Hello, lovelies! After an embarrassingly long hiatus I'm back, and not even in the fandom I started in. Funny old world, isn't it?

This is just a little one-shot to kick off my HGSS career...I have a hoard of other snippets and a few stories for the pairing (one almost finished), but I figured that starting small is a better plan of action than diving right in. I promise that you'll see more of me soon enough.

That being said, this particular piece of fluff is not really in any sort of context...you can assume that Hermione's in her seventh year, of age, and that they're still in the middle of the war, but pretty much everything else flies out the window. I've definitely taken advantage of my artistic license on this one (a.k.a. I own nothing of J.K.'s).

Here's to feel-good fluff.

E. Jane

The one upside to his position as a spy was that he didn't have to pretend to be in a foul humor; his existence alone managed that. No pretenses had to be thrown up to give him an illusion of anger and annoyance because they were already his reality, and they suited his purposes just fine.

Like stalking the corridors on patrol. Severus got a real malicious glee from catching the little buggers out at night and, even better, shagging in uncomfortably tight niches.

If he wasn't allowed any respite, neither should they be.

What he didn't remember—or perhaps had severely repressed—was that it was Christmas Eve. Well, Christmas morning now, if his tempus charm was accurate. And he was humorlessly anticipating many drunkards, gropers, and point deductions this morning.

When a wending, staggering form came around the corner tipping dangerously, he therefore felt a rising sense of satisfaction. Perhaps if he gave enough of a vitriolic dressing down he would be able to make them cry.

The closer he glided, robes fluttering ominously like a detached shadow, the better he was able to make out the student. It was undeniably a girl, and probably a Gryffindor by the way she didn't bother to hide herself or tread more quietly despite her tipsy state. Instead she seemed to be moving rather quickly and clumsily towards him…or away from something else.

Severus's triumph was immediately replaced by a gut-clenching panic. Surely the Dark Lord hadn't planned anything for tonight; surely he would have been told; surely there weren't Death Eaters crawling about the castle on Christmas—

All imagined shock at the notion that they'd been preemptively invaded was replaced by a numb feeling of…disappointment, he supposed, on seeing that the girl tottering his way was little Miss Hermione Granger.

"Granger!" he barked once she was within hearing range. "Twenty-five points from Gryffindor, and halt this moment," he snarled.

Without a word she obeyed, flopping down on a moonlit windowsill. The light coming inside was almost brighter than the flickering of the sconces; snow had fallen, and it refracted the moonbeams a hundredfold and threw the girl sitting in its beams into stark relief. She looked ghostly.

When he reached her Severus noticed her labored breathing. "Explain yourself," he hissed. He was absolutely furious at her abuse of power. The Head Girl was supposed to conduct herself with the utmost poise and responsibility, which Granger usually did. Or he'd thought so, at least.

"Escaping," was all she gasped, and leaned her head back against the closed window. Absently she blew a hair off her face. "From Cormac."

He raised an eyebrow. "McClaggen?" That boy was an absolute joke.

She nodded and made to push her hair out of her face, but it was bound up into an intricate knot at the base of her neck. Her eyes were shut, and she scrunched up her nose in thought.

"He was…chasing me," she managed as she regained her breath. "Kept bringing me drinks, I don't want to drink any more…" Idly she tossed her head back and forth so that it looked ready to roll right off her shoulders.

Well, Severus thought, studying her haughtily from his higher vantage point. Date rape was definitely something he could use against the idiot Gryffindor boy next time he encountered him. McGonagall would just love to hear that…

And what was more, Granger hadn't been drinking so much as she'd been drugged. There was no telling what sort of alcohol, or potion, McClaggen had slipped into the girl's drink. Lucky she had her wits about her enough to run away.

He sighed long-sufferingly through his nose. It looked like a measly twenty-five points was all that he was going to get out of her tonight. "If that's all, Miss Granger, please return to your dormitory. Otherwise I will be forced to deduct another set of points from you, is that clear?"

She opened her eyes then, and they were swimming, brimming with something he couldn't read, and he didn't dare to probe her with Legilimency—she'd recognize the action right away.

After studying his face, she turned her unnervingly sharp gaze away from him and said, "You weren't at the Christmas party. Weren't you invited?"

