Portions for Foxes
"There's a pretty young thing in front of you,
and she's real pretty and she's real into you,
and then she's sleepin' inside of you…"
–Portions for Foxes, Rilo Kiley
Fresh waves of rain were beating down on sorry old London, and Hermione watched from the safety of her flat as the water rushed off of the roofs and into Half Moon Street below.
It was this time of year, she thought, when the likelihood of storms was at its greatest, that she felt truly safe.
There was something about the insulation of the rain and the way the atmosphere blanketed the capital that made her feel warm and secure.
She hadn't had a very trying day – it had been a slow Friday morning in the DRCMC, with only one case for her to look at – and yet it felt like the weight of the world had been lifted from her shoulders just by pulling on a tattered old cardigan and curling up in an armchair to watch the storm outside.
Her mind ticked over as it liked to while she absently watched a bolt of lightning flash far off above the dark tiled rooftops of Westminster. She wondered why she was always so…not tired, not drained…just…like something was gnawing at her.
It may have been that she hadn't talked to her friends in a while, Ginny especially since the girl had been so busy with Harry and their upcoming wedding, or that she was due to turn twenty-three next week. It may have been that she and Ron had only very recently parted ways, with him visiting Charlie in Romania to get away from her and her staying on at the Ministry.
But she was sure that, really, the gnawing feeling inside her was guilt for one death that she still hadn't fully come to terms with.
It was silly really, the pain she felt for Severus Snape. Her heart would tighten at the thought of him, his bravery, his sacrifices, and, occasionally, it seemed like the pain went far deeper than simple guilt.
It was hard for Hermione to understand that the man that had made her cry on more than one occasion, for no particular reason other than he woke up feeling inclined to do so, could illicit such emotions from her.
She shifted in the squashy armchair as her foot began to drift off, finding herself a more comfortable position.
Thunder rolled on overhead, the vibrations tickling her behind her sternum, just before a noise made her look away from the tumbling grey clouds outside.
Ron's Quidditch themed cuckoo clock – complete with a pop-out Seeker charmed to catch a microscopic golden Snitch – chimed again, announcing it was midnight from its place above the stove in the kitchen.
The sight made her sigh. It was the one thing Ron hadn't taken and moved into his room in the Burrow for safekeeping, until he found a place of his own – mainly because he wasn't very skilled with undoing Sticking Charms, and after the argument they'd had before he'd stormed out she hadn't felt inclined to aid him.
Hermione knew she was climbing a golden ladder, one that would shoot her straight into the upper echelons of Ministry within a few years, and that she would find someone eventually with whom she would want to spend time and vice versa.
But still that gnawing feeling kept at her…before a thought crossed her mind.
Biting her lip, she stood from her seat and turned from the storm. She padded just across the living room.
She had important things to consider.
Like whether it was morally ethical to do what she planning, and whether morals and ethics really, truly, mattered to her right now…and, if she went through with it, what time should she choose?
In the whole of the flat there was only one place Ron had never touched, and that was because he had never known of its existence. It was Hermione's storage place, a magically extended cupboard full of things that if Ron had gotten his hands on…well, she shuddered to think.
A swipe of the pad of her thumb against the hidden door was all it took for the pale cream wall to shudder slightly, revealing the outline of the doorjamb. There was a pop as a golden doorknob burst cleanly out of the plaster.
It only took Hermione a moment for her to open the door and see the slightly dusty object lying neatly on one of a series of full shelves. She closed the cupboard door after her, stepping into the packed space.
There were Restricted books, bits and pieces she had collected over the Horcrux Hunt, Jinxed objects, Weasley & Weasley joke products, a pair of Charmed protective earrings she had been working on in her spare time, and a range of little projects she liked to keep on the go while still working at the Ministry.
But it was the Time Turner that had her full attention at that moment.
Hermione wasn't sure whether Headmistress McGonagall realised that her Time Turner had been missing for many years, but it had. It had been easy for Hermione to keep it instead of returning it to McGonagall's office when she should have, especially under the confusing circumstances of the past few years Hermione had spent at Hogwarts.
She wasn't entirely sure why she had kept it, but she was glad. She now had the chance to take one trip back in time to assuage her guilt – one trip to get to know the true Severus Snape, before he had been tainted by Voldemort.
Picking it up and blowing off the dust, Hermione picked a well-thought out date and place.
Hogwarts School, Gryffindor Sixth Year Girls Dormitory, 2nd of October, 1977… Lunchtime, I think…
Hermione landed silently, pressing herself against the wall behind the bed curtains she had appeared behind. She listened closely. No noises rang out.
She poked her head around the red material and saw the gold and crimson beds all empty and neatly made. Books and clothes were strewn everywhere, but it was just as she remembered it always being.
The wide circular room was homey, panelled wood walls giving the illusion of warmth, and the air was just tinged with the perfume of the five girls living in it. Afternoon sun streamed in through the arched windows.
She softly stepped out from her hiding place, her bare feet enjoying the enchantment on the stone floor that heated it in the colder months.
Her gaze immediately landed on an open trunk. Shiny and pristine, as it sat at the end of one of the four-poster beds, its open gilded lid revealed a clean set of Gryffindor robes.
Hermione smirked at the perfect opportunity, and thanked her lucky stars that the clothes she had worn to work and hadn't bothered changing out of were a short-sleeved white blouse and a charcoal pencil skirt.
She absently wondered whether the blouse and the skirt were a little…revealing for school. The shirt definitely hugged her breasts and the buttons were undone a little low, and the skirt moulded to her curves…
A sudden noise at the bottom of the staircase decided it for her. The clothes would have to do.
Quickly, she tugged the familiar red and gold tie around her neck and slipped on the long black robes. A pair of black flats caught her eye at the end of a bed across the room, and she grabbed them before slipping her wand out of her wrist holster and casting a Disillusionment Charm over her head.
She ignored her instinctive shiver at the feeling of the charm turning her invisible, and pressed herself back against the wall by the door.
Within seconds, three brunettes came rushing in.
"I hope you saw that!" One of them with a sort of squashed looking face grinned, kicking off her shoes and sitting down on a bed. "You've never got a chance now."
The paler of the other two huffed and sat down on her bed, pulling out the hair band holding up her ponytail. She said nothing, just began brushing out her hair with her fingers sullenly.
The last girl with wide dark eyes seemed more compassionate than the first, sitting next to the second girl and slipping her arm around her shoulders.
"It's okay, Sarah. Potter's not that great anyway."
Hermione's eyebrows shot up. She knew that Snape and the Potters had all gone to school together, Harry had told her all about the bullying and Snape's unrequited love for Lily, but she hadn't expected to be faced with anything to do with them so quickly.
Hermione found herself lingering, instead of escaping.
The second girl, Sarah, gave a sad sniff. "Thanks, Janet, but there's no need to lie. He's brilliant. Everyone knows it."
"Especially Evans!" The first girl snickered.
Janet gave her a glare. "Shut up, Astrid."
"What?" Astrid cried indignantly, flinging herself back onto her bed. "He was sticking his tongue right down her throat at the lunch table."
Sarah gave a wail, before streaking across the room and into the bathroom. Janet sighed, her expression disappointed and her eyes on Astrid.
"Honestly, Ast, I don't know why you do it."
Astrid shrugged. "She needs to get over him, alright? Potter's been pining after Evans for as long as I can remember, and before they started going out with each other Sarah had a chance. Now…well, we both know, as does the entire school, that Potter's never letting Evans go now he's got her."
Janet nodded. "You're right. But you don't have to be such a bitch about it."
With that the girl followed after Sarah, nose high in the air. Astrid scoffed and rolled over to rummage around in her trunk.
Hermione quickly skedaddled, but she didn't miss the shout behind her.
"Oi! Who's nicked my spare robes?"
It was strange, Hermione thought, that everything at Hogwarts could seem so similar and yet the people were all so different.
The haircuts were all very seventies, even though they were in the wizarding world where things rarely ever aged and the Muggle world had little influence, and occasionally, as Hermione wandered the halls waiting for her Disillusionment Charm to wear off, she caught a quick snatch of dated Muggle music.
She avoided the teachers, especially the part of the castle which housed the Headmaster's Study and, more importantly, Headmaster Dumbledore, and tried to keep to the emptier parts of the castle.
Eventually, she found herself in the Great Hall, wandering up and down the tables looking for any sign of Severus Snape in the small group of students that had stayed on from lunch.
He wasn't there.
For the first time in a very long time, Hermione could feel herself becoming agitated. The longer she stayed the more chance she had of changing the future in some accidental way, and she was already pushing it a little too much by integrating herself in with the crowd. Soon enough she'd be seen, spoken to, and she needed to get on with finding Snape to minimise the risk she posed to the future.
As she passed the Slytherin table, a conversation reached her ears.
"…outside again. Every day he goes down to that bloody boathouse."
"You know, Severus, he likes to keep to himself."
She spun around, and her eyes fell on a small group of Slytherin boys all working on their own long piece of parchment.
A few of their faces seemed to ring a distant bell inside of Hermione's head, and she remembered the kind that Snape used to be associated with. She could only guess that the boys would grow up to be Death Eaters.
One of them, with dark curls the same colour as his eyes and a long straight nose, suddenly snickered and looked up at the others. "Might be because of Evans today, though."
All their faces twisted in obvious disgust at the name, before one of them spoke up.
"That little mudblood?" He hissed, blue eyes flashing under a sandy blonde fringe. "What about her?"
Another one of them spoke, but didn't look up from where he was scribbling away at his parchment. "She was playing tonsil tennis with Potter over lunch. Didn't you see?"
The blonde boy scoffed. "Shut up, Avery. Snape wouldn't care about that."
The first boy smirked. "Whatever."
The blonde looked outraged, and he pointed the sharpened silver-tipped end of his quill at the boy. "He's one of us, alright? He isn't a little mudblood lover, and if I ever hear you saying that again I'll hex your bollocks off. You hear me?"
The boy just turned back to his essay, smirk still in place.
The blonde hissed under his breath. "Fucking Mulciber."
Deciding she'd heard enough, Hermione turned and quickly exited the Great Hall.
As she turned the corner, she felt the Disillusionment Charm slip off of her and slide into nothingness. Luckily, the entrance hall was empty, and she managed to slip through the open side door and out into the side courtyard without anyone questioning her sudden appearance.
It was cold outside, chilled air swirling under the autumn sun, but Hermione liked the weather like that. It was fresh and crisp, everything smelt sweet, and it was a nice walk across the empty cobblestone courtyard and around the outside of the castle to the steps that led down to the boathouse.
She absently wondered whether she'd be welcomed into Snape's 'space,' and laughed under her breath at the thought. If Snape was anywhere near as bad tempered as he was when he was an adult, she could only guess how foul his mood could get as a hormonal seventeen-year-old.
Especially with the supposed events at lunch earlier.
Her humour disappeared at that. She knew how unrequited love felt, how painful it could be, and she knew how Snape would be feeling if he had seen the love of his life snogging his nemesis and tormentor.
Unholstering her wand and rooting around in the pockets of her filched robes, she found a small squashed bit of parchment and Transfigured it into A Compendium of Potion Disasters and Why They Went Wrong by Archibald Filligood.
She smiled to herself, hoping the future Potions Master would find her choice of reading material amusing…if he didn't hex her for simply breathing near him first. She knew how bad a dose of the Unrequiteds could get.
Taking the last flight of steps down, she finally spotted him.
Books piled around him on dried orange leaves, he sat with his back against the bare old maple that was still standing in front of the dark stone boathouse back in Hermione's time.
Now she was in front of him, she had absolutely no idea what to say. He solved the problem for her.
Hermione resisted a wince. She remembered that tone from many a Potions lesson in the Dungeons as Snape sulked at his desk in one of his foul tempers.
He spoke again, not looking up from behind the curtain of black hair covering her view of his face. "I told Black and I'll tell you, I want to be left alone."
Instead of stepping back, Hermione stepped forwards.
At the sound of the leaves crunching under her feet, he looked up.
Hermione was transported through years and years worth of memories of those black eyes staring into hers, over a cauldron or past a book, and her heart gave that familiar clench…before she realised something was wrong.
While he seemed stunned that she wasn't who he had thought, she felt rage bubbling within her at the dark bruise that marked the skin along his cheekbone.
"Who are you?"
Her eyes met his and she asked in turn, "Who did that?"
His eyes, which were as wide as saucers as they took her in, fell to the leaf-littered floor and he shifted away from her, hiding his injury.
Hermione gripped her leather-bound book in tight fists. "Not until you tell me who did that."
Snape's black gaze flickered back up at her. "Who are you?"
Hermione let out an annoyed breath, irritated beyond belief that Black was most probably Sirius and that he'd hit Snape in the face with what must have been his fist judging by the look of the bruise.
She sat down in front of him, between the piles of books, and curled her legs beneath herself. Deciding that he would come to know her anyway, she held out her hand for him to shake.
He looked at her slender fingers as if they might bite him. He didn't take her offer. He simply looked back up at her face again and asked, "Who?"
She smiled at him softly. "Hermione, like the feminine version of Hermes?"
Snape seemed to shake himself out of his thoughts when she spoke. "And why are you here?" His eyes touched on the Gryffindor badge on the front of her robes, and the black orbs seemed to harden. "Trying to warn me away as well, are you? Meddling, bloody Gryffindors."
