her room. If he was going to meet another witch and bring her along, than she'd be damned if she didn't give her a run for her money. She found a dress in her closet; it was old and much too big for her. Laying it on her bed, she grasped her wand tightly and began transfiguring it. She tightened the waist, shortened the length and expanded the scoop neck. Perfect.

An hour had passed and soon enough, Professor Snape was knocking on her door impatiently.

"Hold on!" She cried and shuffled around the room, trying to find a spot to slip on her heels. With one quick glance into the mirror, she smiled, and opened the door. They both stared at each, in which there was an awkward pause. Hermione's breath was caught in her throat. Snape stood in front of her, tall and... well, beautiful. It was the only word she had for him. He had taken a pepper up potion and so his skin glowed healthily, the bags under his eyes temporarily vanished. His obsidian eyes sparkled at her like two dark jewels against snow white skin. His coal black hair was pulled into a tight blue bow at the nap of his neck. Hermione's eyes traveled over the length of him, sapphire blue robes covered what she knew to be broad, muscular shoulders. And finally black dragon hide boots completed the outfit.

"Miss Granger," his voice was soft, silky. Her eyes snapped back to his and she felt her lower tummy quiver when she gazed into heated eyes. Snape was regarding her oddly, his eyes were intense, almost melting but his facial features had hardened, his lips pursed. He gestured over to the mirror at the end of the hall and Hermione obliged, she stared at her reflection. She wore a tight fitting, blood red dress. The scoop neck she had modified was now so open it slid over her shoulders. Her golden brown hair was curled, half up in a bun, half flitting in soft spirals around her face. Her eyes shone bright, caramel and intense with black, smoky makeup. Finally, she looked at her lips, the same blood red as her dress.

Snape cleared his throat and her eyes flickered to his reflection, standing so much taller than her. His eyes were still intense. He reached in front of her and placed a dangling topaz amulet around her throat. He tied it gently behind her neck.

He whispered, "Keep this close, Miss Granger. It will cease functioning the moment it leaves your skin." His breath tickled her neck and she fought the urge to shudder. He was so close to her, she could feel his heat on her back, smell his intoxicating cologne. He turned abruptly and marched down the stairs. Hermione followed quietly, her black heels clicking against the tile. Once outside, he extended his arm to her and she took it tightly, feeling a familiar pull through a tube too tight to breathe.

Hermione stumbled upon landing but thanks to her Professor's firm grip she managed to stay on her feet. She shivered lightly in the cold, the wind bitter as it whipped against her face. He reacted by tightening his grip on her arm and she smiled slightly, happy for the warmth of his cloak. They walked inside a shabby looking pub, the lights dim through the snow encrusted windows.

The inside was very different from its sad, broken down exterior. The lights were still dim but a warm atmosphere of intimacy was felt throughout the pub. The music was loud, pumping; she could feel every beat in her chest. There were witches and wizards dancing, drinks in their hands and smiles on their faces. Snape pulled her aside before she could fully enter the room.

"You will sit where I can see you, Miss Granger." Hermione frowned at him.

"With all due respect, Professor, I'm not a child," she snapped, frustrated. It was still odd to her, seeing him so cleaned up. She still had a hard time concentrating whenever she got a whiff of him. His eyes hardened and he grabbed her shoulder in a no nonsense grip.

"If you don't stop arguing, you're going to sit on my lap!" He hissed, then his face suddenly contorted as he realized what he had said. Hermione tried and failed to suppress a giggle, her cheeks reddening. He sighed, rolling his eyes at her. He put his hand on the middle of her back and pushed her forward towards a two seater table with a beautiful, single white rose in the middle. The flower rotated slowly on the spot, petals loosening and falling delicately onto the wood underneath. When the rose had shed all its petals, it would magically restart with all its glorious volume. Hermione sighed heavily and sat down; knowing Snape would be sitting at a different table.

A delicate beat had begun, a witch's voice echoing softly around the room, engulfing her senses. It was a romantic yet depressing tune, a sound that made the heart ache and the mind heavy. Hermione looked around the room and spotted her Professor's uncharacteristic sapphire robes only a few tables down. He bowed low, grabbing a long slender hand in his own, bent down low and kissed it gently. Hermione's stomach flipped. He moved out of the way to sit down and Hermione felt a gnarling, clawing feeling in her stomach.

Jealousy.

