As promised, Chapter Two already. This is the last one too - short but hopefully sweet.
A couple of you mentioned that the Sorting took place later in the day. For some reason, I'd had it in my head that it was at assembly time (which is normally first thing in the morning at school.) But you're right; it takes place in the banquet on the first night. I've amended Chapter One to reflect this. Thanks for the heads-up.
If you'd like, remember to check out my facebook page (you'll find the link on my profile). Thanks to those who have already - it should be fun! And for those reading the Jasper fic, the next chapter of that is up also.
Right. Onwards. Now where were we? Ah yes. Everything had gone black.
"Miss Granger? Miss Granger? ... Hermione?"
That low, smooth voice which had spoken her name so often in query over the years roused her and she pulled her eyes open heavily. Hermione blinked, her vision still clouded. There was a face staring down at her, remarkably close. The first thing she was able to focus on was a pair of deep black eyes. The brows above them were furrowed in clear concern. She didn't want to look away. She knew if she could look into them she would be alright. But at length she remembered where she was and whose eyes they were.
"You fainted." Severus Snape pushed himself up, withdrawing his reassuring proximity.
"Oh." Her face immediately flushed red. "Sorry."
"Hm. Well, it was only to be expected. I think perhaps you lost more blood than me. You should recover now."
She glanced down at her wrist. He must have healed her. The wound had vanished, and only the faintest pale line remained to remind her of what had happened. She sat up quickly, thinking back. "The potion ..."
"Shh. Don't get up too quickly."
Reaching over, Severus pushed her gently back down onto the sofa. She glanced at his hand on her shoulder and he removed it quickly.
"The potion was made as it should have been. I have it here." He held up a small vial containing a dark amber liquid.
"It's not red." She was surprised.
"No, the blood is rendered into a different liquid altogether. Rumour has it ... it tastes of honeyed almonds." He cocked an eyebrow sardonically but she heard the teasing humour in his voice.
"Haven't you had it yet?"
"No. You must give it to me."
"How will you know if it has worked or not?"
"I ... will simply know. I will sense it."
"Well, you must have it now."
"There's no immediate rush. I need you to recover."
"I'm alright. Honestly. I want to." She sat up slowly and saw his hand reaching out slightly to guide her before he pulled it back. Severus sat on the sofa beside her. She smiled softly at him and held out her hand for the vial.
Handing it to her carefully, he watched as she unstoppered it in assured fingers.
Hermione turned her large brown eyes on his and smiled warmly. And at that he leaned in.
There was a moment of awkwardness. Should he open his mouth first? Should she offer it to him now?
A little snigger of embarrassment escaped her, prompting a tut. But when she looked he was smirking a little.
She whispered, "Open up."
With a faint roll of his eyes, he did, moving his mouth closer to her. Hermione raised the vial and brought it to his lips then tipped the liquid carefully into his mouth.
His eyes closed and he swallowed amidst a mild twist of his features. It was clear it had pained him slightly. She stared hard, gauging his reaction.
After a short while he opened his eyes again and looked at her. "More like chocolate covered hazelnuts."
She smiled but searched his eyes for an indication of the success of the potion.
"How do you feel?" she asked hesitantly.
He stood suddenly and turned from her, as if waiting for the potion to take effect.
Hermione was clasping her hands together and rose to stand behind him, desperate for a response. His broad shoulders were turned away from her, the dark material of his frock coat pulled tight across them. She raised a hand, almost placing it down on one. She wanted to, but steadied herself before she made contact.
"Severus?" she asked softly again.
There was silence for a time.
"It hasn't worked."
His declaration seeped through her with crippling disappointment. "Are you sure?"
"Yes. I can still feel the disintegration inside."
Hermione closed her eyes and sighed heavily.
"I'm sorry. I was sure that would do it. Perhaps we did something wrong."
"No. It was simply not what was required."
"But there is something. I know it. Some ... givingto each other, some sort of exchange that will cure you."
"I don't know. I don't know what else we can do." He could not hide his disappointment and started to walk from the room.
"I'm not giving up, Severus. I'll do whatever is necessary."
He looked back before leaving. "I have asked too much of you already. I cannot put you through that again. You owe me nothing."
Is that what he thought? He had almost died — he was dying — as a result of his efforts to protect Harry and people like her. She went and sat at the table for a while longer, numb, wracking her brains as to what could be done to help him, tears beginning to tumble down her face.
They had a quiet supper. They usually ate separately — Hermione would join her friends or would eat alone in her room. But tonight they sat together and had some pasta she had prepared. They hardly spoke, but there was a contentment of sorts in their mutual disappointment.