He spat the word and Hermione took a deep breath, shoving aside her loyalties. She'd known Snape was going to be a tough one to crack, she just had to be patient.
She levelled her gaze at him. "I don't know what you're talking about." She lifted the book in her hands. "I just have to write an essay, and I heard you're good at Potions."
His narrowed gaze widened back to normal, as if her excuse for seeking him out was plausible. Hermione felt sadness touch her heart that the only people who sought his company were looking to turn him Dark, beat him up, or leech off of his natural talent for Potion-making.
Snape looked at her dispassionately. "The rate's the usual: one Galleon per parchment."
He held out his hand.
Hermione stared. "What?"
"One Galleon," he repeated. "And I'll need the book you're working from as well."
She fell out of her shock. "I don't want you to do it for me!"
Her cry was filled with all-too-real horror. Even with an imaginary essay, she couldn't even think of someone else writing it for her!
Snape stared at her with a bemused expression on his face. "Then what do you want?"
"I wanted to study with you," she said. "You know, in case I had any questions."
His eyes were back to being wide as saucers. "Wh-what?"
Hermione couldn't believe that no one had wanted to partner with him before for essays. Though Hermione had never really enjoyed seeking out anyone beyond her friendship group to study together, she always had someone there to work with her when she wanted – even when her hair was mad and wild and she was far too bookish for her own good.
"You…want to stay here?" He asked, his pale skin seeming even paler by the second.
Hermione just nodded.
Snape said nothing, he just fixed his gazed on her and ever so slightly…nodded back.
Hermione felt a smile light her face. "Great!"
She shifted, angling herself towards him and Conjuring a scroll of parchment, a grey quill and a well of black ink. She opened her book and Charmed the scroll to lie flat, and continued to set up what she needed for her fake essay.
When she was done, she looked up. Snape was staring at her from beneath risen eyebrows.
He shook his head slowly. "N-nothing… You're just…very…"
He seemed lost for words. Sensing a breakthrough, she let him think. She wanted to know about him, talk to him, and, most importantly, she wanted to feel that she had done something nice for him. Even if it was only to sit with him on a cold day.
Snape's eyes suddenly seemed to look right through her. "You look too old to be a student here, and I haven't seen you before." His eyes ran down the front of her body, ever so slightly lingering on the open buttons of her blouse. "Is this a joke? You're not a Strip Witch, are you?"
Hermione's mouth dropped open, and she scrabbled to do up the fiddly little mother of pearl buttons on her chest.
"No, I'm not," she snapped, turning to the hem of her skirt and tugging it closer to her knees.
When she looked back up, his expression seemed apologetic.
"It's just…" He muttered, "You're…well, you're…"
She sighed. "I'm what? Strip Witch-like?"
Hermione began to reconsider her trip back in time – she didn't want to be insulted all afternoon.
Her gaze swung back to him in shock. Snape looked like he couldn't quite believe he'd said it either.
"Oh," Hermione breathed.
She swore she saw the faintest suffusion of pink high on his pale cheeks, before he immediately buried his slightly-larger-than-average nose in a thick tome.
Hermione smiled behind her hand as she began her essay in silence.
It continued that way for a while, Snape hiding his face in books while Hermione wrote out an essay from her fifth year at Hogwarts that she had memorised. She asked a few easy to answer questions and a couple more difficult ones, and Snape replied to her each time curtly and correctly.
By the time an hour had gone by, Hermione was more eager than ever to have a conversation with him.
"So," she began offhandedly. "No classes this afternoon?"
It was already three o'clock, and final lessons would be commencing soon. She didn't really want her time with him cut short.
"No," he answered. "I could ask you the same thing."
She smiled at him through his book. "No. I had a free day today."
At that, the book he was reading lowered until she could see his eyes over the top of the thick yellowed pages. His gaze was interested.
"Only Last Years get days off."
Hermione nodded. "I'm in my final year."
"Then why are you asking me for help? Lacey's in your year. She's excellent at Potions."
"I don't like her." She shrugged.
Snape near-gawped. "But…she's a Gryffindor."
Hermione fixed him with a secretive look. "She changes behind closed doors."
She just hoped Lacey, whoever she was, really did turn nasty on occasion to pass the lie off, but a part of her didn't really mind. Idle gossip wouldn't hurt the girl.
Snape's eyebrows rose – he seemed disinterested, but also…keen for something. Hermione hadn't imagined him as the type who'd enjoy chit-chat, but he seemed slightly pleased that she even offered him any. Her heart squeezed.
"She seems the type," he said. "But then most girls do."
She'd seemed to have hit a sore spot. Girls. Of course Snape would be like most boys, unable to understand the opposite sex and their intricacies, but it seemed to go a little deeper than that.
Hermione shrugged nonchalantly. "Most girls are."
Snape seemed to be debating asking her something, obviously unsure if what he had to say would be welcome or not. Hermione gave him a friendly smile, and it seemed to work.
"Are you?" He asked suddenly, book inching closer to his face as if at the slightest provocation he'd bury his nose in it to hide again.
Hermione gave him a small smile, rolling her quill between her fingers. "I suppose if you ask any girl she'll deny it, but I don't think I am. I try to be considerate or other people and their feelings."
After all her bullying, Hermione was sure she would never ever say a bad word about anyone behind their back. Though there were years between then and now to help the pain fade, she still remembered Ron's words during her first year at Hogwarts and how badly they hurt.
Snape's expression seemed to tell her that he didn't believe a considerate girl existed.
She shrugged. "Believe me, or not. It's up to you."
Hermione went back to her essay, leaving Snape to continue the conversation if he wanted to.
After a few minutes of silence, he finally spoke again. "I…I'm sorry I asked you whether you were a Strip Witch."
Hermione couldn't help the laugh that escaped her. She hadn't liked it at the time, but she supposed that now she thought about it and the way she was dressed in a more adult fashion she could see how he got the wrong idea.
"But you still don't look like a normal student," Snape said.
She looked up, smiling slightly. "I'm not a normal student."
"Is that why I haven't seen you before?"
Hermione nodded, creating a story in her head before running with it. "I was homeschooled for a while, but my parents died a few months ago. Dumbledore agreed to let me in for the last year so I could take my N.E.W.T.s."
Snape said nothing for a moment or two, before asking, "How old are you, then?"
"Nineteen. My mum made sure my tutor took a little longer with my education. She wanted to make sure I was ready."
It was difficult talking about her parents so casually. She hadn't seen them in so long, and they were still memory-less and living abroad. Her Obliviate had worked too well – it wasn't reversible. It had taken Hermione a few years to get over the loss, not matter how expected it may have been.
"That explains a few things then," Snape muttered, head tilting back down at his book, but Hermione didn't miss the way his eyes stayed on her…appreciating her.
She couldn't help the little smirk that curled her lips. Snape thought she was desirable. It was practically laughable, the stone-cold professor liking her, and yet his eyes flashed hotly as they travelled over her curves and bends while he thought she wasn't looking.
She wondered if all the males in the castle were so starved for females, or if Snape was a special case. His eyes were hungry.
"You didn't answer my question earlier," Hermione said pointedly.
Snape's head shot up. "Question?"
She gestured to his injury. "Who gave you that?"
Snape didn't shrink into himself like before, he simply looked back down at his book and muttered, "One of your lot."
"My lot? I don't have a lot."
She saw a sneer twist his face, before he looked back up and spat, "Black. It was Sirius Black. Satisfied?"
He immediately went back to his book, his features marred by anger.
Hermione sat back, still twirling her quill. Her anger from earlier had resurfaced, but it was tempered by the fact that Snape obviously needed to vent some frustration. Or at least…get his own back.
She smiled to herself, before fixing her expression and asking, "Why'd you let him?"
Snape looked up, mouth parted in shock. "I didn't let him."
"Did you hit him back?"
He looked away slightly. "No."
"I don't even know why I'm discussing this with you!" He hissed. "I don't even know you!"
Hermione levelled her gaze. "Isn't that a good thing, really?"
Snape watched her from behind his curtain of obsidian black hair, obviously considering her words.
She continued. "Trust me. I do not like Sirius Black."
Half true at least, she thought. While she respected his sense of loyalty and the part he played in the War, she didn't particularly like him and his womanising ways.
"Trust you," he scoffed, throwing his book to the side and crossing his arms over his chest. "Spurn you, did he? Love you and leave you?"
"I've only been here for a few days," she reasoned.
"I wouldn't put it past him," Snape muttered. "He works fast, and you…"
Hermione raised an eyebrow. "What about me?"
Snape looked down at his sleeve, brushing away some imaginary dirt. "I've already said you're pretty. You're just his type."
"What?" Hermione smiled. "A witch with all her own teeth who can navigate a straight hallway?"
The tiniest smirk curled his lips. "I don't think he finds either of those requirements necessary…but he does like the pretty ones."
"Well," Hermione sighed. "I can navigate a straight hallway, but I'm afraid all my teeth aren't mine." She tapped her jaw at his inquisitive look. "Filling, lower left first molar."
Snape's eyebrows leapt. "You're Muggle-born?"
Hermione nodded. "My parents wanted me to stay home. They didn't mind that I'm witch, but I was only eleven when I got my letter. They wanted me to grow up in the house with them."
Snape suddenly seemed uncomfortable, and Hermione didn't have to make much of a guess as to what was wrong.
"You don't like Muggle-borns?"
Snape shifted against the maple behind him, but still he kept his gaze on hers. "It's not that, exactly…"
His silence was confirmation.
Hermione sighed, wondering if she'd ruined it all by simply admitting the 'quality' of her blood. She began to pack away.
Snape started. "What are you doing?"
She looked up at him. "Going. I don't want to make anyone angry with you for helping me."
He seemed incensed by this, and he immediately reached forward to hold down the book she was about to move away. "I can help who I want! They don't control me."
Hermione said nothing. It seemed that she had fit another piece of the puzzle into place regarding Severus Snape. He didn't trust or understand women, and he hated not being in control of himself.
"Okay," she said slowly, leaving the book where it was. "If you're sure?"
"I'm sure," he said firmly, leaning back once more.
Hermione decided to shift the focus back onto Sirius. "So, why don't you get him back? Sirius Black, I mean."
"Who says I haven't?"
She watched him for a second, before smiling slightly at the hint of mischief in his eyes. "What have you done before, then?"
Snape shrugged. "Mainly Hexes and Jinxes. Can't get away with much else under Dumbledore."
"Haven't you ever hit him back?"
He seemed to debate telling her the answer, before murmuring, "No. If I did, he'd tell and they would send a letter home. I can't have that."
He didn't elaborate. He didn't need to. Hermione already knew of the cruelty of Tobias Snape, especially towards his son and his wife.
Suddenly, a voice rang out in the cool air. "Snivellus! Where are you, you little creep?"
Snape's back straightened, and his eyes snapped to the stone steps leading down to the boathouse.
"You better go," he said, not taking his eyes off of the stairs. "You don't want to be seen here with me."
Hermione frowned at him. "Why not?"
His gaze flickered towards her. "Are you serious? I'm in Slytherin, not to mention their favourite target. If Potter sees you–"
"Potter?" She questioned, and Snape near-gawped at her again.
"Surely you know who James Potter is?"
"Of course," Hermione replied, internally slapping herself for immediately thinking of Harry. "Of course I do. But I don't mind being seen with you."
It looked like Snape was going to argue, but before he could his gaze was drawn by something over her shoulder. Hermione turned to see the spitting image of Harry galloping down the stone steps and striding across the leaves towards them.
"Snivellus , you–Oh!" The boy stopped short when he saw Hermione, readjusting his glasses as his eyebrows hitched up high on his forehead.
Suddenly, three other boys crested the top of the stairs and raced down to join their friend. They were all Gryffindors, and Hermione immediately knew them to be the rest of the Marauders.
She snorted under her breath. She'd never seen a more motley crew. Pettigrew was easy to pick out being the shortest and roundest, Sirius was obviously the most good-looking, and Remus…well, he just looked plain sickly. Hermione guessed the full moon was on its way.
James was still staring at the scene before him, and the others didn't look like they were faring any better.
Suddenly, Sirius stepped forward with eyes only for Hermione. "Are you lost?"
Hermione raised an eyebrow, waiting for whatever childish barb was on its way.
Sirius snorted slightly. "Must be to be here, alone, with Snivellus. Hex you, did he? I'm great at breaking Curses."
His smile was wildly flirtatious. Hermione only found it amusing.
Snape interrupted Sirius' strutting. "You wouldn't know how to break a Curse if the Counter came up and bit you on the nose."
"Looks like one's already bitten yours, doesn't it, Snivellus?" Sirius sneered.
She heard Snape growl under his breath.
James suddenly piped up. "Why don't you move out of the way, so we can get at our mate Severus there?"
Hermione simply smiled. "I'm busy with Severus right now. Why don't you come back later?"
They all stared at her, including Snape.
Sirius full-on gawped. "Busy? With Snivellus? Are you sure you haven't been Hexed?"
Hermione kept up her breezy attitude with only a little difficulty. Bullies, she hated, but a pack of them? And against only one? It wasn't going to happen, and certainly not on her watch.
"I'm sure," she said, turning back to Snape. "Can you explain again about the infusion of sneezewort in a Confusing and Befuddlement Draught?"
