Chapter Nine

"Severus…" Hermione said hesitantly. "I didn't mean to…" She stopped. Because she had meant to tell Dumbledore the truth- and she didn't regret it.

Besides, he had already known the truth, so it would have been pointless to lie.

"Hermione. I…I respect that you wanted to tell him the truth, but…what if he hadn't really known? And what if he had cared? What if we were punished? You, expelled, and me, fired? Where would that have gotten us? No closer to where we want to be. I didn't lie to him because I'm ashamed that I love you- I would yell it from the top of the Astronomy Tower if I could. I lied, because I wanted to keep our relationship safe. Keep you safe."

Now Hermione felt rather ashamed of herself. All he'd been trying to do was protect her… "Severus…I love you. And I understand that you just wanted to keep us safe…but, I don't think Dumbledore would have gotten us in trouble. I'm about to turn 17, for Merlin's sake. There's nothing wrong with what we're doing, and…I don't know, I would have been less likely to announce that we're in a relationship if you'd handled your denial better. I know you want to seem like you don't care for me…but you don't have to be outright rude about it."

"Oh, Hermione," he sighed. "I'd never want to hurt you. I just thought…perhaps, hurting your feelings would be better than your future…and our relationship. But, I should've done what was right. Yes, I should've told Dumbledore the truth…"

"Well, he knows now…for better, or for worse," Hermione said.

"Well, you said it yourself, love, and I agree- I don't think Dumbledore will tell anyone. If anyone finds out, it will be because we told, not him," Severus said.

"I don't plan on telling anyone…at least, not until I turn 17," Hermione clarified.

"Once you're 17, I will be able to yell it from the Astronomy Tower," Severus said, smiling softly at her.

"Yell what, exactly?" Hermione asked with a grin.

"Why, how much I'm in love with the beautiful, smart, brave, amazing Hermione Granger, of course."

Hermione's heart swelled. "Well, now I can't wait for my birthday. That will be the most amazing present anyone has ever given me."

"That won't be the only present I give you…" Severus said, raising an eyebrow at her.

Hermione's heart stopped beating for a moment. He couldn't be talking about what she thought he was, right? He couldn't be talking about…sex…could he?

She was saved the horror of having to respond because there was a knock at the door, and Draco walked in.

"Sir?" He said, looking at Hermione curiously. He clearly wanted to know if they had talked things over- and she had a lot to tell him.

"Yes, Draco?" Severus asked.

"I needed to find Hermione- I needed her help on an essay, and I knew she was working on a Potion in here, so I came looking…" he trailed off.

"Of course. Miss. Granger and I were simply discussing brewing techniques. You may go help Mr. Malfoy," he said, looking at Hermione. She got up, and with a glance back at him, followed Draco out the door.

Once they were in the hallway, Hermione started talking. "You don't really need help with an essay, do you? Because I have so much to tell you!"

"Of course not," he said with a snort. "I can do my work by myself, thank you very much. I'm not the Weasel. I wanted to hear all your juicy gossip," he said teasingly.

"Ugh. You're going to love this…let's go to the library or something, though, I don't need anyone overhearing…" Hermione said, glancing around as if she expected someone to leap out from behind a tapestry.

"Ooh, I'm excited. Somewhere we can't be overheard? It must be interesting," Draco said, sounding like a gossipy second year. Hermione laughed.

"Let's go, little girl."

He stuck out his tongue at her, and they started walking.

A/N: Hi, guys! Sorry it's been so long… :( But! What did you think of this chapter? Don't worry, the drama hasn't ended just because Dumbledore knows about them! Well, until next time.

~Secret