"You have got to be kidding me," Hermione muttered, tossing her letter onto the table at Grimmauld Place where she'd been living with her friends for the past year after Harry had defeated Voldemort.

"What?" Ron asked through his mouthful of food. Breakfast had just been served and he shoveled it down quickly.

"Dumbledore thinks that I should share the position of Potions instead of Transfiguration. He says they may have found another teacher who's better qualified than I am, but they're still looking for another potions master."

"Too bad you'd have to share the position with Snape."

"I know. I do remember Potions and I did get an O on the NEWTs, but I don't really want to be emotionally assaulted every day. On the other hand, I have dealt with it for the past nine years."

"What're you going to do?" She paused and watched Ron eat for a minute.

"I'll just have to take the job. I'm sure there'll be many jobs I take that aren't with the most reasonable people. Better to practice with someone I already know and understand."

"Yeah, as an arch enemy."

"No. You're confusing Harry and me again. Snape and I tolerated each other for years. We can do it again."

"If you want to." He stood up and placed his dishes in the sink. "I gotta go pick up Luna from her dad's house. She went to get some of his stuff before the Ministry ransacks the place."

"Go have fun with your girlfriend. I have to respond to this letter." She had been pacing the room and sat down to the parchment she'd already laid out.

After penning out a quick response, she sent it back with the owl it came with. Hopefully, Dumbledore would want to speak to her immediately after he received the note. And hopefully, it wouldn't take very long for the note to be received.

Breakfast was slow because she could hardly keep anything down. A few hours had passed and she decided to take a shower. There was no point being dirty in front of her new employer. As she stepped through the rippled shower door, a note appeared on the counter next to her. She frowned and looked at her reflection in the mirror. Picking it up, she opened the folded sheet of paper.

Come see me immediately,

Your peer, Severus Snape.

Immediately, she got dressed and Flooed to the potion master's private quarters. He had said immediately, after all.

"Severus?" she asked the empty room. "Professor Snape?" A small sound from the left made her look up. She walked across the room until she got to a hallway. The cardboard boxes lining the walls down to a door moved a few inches towards her. A large figure at the end of the line grunted.

"Professor Snape?" She made her way forward cautiously.

"Ah. Miss Granger. I hoped my note would be received soon." He stood up fully, a black shape again the flickering light behind him.

"I came as soon as I read it. And I should appreciate it if you would call me Hermione. We are, after all, colleagues."

"Of course." He took a few steps forward and bent down to open the next box. "These are the new supplies for this year's students. I'd be very grateful if you'd help me label the boxes before the headmaster gets here."

"You sent me a note proclaiming urgency because you wanted help organizing school supplies?"

"No. I sent you a note proclaiming urgency because Dumbledore would like to speak to the two of us together. He sent me a note proclaiming urgency and I thought it would be prudent if you might help me while we wait," he said, looking up at her from behind his hair.

"So the notes proclaiming urgency were started by Dumbledore?"

"Yes." After identifying what he was looking at, he reached over to her and grabbed a black marker near her feet. She shifted and moved. "My apologies," he mumbled.

"No problem," she said, bending down with him.

"Ah, I see my star pupils are getting along just fine. This meeting may not take as long as I planned." Both of them turned to look at the man striding towards them and stood.

"Hello, Professor Dumbledore. I'm glad to see you in good health again," Hermione said.

"Yes, yes. Of course, it is due to you I'm still here. Thank you again for the lovely healing potion you made."

"Of course, I learned from the best."

"Perhaps."

"Can we please skip the pleasantries and move on to the reason you're here, Headmaster," Severus said, interjecting.

"Of course. You may be wondering why Minerva and I decided to pair the two of you up."

"Not really," Severus said.

"A little," Hermione answered.

"Yes, well, we think your personalities are wonderfully similar and beneficial to the students." Severus's head tilted to the side in confusion.

"Why are you pairing teachers up anyway?" Hermione asked.

"Ah, yes. Well, as you know after the war, the wizarding economy went into a steep decline. Not many people have jobs due to previous alliances and everybody is watching their back. We think that having two teachers in every class will help stimulate the economy, help the students and bring more fame to Hogwarts," Dumbledore explained.

"Makes sense."

"That still doesn't explain why Miss Gra—Hermione and I are teamed up."

"Miss Granger is very knowledgeable on the subject of Potions and, to be frank, nobody else was willing to take the position. Also, Minerva and I think your two personalities will go together splendidly." Hermione tried to stifle her laughter and barely succeeded. Dumbledore smiled at her attempt.