Snape opened his mouth to say something, when Pettigrew suddenly spoke up.
"Oh, that makes sense then, doesn't it?" He giggled. "She's using him for his brains."
The others all laughed, and Hermione turned to scowl at Pettigrew. Not only did she despise him for what he would grow up to do, but the way he clung to the others' robetails made her want to vomit.
"What else would she be using him for?" Sirius snorted. "Certainly not his looks, or his sunny personality!"
James smiled nastily past Hermione and she could feel the rage rolling off of Snape behind her.
She stood. They all looked at her, surprised, except for Sirius who took his time eyeing up her legs before fixing his gaze on her face.
She stared them all down. "Look. We're busy here. What do you want?"
"We just want a little chat," James replied, trying to see past her. "Snivelly cast a nasty spell on my friend here and I didn't appreciate it."
She looked over Sirius. "You look fine to me."
Sirius wriggled his eyebrows at her. "Do I? You look fine, too. Say, what are you doing later?"
Before Hermione had time to roll her eyes at him, James attempted to pass her. Her wand immediately found its way into her hand, and she pointed it directly at him.
"I wouldn't do that if I were you," she said.
How Harry had ever turned out so sweet and courageous in his childhood when his father had been an outrageous bully was completely beyond her. Hermione was sure that Harry had inherited more than his eyes from his mother, and that his genetics had lost the cruelty that James' possessed.
She knew he wouldn't always be a bully. Lily would change him, but it would take time. Severus didn't have time to waste, and she didn't want him to be tormented when she could stop it.
Hermione was so consciously aware of the knife edge she was treading. Too many steps out of line and she could return home to find the future inalterably changed.
She found four wands pointed back at her.
She smiled. "No sense of fair play?"
Hermione saw Lupin's eyes flicker over her school robes. "We're Gryffindors, too. Stand aside."
She had hoped that Remus was merely a follower, not an instigator, but the way he had his wand pointed directly at her, along the accusing glare that shone from his eyes, told her he was a Marauder in more than just name.
Hermione shook her head at him angrily. "I'm more of a Gryffindor than you lot! Four against one? You're all pitiful!"
A hand suddenly touched her arm. She turned her head ever so slightly to see Snape standing beside her, wand in hand but not raised.
"You should go."
Hermione shook her head. "Shut up, Severus. I'm not leaving you here with these prats."
"Prats?" Sirius cried. "Oi! We're not the enemy here, love. He's a bloody Slytherin!"
Hermione cocked her head at him. "I am not your love, and it doesn't matter what House he's from. If someone hit me in the face I'd get them back, and I'd be right in doing so."
Sirius stepped forward, pointing a finger at her. "You're a bird, no one hits a bird, and even if they did they wouldn't be hitting you for muscling in on someone else's girl, now, would they?"
Snape froze beside her. "I didn't do anything."
All the other boys scoffed, and Sirius sneered, "Pull the fucking other one. Everyone saw you talking to Lily – you made her cry!"
James' wand now targeted Snape, but the others seemed to sense that Hermione was the one they should be watching as their wands stayed on her.
"That wasn't my fault," Snape growled. "I only talked to her. She ran off. I didn't say hardly anything."
James shook his head at him. "I don't think so. I think you called her a mudblood again, didn't you? You just love calling her that, all because she wants me and not you."
Snape turned ghastly pale and his wand hand began to shake. Hermione had had enough.
Pulling Snape behind her, she stepped in front of him and knocked the boys back seven feet with a well-timed Jinx. They crumbled under the pressure, falling with heavy thuds to the leaf-littered floor. She casted a Shielding Charm before they could retaliate and held it while they gathered themselves, scrambling for their lost wands.
Their spells rebounded the minute they were cast, flying back at them and sending them a metre up in the air. They all landed with dull thuds, groaning against the leaves.
"Are you going to leave now?" She asked.
They scrabbled away up the steps, none of them looking back. Hermione dropped the shield and turned to face Snape.
She found her hand was gripping his. He was looking at it as well, as if he couldn't quite believe he was touching her.
His black eyes met hers. "Thanks."
Hermione found herself speechless and utterly enraptured. She instantly knew that she was going to be staying a lot longer in this time than she had originally anticipated.
She had managed for a week or so more since that day, magicking new clothes and befriending the Hogwarts house elves so they could secretly do her washing. They made her meals down in the Kitchens and they seemed to enjoy her company, if their massive smiles whenever she appeared were any indication.
They had also found her a secret room. Hermione had thought of using the Room of Requirement, asking it to help her stay hidden and safe during the time she would spend at Hogwarts, but she didn't like the thought of being inside it when someone else needed it and subsequently couldn't have it because she did.
The room she had was small and circular, with a large arched window and huge four-poster that took up all the space available. It could only be accessed by a doorway that opened up on it from a hidden passageway on the Fourth Floor, and only the elves knew the password for the portrait that guarded that passageway.
All this secrecy, all this trouble, just to figure out and spend time with Severus Snape, and she knew it was all completely worth it.
At first, when they had parted ways for the night, Snape had seemed surprised that Hermione sought him out again the next morning at break. But after seeking him out consecutively five days in a row, he seemed to relax a little more and become more complacent with her presence.
She tried to avoid his 'friends,' the future Death Eaters, when she could, but occasionally they would catch her and Severus together in the Library or on the Grounds. They never outright said anything, and Snape never told her what they thought was going on, but he had said that he hadn't told them she was Muggleborn when they asked.
It seemed that, if her blood was 'right,' they didn't mind her with Snape so much, even though she was a Gryffindor. But Hermione thought Snape may have also recounted the battle against her fellow lions to the other Slytherins, because when they looked at her it was often with a measured amount of respect.
Fortunately, her suspicious timetable was also backed up by the other Last Years, who seemed to come and go around the castle as much as she did and mingle with the Lower Years most of the time, too.
But she knew that while Snape was beginning to enjoy her company, he was also becoming more curious about her.
It was that night, sitting in the Library well beyond curfew, that the questions he had came out.
"Where do you come from?"
Hermione looked up to see Snape's gaze fixed on the open book before him, but his unmoving eyes gave his anticipation for her answer away.
"Westminster, in London." She smiled. "What else do you want to know?"
"What did your parents do?" He asked curiously, his eyes on her now.
"They were both dentists."
His lips twitched in a small smile. "And you still got a filling?"
She laughed quietly. His eyes seemed to glaze a little at the noise, before he shook his head and buried his nose in A History of Poisons and Their Antidotes by Charles Bane.
"I rebelled a bit occasionally, especially on Halloween going Trick or Treating with all the other children. After the pain of getting it done, I soon sorted out my act."
She knew he would be smiling behind the tattered black book. It slowly lowered until she could see his black eyes sparkling at her.
Suddenly, there was a loud screech, and they both knew who was coming.
"Mrs Norris! Filch! Quick! Come on!"
Severus yanked her out of her seat as she gathered together some books and pushed her quietly through door at the end of the Restricted Section. They made it out without coming across any patrolling teachers, and she soon found that he was leading her down to the Dungeons.
"Severus? Where are we going?" She asked softly, keeping pace with him.
He looked ever so slightly flushed, even in the gloom, and she saw him nervously lick his lips as if they had suddenly gone dry.
It came out as a question, and Hermione smiled to herself as she watched Snape seemingly kick himself for it. She knew he liked to appear in control, even when he wasn't. He was just nervous, and she knew she could help him out with that.
"Okay," she murmured, and watched as he turned his head towards hers, eyes wide.
"Really? You want to?"
Hermione nodded her head, giving him a little smirk. "Sure."
Severus turned away quickly with a nod, but he wasn't so quick that she missed his smile.
They made their way down to the Dungeons, taking the smaller passages that were less travelled to the Slytherin Common Room entrance. Upon reaching the cellar where Hermione knew the door was hidden, Snape paused at a damp stone wall.
"Great Salazar," he murmured, and a door came forward out of the stone.
She followed him through the passageway, and held in a gasp at her first sight of the Common Room. Exquisite silver and emerald chaise longues and sofas took up most of the space that surrounded a grand pale stone fireplace in which sat the embers of a dying fire. Lights hanging from chains shifted slightly overhead, the lighting green and gloomy but the vaulted ceiling giving the place an air of elegance instead of dankness. A portrait snoozed in its frame but all else was quiet.
Snape gestured her over to a large archway to the left of the room, either side of it a tall polished wood bookcase.
Severus smirked as she paused to look over the titles. "Come on."
They took the stairs two at a time, quickly passing a few open doors in which Hermione could see sleeping Slytherin boys spread out like starfish across their grand beds.
When they reached the penultimate floor, Snape gave her a signal to pause while he poked his head inside the room. When he remerged with a slight smile, she knew it was all clear.
They quietly crawled onto his bed, magicking the deep green bed curtains shut and casting a strong Silencing Charm.
Hermione relaxed once she couldn't hear the boys' snores echoing around them.
"Slytherins are noisy sleepers." She grinned at Snape, settling her pile of books between them.
Severus looked like he wanted to roll his eyes. "You have no idea. Tonight is a quiet night. Luckily, none of them are…ah, entertaining."
She stifled a laugh behind her hand. "That is lucky, or they might have though we were up to the same."
Severus quickly looked down, a tinge of pink high on his cheeks as he muttered, "Yes."
Hermione shrugged off her robes and slipped off her shoes, leaving her in her school tie, skirt, blouse, and some knee-length Gryffindor coloured socks that the House Elves had knitted for her as a present.
She looked up to choose a book to find Severus staring. "What?"
He swallowed, hard and obviously. "Nothing."
Hermione frowned at his discomfort. "I don't have to be here, you know."
He nodded, eyes on hers. "I know. It's fine."
They dove into the books they had pulled off of the shelves previously in the Library, and as Snape seemed to become engrossed in one labelled 'Ministry Restricted' Hermione allowed herself a pleased smile. He trusted her so much he let her into his personal space and he wanted her so much he practically panted at her removing her robes.
A mission to quash her guilt and get to know such a fascinating man had quickly become a mission to see how far she could tangle herself in his life until he either cut her out or…something else entirely more pleasant.
Smirking at her thoughts, she found herself asking, "So, who likes to bring girls back, then?"
Out of the corner of her eye she saw Snape look up from his book. "Back here?"
She looked up and nodded, leaning her chin on her hand the arm of which rested on her knee.
"Well." Snape frowned, looking at the curtains as if he could see past them. "Avery's always been very popular, but I suppose it's Hightower in the bed across that likes to dip his quill more often than the others."
Hermione snickered at his euphemism. Snape's lips curled upwards at her.
"'Dip his quill'? Crikey, Severus."
He mimicked her pose, resting his cheek upon his hand and his elbow upon his knee. "What should I have said, then?"
"Oh." Hermione waved her hand as if looking for an answer. "You could have gone with something much cruder, but, personally, I've always preferred the term 'Hippogriffing'."
He was visibly holding in his amusement, his fingers pressed to his lips. "Go on, then. Explain your choice."
"Oh, you know, when it's noisy and there's squawking, and at least one's riding the other."
He shook a bit before a chuckle escaped the prison he'd created of lips and fingers, and Hermione grinned as he let his good humour show. It was so rare.
Severus took a deep breath after a few moments when his chuckles had died off softly, before murmuring, "You are something else."
Hermione lifted her chest in mock-pride. "Well, yes. I often hear that sentiment."
She was sure her little pleased smile rather belied her words and actions.
But she soon noticed that he wasn't focused on her much anymore, and that his eyes had drifted down to her chest. His fingertips dug into his bottom lip as the palm of his hand shakily cupped his chin.
Hermione looked down to find a button had opened on her blouse, flashing her ample cleavage. She blushed hotly, doing it up as fast as she could.
She didn't really know why she was apologising. Snape didn't seem to either if his frown was anything to go by.
"It's alright," he said, massaging his jaw in a way she had come to understand as him being perturbed by something.
The question was out of her mouth before she could stop it in her curious state. "Have you ever brought a girl back?"
His eyes turned saucer-ish – something she had seen a lot of in the past week – and he gave a slight squeak of surprise.
Hermione rushed to apologise. "I'm sorry. Don't answer that. It's personal. I'm sorry..."
Snape's sharp look cut her off, and he shifted uncomfortably as she waited for him to speak. His cheekbones coloured slightly again.
"No," he said softly. "I haven't."
Another thought struck her, but she daren't ask it.
His eyes pierced her as she had found they were wont to do, reading her skilfully just as she could read him.
"I don't like boys," Snape said quietly, looking away as if he'd told her some terrible secret.
She frowned. "Why do you look like that?"
He rolled his eyes, seemingly at himself. "I'm a pretty sad excuse for a bloke, not seeing any girls. I should have just said I…you know, like boys, and have it over with."
Hermione's frown remained. "It doesn't matter to me whether you like boys or girls or both. It's up to you."
Snape's eyes were wide and trained on her neutral expression. "What?"
"Well," Hermione sighed. "I won't pretend that I'm not…curious about it, or anything, but it's entirely your choice who you fancy."
She couldn't believe she was saying the words that were pouring out of her mouth, but she was. She blathered on about sexual freedom and equality for a full four minutes before Snape physically stopped her by picking up her own hand and putting it over her mouth.
"It's okay, Hermione. You can stop talking."