He couldn't remember the last time he'd been so startled. Startling things had happened to him, of course, but he was usually able to predict and anticipate them, which took off the edge of surprise.

Her apparent notice of his person outside of the classroom completely floored him.

"Professor Slughorn," he drawled at last, "did invite me, yes. I chose not to go." Why on earth he felt the need to inform her of that, he didn't know; that old slime ball had invited the entire staff, but otherwise Severus didn't think a thought had been spared to him on that account, and knew he hadn't been missed.

Granger plucked at her clothing distractedly. Severus noticed for the first time that she was in a rather daring dress. Really, it was almost as if she'd invited McClaggen's attention with the low cut neckline and the short hem and the burgundy hue. Hadn't she known what she'd been playing at with a hormonally deranged boy?

To his response she said, "Oh. Well, I wish you'd been there."

Another wave of pure shock.

"You would have been a much better date than Cormac, I think. He stepped on my toes, and kept trying to ram his tongue down my throat."

Severus blanched at the implications dancing through his mind.

"Miss Granger, go to bed."

She sighed but hefted herself up off the sill. Unfortunately, instead of moving forward she tottered to the side and barely missed knocking herself unconscious with the wall.

"Oops," she muttered, and then started to giggle outrageously.

Severus was beginning to feel uncomfortable. Perhaps it was because she never had reacted to his point deductions.

"Very well, I will escort you," he growled, "but it will cost you another fifteen points. Come along."

He made to stride ahead of her, but she only swayed; after a moment of impatient indecision he snorted and grabbed her wrist, trailing her behind like a recalcitrant first year.

Granger tap tap tapped along beside him, never walking a precisely straight line and often swaying into his side, which was a distracting combination of annoying and disturbing. He hadn't thought of Hermione Granger's body as womanly until now, when she kept pressing it into him. Merlin.

A few hallways along she gave a momentous groan and stopped dead. Severus managed to abruptly halt his own momentum before she could face-plant on the stone.

She blinked at him. "My feet are killing me."

Blankly he surveyed her shoes, which were rather spiky and deadly looking in the heel. When he didn't deign to answer her, however, she merely huffed and kicked them off.

"Oh," she marveled, using his arm as a prop to balance herself as she rotated her ankle. "That's better. Let's go."

Granger started to move ahead and leave her shoes behind altogether. Rather than waste an acerbic comment Severus merely accioed them into his hand and started stalking at a rather more furious pace than before.

What a waste of his Christmas patrol.

Finally they made it to her bloody dormitory. Granger had wilted almost to the point of falling asleep on him. He told himself he would refuse to carry her if she did fall asleep; there was no way he'd be caught dead hefting Hermione Granger into his arms, waltzing into Gryffindor Tower, and putting her to bed.

The Fat Lady unfortunately was off carousing with Violet, it seemed. Severus had the administrative password that would let him in regardless, but he was a smidgeon irritated that the portraits as well as the students couldn't seem to keep to proper behavior.

"Mistletoe," he hissed. He really hated it when Albus got too festive. He was about to turn on his heel at the creak of the portrait opening, but Granger snatched at his sleeve.


He turned back around stiffly. "I suggest you go to bed, Miss Granger, and see Poppy in the morning. She will be able to give you a strong hangover potion."

"But I can't!"

"Can't what, Miss Granger?" he all but growled at her stricken look.

"I can't go to bed! Not like this!" Frantically she motioned up and down her body. "I'm still in my dress!"

His fury was rapidly escalating. "The rational solution," he said dangerously soft, "would be to take the dress off, you imbecilic girl."

She blinked as if through a haze. "I can't reach the zipper."

"Are you a witch, or aren't you?"

Granger jumped back from him as if burnt. "What did you say?"

"Use your wand," he snapped, "or rip the dress off for all I care!"

"I can't!" she repeated. "Do you know what magic does to silk?" Idly she scrubbed at her forehead, ran her fingers through her hair, and made a whimpering noise when they got caught in her up-do. Irately she pulled the clip out of her locks and they came cascading down.

For a moment Severus was stunned. He'd never actually paid enough attention to Granger to notice that her hair was anything but a thorny tangle, but in its present soft waves and mussed glamour it looked—she looked—ridiculously touchable.