"I took the job. We'll get along fine. What else do we need to talk about?" she asked.

"Living arrangements. Both of you will live here, in Professor Snape's personal quarters and share his old office. We have no more room in the castle and all teachers are sharing living quarters."

"But there's only one bedroom, Albus. You can't expect me to share—"

"Oh, look at the time," Dumbledore said, glancing at his pocket watch. "Almost time for lunch. Do excuse me." He stood and walked to the door. "Oh, and congratulations on the job, Miss Granger. We're very pleased to have you."

"Thanks," Hermione mumbled. The door closed softly behind him.

Severus groaned. "Are you okay sleeping in the same room with a man ten years your senior?"

"Of course. I've known you half my life. Whether or not I trust you is a completely different story."

"Trust me? Trust me to not do what? Rape you in the middle of the night?" He laughed. "There's no chance of that. I might wake up and forget you reside here as well, killing you before realizing who you are."

"I don't think that will happen."

"Why not?"

"You'll see. Or you could ask Dumbledore." He followed her into the storeroom.

"What are you talking about?"

"Ask Dumbledore." She'd started alphabetizing boxes on the floor, levitating them and putting them in the right order.

"Why can't you explain it to me?"

"Because I'm not supposed to."

"Not supposed to? At least give me some sort of hint, woman." He'd walked up behind her and was waiting. She turned to find him little more than a foot away.

"Well, when I was in third year, McGonagall gave me a time turner, you know. So I could get to all my classes."

"Yes, I am aware of that."

"Yes, well, I went ahead in time and, despite most of it being pretty blurry and undefined, there was something that was very clear. Something that should be happening fairly shortly." She took a small step back and found the shelf to her back.

"And what happened? Does it involve me?"

"Ask Dumbledore. I have to say, I've warmed up to the idea rather well. Scared me when I first figured it out."

"And why can't you tell me again?"

"I'm not supposed to."

"Uh huh. And now I have to go ask Dumbledore because you're being silent."

"Yes." She smiled as he sighed.

"You are evil, woman. Fine, I'll talk to him about it at lunch."

"Okay." They stood staring at each other, less than a foot apart now. She didn't know how. Hadn't she taken a step back?

Severus cleared his throat and stepped away, tripping on a box. "Yes, well, I suppose you ought to, um, go back home and get any necessities." She tried not to laugh.

"Of course. It should only take me a few minutes."

"Do you think you'll need any help?" he asked. She smiled. Severus Snape; trying to be helpful and social.

"No. I don't think so. If I do, I won't hesitate to ask."

"Okay. Well, then, farewell," he said, watching her walk to the fireplace.

"Goodbye, Severus."

"Goodbye, Hermione."

She returned a few hours later, with nothing but the small, beaded bag she always kept with her. Severus poked his head out of the hallway for a moment,

"Did you get everything you need?" he asked from his position, sitting on the floor.

"I'm certain I'll have to go back later, but I should be fine for at least a few weeks."

"Oh, good. Here. I'll show you around the place." He stood up, dusting his hands off on his pants. He met her at the end of the couch which faced the fireplace.

"Next to the fireplace is a door. See it? It leads straight out into the corridor. I'll show you where it is later so you can get back in.

"Through this curtain is the bedroom and bathroom. Albus let me put a second bed and lamp in there for you. If you don't like it, you can obviously change it.

"Back there is the kitchen. Sometimes in the morning, you have to run the tap for a minute to get hot water. And be careful of this bar stool. If it gets angry, it'll kick you off. Literally." Hermione wasn't sure if he was joking or not. Either way, she best avoid it.

"You've seen the storeroom and right through that door at the end is the classroom and our office." She liked the way he instantly switched it to 'our' office.

A clock on the wall above the kitchen sink boomed twice and then sat silent.

"Time for lunch. If you'd like, I could help you unpack before we leave," he offered.

"No, it's alright, Severus. I'll just do it when we get back."

They walked in silence to the Great Hall. Hermione noticed he'd been very helpful and nice while she'd been there. She wondered why. He wouldn't get much out of being nice. Maybe he'd talked to Dumbledore while she'd been at Grimmauld Place. She doubted it. He'd been nice before that, too. Not to mention his undoubtedly strong reaction.

All the teachers were sitting at a round table sat in the middle of the room and the two of them sat together in the seats closest the door. Minerva, who was sitting on Hermione's right, leaned over.

"How's it been so far?"

"Pretty good. Nothing interesting's happened. Although, he has been a bit nicer."