She sighed behind her own fingers. "Sorry. I just knew I was digging myself into a hole. I don't seem to be able to stop in those situations."
He smirked slightly. "I noticed."
The atmosphere turned calm again, and Hermione relaxed, dropping her hand and trying to shake off the tingles that encompassed it from Severus' warm grasp.
It was only a moment or two later that Snape spoke again. "You really don't care?"
"When I say I don't care, I mean that it doesn't change who you are. Not that I don't care at all."
Snape nodded slowly, fingers tracing the outlines of the books between them.
When he spoke again his voice was near-inaudible, but Hermione heard him loud and clear.
"I like someone."
She tried not to smile and failed miserably. Luckily, her good humour didn't seem to deter Snape. He just waited for her reply.
"Who is it?"
She could guess.
Hermione gave him a measured smile, trying to be sympathetic but not pitying. "She's already going out with someone, isn't she?"
Neither of them needed to acknowledge the person's identity. They both knew.
"Hmm." Snape nodded infinitesimally. "It'll never happen."
She knew it wouldn't, but she didn't say so.
He began to pick at a stray thread on his silver coverlet. "I said something. Potter and his friends used one of my spells on me, and she stood up for me. I just… I was so angry."
He gave a sad exhalation, but didn't crack.
"What did you say?"
"I called her a mudblood."
Their eyes met, the word hanging between them as if Snape had said it so Hermione knew what he was capable of, the cruelty he could dish out. But she had already known, and hearing it from his own lips was only painful because of the image he created of the soft-centred boy in front of her spitting the word in a moment of crippling embarrassment.
She had been called worse, marked a mudblood forever by Bellatrix Lestrange, and she knew that he was waiting to see her horror and insult. She wouldn't give him the satisfaction. She'd already forgiven him.
Snape became obviously agitated at her peaceful silence. "Aren't you angry?"
"I don't particularly like that word." Hermione gave him a soft smile. "But I can understand why you said it. It's easier to lash out than it is to keep it all inside."
He gazed at her. "You're so…"
"Unbelievably forgiving?" She supplied with a soft snicker.
He just shook his head at her, turning silent.
Hermione sighed, glimpsing the time on her watch. "I better go. You have Double Potions first thing in the morning."
"How do you know that?"
"Peeked at your timetable." She grinned.
He just rolled his eyes and waved his hand. The curtains surrounding his bed slid back automatically.
"Wandless magic. Nicely done."
Severus smiled slightly. "I have my secrets, too. Do you want me to see you out?"
Hermione gave him a smirk, before grabbing her robes and shoes and slipping off of his bed.
"Lissy," she called out, and the tiny pink House Elf appeared soundlessly.
She hopped about excitedly. "Missy is calling me! Hows can I helps you, Missy?"
Hermione gave a soft laugh at the mixed expression on Snape's face – he looked like he was fascinated with the exchange but disgusted by the creature's jittery happiness.
"My room, please, Lissy." Hermione took the House Elf's shaking hand and threw a slow smile over her shoulder at the bemused looking Severus. "See you tomorrow afternoon, Severus. I'll be in the Owlery."
Without a sound, they were gone.
"I don't understand why we're here. They're just owls."
Snape was practically sulking in the corner under a Shielding Charm, trying to avoid the droppings falling from the rustling, cooing birds in the little tower.
Hermione smiled at him as she pulled out a shrunken box of bird treats from her robe pocket, returning the packet back to its original size.
"Do you have an owl, Severus?" She asked.
He huffed slightly, turning his face from her as he crossed his arm over his chest and jutted his chin towards one of the lower perches.
Hermione looked down to see a tiny, fluffy, battered-looking thing curled up asleep with its head under one of its wings. She sighed, before tipping a few treats into the half-empty self-filling metal trough the birds' main food was provided in.
Snape just watched her uncomprehendingly.
Taking her time, making sure to stay level with the bird's head, she ducked and softly cooed to his owl. "Come here."
Snape scoffed. "He's temperamental. He won't like you. He doesn't even like me."
She shushed his pessimism. "What's his name?"
He rolled his eyes before answering. "Bragi."
"The Norse God of poetry and eloquence," Hermione recited, smirking. "Have high hopes for your owl, did you, Severus?"
"Hardly," he muttered. "My mother named him when he was a newborn. She didn't know he'd grow up to be grouchy and useless."
Hermione scowled at him as she edged closer to his tawny owl. "I know someone else who tends to be grouchy, and that doesn't make him useless."
Snape huffed but stayed silent.
Hermione turned back to Bragi to see he had raised his head from his wing and had turned his black eyes on her. She gave him a soft smile, cooing and clicking her tongue encouragingly as she held out her hand.
He gave it a quick peck, but she didn't flinch. It seemed to satisfy him. He hopped out onto her outstretched fingers with a flutter of his ruffled wings.
She carefully carried him over to the trough, cooing as she stroked the very bottom feathers of his wings. He gave a soft click of his beak to show his pleasure, before his eyes found the treats and he fluttered into the trough to peck at them.
Hermione turned, proud smile in place, to find Snape not where she had last left him. He was directly behind her, gazing at her with something akin to…awe.
"How did you do that?" He asked quietly, eyes on her and not Bragi.
"You just need to be patient and unafraid," she replied, brushing a fallen bold white feather off of his shoulder.
His eyes were smouldering.
The moment was interrupted by the rest of the owls in the Owlery swooping down from their perches to get their own share of the treats. Severus swore, swishing his arms in the air as they descended, whilst Hermione emptied the rest of the box into the trough before pulling them both out of the door.
When she turned to him on the steps outside, she couldn't help but laugh. The entirety of his black school robes were covered in dripping white spots.
Snape growled. "Bloody hell."
Hermione took pity on him and cleaned him with a wave of her wand and a silent Scourgify.
He raised an eyebrow at her. "Silent Casting. Well done."
"I have my secrets." She grinned.
Severus joined her.
It was then that the moment was broken.
"Snivellus smiling? World must be coming to a bloody end!" A voice called out from the bottom of the steps up to the Owlery.
Hermione spun around to glare down at the approaching Sirius Black.
He grinned up at her. "Hello, again. Looking just as lovely as before, if you don't mind me saying so, Miss…"
Sirius took the last couple of steps up, grinning at her lopsidedly. "So, how about that date, Miss Hermione?"
"Oh, you know, the one you're going with me on, say…this Saturday?"
She gave him a cool smile. "No, thank you. I'm busy."
Hermione moved to step past him down the steps, gripping Snape's hand in hers behind her back, but Sirius cut her off with a quick sidestep.
She felt the muscle in her jaw twitch in irritation. "I'm studying."
"Pfft." Sirius waved off her excuse with a quick breath of air and a breezy wave of his hand. "You can study anytime. My offer's for a limited time only. I'll show you a good time, you know."
Severus' hand tightened on hers and she knew any second he was going to step in and Hex Sirius into oblivion.
Hermione gave Sirius a warmer smile this time, hoping to throw him off-guard long enough to slip by. It worked. She pulled Severus past with her and down the steps.
Sirius called after her. "Walk you down to Hogsmeade about twelve then, yeah?"
She ignored him, pushing forward across the Grounds until she was sure he'd gone inside.
Snape gave her a sharp growl as they slowed down. "What was that?"
"What was what?" She asked innocently.
"You agreed to go out with him!"
She frowned. "No, I didn't."
"Yes, you did!"
"I didn't answer him."
He shot her a glare. "That's as good as saying yes."
She rolled her eyes and gave a short huff of hot breath into the cool air. "Men." Seeing Severus was still glowering, she tried to appease him. "I'm not going, Severus. We're going to Hogsmeade together then, remember?"
"Of course I remember," he huffed, shuffling over to a nearby pine and leaning his back against it.
Hermione followed him, stepping into the circle of warmth his body exuded. He looked nervous at her sudden closeness, his features moulding into surprise and anxiety.
"I don't want to go with, Black," she muttered, nudging his hand with her own reassuringly. "I want to go to Hogsmeade with you."
Snape swallowed noisily. "O-okay."
"I can't believe you talked me into this. Everyone will see us together."
Hermione shot him a dark look. "Severus, everyone's seen us together anyway, haven't they? What are you afraid of? Your friends don't care that we spend time together, so what's wrong?"
He rolled his shoulder at her half-heartedly. "Nothing, really. I'm…I'm still just surprised you're here, walking me into Honeydukes and buying me Fizzing Whizzbees."
"You don't like Fizzing Whizzbees?" She asked, smirking at him.
He rolled his eyes at her. "You know that's not what I mean."
"I know," she replied, nudging his elbow with her own reassuringly and picking him out some exploding bonbons.
"You know, I can get my own sweets," he muttered to her softly, eyes on hers. "I've got my own money."
"Yes, but then it wouldn't be a present, would it?" She reasoned, and he gave her the tiniest smile in return.
Hermione was determined to show Snape everything he would have missed had she not turned back time to visit him. There were so many things wrong with his life, and Hermione was going to right those things before she had to leave and he had to soldier into the future.
They paid and left, and Hermione passed him the paper Honeydukes bag filled to the brim with all sorts of sweets. "Happy…uhm, Saturday."
He smirked, cradling the bag. "Thanks. Want to come to my room again tonight to share them?"
She was just about to say, 'Yes, I'd absolutely love to,' when a wolf whistle ripped through the air close by.
"Propositioning a Seventh Year, Snivellus? You've got no chance. Just look at her – what would she ever want with you?"
Snape's face transformed into a black scowl as he hissed, "Potter."
Hermione turned to see James and Pettigrew stalking towards them. She cocked her hip, her wand in her hand and a Jinx on her lips.
James' lip curled. "You can put your wand away, love. Nothing's going to happen here. Not with teachers about."
She slipped her wand back into its holster. "Well, run along then."
They ignored her, their eyes on Severus behind her.
Pettigrew piped up, obviously feeling brave. "When are you going to come out from hiding behind her skirt, Snivelly?"
Snape stepped forward and Hermione didn't stop him, she simply murmured his name softly. His head turned to hers a fraction, before he looked back at the two Marauders and sneered at them.
"You're not worth my time."
They jeered as Snape and Hermione walked away, and she was so proud that he didn't turn back. She gave him a small smile of reassurance, to which returned a bigger one.
Hermione was quick, slipping into the Three Broomsticks and buying a couple of bottles of Butterbeer to take back to Hogwarts while Severus waited outside for her. Once she had returned they took their time looking through the bookshops, picking up anything that caught their interest.
Severus bought her a small leather bound book on Dark spells and their Counter Curses, insisting that he should get her something as well since she had bought him the sweets. She only relented when he agreed that they could share it, but that she would ultimately keep it.
It was another thing to cross off her mental checklist of things to give Severus: the experience of giving a gift.
Once they were satisfied that all the shops had been exhausted they went the way they had come, through the secret One-Eyed Witch passageway from Hogwarts that exited in Honeydukes' sweet cellar. Since Hermione was not a student – although she hadn't told Severus this, only that she had no guardians and that her parents obviously hadn't signed any permission slips before their deaths – and Severus' parents hadn't given their permission for him to visit Hogsmeade at the weekends, they had had to use a different way of leaving the castle.
When they were safely back inside the walls of Hogwarts, the One-Eyed Witch safely back in place, Snape re-invited Hermione down to his dorm.
"But…it's the afternoon."
Snape nodded slowly, as if he were talking to someone a little bit thick. "Yes, and?"
"Well…there'll be some people in there. You usually don't like people looking at us."
He rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly. "I know I said…well…uh… Look. I don't mind anymore, and no one else will care you're there. I mean, they might ask you awkward questions, but–"
Hermione cut him off by lifting one of his hands and placing it over his own mouth. She saw him smile behind his fingers at the turn-around.
"It's alright," she said. "I haven't got any work to do. I'd love to go down and stay for as long as you want."
They made their way slowly, winding downwards through the near-empty castle towards the Dungeons. Most students were in Hogsmeade and would stay until late, but Slytherins were always less likely to attend, most of them already having the luxuries and sweets that Hogsmeade offered delivered by owl direct from home.
The Common Room hushed when they entered, but it hardly fell into dramatic silence. The Slytherins were used to seeing Snape and the older Gryffindor together, and despite their prejudice against lions if miserable Snape found her more than tolerable then who were they to object? Hermione knew many of them were simply glad that Snape had someone to be with instead of moping around the Grounds or the Common Room like Moaning Myrtle.
She'd heard him likened to the Girls' Bathroom ghost by passing people in the halls on more than one occasion.
They made their way up to the Sixth Years' Dormitory, sweets and Butterbeer in hand. They found the room empty.
Hermione was the first to fling off her heavy school cloak (nicked by the House Elves for her) and robes, before removing her shoes and flinging herself down on Severus' bed to get comfortable. She opened up the Butterbeer, and when she went to pass Snape one she found him staring at her as if he was sure she shouldn't even exist.
The look made some long-dead butterflies regenerate and flutter to life deep in her stomach. Hermione had no idea what she was doing, bar showing Snape a good time, but she hardly cared. She was having the time of her life.
She crooked a finger at him, before patting the other side of the bed. "Come on."
He sat down beside her, near-shy as he shed his own cloak and robes and pushed off his shoes. Hermione passed him a Butterbeer once he was comfortable.
She took long sips. He took short ones. After the first bottles were finished, their comfortable silence was shortly broken.