He swallowed thickly. This was not good. This strange feeling was undeniable trouble.

"Miss Granger, please…just go to bed."

"But I—"

"Go to your chambers!" he all but shouted in a panic. There, in that dress, in her bare feet, with that hair, Hermione Granger was beginning to look delectably enticing.

But she continued to stand her ground. "Not until you unzip me."

It had been the farthest thing from what he had expected her response to be.

"I can hardly undress you in the middle of a corridor," he managed to choke out. When she continued to stare him down, however, he realized that the quickest way to get out of this potentially fatal position was to do what she wanted. "Turn around," he barked with as much authority as he could muster.

She sighed happily and did so.

"Miss Granger…" He stared for a moment. "Please move your hair."

She obliged quickly, pulling it over one shoulder and exposing a long, creamy neck.

Severus reached out a reluctant hand and grasped the zipper at the top of the neckline, and pulled.

It didn't budge.

Remembering what she had said about magic—and about ripping—he subtly tried to put more force behind the movement while touching her as little as possible. This, however, still did not yield the desired result.

She shifted impatiently. "Get it off already." With a sigh she shuffled forward and leaned her head against the cold stone. "Try it again."

A twinge of annoyance shot through him at her bossy tone. He followed her to the wall, placed his other hand bracingly on the top of her dress to hold it taught, and yanked.

Her dress came undone with a loud metallic flourish, the zipper's teeth ripping open all the way down to the curve of her lower back.

Severus looked unabashedly at her for a stricken moment. The folds of the dress had fallen wide open as if Granger was a present he had unwrapped; the curves of her waist and the definition of her hips, her slender spine and creamy skin, were all open to his inspection.

He had to put a hand on the wall next to her to brace himself.

Granger, for her part, hadn't moved an inch and didn't seem inclined to, not even when he was hovering over her. Instead she seemed quite content to lounge face-first into the wall with her sensual back on display for all and sundry.

Severus suddenly felt as if he had committed a treacherously intimate act with her and had about torn himself away when someone yelled, "Oi! Get your hands off of her, you overgrown bat!"

He felt as if they'd been caught shagging against the wall, which, he realized with dread, was how it must certainly look to an outside observer. It didn't help that McClaggen was the dunderhead bearing down on them.

"You!" Granger shouted and pointed a drunkenly wavering finger. "Don't you dare bring me another drink or I'll…I'll break your kneecaps!"

Severus wanted to laugh hysterically as she spun around and her dress nearly fell off her frame; instead he managed to throw up the folds of his robe to act as a discrete curtain.

This, she seemed to think, was an invitation. He nearly jumped a mile high when she snuggled into him.

"Unhand me!" he snarled, but she didn't hear because McClaggen was shouting, "You left me for him, Hermione? He's, like…old enough to be your father!"

Severus could have killed him for that.

"My father's fifty-two!" Granger shrieked. "Severus isn't a day over thirty!"

Both men gaped: McClaggen at the implication that his professor wasn't old, or perhaps her exclusion of at least eight years of Snape's life; Snape at the radically familiar use of his first name.

This had to stop. Now. If things continued on this way he'd be fired and Granger would be expelled quicker than New Year's Eve could come.

"Legilimens," Severus hissed and dove straight into McClaggen's mind. He wasn't gentle; he didn't need to be to erase a memory.

When he resurfaced McClaggen was blinking sleepily. He simply moved past them, entered Gryffindor Tower, and disappeared quietly.

Severus took a moment to regain his bearings. What a nightmare.

Granger was still attached to him, and his own hands—his hands were on her bare back.

Her smooth, creamy, warm back. In his foray into McClaggen's mind he had let all reality slip away; he had actually, purely on instinct, grasped Granger tighter and pulled her into his own body.

He stared down at her in mute horror. She was looking up at him with a powerfully innocent expression, which made it all the worse. She had absolutely no control over herself at the moment, and here he was, her professor, manhandling her while she was half naked.

"Miss Granger—" he began shakily, but she interrupted with a softly whispered,

"Thank you, Severus."

And reached up on her tiptoes and pulled the arms strung about his neck—when had her arms gotten around his neck?—down, down, until their faces were suddenly level and she was pressing her mouth up against his.