The witch was tall and slender, with bright blonde curls and deep, glowing blue eyes. The candlelight at their table seemed to only make her all the more stunning, her porcelain skin alight, and her features angelic. She laughed at something her Professor had said, her full lips parting to show gleaming, perfectly square teeth. Hermione was forcibly reminded of her youth when her own front teeth were rather large. Her eyes slide over to Snape and she watched as his eyes sparkled, dancing in the candlelight. He was smirking at her, his eyebrow raised suggestively.

Hermione squirmed in her seat, feeling sick to her stomach. What she wouldn't give to have Severus Snape look at her that way. Her heart heavy, she watched as he ordered the table a round of drinks. The woman covered her mouth elegantly and giggled in a high pitched, sing song voice. Her eyes suddenly swiveled over to Hermione's.

"That girl is staring at us, Severus." She heard the woman whisper, her hand reaching over gently, brushing his fingertips. Snape turned his head slowly, wisps of his bangs falling into his eyes as he regarded Hermione, who blushed, but refused to look away. Snape shot her an exasperated, warning look and she bristled, pursing her lips in a grimace. What had he expected when he brought her along with him and his date?

The song changed, and the tempo sped up. Hermione toyed with the lose pieces of her hair, watching the rose restart its shedding for the fifth time 'round.

"I wonder if she's even supposed to be here unsupervised. That is to say, she looks no older than fourteen!" The woman laughed, her hand had now moved to his lap. She may have been one of the most beautiful women Hermione had ever seen, but in that moment, she was the ugliest. Hermione was about to send a quiet curse over to her table when she was tapped on the shoulder. Glancing upwards, she saw a young man with shaggy brown hair and blue-grey eyes smiling at her.

"Care to dance?" He asked her, his hand outstretched. She bit her lip, glancing back at Snape's table. They were now sitting very close to each other, talking in quiet whispers. Hermione felt her face grow hot, she turned back to the young man, his hand still outstretched and took it. His smile broadened and he pulled her to the dance floor. They twirled and danced, the boy's hands trying to touch places Hermione wasn't comfortable with.

"That's a pretty necklace!" He shouted over the music, pointing to her amulet. "Who gave it to you?" She looked at him right in the eye, he was pretty handsome, and he did smell pretty nice too, but even that couldn't relieve the pain she felt in her heart.

"No one," she said angrily, and they continued dancing. The song was over and they continued to dance to the next few, however, Hermione was starting to lose energy. Every few minutes she would glance over at Snape, watch how he undressed the young blonde with his eyes, his long, slender fingers playing coy with hers. Pretty soon Hermione declined to dance to yet another song and returned to her lonely seat.

Her rose was on its last few petals. Hermione unhooked the amulet from around her neck, fingering it. It was hard not to think of him as she watched the dim light dance off the slick amber surface.

Though she tried hard not to look, she found her eyes sliding over to his table once again, her fists clenched. Empty goblets littered the table; her hand was stroking his inner thigh as he nuzzled her neck. She watched in silent horror as their lips met, brushing gently onto each other. She reached up and grabbed the back of his neck, fingering his soft black hair, pulling him into the kiss. Blondie glanced up briefly and caught Hermione's eye, a smirk playing on her lips, her eyes glittering menacingly as she opened her mouth to him.

Hot tears streamed down Hermione's face, her eyes full of hate as she watched Blondie's tongue slip into his mouth. She couldn't take it anymore, the pain in her chest, the sick in her stomach too much for her to take. She slammed her hands down on the table as she got up, hurrying out the door without a backwards glance, without a thought to the small, glittering amulet left on the table...

Hermione slammed the door shut to the pub, the music now a dull roar in the background. She wrapped her hands around herself tightly, tears still streaming freely down her face. She shivered in the cold, a chilly silence settling down around her. Her chest heaved in heavy gasps as she wept, her mind replaying the way he watched her, the way he held her.

Snow drifted lazily around her, covering her in white dust. She heard a noise, and she turned to see four figures heading towards her in a hurry. Hermione backed away but hit something very hard, immovable behind her. Heart thudding in her chest, she glanced upward, hey eyes wide.

A scream pierced the night, so high and violent that Snape jerked away from the witch entwining herself around him. He leapt to his feet much to her indignation.

"Severus! What are you—?" She complained but Snape's mind was filled with only one person.

Granger.

The bar had gone quiet and another scream filled the strained silence. Snape ran over to her table and picked up the amulet, his hands shaking. Pocketing it, he darted outside to a scene that would forever haunt him.