"Sweet?" He held out the bag to her.
She playfully closed her eyes and dug around in the bag, before pulling out the most promising thing she could feel and opening her eyes. "Toffee. Nice."
Snape smirked at her before pulling out a little green sugar mouse and nibbling on its nose.
It was nice, lying there on his warm comfortable bed, drinking Butterbeer and eating sweets as they chatted about inconsequential things like upcoming essays and what they would buy on their next Hogsmeade trip.
"You stood Black up." Severus smirked.
"Told you I would."
He nodded, finishing his sugar mouse and pulling out a toffee from the paper bag. "It's a little difficult to believe you don't like him. Everyone else does."
Hermione smiled and rolled onto her back, feeding herself an orange jelly snake. "He's a prat."
Snape raised an eyebrow. "You don't even think he's good-looking?"
She shrugged. "He's not my type."
He chewed on his toffee thoughtfully for a moment, before rummaging around in the paper bag again and asking her as he looked down, "What is your type?"
Hermione paused, thinking for a moment.
True, she had only gone out with Viktor Krum and Ron Weasley, but she was pretty sure, if not certain, that she didn't really have a 'type,' per se. She liked who she liked, and she was certain that there weren't really any predictable traits in those men.
"I don't think I have one," she replied eventually, and she nearly missed the flash of disappointment that crossed Severus' face it was so quick. "What about you?"
He looked away, rolling his shoulder in his increasingly familiar half-shrug. "You know who I like."
She thought over Lily Evans, the love she knew Severus held for her, and wondered whether…no, surely not. She dismissed the idea immediately.
"Have you spoken to her again?" Hermione asked.
Snape shook his head, meeting her gaze as he passed her another jelly snake. "No. She runs away every time I get close. She hates me."
She wanted to tell him that she was pretty sure Lily was incapable of true hate, being the kind soul that she knew her to be, but she bit the comment back. She also had to hold back something else that wanted to burst forth, something much more along the lines of 'she's not worth it.' Hermione knew that would be even more unwelcome than her speculations on Lily's capability to forgive.
She decided to change the subject. "Halloween's coming up soon. Are you going home for the week off we have?"
Snape scoffed. "No. I only go home at the end of the year." He lay beside her more fully, the side of his leg pressing against hers. "I assume you're staying as well?"
Hermione nodded. "No point going home to an empty house, is there?"
He watched her with a tinge of sadness for a moment, before it disappeared and he passed her an exploding bonbon. "Eat up."
They ate, and talked, and drank, and soon enough Hermione's eyes were slowly drifting closed. She was so comfortable, so warm, and she'd never really noticed how nice Severus smelled before. But as she was drifting off, the infusion of books and Potions ingredients mixed with his natural fresh scent travelled across the short gap between them and carried her the rest of the way into the abyss.
A soft snuffling by her ear roused her. Warm tickling breath washed over her skin and pimpled her flesh, sending a sweet chill down her spine as she fought to open her heavy eyelids.
There was snoring all around her, and yet it seemed muffled somehow like someone had cast a spell.
Hermione opened her eyes to see the emerald bed curtains had been drawn around the bed and that a soft shimmering haze enveloped them, probably distorting any sound coming from where she lay.
She shifted slightly, and an arm immediately tightened around her waist. She tried not to freeze in alarm, and she just managed not to awaken the boy behind her, spooning her.
A smile crossed her face as Severus let out a long soft breath across her neck, still fast asleep as he clutched her to him.
There was only one thing wrong with the situation: she couldn't see his face.
Slowly, with the utmost care, she turned in his hold and fixed her eyes on him.
Soft strands of black fell into his face as he slept, his features relaxed and smooth beneath the stray hair, and Hermione gave into the urge to push his hair out of his face.
Snape's breathing hitched for a moment, before settling once more, and Hermione wondered if she'd ever seen him look so…peaceful. He was truly beautiful.
Stifling a yawn after looking at her watch to see it was far too late and inconvenient to return to her own bed, she pressed herself into Snape's comforting warmth and tucked her arms around him.
He shifted for a moment, before settling back down. Slowly, Hermione drifted back to sleep, Severus' scent and the movement of his chest relaxing her far more than she could ever remember anything else doing.
Her world shifted beneath her. Her sun rotated away. She whimpered out in her sleepy haze at the loss of warmth and comfort.
She was shushed immediately by soft fingers running through her hair and a low voice pressed to her ear. "Go back to sleep. I'll be back after Potions."
She sighed. "Severus…"
She immediately drifted away, a strange spot of warmth lingering on her cheek as she shifted back into the darkness.
The next thing Hermione knew, she was opening her eyes and looking into black orbs.
Snape's voice was soft but gruff with disuse, and his tousled hair gave away the fact that he had slept again recently too.
Hermione let out a soft breath. "How long was I asleep for?"
His smirk was playful. "Let's just call it a long time and have done with it. You missed most of the day."
She sighed. "Sorry."
"Why are you sorry?"
"For falling asleep on you," she clarified. "Literally."
He half-shrugged. "It's okay. It was…well, it was nice."
Hermione smiled. "You went to your lessons?" At his nod, she asked, "But you slept again afterwards?"
"You looked so peaceful," he replied. "It made me tired."
A lull drifted between them, in which Hermione took the time to notice the curtains were drawn again and the Silencing Charm was shimmering around them once more.
"Thanks for letting me stay," she murmured.
She felt a finger slide along hers and her own automatically curled around it. They lay there for a few moments, soaking everything in, before Severus spoke.
"Will this change anything?"
Hermione eyed him. "Not if you don't want it to."
Snape shifted closer, his black eyes sparking and his tongue peeking out to wet his lips. "I'm not sure what I want."
Hermione smiled. It would do for now.
She kept their fingers entwined. "You just let me know when you are."
Hermione read the same words on the same page of the same book that she had been reading for the past hour. Severus had Double Potions – again – and there was nothing for her to do except sit around and wait for him. She wasn't interested in befriending anyone else in the school – he was literally her reason for being, even if he didn't know it.
When Snape wasn't around, she couldn't occupy herself. Books only held interest if they were pressed between both of their knees outside in the cool autumn air or on his emerald and silver bed.
A noise broke her out of her inner musings.
Hermione turned to see Sirius Black casually leaning against one of the stacks close to the table in the Library that she sat at.
Hermione winced at his seductive purr. "Hello."
Sirius seemed to take this as an invitation to join her, and he took up the seat next to her, fixing her with a mock-glare.
"You didn't show."
She resisted rolling her eyes. "I told you, I was busy."
"Hmm," he hummed. "James tells me you were in Hogsmeade with Snivellus. There's no reason you couldn't have dropped the little creep and spent some time with me."
Sirius shifted closer, turning his face to hers and eyeing up her mouth as his fingers marched across the table to her resting hand.
Hermione wondered how he'd ever be able to look her in the eye when he knew her in the future.
Deciding that perhaps more severe tactics were needed with the incorrigible Black, Hermione leaned into him and murmured, "Ah, but that's where you're wrong. There is a reason. Would you like to hear it?"
She could hear Sirius' breath coming thick and fast at her close proximity, and she smirked as he nodded his head dazedly in answer to her question.
She leaned in further, her mouth to his ear. "Besides the obvious that he's witty, intelligent, and a fantastic lover, he doesn't corner me in the Library and insult my friends to get into my knickers."
Hermione pulled away, pushing her book back onto the shelf from whence it came and striding away from the befuddled boy who stared stupidly after her.
Severus then picked his moment to suddenly appear, almost careening into her as he cornered the archway into the Library at high speed.
Hermione tried not to giggle at Snape's surprised but pleased expression.
"I'm sorry I'm late. It's just I had–"
"Potions," Hermione finished for him, smirking slightly. "You really like to brew, don't you?"
He shifted uncomfortably, but was distracted from her teasing question by Sirius Black slinking away from them out of the Library and looking very…inquisitively at Severus.
Snape stared back until Black had gone and then turned to Hermione. "What was that? He didn't even say… What did you do?"
The question was asked knowingly. It made Hermione smile.
"I just set him straight about a few things…and I might have said something that will haunt him for the rest of his days."
Snape watched her for a few moments, obviously waiting for her to elaborate, and when she didn't he simply sighed.
"Fine. Keep your secrets."
Hermione leant in, twining her forefinger around his as they had come to do over the past few days. He gave her a twitch of a smile in return.
"Did you see how Black was looking at me today? It was strange."
Hermione rolled over onto her back on their Charm-heated blanket, looking up at Severus Snape's upside-down face and smirking. "I didn't. Did he look terrified?"
Severus looked thoughtful for a moment. "A little."
She gave a soft snort. The over-confident boy couldn't understand the draw of Severus Snape, the bloke with more charm in one finger than Sirius Black could ever dream of. Of course, charm wasn't why he was terrified – he was terrified at the thought of Snape being better in bed than him, and it was a deliciously sweet feeling to know she had gotten back Black better than Snape ever had.
"Just enjoy it," she suggested, breaking a pumpkin pasty in two and handing him half. "He'll be terrified of you for a while yet."
Snape seemed pleased with that thought, and he smirked to himself as he chewed on his pastry.
The castle was beautiful at this time of year, windows shining in the autumn sun and thousands of different shades of orange decorating the grounds surrounding it. It made Hermione sigh in contentment.
Snape's gaze on her drew hers to him.
"What's wrong?" She asked.
"Nothing," he murmured, but his eyes didn't leave hers even after she looked away.
The Slytherins had grown used to Hermione's presence in their Common Room, and the Sixth Years seemed happy to let her and Severus have their run of the Dormitory even when they were gone.
Hermione was sad to think that the boys would be made to wear black robes and worship an unworthy God as soon as they left the safety of Hogwarts. They were far from little angels, Hightower especially with all his prejudices and wandering eyes, but none of them seemed especially…evil. Voldemort would do that to them – he would turn the boys to men and the men to beasts.
Severus snapped her out of her thoughts. "You're quiet tonight."
She gave him a soft smile. "Just thinking."
He watched for a few moments, rubbing his jaw and twirling the dark brown quill he held in his hand, before he murmured, "I spoke to her today."
Hermione shot up. "Ooh! What did she say?"
Snape smirked at her for a moment, obviously amused at her enthusiasm, before his face turned serious and his expression went cold.
"She… I managed to apologise – properly, this time – but she told me she wouldn't forgive me for it…and that she's happy, with him."
She watched Severus as he watched her. There was a storm brewing under the mildly placid expression he wore, but she couldn't guess for the life of her what was going on in that secretive mind of his. Hermione had made some headway figuring the man out and giving him bits and pieces of previously unfelt happiness, but she still couldn't tell how his mind got from A to B.
"Did it hurt?" Hermione asked, leaning forwards from where she sat cross-legged in front of him on his bed to slide a soft, reassuring fingertip across the back of his hand. "I know you wanted it to go well."
Much to her surprise, Snape shook his head. "I did want it to go well. I wanted her to tell me she made the wrong choice and that she wanted…well, me. But…"
His eyes met hers, full of unnameable emotions, and Hermione felt her heart clench for an entirely different reason than all the other times. Those butterflies were fluttering in her stomach again, creating a typhoon that was near-bursting to sweep through her body and wreck her nerves. Those tiny little things already felt frayed as it was, and that was just with one look from Severus Snape.
"But…what?" She found herself asking, shifting closer to him.
His eyes dropped down, running over her mouth, and his tongue gently swept across his bottom lip. Hermione felt herself automatically mimic the action, and she heard his breath catch in his throat.
The atmosphere turned thick, forceful, and when Severus gripped her hand fully in his, she felt that typhoon break across her body.
He kissed her.
It was powerful, the waves of agonising pleasure that washed across her skin from just one touch of his lips to hers, and it was frightening. Snape thrilled her.
She found her free hand roving up his chest, climbing the buttons of his white school shirt and mapping the warm body she could feel beneath the material. Soon enough, it was clenched in his hair, the nail of her littlest finger digging into the nape of neck.
Snape's breathing faltered, hitching and panting against her mouth, and before she could press her lips to his again, initiating another mind-blowing kiss that was sure to send her to the highest heights and the deepest depths…he was gone.
He ripped her hand out of his hair and dashed from the room, leaving only the imprint of his warmth tingling against her skin.
But there was no way – no way – that Hermione was going to let him leave it at that. She wanted him, knew he wanted her, and now she could finally give him another kind of happiness that she had yet to cross off her mental checklist.
"Severus! Severus! Wait! Please!"
She chased him through the Common Room and the Dungeons, up through the passageways that led to the Entrance Hall and out across the Grounds.
He didn't stop, didn't falter, just kept up ahead of her and…crossed to the Owlery. She followed him, making her way up the leaf-strewn steps and frowning at the dying evening sun before slipping into the darkened tower after him.
It was empty, no rustling sounding from any perch, and Hermione knew that the owls were all out hunting for meatier game than they received in their trough.
Hermione looked around, and her heart nearly stopped when she saw him standing next to the door behind her, his back pressed to the wall.
She took a tentative step towards him. "Severus, please, don't run away from this."
He gave a sort of sigh. "I don't want to run away. I'm not running away."
"What do you call that then?" She pointed out of the doorway, across the Grounds, to the castle.