After the meal, she glanced over at him. His hand was resting on the table, long, sinuous fingers close to hers. In an impulsive move, she suddenly reached over and placed her hand on his, rubbing over it. "It'll be alright."
He stared at her hand and Hermione jolted as she felt his thumb running gently but distractedly over her forefinger.
"I was always prepared to die. It was always something which my mind had reconciled itself to. After ... she was gone ... it seemed a natural progression. But, I confess, now ... I do not wish to go."
He raised his eyes and looked at her.
And then it came to her, so blindingly obvious she couldn't believe she had not realised before. Hermione sucked in a breath and stared down again at their conjoined hands.
He waited for her to continue.
She swallowed hard. "I know what it is. I know what it is we have to do."
She couldn't say the words and knew her face was puce.
"What?" he asked softly, daring her to voice what she thought he too suspected.
Hermione did not speak. She looked to him again, almost holding her breath.
And then slowly, hesitantly, she leaned in, bringing her mouth closer, closer to his.
She dared not look anywhere but at his mouth. Severus let his tongue flit out over his lips, dampening them. So close.Hermione brought her head further into him. Her heart was pounding, her blood coursing furiously round her head. Her skin tingled, her belly writhed.
Closer. Only an inch away.
"What in Merlin's name do you think are you doing?"
Propriety, convention and history crashed down suddenly on them both. The promise of contact vanished. Severus stood violently, pushing his chair back loudly and pacing away from her. Hermione turned away, crushed with embarrassment. "Sorry, I'm sorry. It was stupid, stupid of me. I just thought ..."
"Yes, well, not that. It's not that. Don't think that."
There was silence.
The two of them remained in the room. He stood, back turned, almost at the door. The atmosphere was so tense Hermione hardly dared breathe. "Sorry," she mumbled again.
Not a sound.
"But ..." she ventured.
"Miss Granger! Three months ago you were a student in a school where I was Headmaster! Fifteen months ago I was your teacher. What you are suggesting is not feasible!"
"But ... it might be the only way."
"Well, if that is the only way, then ... I will have to suffer my fate."
And he marched from the room, slamming the door behind him.
Hermione sat, head in hands. She could not remember embarrassment like it. But more than that. She gripped her hair tightly. She was disappointed.
She tried to avoid him the next day. It was not hard. He had gone out before she got up and was nowhere to be seen. She too busied herself by going shopping and seeing friends, their laughter and conversation distracting her from the unsettling night before.
She returned back to his flat in the late afternoon and again found it deserted. Again, it depressed her.
Going into the kitchen, she boiled a kettle without magic and stood waiting for her tea to brew.
She heard the pop of Apparition in the living room. Footsteps began to head towards the kitchen. She turned cautiously.
Severus appeared in the doorway and was clearly startled to see her.
"Hello," she murmured, managing a hesitant smile.
He averted his eyes. "Hullo."
"Would you like some tea? The kettle's just boiled."
"Very well." He glanced up. "Thank you."
She made his tea silently, expecting him to leave the room. He didn't and after handing it to him she went out into the living room and sat down. She was surprised when he followed and came and sat opposite her.
"About last night ..." she began.
"It doesn't matter. Let's not speak about it."
She took a sip. So did he.
"Good day?" she asked with exaggerated brightness.
"I was on the advisory panel for the appointment of an apprentice in the Magical Development Department of the Ministry. Some paperwork had gone missing. We had to find it."
"Stop bloody saying right!"
He huffed and took a gulp of tea before replacing it on the saucer so hard it sloshed over his hand. "Bugger," he hissed.
"What?" he spat.
"Look. I know it was difficult, but what if it's the only way?"
"I told you: I will not consider it."
She was silent for a moment but then dared again. "Perhaps just a ... kiss."
He simply frowned.
"That may be enough."
At least this time he didn't speak.
"I don't mind," she dared.
His face twisted with indignation. "Thank you so very much!" he retorted bitterly, standing up.
"I didn't mean it like that."
Severus stood rigidly in the room, fists clenched.
But now Hermione was sure this needed to be done. Her motivation was strong. She would save him. If it meant a little snog with her ex-teacher, so be it. That was the only reason she was doing it, she told herself. To save him. That was all.
She stood again and moved closer to him. "Severus. Come on. Just a quick kiss. It's worth a try. It doesn't mean anything."
He darted his eyes to her. She held his stare defiantly, as if by doing so she could convince herself she meant it.
He sighed a little, crossing his arms, then awkwardly, his mouth tense, he took a step into her.