Hermione was sprawled on the ground, the snow saturated with her blood. Her clothes were half ripped off, her face bleeding. There were four Death Eaters, one on top of her, fighting with her hands so he could rip her dress down further. Snape's wand was out so fast he hadn't remembered reaching for it.

"Confringo!" He shouted and the Death Eater went flying off her, landing twenty feet away with a heavy 'thud'.

"Snape!" snarled Yaxley, one of the other three Death Eaters. "What do you think you're –" he never finished for Snape had sent a curse his way. He blocked it and the other two Death Eaters braced themselves, gripping their wands tightly. Snape kept his wand level as he approached Hermione, bending down, he grabbed her arm, never keeping his eyes off the three men in black. He helped her to her feet, her dress halfway torn, her nose bleeding heavily and her eye slightly swollen.

"Knew you were a cheat!" cried one of the men, "I knew it! You traitor, wait until I tell the Dark Lord!" Before Snape had a chance to reply a jet of yellow light flew out of the air, hitting the man square in the chest. Hermione's heart raced as she raised her wand higher still. Then a series of events happened so quickly she had no time to react. Jets of light flew in every direction, one of them hitting her in the arm. She screamed in pain, clutching her arm, Snape moved in front of her, blocking her from view.

"Hermione?" Screamed a voice that made her heart melt. She looked to her left with bleary eyes, blinking past tears to see a mop of black hair quickly followed by a bobbing mass of red.

"Harry!" She screamed back, her voice cracking. She soon realized her terrible mistake as the Death Eaters suddenly ceased fighting and turned, their eyes wide as they took in Harry and Ron's dishevelled appearances.

"Hermione! Get away from him!" Harry yelled, pointing furiously at Snape. They were still very far away but the Death Eaters wasted no time as they turned their attention to the boys. Snape snarled furiously, his wand up high. Hermione mimicked him, her wand snapping into action. They cried spells at the same time and the last men in black fell, their faces hitting the tufts of snowy grass.

"Idiot child!" Snape hissed venomously eyeing Harry's approaching figure. "Careless, idiotic, dolts!" He ranted as he obliviated the four men quickly. Harry was running full out, his green eyes panicked as they surveyed Snape so close to his best friend.

"Expelliarmus!" Harry cried, still several feet away. Snape blocked the spell easily.

"Harry! No, Stop!" Hermione cried at him, more tears falling freely from her now. Snape grabbed Hermione's shoulders roughly, pulling her in front of him, his arm around her possessively. Harry's eyes widened in horror as Hermione reached for him, her eyes frightened, her face bloodied and bruised.

"NO!" Harry screamed in desperation as Snape and Hermione disappeared with a CRACK!

The last thing Hermione remembered was her friend's horror struck face as they landed with a 'thud' in front of the manor. Snape was quiet, his face livid. Hermione's stomach flipped uncomfortably as he marched her into the house. Her face burnt furiously as he shut the door with a loud SLAM!

He rounded on her, his face pale, eyes furious. He pulled the amulet from his coat pocket and dangled it roughly in front of her.

"What on earth were you thinking?" He hissed at her heatedly, his eyes wild. "What did I tell you? What did I say?" He barked. Hermione was so stunned by his anger she couldn't speak, her eyes were wide, frightened.

"You could have died! You foolish, thoughtless girl!" his nostrils flared as he awaited a response. Hermione finally gathered up her courage and stuttered an answer.

"I-I'm s-sorry Professor, I-I just, I-I just..." she couldn't continue, more tears sliding down her face.

"You just what?" He seethed; he grabbed her shoulders roughly, pushing her up against the wall. "What, exactly would be a suitable reason for leaving your amulet behind?" Hermione shivered, her eyes wide. It was the first time she had been truly afraid of her Professor.

"I'm sorry!" She cried quietly, her voice high and afraid. "I just- you, and that-that woman, I—" he cut her off but not with words. His lips came crashing down on hers, demanding, rough, it was nothing like the kiss she had seen him share with Blondie. His hands moved to her head, forcing her harder against him. Was this really happening? Her brain was overloaded as she tasted him, his smell, his presence, his lips so tight against her own. She felt heat race down to her tummy. And suddenly he released her, and she was left quivering against the wall. He gave her one more furious glare before storming off, slamming every door in his path.

THANK YOU! I really hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it! PLEASE review, you guys know it makes my day! Its very appreciated!

-SS