He shook his head, stepping forward into the brighter light that shone down on them from far above the tower's oculus. Hermione knew it was moonlight without looking. It lit Severus' pale face like it was made to brighten him, and she felt her stomach disintegrate into tiny winged creatures once more.
He was so close to her, bathing her in his warmth and fixing her to the spot with his dark shining eyes. She could smell aniseed from his Potions work, his soap from his regular-as-clockwork early morning shower, and she could still taste his mouth on hers.
"I want you."
Hermione stared at him in wonderment, taking in every inch of the tall skinny Severus Snape. He could make her smile, and he could make her frown, and she found that he was just her type. Whatever that was.
She leant forwards at the same moment as he did, curling one hand into the front of his shirt and holding him to her as their lips met once more. His hands fumbled against her back, his mouth brave but tentative against hers.
Ever so slowly, ignoring her butterflies' protests, she pulled away just enough to ask, "Have you ever kissed anyone before, Severus?"
He seemed to shiver at the sound of her voice, before he licked his lips and shook his head at her.
She smiled softly. "Slowly. Do what feels right."
Their mouths met again, slower, breath passing between them, and Hermione felt his scent and taste fill her right down to her toes.
His hands became surer, finding the curved notch of her waist a perfect fit and resting them there. Hermione gasped against his mouth as his long fingers encircled her, his thumbs caressing her stomach through her blouse.
He silenced her with his kiss, his hands tugging her as close as he could to him as hers flew up to wrap around his neck and bury themselves in his hair. A whimper fought its way up from her chest, colliding and shattering against his mouth as she released it, and it was then that his kiss turned dark.
With sweet, bruising force he angled his head to kiss her deeply, hands climbing her back to hold her against him. His passion took her breath away, and she absently wondered whether telling Sirius Severus was a fantastic lover had been prophetic. His fingertips set her skin on fire and his mouth fanned the flames.
And then he whispered her name. "Hermione."
Dark and soft, pressed to her ear to make her melt, the words resounded through her. There was a reverence in his tone, a quiet awe that made her open her eyes to look into his, and what she found in his black orbs told her at once why Lily's last rejection hadn't cut him too deeply.
He wasn't Lily's anymore. He was hers.
She kissed him, hard, until he laughed quietly against her mouth and gently forced her head back from his. There was a soft calm in his expression she had never seen before – it looked like peace.
Hermione blinked up at him, her brain ever so slightly short-circuited. "Pardon?"
Snape looked nervous. "How was it?"
Hermione snickered at his misplaced insecurity, tugging his lips back down to hers. "Wonderful."
A loud hoot interrupted them, followed by another and then an echoing squawk as Bragi circled above them before landing on Hermione's shoulder. He gave her a soft peck of greeting.
Snape let out an amused breath. "You've Bewitched my bird."
Hermione kissed her way along his jaw, ignoring Bragi vying for her attention and the rest of the owls returning from their hunt. She only had eyes for Severus, and ears for his soft panting breaths.
"We need to leave," he whispered lowly.
Hermione hummed in agreement against his ear as she brushed her lips across the lobe, continuing a path down his neck.
"We need to leave now," Severus said more urgently. "We can't be out on the Grounds after curfew."
She moaned in disappointment and pulled back to look up at him. His eyes were smouldering, but his expression was soft.
He raised a single finger to trace the line of her cheek. "Come back to the Dormitory with me?"
"Well," she sighed. "We would be there now if you hadn't run away."
"I panicked." He gave her a slow smile. "Was that a yes?"
"Come on." She grinned. "Let's get back."
It didn't take them too long to meander back into the castle before the doors were shut and make their way back into the Slytherin Common Room. Most of the students were lounging around on the chairs and sofas, and one or two gave them polite nods of greeting as they passed.
Snape seemed eager to have Hermione back on his bed, but as he pulled her up the stairs and into the Sixth Year Dormitory they were thwarted once more.
Hightower looked up from his Quidditch magazine, eyebrows high. "I wondered where you were, Severus. Thought you must have had your nose in a book." He eyed Hermione, head-to-toe. "Guess I was wrong."
Hermione wasn't fond of the boy. His eyes were cold and his expression was always unfavourable, but he didn't seem to mind Hermione's presence in their dorm all that much.
Snape said nothing, just urged Hermione to sit on his bed before shucking off his shoes. But Hightower wasn't so easily dissuaded from conversation.
"There are rumours about you two, you know," he said offhandedly, but his eyes were alight with interest.
"Are there?" Snape asked, sounding bored.
Hermione picked up a book off of his coverlet and opened it, pretending to read while Snape and Hightower watched each other.
"Don't you want to know what they are?" Hightower asked.
"I can imagine," Severus murmured.
Hermione saw Hightower wave his hand dismissively out of the corner of her eye. "Oh, yes, there's the usual about how you got her – Hexes, Bewitching and Befuddlement Charms, Jinxes… No, I mean, the rumours."
"Just spit it out," Snape snapped at him, and Hightower gave a big smirk.
"Well, rumour has it that you won't give it up because of that little mudblood."
Hermione felt Snape stiffen and immediately rushed to grab his hand and give it a reassuring squeeze. Hightower's eyes followed the gesture avidly.
"Guess they were wrong," he said, turning back to his magazine, and Hermione took the chance to close the curtains and cast a Silencing Charm.
Severus said nothing as Hermione tugged him back to the middle of the bed, but his arms came around her when she hugged him gently.
"Hermione, what are you doing?" He eventually asked.
She blinked up at him. "Hugging?"
"No." He smiled slightly. "I mean more generally." His smile disappeared. "Being here…you're giving everyone more reason to talk about you."
Hermione shrugged slightly. "I don't care about that."
Snape didn't ask why, didn't question her blasé attitude to something he considered monumental, he just murmured a very simple command.
"Kiss me, again."
"What are we doing?"
"Having fun. Be quiet, Severus, or you'll get us both caught."
"How do you even know the password to the Prefects' Bathroom?"
Hermione flicked an irritated glace over shoulder at him as they swiftly sped down a deserted corridor that led to the bathroom. She hated it when Severus got suspicious, and his suspicion most usually stemmed from his insecurities regarding her and her interest.
"I didn't bribe anyone for it, if that's what you're suggesting," she whispered back sharply.
Severus had the presence of mind to look ashamed.
He gripped her wrist and pulled her to a stop. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean it like that."
Hermione rolled her eyes at him and pulled him along. "Come on."
They found the concealed door easily enough, and it only took her less than a second to whisper the password for the room to reveal itself.
As they stepped into the dark room, Hermione glanced at Snape's raised eyebrows and muttered, "The House Elves told me they change it to the main pudding of the week."
"So, last week it was 'profiteroles'?" He asked curiously, and she nodded. "Now, I know."
"I'm not worried about you telling anyone," she said. "But I wouldn't make a habit of coming here, if I were you."
She flicked her wand at the empty metal brackets lining the walls and they burst to life, lighting up the vaulted room with the sunken pool in the centre.
She heard Severus gulp. "You never did tell me why we came here tonight, Hermione."
Hermione turned to him, slipping off her black school robes and letting them fall soundlessly to the tiled mezzanine floor.
"A midnight swim." She grinned. "Something else I wanted to share with you. We could hardly have gone to the Lake."
Snape shook his head as if to clear it, his eyes travelling up from where they had been previously glued to her slightly exposed stomach. Hermione gestured to his robes for him to take them off. He did nothing.
She smiled at him reassuringly. "I promise you, Severus, you don't need to feel uncomfortable here with me."
And, with that, she Transfigured her skirt and blouse into a rather conservative black one-piece that she hoped would settle his nerves. He did look rather less pale at the sight. He even smiled a bit.
"I'm not," he said bravely, looking her in the eye as he slipped off his robes and shoes.
Hermione took her chance before he could protest, Transfiguring his shirt and trousers into a pair of blue knee-length swimming trunks. In hindsight, she wished she had waited for his affirmation.
The shock in his eyes was only transferred to his limbs as he awkwardly tried to cover his bare chest.
Hermione paused for a moment, wondering if she stepped towards him to stop him from hiding he would bolt like a rabbit, before deciding it was best to carry on as if his insecurities about his exposed skin didn't nibble at her heart.
She turned to the multiple taps and gadgets surrounding the opposite side of the pool and flicked her wand at them. A few burst to life, filling the large tiled pool with warm clear water in a matter of moments. She slipped in with ease, putting her wand on the floor and pushing it away from the edge of the water.
She simply waited, bobbing in the water, listening for Snape's approach.
It came after a few moments, a tentative breath somewhere behind her and a soft lapping of disturbed water around her shoulders as he slipped in.
Hermione turned to him with a wide smile of her face. He gave her a small one back.
They paddled for a while, conducting one race in which Severus cheated by Transfiguring webs between his toes and one underwater challenge in which Hermione cheated in retaliation by using a Bubble-Head Charm, before they both seemed happier just drifting in the water, talking.
"I'm sorry I didn't wait for you to agree," Hermione murmured, floating on her back on the water's surface.
"It's alright," Snape sighed from beside her, where he was just bobbing and watching her float. "I…"
Hermione slowly let her legs drop into the water, returning the tips of her toes to the tiles below. Snape looked wary of her almost, cautious, but his arms were firmly at his sides and she was glad to see he wasn't trying to cover himself.
She found herself breathing, "I don't know why you hide in the first place."
Severus' eyes caught hers and held them, but still he drifted silently. Hermione reached out to him with an open palm, catching his hand and dragging herself to him through the water.
She carefully examined the pure pale flesh of his chest, his small flat masculine nipples, and his slim stomach. He was so ethereal, ghostly almost, but so very beautiful.
When their gazes met again, their faces were much closer than before.
"You're wonderful, Severus," she whispered against his lips, brushing hers across them momentarily.
Snape exhaled shakily against her mouth. His hand dipped and circled her waist beneath the water, his arm following its lead and tugging her body firmly to his. Her hands slipped around his sides to his spine, meeting the regular notches there with open curiosity.
He smiled against the corner of her mouth ever so slightly, just enough for her to feel but not see. "Thank you."
Their lips met slowly, softly, achingly sweet and so tempting. Hermione devoured his taste, the way it made her mouth tingle and her tongue flick out in search of him, in search of more.
Severus paused as her mouth parted against his, her tongue just brushing his bottom lip before disappearing back into her mouth.
She felt a fresh wave of gentle electricity course up her spine at the husky sound of his voice. It was so amazing to her to hear the first strains of that velvety tone, the one that he would come to possess as an adult, used to utter her name.
She looked up at him, heart hammering in her chest. "Hmm?"
"May I…" He licked his lips nervously, eyes hooded and trained on her mouth. "Can I…"
Without a word, she pulled his head down to hers. She coaxed him with her kiss, drawing open his mouth for hers and sliding her hands into his shining wet hair. As soon as her tongue ventured out, he caught it.
Slowly, his tongue warm and wet and soft, he drew hers into his mouth. Sliding under and over, tracing the tip with a gentle caress, he mapped it, tasted it, savoured it…
Hermione couldn't remember a more sensual moment, another time in her life when she had kissed and been kissed with such care and consideration but also with such passion. He was dedicated and quiet, kissing her as if not only was it the most natural thing in the world but also the very best.
They broke apart simultaneously, each breathing far more heavily than when they had begun.
Snape's eyes were wide, the very tops of his cheekbones a dull pink, and Hermione couldn't think of a better sight to gaze upon.
Hermione covered her smile with her hand, trying not to snigger into her fingers but failing nonetheless. "Wow?"
"What?" He looked baffled.
"I've never heard you say 'wow' before," she said softly, hand dropping from her smile.
His arms stayed around her waist, holding her firmly to his body. "I don't think I've ever had a reason to."
Hermione looked up at him, one hand rising to cup his jaw and run her thumb along its edge. "Thank you."
He rolled his eyes at her. "You're easily pleased, you know? That wasn't really even that great a compliment."
"Should I wait for something better?" She asked, raising her eyebrow teasingly.
"Yes." His lip twitched in the beginnings of a smile, before it faded and he seemed to become so much more serious. "You really should."
Hermione waited, running her hands along his perfect silky skin above and below the water, while he gathered his thoughts.
"I'm not…" He sighed a little. "I'm not very articulate when it comes to people…girls…you."
"It's nice to know we're all categorised separately," she commented, making him give her a playfully admonishing look. "Sorry. Carry on."
"I just…" Severus' fingers twitched against her skin, tapping out an inaudible beat beneath the water. "Thank you…for being here…with me. I can't really say much else."
"Hmm," Hermione hummed, resting her chin against his sternum and looking up at him. "You are inarticulate with girls."
"And you." He smirked.
"And me," she added, with a soft snicker.
She leaned down and kissed his collarbone, under his watchful gaze, and sadly wondered how long it would be before she would leave for her own time and their peace would be shattered.
Severus pulled her out of her daze. "What's wrong?"
Hermione looked up at him, every puzzle piece of him clicking into place inside her mind. She'd nearly completed her checklist, given him almost every kind of experience and happiness she could, and she knew she'd done nearly as much damage as the past could take.
What would she leave behind when she had to go? Would the future play out like it should? Would Severus be any different from the cold and calculated grown-up she had known him to be in his future?
There were so many questions, so many problems, but only one mattered to her: could she survive without this now?
She gave him what felt like a sorry sort of smile. "Just…thinking."