Suddenly, Hermione was so self-conscious she could hardly breathe.
"Umm ... OK ..." It felt as if she was attempting a complicated surgical procedure.
Bringing her hands awkwardly up to his shoulders, she placed hesitant fingers on them and found herself rising up on her toes to reach him. He did not move at all and his brows remained furrowed with apparent displeasure. Did he really find her so repulsive?
She stared at his lips. This time they remained tightly sealed, tense, a thin red line. She wished he would just relax them a bit. Her tension grew.
But, tightening her resolve, she reached in and closed the last distance between them.
His lips remained firmly shut, pursed and defiant. She pressed her own against them. But her conviction had deserted her and she felt her own lips hard and ungiving. She might as well have been kissing a stone statue. She remained there for a few seconds in the desperate hope that perhaps some magic was feeding through to him.
Severus remained defiantly stock still the entire time, his arms still crossed before him.
At last Hermione stepped back, her face bright red, but determined to treat it simply as a means to an end.
"There," she said, as if it had gone perfectly. "Done."
"How do you feel?"
"It didn't work?"
"Of course it didn't bloody work."
She sighed. "Well ..."
"This is intolerable. I am not putting up with this ridiculous charade for a moment longer!"
And once again, Hermione was left alone as Severus stormed from the room.
As Hermione lay in bed that night, she thought back over the incident. It hadn't exactly been a scintillating kiss. He may have been resistant and passive, but she hadn't been much better. But his attitude grieved her more. He could have been a little more reciprocating — couldn't he? They were, after all, trying to save his life. Squeezing her eyes shut to try to get some sleep, she pictured his face before her. She remembered the moments of eye-contact between them, the times when they had teased each other. She had liked them.
His resistance to her was not only frustrating, it was upsetting.
She cursed him yet again. Was she so ghastly to be with? Was he only tolerating her presence reluctantly? He had asked for her help. Was a little kiss too much to ask? Perhaps it was.
The next day he hardly spoke to her. She was determined not to give up on him but was unsure how to approach him now. After lunch, which they had eaten separately, she went into the living room and found him there, sitting reading the Daily Prophet.
"Aren't you going out?" he asked tetchily, not looking up.
"I wasn't going to."
"You should. It's a nice day."
"Well, so should you then. We could go together."
"No. Thank you." He stressed the last two words cynically.
"Severus, don't be so stupid! I am trying to save your life you know!" she huffed. With that he stood up, flung the newspaper down and strode off.
"You're the one who asked for my help!" she shouted as he passed her.
Severus stopped and turned, glaring at her. "I didn't think it would entail that."
"But you must admit it makes sense."
He couldn't answer.
"I mean ... it was hardly the most ... intimate kiss, was it? Perhaps we should have ... you know ..." She flailed her hands around vaguely.
"No, I don't know."
"Well, I mean ... perhaps it should have been a bit more ... well ... passionate."
"Passionate?"He looked aghast.
"Yes! I mean you weren't exactly engaging with me. I might as well have been kissing a mackerel!"
"Yes! Why couldn't you have been a bit more relaxed? Let yourself go a bit? I was willing to."
"Because ..." He stepped towards her, coming remarkably close, and stared fiercely into her eyes, his temper bristling. "It is ... you."
"Yes — you — Miss — Granger."
She blanched, but was deeply hurt by his insult. "What do you mean?"
"I can't kiss you. I can't be intimate with you!I used to teach you! You used to sit in my class with your hand permanently stuck in the air, demanding attention, forcing yourself on my time, your frantic hair and your prying eyes hounding me wherever I went!"
"Oh, thanks! So you'd rather die than give your ex-pupil a quick snog! Am I that repulsive, Professor Snape?"
He raised himself tall, staring down his nose at her, but did not speak.
She continued, ever more passionately exasperated. "Well, you know what ... fine! Suit yourself! Why would I want to snog my long-haired bullying git of a teacher anyway? You, with your bloody patronising drawl of a voice, your damn bloody black stupid frock coat and all those bloody annoying ridiculous bloody ... buttons!" She was staring rather intensely at all the bloody buttons.
Their breathing was deep, their nostrils flared. Both stood, arms crossed, a mere foot apart. They could feel the air sparking between them, smell the aromatic scent of potions and perfume mingling intoxicatingly. She glared, her brown eyes ferocious. He fixed her with his own dark eyes, narrowing them. He swallowed.
And then they were at each other.
He took her head suddenly and desperately in his hands and plunged his mouth brutally down onto hers.
She would have been taken aback if her own movement hadn't been so in tune with his. She twined her fingers in his black hair and held him hard into her, opening her mouth immediately and letting his tongue search into hers.