"He's been that way all week. It's a little unnerving, is it not?" The two laughed and caught a curious look from Severus.

"What would you say the time-frame is?" Minerva asked.

"About a week. Seven to eight days. Give or take. It has to be before the date I saw."

"Of course. I hope it's sooner rather than later. We all think he needs someone he can at least confide in."

"We? Who else feels this way?" Hermione stared at her old teacher in horror.

"Oh, just Dumbledore, myself, and a few other colleges. I'm sure you can figure it out soon enough. They're all staring at you."

Sure enough, about for other professors were watching Snape's every move.

"I hope you aren't upset," she said. Hermione shook his head.

"I'm not upset. Nervous and worried, yes, but not upset. I don't think I'll be able to eat. Please excuse me." She stood and placed her napkin next to her empty plate. Severus stood as well, excusing himself and following her out of the room.

She sat on the stairs leading to the dungeons and placed her head in her hands. Severus stood in front of her, not sure what to do, but feeling responsible. She was his college after all.

"What's wrong?" he finally asked. She gave a little laugh and sighed, looking up at him.

He had his hair tucked behind his ears and his head was tilted to the side a bit. Something about him was just humorous.

"Severus Snape; worried about someone else? My, isn't this a splendid surprise?" Both of them turned in shock, to find Rita Skeeter standing there, quill and notebook in hand.

Severus was quick to put up his facial mask and stepped forward an inch or so, letting Hermione compose herself.

"I thought you were banned," he said, sneering at her.

"The ban wore off when I quit working for the Profit."

"Who do you work for now? I see you still have your quill. Miss the glass jar already?" Hermione asked. Skeeter ignored her and turned to Snape.

"I was wondering if I could talk to you alone," she said, eyeing Severus as if he were a candy treat.

"What for?"

"Just some—planning. For another interview, you know."

"I'm not interested." He motioned to Hermione with a flick of his head and descended the stairs to his office. Skeeter followed them quickly.

"But I'd really like to print a continuation of our last meeting. It got wonderful reviews."

"Okay, let me put this plainly. I am not interested in you or your newspaper."

"Not interested in me? It's not as if you have any more options." Skeeter smirked and put her hand on her hip. Severus turned around to look at Hermione.

"As a matter of fact, I do happen to have other options. Do you want to wait in the office while I sort her out?"

"Yes, please," Rita pleaded, batting her eyelashes. Hermione rolled her eyes and smirked at Severus. His eyes softened.

"I'll be waiting," she said as she walked away.

"Are you seeing that Mudblood?" Skeeter asked.

"Never call her that again," he warned. "Or I shall curse you to your grave and back." He growled, staring her down with a hardened gaze. His hand rested on his wand.

"So, how's your relationship really going? Are you just in it for the power? Or the sex?" She stepped forward and Severus glared.

"Get out! I do not want to see you again! You will stay away from Hermione and me. I shall come after you if you don't, I promise you that," he growled, pushing her from the room.

"Threats don't scare me, Severus," Rita said, standing at the doorway.

"They should. And it's Professor Snape." With that, he closed the door behind her and grumbled his way into his storeroom where he haphazardly opened boxes and labeled them, cursing Skeeter under his breath.

"Severus?" he heard Hermione say.

"Yes?" He looked up at her.

"I just wanted to say thank you for what you did. You didn't have to and I'm sure your public image just decreased tenfold." He turned around slowly, kneeling on the floor.

"To someone who insults children every day and is known as the local vampire, yelling at Rita Skeeter child's play. If anything, I should be thanking you. Who wants to be protected by the overgrown bat?"

"You aren't an overgrown bat."

"And you aren't a Mudblood."

"Touché." There was silence for a minute and Severus hung his head.

"Thank you. For everything," he said softly, trying to portray the emotions he felt. He really wasn't very good at it, but she understood.

"Oh, you're welcome. I didn't do much, though. In fact, I think we only made it worse." She threw her arms around his neck and sat in front of him. His arms slowly wrapped around her waist to comfort her.

"What do you mean? Worse?"

"She's going to run and print something about us sleeping together and then we'll have to make a public statement saying we're not and it's just going to get out of hand very quickly."

"Ah, yes, well, let us hope that day doesn't comes."

"Yes, please." She unwrapped herself from around him and took a few steps back.

"Wait. What do you mean I'm not an overgrown bat? I've heard you and Potter and Weasley call me that countless times," he said.

"Well, you do wear black often, but it's because you wear your formal robes all the time. Your hair is greasy sometimes, but that's from standing over potions for so long. That brings out a general aura of a lack of personal hygiene," she said. He scowled for a second before noticing her expression.