Snape pushed his hair out of his face, and then did the same for her, tucking it gently behind her ears. She rewarded the gesture with a soft kiss, pulling him into deeper waters.
Hermione turned at the sound of someone entering the dorm, and she found Snape watching her from the doorway. His eyes flickered to Hightower's curtained off bed and he winced at the noises emanating from it.
"Who?" He mouthed, and Hermione rolled her shoulders, as much as she could lying down, in an answering shrug.
Severus rolled his eyes and cast a Silencing Charm on the area, and once the sounds of 'Hippogriffing' had quieted to nothing he went to her.
"Long day," he murmured, throwing down his book back and lying down next to her on his bed.
Hermione smiled, taking his hand in hers and turning onto her side to close the distance between their bodies. "Nothing you can't handle, I'm sure."
He just shook his head at her and tiredly turned towards her, his free hand slipping up her neck and into her hair to bring their foreheads gently together. His sigh fanned over her face, warm and sweet, and she smiled against his lips as she leant in to peck them.
"Lily asked me to sit on her table at the Halloween party tomorrow."
Hermione frowned at him. "Why is that bad?"
"Potter will be with her, and Black." He grimaced. "I don't think she understands that even the sight of them makes my blood boil."
Hermione narrowed her eyes, wondering if the future Mrs Potter was up to something. "You know you don't have to agree and you'll still see her there."
"I know." He watched her for a moment. "But I've still been thinking about it."
Snape snuggled in beside her, eyes closing and breathing evening out.
She didn't like the thought of Lily Evans confusing Severus or messing him around, but, even more than that, she definitely didn't like the thought of him alone at that table with his Gryffindor enemies surrounding him.
"Why won't you be there, again?" He asked quietly, impending sleep lowering the tone of his voice huskily.
Hermione thought of all the teachers that she had avoided, the Headmaster in particular, and knew she couldn't risk being seen by them, not even to save Severus from James and Sirius' undoubtedly horrible evening that they had planned for him.
"I'm sorry," she breathed, closing the curtains around them slowly and quietly. "I just can't go."
He didn't press her again, he merely gave her a sleepy nod and fell asleep with his head tucked into her shoulder. Hermione felt the tendrils of unconsciousness tugging at her own mind, and she cuddled up to Severus to succumb to them, thinking of the next night.
When she awoke, she was alone.
Severus had tucked her beneath his bedcovers and left something on the side of the bed he had fallen asleep on. It was a small piece of parchment, no bigger than a thumbnail, and as she reached up to touch it, her fingertip just brushing the surface, dry ink pooled beneath her fingers.
Hermione sat up slightly, twisting her body and leaning on her elbow to watch as the dark ink shaped itself into a small cursive 'x'.
She smiled, feeling as though the kiss he had left her had been pressed directly to her lips.
She took the day as it came, finding a quiet secretive corner to read in while Snape was in his lessons, and waiting for him by the maple at the boathouse during his break. But he never appeared.
The kiss he had left her on the parchment burnt a hole in her pocket from then on for the rest of the day.
Hermione supposed that he had stayed behind in class, or was conducting some solo research for some Potions project or another, and went about the rest of her day. In the back of her mind, as she ate lunch with the Elves and happily accepted their most recent efforts in knitting, she wondered if he was missing her and the time they spent together.
She was most certainly missing him.
It was at that realisation, half way through a buttered blueberry scone, that she understood she couldn't spend much longer in the past. She was becoming too attached – far beyond her initial emotions – and now she could feel herself…aching for him.
She loved him, his tentative smiles, his brave kisses, his exploratory touch… She loved Severus Snape, and it was doomed.
She sniffled over her half-eaten blueberry scone and planned out their last evening together, the majority of which Severus would be spending at the party and not with her.
"Missy is upset! Missy is upset!" The words suddenly went around the gathered House Elves, who clambered over the tables towards her with wide and sad eyes.
Lissy was at the front of the clamouring creatures. "Missy? What's making Missy sad?"
A particularly aggressive House Elf called Gorb, whom had never given Hermione any knitted things, began surreptitiously sharpening kitchen implements.
She gave a watery smile at their protectiveness. "I'm fine. I just…I need to be leaving soon."
Wails echoed through the long room, and more than one House Elf began pulling on their large ears in distress.
Lissy's eyes were wet. "Missy can't go!"
"I have to," Hermione sniffled, and in the ensuing roar of wails she stood and rushed from the room.
She fled to the passageway that housed her room, slumping onto her bed just in time for the first prickling of tears to arrive.
She hated crying, always had, even after her mum had told her it was cathartic and something that every person needed to do now and then. Hermione didn't like the way it made her feel useless and spent, how her entire body shut down and the only thing she could do was…weep.
And she did weep. She wept because she knew she would have to leave the past where it was meant to stay, and because the boy she knew and loved would grow into a man who would die before she even realised how she felt about him.
Once she was spent of tears, she fell onto her side and into sleep.
Raised voice filtered into her dreams before shattering them and waking her in a blind panic.
"This is Missy's room!"
"Get out of my way!"
Hermione blindly stumbled over to the doorway in her darkened room to see Lissy barring Severus' way through the passage with outstretched arms.
"Lissy," Hermione croaked.
The tiny pink House Elf spun around. "Missy! This boy be trying to get into your room while you be sleeping! But Lissy tells him, she tells him–"
"Lissy," Hermione cut her off. "Let him through. It's alright. This is Severus."
Lissy stared at her wide-eyed for a moment, before spinning to stare up at Snape with awe plainly written on what little Hermione could see of her face.
"Ooh!" The House Elf breathed. "Missy be speaking about you all the time. Lissy leave you be."
Without a sound, Lissy disappeared.
Severus stepped forward, into the dimly lit chamber, and Hermione got her first good look at him. She stared at the rapidly darkening bruise on his jaw.
Snape winced. "I sat with Lily."
Hermione near-growled. "Did Potter do this to you?"
He shook his head, stepping towards her. "Hightower wasn't pleased with my choice. Potter and Black…behaved."
Mentally reminding herself to get the House Elves to Hex Hightower before leaving for her own time, she closed the gap between them and took his hand.
"I'm so sorry, Severus. How did the rest of the night go?"
"It's still going," he murmured.
Hermione frowned. "What time is it?"
"Just gone nine," he answered softly, leading her over to the mussed bed.
"Then why are you here?" She was truly baffled. "If you were with Lily and the others behaved themselves, why aren't you still there?"
He looked down at their entwined hands. "Because…I wanted to be here."
She felt a fresh wave of agonising sadness wash over her, but she willed away the tears. She had one last thing to give Severus, before she would have to leave his time for good.
Hermione cupped his jaw, mindful of his injury, and pulled his lips to hers. She whimpered against his mouth at his kiss, how beautiful it was and how much she wished she could just…no, she had to go.
"Severus," she whimpered. "Come closer."
He complied, shrugging off his robes before wrapping his arms securely around her and kissing away every doubt she had wrestling her willpower.
There were only they two, and she took the chance that presented itself, gently urging Severus fully back onto her bed. He went slowly, pulling her down with him.
She looked down at him, fingers gently tracing the buttons of his white shirt and the stripes of his green and silver silk school tie. He watched her avidly, eyes smouldering and mouth parted.
"I want you, Severus."
He looked up at her, his expression pure disbelief. "You…what?"
"I want you," she repeated, leaning down to kiss him. "I want you."
He made a funny noise in his throat, a strangled sort of squeak, and it made her smile.
"Please, don't be nervous," she muttered, kissing his sore jaw. "It's just me."
At those words, he seemed to relax. His eyes hooded halfway, and his tongue peeked out to wet his lips. His hands travelled to her hips, holding them tightly and slipping his fingers just under the hem of her shirt.
His eyes met hers. "I've never…"
"I know," she said, gently cutting him off. "And, if you want me, I'll be your first."
Severus didn't seem to know how to process the words she had just uttered. He went from holding and watching her, to nervously looking her up and down and letting his cheeks ever so slightly pink up.
She took her time undoing his tie and slipping it from around his neck to discard it on the floor, her eyes never leaving his. "Do you?"
He licked his lips once more, before nodding. "I want you."
Hermione smiled, fingers already at his buttons and undoing them rapidly. His shirt soon parted under her hands, his skin so soft and smooth and pale against her intrepid fingers, and she took her time brushing her lips across the planes of his chest, inhaling his scent and revelling in his soft innocent gasps at her touch.
If she had shown him anything it was to be unafraid with her, and though he seemed uncertain his hands were steady as they slipped between them to stroke the row of buttons down the centre of her blouse.
"Go on." She murmured, sitting up and straddling his bare stomach. "Please."
His fingers slowly fumbled with the first button, but once it popped from its hole his eyes became black burning orbs as the first inch of her creamy flesh was revealed to him. The rest of the buttons were opened in a blur beneath his long dexterous fingers.
Severus looked up at her with such awe, such open longing, his hands sliding up her bare stomach and parting the two sides of his white blouse to reveal her chest to him fully. She panted above him, her breasts rising and falling rapidly in their cream lace casing, and when Severus' eyes next met hers she found them looking not so innocent any more.
He knew what he wanted.
Hermione slid her blouse down her arms and flung it away from the bed, looking down at Severus beneath her to watch his face as her fingers made her way to the latch of her bra.
As they ran down her sternum, his eyebrow rose in question.
Hermione smirked. "Front clasp."
Slipping her fingers beneath the underwire and cupping the lace, she opened the clasp and revealed herself to his burning gaze.
The noise he made ran through her entire body, causing the fluttering in her stomach to sink between her legs. She gasped in response, throwing the bra away and urging his hands to continue their exploration.
Severus did so, diligently. He took his time sweeping her skin with his thumbs in wide arcs, fingers climbing her ribs until they met with the bottom curves of her breasts. His eyes on his work, his thumbs swept upwards until they met her hardened pink nipples.
Hermione gasped. "Yes…"
From then on, Severus' gaze remained on her face. His eyes sought out hers, obviously taking in her expression and every twitch that the muscles of her face made whether it was in pleasure or being denied it.
"Please, Severus. More," she breathed as his touch became lighter, more teasing.
She looked down to find him watching her with shining eyes, his curl of a smile and his swirling fingers far more confident at the show of want on her part. She couldn't help but rock against him, they ache between her thighs growing to such great heights.
Her skirt rode up as she rocked, catching on the hard length pressing so insistently against her inner thigh, and Severus' gaze darted downwards, his hands stilling as he looked.
Hermione rocked again, one hand bracing herself against his chest and the other pushing its way deep into the silky depths of his obsidian black hair. She leant down, kissing him as he gasped out her name in pleasure.
"Please," he muttered. "Hermione…"
He was asking because he was unsure, and she was all too willing to teach him.
He groaned in disappointment as she stopped rocking, but quieted once he realised her goal. Her fingers slipped under the waistband of her skirt, unfastening the clip and pulling it apart. It fell away under Severus' heavy gaze, baring her in only her matching lace knickers.
She wasted no time in pulling apart the fasteners of his trousers, working them down and off as he sat up to meet her.
"Hermione, you're…" His lips found her earlobe, tugging and sending sparks tumbling down her spine. "You're so very beautiful."
She pulled back to look at him, marvelling at his earnest and fervent tone. He looked like he needed loving – good, honest, tiring love – and Hermione felt honoured to be the witch to share it with him.
She kissed him slowly, savouring the way he tasted of strawberry punch from the party and smelt of…sunlight, hours by the water under the maple, clean sheets and soft snuffling breaths, pages of old books and exploding bonbons…
Hermione curled her fingers beneath the band of her knickers and slipped them down her legs, only taking a moment to part from Severus' mouth and lean back to kick them off.
When she was ultimately bare before him, she watched him look down and take a deep steadying breath. His eyes studied the apex between her thighs with keen interest, just as his fingers intrepidly explored the soft skin of her inner thighs that led toward it.
His fingertips met her first, just brushing the neat curls hiding her slit, but it was his thumb that sought her out, parting her and dipping just enough to find the sweet bump of flesh calling out for him.
At her sharp gasp, he looked up. "Are you–"
"Please, Severus," she murmured, cutting him off. "Please."
He rubbed her, found her, kept her on the very brink of pleasure until she thought her mind would split and every atom of her would implode from the pressure. Her hands sought to free him from his underwear, tugging roughly as the temperature in the cool castle room seem to shoot through the roof.
Just as she managed to bare him to her hungry gaze, his fingers inexorably pushed inside her. She stilled, frozen from pleasure as it swept through her entire being and consumed every nerve in her body. She dimly heard a cry, but couldn't decipher whether or not it was her own.
She only knew that, when she came back into her own body, instead of looking down at Severus she was looking up at him.
"Are you alright?" He asked worriedly, brow pulled tight.
She gasped a laugh. "Yes. I'm…I'm fine. God, Severus. Are you sure you're a virgin?"
His cheekbones pinked. "Yes."
At his mumbled answer, she cupped his face in her hands and shook her head at him. "Sorry. I didn't mean to say it that way…it's just…Merlin, you know what you're doing."
He seemed pleased at her breathless awe, taking his time to give her a long languid smile before leaning in and kissing his way up her neck.
Hermione's breath hitched in her chest as he nosed away her curls to press his mouth hotly to her ear.
"You look even more beautiful when you fall apart."