That coiling need in her belly now writhed frantically, finally revealing itself for the lust it had always been. They went for each other's mouths as if months of longing and need had been building to this moment. Hot and open, they explored and kissed with frantic desperation. Hermione pressed her entire length against him, feeling his long, hard body beneath her.
He tasted so good, so different to what she had imagined but so perfect for what she had hoped. She couldn't get enough of him.
They could not remove themselves from each other and he clasped her head so hard it hurt, but she only wanted more. She pulled him as tight against her as she could, opening wide for him to taste all she was; his tongue swept along hers while his teeth grazed her lips. He was pressing into her so hard she was forced back now and soon came against the table with a thud.
At length, they needed air, and with the juddering gasp as he finally tore himself from her mouth, only to plunder her neck, she breathed out, "That ... might be ... adequate ... you know, for the magic ..."
"Adequate ..." he breathed, barely audibly, as his lips sucked at the skin of her throat.
"Perhaps ... just a little ... more ..."
And she pulled him up to her mouth again. She could feel his hand fumbling down, reaching under her top and pulling it up. Severus found her breast and cupped it, plying the flesh through her bra.
"That ... may help ... maybe ..." she sighed before devouring him yet again.
His hand had worked itself inside her bra and cupped a naked breast while long fingers closed around the nipple.
"Oooohh ..." she moaned, pressing into him yet harder, words deserting her. Her hands were on his coat now, desperately trying to undo all those bloody ridiculous buttons. She tore at them, yanking her head reluctantly from his as she struggled to undo them. His breath was hard and desperate, his eyes glazed with desire.
"Do you think, perhaps, that is passionate enough?" He had lifted her top over her head and was unhitching her bra. As she helped him pull it off, his mouth immediately descended to her breast and he tugged a nipple hard into him, laving and sucking at it with frantic need.
"Perhaps ... I suppose that might be enough ... do you think ..." But in the next instant she had muttered a wandless spell to rid him of his coat and the shirt beneath. He was now naked from the waist up.
She let out a moan of unadulterated delight and pushed him away from her breast for a moment in order to plunge her lips and teeth onto his taut pale torso. She kissed and licked and nipped it as if she was starving. "Beautiful body ... I didn't know you had such a beautiful body ..."
He drew her back, but only to continue plundering her mouth while cupping both breasts in his hands and plucking the nipples so hard they stood to pert attention under his fingertips. "That is probably enough ... we could stop now ... if you wish ..." But his body told a different story to his voice which in itself was deeper and huskier than she had ever heard it.
"Yes ..." she panted between penetrating kisses. "Fine ..." She was undoing his belt. "Stop ..." He helped undo his trousers while she quickly wriggled out of her underwear, keeping her skirt on in her desperation.
He glanced down while she pulled it up around her hips, his eyes creasing as he saw her naked and open. Hermione propped herself up a little, so desperate for his touch that she grabbed his wrist and drew his hand between her legs. "But then again, maybe you should try ... something like this ..." His fingers swept along her, gathering up her wet desire and teasing her swollen clit. She moaned, grinding onto his fingers. "Yes, yes ... that'll help, definitely ..."
But they both needed more, and he reluctantly stopped his finger-tip exploration of her pussy to rid himself of his trousers. Any previous astonishment was nothing to the wide-eyed amazement which hit her as they fell to the ground. His cock rose towards her immediately without the sheath of underwear, larger and longer than any she had previously seen. She grabbed his shoulders and dragged him down to her again. "Perhaps ... just a little more ... to be on the safe side ..."
Severus lifted her onto the table, drew her left leg up around his hip, locked into her eyes, and plunged into her.
"Fucking hell!" she exclaimed, unaware she had said it.
He filled her so completely and suddenly her back arched and her head fell back. He immediately pulled out and then thrust fully back into her, making her back buckle again.
"More ..." she pleaded. He did it again, this time accompanied by his own groan of deepest pleasure.
And so they fucked each other, right there on his table. He ploughed along her, one hand holding her leg up to ease his pounding entry into her tight heat, the other gripping a breast while rolling a nipple between thumb and forefinger, causing her to moan with abandon.
"Severus ... Severus ..." Her head was back, her body was given over entirely to him. "Want you, want you ... have wanted you ... so long ..."
He groaned, pulling back to study himself as his cock withdrew before sinking into the deep heat of her tight pussy time and again. He moved his hand to her clit and rubbed and stroked it in tune with the plunges of his cock. She lifted her legs herself and curled them around his waist, holding him as deep into her as possible.