He gave a little gasp of shock, of fear…of pleasure. Granger's mouth was so unbelievably soft, so warm…she still tasted like the effervescent champagne McClaggen had plied her with.

And in that moment he was just a man and she was just a woman. It was simplicity at its most beautiful. He wouldn't have been able to explain it to anyone, not even to himself, but for a split second they were in a place of perfection in which he could smell and taste Hermione Granger as if she was something to be…savored.

This logic carried him further than he wanted to go; he found himself placing his fingers under her chin and angling her face, just there, so that when he slipped his tongue past her lips he could gain access to her, to all of her—

And then he had to breathe, and the moment their lips disconnected he inhaled a rush of reality that flooded him with the mortifying realization that he had just kissed his own drunken female student.

Severus recoiled so hard and so fast that he slammed into the opposite wall.

His breaths were shallow and painful; Granger was looking at him starry-eyed with flushed cheeks and kiss-bruised lips.

What he wanted to say was, "Fucking hell," but what came out was, "Go to bed, Miss Granger."

He fled.

Down the corridor, down the stairs, down, down, down—

His heart was beating a panicked tattoo, fit to burst.

He should resign. Come morning Granger would be at Albus's door with stories about his horrendous advances, and he'd be sacked, and the entire world would think him a dirty, filthy pedophile—


He just wished that someone would Avada him.

In all of her tartan-and-whisky-drunk-glory McGonagall came around a corner smiling brightly. She looked far more gone that even Granger had.

"Minerva," he said stiffly, throwing up every occlumentic shield known to wizard.

She opened her mouth to say something cheerful, but instead she hooted, "You've been snogging, Severus!"

She couldn't have tortured him in any worse way.

"Who've you been kissing, Severus?" she pried with apparent glee. "Don't lie to me, there's lipstick all over your mouth!"

Ice flooded his veins. Had Granger been wearing lipstick?

Unfortunately, McGonagall was almost as good at spotting lies as he was, so he merely circumvented her accusation with, "You're drunk."

She blinked owlishly behind her spectacles. "That's why you weren't at Horace's party, wasn't it? You went out to meet some girl! And you snogged her!"

After momentary reflection Severus decided that this story was much less scandalous than kissing his young undressed student, so he said, "You're going to tell Albus, aren't you?"

"Oh, who is she?" Minerva squealed and tottered sideways in her excitement. "Bring her to the New Year's celebration!" Suddenly serious, she said, "Or I'll sic Albus on you at Valentine's."

He gave her his best grimace. "Absolutely not."


"No, Minerva."

She huffed. "Very well. I'm just happy that you're finally seeing someone. After all these years. I bet she's a smart one," she reflected. "You'd never tolerate an idiot."

Well, she had got something right, after all. Granger was about the cleverest witch he knew, but that was hardly the point and certainly didn't help when she'd been plastered.

And it wasn't like he'd done it on purpose.

"Goodnight, Minerva," he drawled and stalked around her. If there was any justice in the world both she and Granger would be too pissed in the morning to remember that any of this horrific Christmas had ever happened.

Fate, however, apparently decided that he needed to be punished. More. More than would ever be justifiable.

Granger kept stealing glances at him all through breakfast. She knew.

What was worse, however, was the fact that McGonagall apparently had a handy little personal stock of sober-up potion which she'd used the evening before, and she had told the entire Hogwarts staff about their encounter while she still remembered it.

Everyone in the school, therefore, knew that he had snogged somebody. And Granger knew that it had been her.

And on top of that, to add insult to injury, it was Christmas morning. Albus's jolly mood was magnified tenfold by Severus's questionable display of humanity and "happiness," everyone was in good humor, and the Great Hall was dressed in obnoxiously loud hues of green and red.

He felt sick.

He spent the day cloistered away in his quarters, deciding what would need to be boxed up and what would have to stay when Albus sacked him.

He waited all day for an angry Howler, a scathing Floo call.

Nothing ever came.

Albus never magically materialized; Minerva never stormed into his quarters in a maelstrom of righteous fury because he had corrupted her brilliant protégé.