Her eyes closed with a whimper. She loved his reverence, his soft and whispered wonderment, the way he could say something so innocently but mean to ignite a blazing fire deep with her.
"Lean back," she breathed. "Let me see you."
He watched her carefully for a moment, his eyes asking for reassurance, before slowly extending his arms where they were braced by her sides and sitting back on his heels.
Hermione lay there, chest heaving, for a moment, before glancing down at the man lit by soft candlelight. And he was a man. There was no scared little boy kneeling on the end of her bed, he looked capable and confident and she felt herself fall a little bit more in love with him.
Her eyes roved over his pale flesh, drinking in his slim masculine body. His hands rested on his thighs, thumbs pressed to the insides as if parting them, and Hermione's breath caught at once as her eyes fell on the full and thick cock jutting out from between them. It projected from a nest of silky black curls, begging for her touch, and Hermione found herself sitting up and her hands sliding up his thighs to meet his own.
She pushed them away gently, thumbs running further up until they met his hip bones before sliding inward and downward. Severus gasped above her, head tipping back, as her fingers explored the length of him. Every ridge was mapped, every vein touched and traced, and every inch was carefully loved by her hands.
He gasped. "Hermione…"
Hermione paused as she explored between his legs, her lips at one of his dusky crinkled nipples. The pleading tone in his voice was unmistakable.
"What do you want, Severus?" She asked, leaning back to look up at him.
His eyes flashed in the gloom. "Lay back, Hermione. Let me show you."
She did as she was told, reluctantly parting from her prize with a soft sigh and laying back for Severus to do with her as he wanted.
He shifted between her legs, parting her knees and placing his between them as he ran his thumbs up the inside of her thighs once more. He licked his lips as she bent to his will, opening for him slowly.
He palmed her thigh, bracing himself as he shifted forwards to press against her and kiss her lips simultaneously. Hermione gasped against Severus' mouth as she felt the length of him pulsing between their bodies, tightly pressed between their stomachs.
He shifted, watching her intently, and dipped his hips forward. His tip found her, wet and open, and as he gently surged forward, his hand shaking against her thigh, it parted her with the ease she had imagined.
She clutched at his back, fingers tightly curled around his shoulders as he settled himself inside of her. She had never felt so…safe. It was an odd feeling, she thought, to feel security entwined with the skinny, teenage Severus Snape, but it was a perfect feeling nonetheless.
His courage had not fled him, his gaze burned with determination, but it seemed her body was too much for him at that moment, making his face flush with pleasure.
He gasped slightly, his back curving over her. "Hermione… I can't…"
"It's okay." She shushed him, kissing his chin, his cheek, anywhere she could reach. "It's just me."
He opened his black eyes and looked down at her, his mouth open and his breathing harsh. He clutched her thigh in a tight grasp, his other arm shaking with the effort of holding himself up above her.
Hermione urged him down, pulling his weight onto her body. He protested at first, obviously being mindful of hurting her, but when she smiled at him softly and urged him down once more it seemed as though he trusted her to know what was for the best.
The feel of his weight, the sensation of his warmth fully enveloping her… She shivered beneath him. It was like nothing she had ever felt before, and she knew she would remember the way his hot breath caressed her skin long after it was over.
Once his shaking stopped, his body still and calm against hers, she moved.
The first shifting of her hips had him withdraw, and the second had him returning. The fullness she felt was inescapable, and so, it seemed, were the sensations her body evoked in Severus, because he was breathless within seconds.
He caught on quickly, catching the draw of her hips with his own and flexing as she curved back, and he was even quicker to set the pace, pulling her pleasure from her and drawing out every drop.
It wasn't long before his panting and the way his skin caught her tender clit sent her careening over the edge and into the abyss once more. Except, this time, she didn't fall over the edge alone.
Severus followed her moments later, pressing his face to hers and groaning against her ear as she felt hot spurts fill her, satisfying her.
He gently fell against her, his breath leaving him in one great whoosh as his head fell to the crook of her neck and stayed there for the next ten minutes.
Hermione sighed, running her fingers through the damp hair at the nape of his neck and revelling in the boneless feeling of satisfaction that could only be derived from thoroughly fantastic lovemaking.
After a time, he shifted, withdrawing from her with a breathy groan and turning onto his side beside her. He watched her through half-lidded eyes, his expression pleased and peaceful.
"You were brilliant," she breathed, stroking back the hair falling into his face.
His lip curled upward at the corner. "I understand what the fuss is all about now."
Hermione controlled a snigger, muffling it against his cheek.
"But," he added pointedly, "Something tells me it was just because it was you."
Hermione just gazed at him as he sobered slightly, before he drew her closer to him and ran his hand up and down her arm comfortingly. Suddenly, his fingers stilled.
His eyes dropped. "What…"
She looked down to see his fingers feeling the bumps and ridges of the scar Bellatrix Lestrange had left on her body. It hadn't been treated quickly enough to be healed back into flawless skin, and the magical properties of the scar didn't allow for her to use any Concealing Charms effectively.
The word 'mudblood' would be forever carved into her flesh.
She had come to terms with it. Severus was only just discovering it.
His expression was horrified. "What is this?"
"It was a long time ago," she said truthfully. "Not all witches and wizards stick to words, Severus. Some take action."
There was a tone to her voice that said though she was hinting at his word-slinging at Lily she wasn't worried about him taking it any further than that.
His lips curled, snarl-like, and for the first time in a very long time she saw the face of her old Potions Master.
"Who did it?" He asked, and the tone of his voice sent a sliver of ice-cold fear slithering down her spine.
"Severus." Hermione grabbed his hand to reassure him, stilling it over her scar and rubbing his thumb with hers. "It doesn't matter. They're long gone."
It was true in her time, at least. She had managed to avoid Bellatrix Lestrange in Snape's time, unsure of what she would do when faced with her as a vulnerable student. It would be so easy to…no, she couldn't. She needed to leave, before she changed the past any more than she already had done.
Severus suddenly lifted himself off of the bed to pace at the end of it with a face like thunder.
"Doesn't matter?" He spat. "They… You…"
He growled in frustration, pushing his hands through his hair and slumping down to sit curled over on the end of the bed. Hermione quietly went to him, shuffling across the sheets and winding her arms around his torso. She lay her head against his shoulder blade.
"Thank you for wanting to do something about it," she murmured against his skin. "It means a lot."
He seemed to deflate at her words slightly, relaxing, but he didn't stay comfortably within her grasp like she had expected. He stood and began to dress, pulling on his discarded underwear and trousers before flinging on his rumpled shirt and buttoning it.
Hermione watched him move in the dim light, her own body half-covered by her Gryffindor sheets and half-exposed to Severus' gaze if he cared to look. He didn't.
"How did you know the password?" She asked quietly.
"A House Elf found me, told me you were upset today. He gave me the password and a serving spoon. I think he intended for me to batter someone with it." Severus gave her a small smile.
Hermione gave one back in response, but her heart wasn't really in it. If Severus wasn't going to stay then they would have even less time together than she had anticipated. He wouldn't see her again in the morning.
"I'm going back to the party," he said, pulling on his tie and knotting it. "There are things… I just… I want to go back."
She nodded at him, picking up and handing him his school robes. He took them from her, his fingertips trailing across the inside of her wrist before relieving her of the robes. He leant in to her face and pressed his forehead to hers. She sighed at the intimacy, enjoying his scent tickling her nose and the way his hair fell like a curtain around them.
He kissed her, soft and sweet, with a longing look, before stepping back and pulling on his robes.
"I'll be back at midnight once it's over," he told her, and she nodded, knowing she wouldn't be here when he returned.
He swept out of the room without so much as a glance back.
Hermione didn't break down like she wanted to, she didn't succumb to the pain rattling her heart, she simply followed his example and dressed swiftly and silently. She made sure to leave her robes out for Lissy to return to Astrid, along with the shoes, and left everything else that she had amounted in her time at Hogwarts with Severus.
The exploding bonbons, the toffees, three or four other bags of Honeydukes sweets lying around the room, a few spare quills and scrolls of parchment, a collection of books for him to keep if he felt so inclined, and the bright orange maple leaf they had playfully carved their names into the last time they had ventured down the boathouse – it was all left for him.
In some ways it felt cruel to burden him with her things, and in others she felt as if she was leaving behind some things for him to remember her by. He would see her again, years later, but whether he would recognise her or not was a question that only time could answer.
There was only one thing left to do. She ripped a small piece of parchment off of one of the scrolls, dipped a quill, and scrawled one last message for Severus. She muttered a Charm, and the words blinked up at her for a moment, before sinking into the yellowed paper.
Hermione left it for him on the bed, in the same place she had lain under him not so long ago, before picking up the Time Turner from the drawer in the bedside cabinet and giving the golden object a few long, sharp twists.
Hermione stumbled when she landed, bumping into the shelves of her cupboard which swayed and creaked dangerously under the assault. She threw the Time Turner away onto one of the shelves, not bothering to look where, and strode for the door. It appeared under her touch and she threw it open to escape the dusty cloying atmosphere.
She stepped out, slamming the door shut behind her, and promptly fell back onto the reappeared wall to burst into tears. They came thick and fast, streaming down her face, and she couldn't control them.
She had left Severus, left him for good, and now he was dead.
She didn't know how long she stayed slumped there, only that when she had arrived it was close to one in the morning and Ron's bloody Quidditch cuckoo clock would be chiming the hour soon enough, probably any second.
But it didn't.
Hermione tipped her head back against the wall, looking into the kitchen, but she couldn't see the stove from her position. She waited a little longer, but it still didn't ring out.
She had no idea why she was obsessing over such a tiny, insignificant detail when it felt like her life had been ripped apart once more, but…there was something wrong. As she shakily stood on wobbly legs, she hoped Ron hadn't broken in to her apartment in the dead of night to rip his stupid clock off of her kitchen wall.
She stumbled towards the doorjamb, and when she got there, leaning against it heavily, she found that not only was the ridiculous clock gone but there was another one in its place. It was elegant, the face made from shining dark wood and the numbers silver Roman numerals, but the hands were strange, with two silver ones on the correct time and one black one and one white one pointing somewhere between the nine and ten mark.
Hermione squinted, looking closely and wondering at the tiny little silver words circling the face. Between each number was a word, and between nine and ten was…'Home'.
It reminded her of the clock at the Burrow, except there were no photographs and there were numbers with this one and she doubted that Ron would even get her a clock to replace his, let alone such a nice one.
But that wasn't the only strange thing.
Across the kitchen in her wine rack there were wine bottles, and not only wine bottles but lots of them. The rack was completely full, and Hermione stared at it. She'd never had a full wine rack before – Ron hated the stuff – and she couldn't quite believe that he would get her a clock and…
She paused, finally noticing the simmering cauldron on the stove which bubbled occasionally. She hadn't left it there, and she doubted Ron would just whip up a batch of…she couldn't even identify it!
She stumbled backwards, stripping off her skirt and unbuttoning her blouse leaving herself in her House Elf-knitted Gryffindor socks and her lace underwear with her blouse draped loosely over her shoulders.
She needed sleep, rest, time for her brain to take away the imaginary clock, made-up wine bottles, and fantasy cauldron. She needed to forget.
With heavy eyes, she blindly stumbled into her darkened bedroom and towards the bed. Her knees met with the edge of the bed first, and, with a muffled curse, she crawled under the sheets and turned her face into the warm darkness.
She frowned as she began to drift off, wondering why her bed was so warm and smelt so good and…was moving.
Hermione froze as an arm came around her middle, tugging her back to a firm broad chest as the fingers of the hand travelled down from her sternum to her navel. The created a trail of fire in their wake.
She gasped softly at the feeling, and the hand stopped. The person behind her shifted, hot breath tickling her exposed ear.
She turned, slowly, and looked up into the black eyes of Severus Snape…the adult.
He was watching her through sleepy, hooded eyes. "Are you alright? Did you check the brew again? I told you not to worry about it, that I'll take care of it in the morning. You know I only need to take it once every other day now."
There were lines on his face that were far too real to be imaginary, and his touch was just as she remembered, his hair just as black as it always was, but there was a smile to his face she had never seen before and a brightness to his eyes…those eyes which were suddenly narrowed in obvious suspicion.
His gaze raked her shrewdly. "That's not it, is it? You've been somewhere." He pressed his face into her hair, breathing deeply. "You smell like…" He stilled behind her, his voice suddenly hushed. "You've just come home."
She could tell, by that unmistakable tone, that he wasn't talking about coming from outside the flat, he was talking about coming from outside of this world, this time.
Hermione nodded, silently.
Snape did nothing for a few moments, before he rolled onto his back and reached for something. Hermione's heart hammered against her ribs, pounding out her nervousness as he rolled back towards her and placed something on her chest.
A tiny piece of parchment fluttered from his grasp onto her skin, and, at her warmth, ink spread across the browned paper. The words she had written that same night looked right back up at her – I love you…
Her eyes met his, so deep and dark and…different. His lip twitched, fighting a smile, in the exact same way it had done when he was seventeen.
"Welcome back," he whispered, pulling her into his warmth and down into deeper waters.
Author's note: Please, give me your thoughts, if you wish to part with them – I'll give you a shiny Sickle? No? A Galleon? How about a possible Snape POV/sequel? *Grins* Thank you for reading!