Hermione forced her head up to lock eyes with him. "Yes! Yes, there ... that's it ... you're so good, you're so fucking good ..."
He could not hold back any longer. She clenched her pussy tight on him, causing his face to twist with sharp pleasure. He was desperate for his release, for his deliverance into this extraordinary woman who he had desired for longer than he dared admit.
"Hermione ... Hermione ... come, come ... please ..."
She reached up as best she could in her delirium and grabbed onto his arm. Still he stroked along her, his cock completing her, his fingers plying her clit perfectly. Her eyes widened, fixed into his, and then creased as if she was in pain. But her face only reflected the contortion of smothering pleasure. Her mouth opened, silent at first, but then she released a long cry, a wail as her orgasm tore through her.
And almost immediately he joined her. Severus came so hard he had to dig brutal fingers into her hip to steady himself. His seed burst into her fast, propelled with the ferocity of his pleasure. And as he came he groaned her name deep, taking her ecstasy and feeding off it as much as his own.
At first they simply stayed as they were: Hermione bent back, half-lying; Severus leaning over her, supporting himself, one hand on her hip, the other on the table. They did not speak, and the only sound in the otherwise still air was their recovering pants.
Then, mutually, they slumped to the floor, somehow managing to stay joined, and continued their recovery on the Persian rug beneath them.
Hermione laid her head on his chest, curling her fingers around him, thinking only of the experience of body and flesh and skin they had just shared. She closed her eyes, listening to the steady beating of his heart under her ear, so at peace, so content, that she almost allowed sleep to claim her.
"It has worked."
Hermione opened her eyes at his voice. She felt it throbbing into her from his chest as much as she heard the sound.
"I am cured."
At last she focussed back in. She had been so completely taken over by the pleasure of his body that the original purpose of all that had started this had been forgotten. But now, it forced itself back to her with a joyous leap.
She raised herself off him slightly, searching his eyes for confirmation. "What?" She could say nothing else.
"I feel it. Something inside. The degeneration has stopped. I feel ..." He grinned a little, his eyes bright. " ... new."
"But ... I thought we'd have to repeat the magic as well. I thought we'd have to do spells and potions in addition ..."
"No. It was enough. Youwere enough."
Hermione felt her eyes dampening. "Severus ..."
He reached over and stroked her unruly hair, even more unruly after their vigorous coupling, from her face. "Thank you."
She thought back to all she had read over. "When two are conjoined of mind and soul, when two share as one, the true magic will have fruition.It seems so obvious now."
"You did only suggest a kiss ... That was slightly more than a kiss." She could feel the low rumble of a restrained laugh in his chest.
"Thank Merlin you didn't try thatwith your healer!"
His laughter grew stronger. "Indeed. You should have seen him. He was at least eighty-five, practically bald, with two warts on his nose and putrefying halitosis."
She giggled before turning her head into his chest. "Urgh! Stop it! That is foul."
They lay still for a while longer.
"Conjoined of mind and soul, Severus. And body."
"What we have just shared meant the coming together of all those things."
"Is that a coincidental use of the term 'coming together'?"
He laughed a little and held her tighter.
She continued, "I thought you hated me. I certainly didn't think you, you know ... fancied me." The word sounded so juvenile when directed at him. She blushed. "I thought that's why you wouldn't even kiss me."
"For a woman of such startling intelligence, you do astound me with your lack of insight at times, but then," he mused, "I astound myself with mylack of insight at times. I wouldn't kiss you as I was terrified to admit my feelings. And I feared that if we kissed ... I would not be able to stop myself. But then, as it turned out, that was indeed the case."
"And thank Merlin for that," she grinned, reaching up to kiss him with staggering sensuality once again.
Hermione shifted a little. The floor beneath them started to assert its hardness; they were becoming uncomfortable, but didn't want to move away from each other.
"And now what, Miss Granger? You have achieved what I asked of you. You are free to go."
She turned her head and looked up into his eyes, resting her chin on his chest. "I am, I suppose. I could go back to my lonely lattés in Starbucks and my occasional forays along Diagon Alley. I could go back to my parents' house, far from anyone and leave you alone. Let you have this flat back to yourself ... let you get on without having that infuriating Gryffindor know-it-all pestering you all the time in your own home."
"Hmm ..." He lay still, staring up at the ceiling. "Or, alternatively ..." he drawled.
"We could move into my bed now and stay there for the foreseeable future."
And that is precisely what they did.
Personally, if I were Hermione, I'd just make sure I administered the cure for a very long time to come, just to be on the safe side.