Granger never came, either, neither to tell him off or…he didn't know what. Half of him wanted her to be angry, horrendously angry at him…and the other part of him…

The base, unforgivably male part of him wanted to kiss her again, feel her naked back again, press up against her curves again—

For the next week, the last of the holiday, Severus alternately hid in his rooms and drunk himself into stupors or wandered the grounds. It was better outside, where it was freezing and desolate and nobody was around to get in his way.

Come January he'd have to go back to teaching her. She'd be right there in the front row staring at him, and all he'd be able to think about was her mouth.

It wasn't right. Perhaps he should turn himself in…

But no, that would hurt the situation more than it would help. No matter his own reprehensible—and steadily growing—feelings, he couldn't directly implicate Granger. It would ruin her as much as it would ruin him.

Best to lie low, to forget it had ever happened.

Just forget.

Except that became rather impossible when, if he wasn't piss drunk, Severus dreamed of her.

His dreams were the one place where he could not occlude his thoughts. It was too dangerous to suppress memories and feelings when one wasn't totally aware; he could have potentially lost his mind if he'd been stupid enough to attempt that. So instead he dreamt that Hermione Granger came to him again and again, always the same way, and always called him Severus, and always kissed him soft and slow…

It began to actually torture him, to wake up after these dreams to a cold and empty bed. He started feeling rather desperate, and played. He'd been a fool. He was always a fool when it came to the female sex; that had been proven rather painfully before, hadn't it?

He had to put a stop to this obsessive behavior. He hadn't even seen Granger since their encounter. He couldn't imagine what he would have done if he had seen her in such a state. Luckily, however, she seemed to have sequestered herself away as well.

In fact, she hid so well that she even managed to avoid him in Gryffindor and Slytherin's first Potions lesson of the new term.

Severus was furious. Beyond furious. He had worked himself up into a perfect state of mind for encountering her again, and Granger hadn't even been there.

She had skipped class, of all things; had skipped out on him.

He'd never written such a scathing summons to detention in his career.

By the time her detention session arrived, he had mentally constructed a dressing down so severe that Granger was going to have to go to the Janus Thickey Ward afterwards. It was all on the tip of his tongue; he was poised to launch into his tirade the moment she walked through his door.

And if she didn't come, he'd have her expelled. He would do it. She would be sorry.

This last measure happened to be unnecessary, however, as she did in fact show up.

She looked like shite.

Severus was momentarily floored by the drastic physical change she seemed to have undergone in such a short span of time. All of her curves were hidden by her clothes, her eyes were tired, her hair was frizzed, and her complexion was wan.

She looked as sleep-deprived and miserable as he felt.

And he felt damned guilty about it.

Before he could get a single word in she sighed, "I want to apologize, sir, for missing your class this morning. I was meeting with Professor McGonagall to…to see if I could switch out of Potions and into Advanced Arithmancy."

He bristled. "And why is that, Miss Granger?"

She had had her eyes trained on her shoes, but at his grittily-voiced question she blinked up at him.

"I thought that was rather obvious, sir."

He did everything in his power not to grimace. He had scarred her that badly already that she felt the need to flee from him. Hermione Granger was giving up her studies—the epitome of her existence—purely so that she would not have to endure his presence.

It shouldn't have hurt him as much as it did.

"I see," he said in monotone.

She shuffled a little on the spot, the color rushing ever faster into her cheeks, until finally her words burst forth from her mouth in a torrential rush.

"I never, ever should have accosted you like that, and I'm so sorry, and I know that I should be expelled and that I probably make you absolutely sick to look at and I can't imagine how repulsive you must find me and—"

Severus had mechanically stood up behind his desk during her feverish expulsion of words, words which had obviously been haunting her for the past several weeks.

"—and I was so drunk, and it was almost as much my fault as Cormac's, but I figured that I would never get the opportunity to kiss you again, I would never feel so brave again, and I could have sworn that you kissed me back but I don't mean to insult you when I think that, I know I'm too much of a horrible know-it-all, and I—"

Her hyperventilation-worthy speech was cut off abruptly as Severus thrust a crisp handkerchief under her nose. Somewhere amongst the words she had begun to cry so hard that he could barely understand her.

But he had certainly understood enough.

She took the cloth gingerly, hands quaking.

"You do not repulse me."

He blinked at his own words. She blinked back up at him through eyes rimmed with lashes stuck wetly together.

"But I—"

"Miss Granger," he said, quashing the impulse to swallow hard, "you do not repulse me in the least."

But that was about all the compliments he could muster.

She let out a shaky breath. "Oh."

They stared at each other for another long moment before Severus moved back behind his desk.

"That will be all, Miss Granger," he said quietly. "I wish you luck in your Arithmantic endeavors."

She looked as if she'd been shot and stood staring at him, shell-shocked.

"Yes, sir." She began backing towards the door. "Thank you, sir."

Severus lowered his head to a pile of documentation and didn't look up until at least five minutes after the click of the door had dissipated.

The remainder of January was horrendously uneventful, sluggish, and dull. The sky was an unforgiving grey; his students were unforgivable dunderheads.

Granger never returned to his class. McGonagall had been excessively smug to report at the staff meeting that the girl had taken on Advanced Arithmancy in an effort to graduate with enough classes to get her into a prominent magical research industry. Severus didn't bother to point out that she would have gotten in anyway, would probably have had an equally fair chance if she'd continued to pursue Potions. He thought her cover story nicely Slytherin.

At mealtimes he did his best to thoroughly ignore the girl, foregoing his regular perusal of the Gryffindor table in an effort not to catch even one glimpse of her. Contrary to her belief, he did not find her repulsive; it was in fact quite the opposite, and that was enough to give him cause for concern. Avoidance, as Granger herself had advocated, seemed to be the best policy.

Time began to pass more quickly, and the horror of the holiday faded. Severus was even lucky enough to escape chaperon duty in Hogsmeade in February, for which Minerva seemed unduly put out.

It wasn't until he entered the Great Hall that Saturday morning, where everything was plastered with pink, that he realized it was Valentine's Day.

So many weeks of self-disciplined avoidance were destroyed in an instant; he automatically sought to pin his gaze on Hermione Granger with a strange kind of constrictive pressure in his chest.

He looked to see if she was happy or distressed, if she was with a significant other or if she was lonely.

Or he tried; she wasn't there.

This simultaneously elated and distressed him. It was very vexing. Her absence could mean any number of things, but without reading her expression he couldn't begin to guess what it was.

The students shuffled off to Hogsmeade, bundled up against the February chill, and soon enough the castle was all but deserted.

Severus felt a bout of claustrophobia coming on.

Instead of hunkering down in his dungeons where it was surprisingly warm, he threw on his thickest travelling cloak and stomped out into the snow, cutting a path to the Forbidden Forest.

He needed to move, to physically do without mentally thinking. He needed to get away from what felt like disappointment.

He had no set destination within the forest; he merely figured that he would prowl around, perhaps pick out an ingredient or two if he came across it. Most of the creatures were hibernating and he felt secure enough to wander farther and longer than would normally be safe, but he nonetheless had his wand at the ready.

When a twig snapped nearby, therefore, he shot off a reflexive hex but was alarmed to hear a distinctly human yelp.

Without any of his customary stealth he emerged from the brush and into a small clearing. He was almost unsurprised to find Granger there, sitting on a log and staring at him.

He didn't ask her what she was doing in forbidden territory, or why she was alone, or why she was looking at him with that expression, but simply strode over to examine the hand that she was cradling to her chest.

Gently he motioned for her to let him see the injury, and she silently placed her slender hand in his larger, calloused one.

Severus winced. It was only a mild stinging jinx, but it was already leaving a welt.

"Forgive me," he mumbled. "I did not expect anyone to be here…today."

Granger nodded mutely.

Abruptly Severus dropped her hand and instead set to work transfiguring some of the snow into a packed ice compress.

"This will help the swelling," he offered, and she stood to take it from him.

"Thank you," she nodded. "I…should have been paying more attention to my surroundings. I'm lucky that it was you and not…someone else."

He grunted out, "McClaggen, I suppose," and was horrified that he had brought up their previous encounter.

Instead of turning away red and shamefaced, however, she smiled at him. It was the first time since that night that he'd seen a happy expression on her face, and it made the constrictive pressure in his chest ease.

"No, I wasn't thinking of Cormac. I wasn't thinking of anyone, really, I'm just…glad that it's you."

And now she did turn red, and fiddled with something in the pocket of her muggle parka. Her cheeks were flushed and her mouth was rosy and upturned and her eyes were flickering brown.

Gods, but he'd never wanted to kiss anyone so badly in his life.

"I'm sorry that I haven't returned this yet," she said and offered him a piece of cloth.

It was his handkerchief. He hadn't even known it was missing, but he suddenly didn't want it back, not if it meant she would continue to carry it on her person as she'd obviously been doing.

He did take it, but also took the hand offering it; he removed the compress and bound her scarred hand in the pristine linen.

She blushed even more prettily.

"Ah…are you looking for something? For potions, I mean," she ventured, gingerly flexing her bound hand.

Severus wanted to say, "I was looking for you," because, honestly, it was probably the truth even though he could never admit to it. Instead he said, "No, nothing in particular."

She nodded and her curls bounced and swayed. "I've been out awhile. I should probably…head back."

"I'll escort you."

They began moving, rather slowly, back out of the forest. Even though they were silent—which was unusual for Granger, he realized—their quiet companionship was pleasant. He wondered what it would be like if she would talk to him unrestrained, naturally; if she were to let all of that knowledge and insatiable curiosity out around him.

He'd probably be very thoroughly enchanted, he decided.

Severus was so lost in thought that he nearly bypassed Granger and left her standing underneath a tree. When he realized she wasn't following, however, he turned with a perplexed look until he realized what she was studying.

She was standing underneath a massive cluster of Wizarding mistletoe.

Granger looked at him with quiet despair and resignation.

Honestly, the cosmic forces just could not leave well enough alone. He was glad, however, that he was with her; if she'd been alone and trapped under the mistletoe she very well could have been stuck there for days before someone found her.

"We never did cover magical mistletoe in Herbology," she was muttering. "It's so much more dangerous than anyone realizes, and the fact that it's in our own backyard is just—"

He'd made his way back and was standing in front of her. "I would have covered it in Defense Against the Dark Arts, had I been given the opportunity."

"Oh, um," she faltered. "So you know about it, then?" He raised an eyebrow. "Right, Potions Master…then you'll know that Wizarding mistletoe is used in no less than fourteen prominent potions and can reduce the effects of—"

"Hermione," he sighed, "fifty points to Gryffindor." And he kissed her.

The effect was immediate; the binding spell disintegrated and Hermione moved out of range. They backed out of the circumference of danger, but neither one seemed to realize that the spell had been broken—they remained locked at the lips.

Severus could barely stand himself. It was like relapsing to an addictive substance after a painfully long withdrawal; it was sweeter, more satisfying than ever before. He felt no restriction now, but allowed his fingers to sink into the luxurious mass of her hair, his other hand to press into her lower back, his mouth to taste and feel her like a man starved.

And she clung to him and kissed him with a fervency that was so adorably enthusiastic. Their kisses became more heated; their hands wandered. Despite the frosty atmosphere they panted and were flushed.

Severus gentled his kisses slowly, slowly. It was bittersweet having to stop, even as Hermione continued to run her hands through his hair.

He brushed the pad of his thumb over her swollen lips and she shivered. That was his handiwork; he was seized by the rash impulse to tell everyone, to let everyone know that he had kissed Hermione and she had kissed by back, so that whenever someone saw her kiss-bruised mouth they would know he'd done it and she'd welcomed it.

Wouldn't Minerva just love that.

Hermione smoothed down his outer robe, which had gotten a bit rumpled between them. "What now?"

That was a rather misleading question, Severus thought. "Now" technically meant in that precise moment; now could also mean from this point onward, into the distant future.

He answered in response to the former.

"The Hogsmeade trip is scheduled to last for another three hours."

She nodded seriously. "Then I suppose it's your turn to get stuck under the mistletoe?"

He cracked a genuine smile. "I don't believe you needed the excuse of mistletoe to kiss me last time, Miss Granger."

She ducked her head shyly, but he tilted her face back up.

"And I'm very glad you didn't."

Hmm...perhaps this one-shot should be turned into a two-shot? I can't imagine McGonagall just letting this one go...