"Are you thinking of trying to get me to change?" he asked, wishing he could hide from her gaze.

"You're thirty! You could have women lined up at the door! Please, just let me try to keep you from becoming an old, lonely man."

"No. Absolutely not. I refuse."

"On what pretext? It won't hurt you. I might even be able to make it a somewhat pleasurable experience."

"No."

"Why?"

"Because."

"That's not a valid answer, Severus."

He was trapped now. He couldn't respond and she was backing him into the corner. Wasn't she supposed to be afraid of him?

"Please?"

"Uh..."

"Severus."

"Fine. But nothing extravagant and unnecessary, agreed?"

"Of course." She clapped her hands together in happiness. "Now, do you own any clothes other than robes?"

"Well..."

"Well what?"

"They're all black. And I'm not willing to get many other colors," he said, crossing his arms and trying to be scary. She smiled at his attempt.

"Severus. You know I got over being unnerved by that look long ago."

"Fine," he said, relaxing.

"Now, you're going to take a shower while I make a list of all the things I think we're going to need to do around here, okay?"

"Fine," He grabbed his pajamas and walked into the bathroom, closing the door behind him.

Hermione walked around the rooms, jotting down all her ideas in an empty notebook she carried in her bag. He had told her the truth about his clothes. They were almost all black, but somewhere gray. It was hard to tell if that was the original color or if they had faded. She decided he needed to go out and buy some new shirts. And pants. Ones without holes. She was just trying to figure out which shirts actually fit him when he came out of the bathroom.

"Oh, good," she said when she noticed him. "Which ones fit and which ones don't? Try on the ones you're not sure of."

He sighed and stuffed his used clothes into the hamper at the end of his bed. "As you command, dear," he said, emphasizing the pet name. "My pajama shirt doesn't fit anymore. You can take it," he said, throwing it to her. She barely caught it.

"Fine. I wonder if we could magically refit it..."

"Don't even try. Aren't we supposed to be 'stimulating the economy'?"

"True." She sighed and tried to think of something to do with it. Maybe she could hire someone to make a quilt of all his used clothing. Or give them to homeless or 'under privileged' people.

A few minutes later, he found her in the kitchen, rummaging through the cabinets. He watched her for a second, trying to think of how their living arrangements were going to work. He was used to living alone, although help wouldn't be under-appreciated. Having good hearty meals would definitely be useful. He knew that he wasn't exactly the healthiest man alive.

"Anything I can help you with?" he asked. She shook her head and didn't even look up.

"No. Did you try everything on?"

"Yes. Well, the ones I could fit over my head." He handed her a large stack of cloth. "These aren't going to function as clothing. Maybe scraps would be more suitable." She glanced at him for a second, showing him she wasn't appreciative of his remark.

"I assume you'll be fine if I throw them out or find a better use for them."

"Of course."

"So, me sleeping in these shirts is not something you would object to?"

"Of course no—wait, what?"

"I might as well." He looked shell shocked. "They most definitely will fit me and I am in need of some new pajamas."

"But they're entirely too large. How do you expect to wear them? You'll be swimming in them before long," he said, trying to regain some form of mental composure. An image of Hermione waltzing around their apartment in only his shirt and a short pair of shorts paraded across his mind.

"Well, I'll just not wear any pants. I'm sure these will serve as dresses, anyway." She set a list on the counter as he gaped at her.

"So, what's on this list of yours?" he asked, trying to change the subject. And direction, of the conversation.

"Just you and the rooms. You need sunlight, Mr. Pale."

"I get enough sunlight, thank you very much," he grumbled.

"Oh, really? I'm tanner than you are and I spend all my time inside, reading. You know that well enough."

"Fine. If I agree with you, can we end the conversation?"

"Of course."

"Then, I'll agree. You get to 'makeover' my life and you get to help me get our classroom ready for the hundreds of children who will parade through it."

"Of course. Now, go put all the clothes you're getting rid of in a trash bag."

"Why?"

"Because I can't just carry it around all in separate piles. I don't have more than two arms," Hermione said.

"Well, I could make—"

"No. I don't think it'd be great if I downed some potion when it'd be so much easier for you to just put it in a bag."

"True. Lead the way," he said.

"First of all, you're going to change into normal clothes. Muggle clothes, not robes."

"Fine. Whatever you want."

"You learn quickly," she said, starting to open the rest of the boxes in the storeroom.

Hours later, Hermione looked over at Severus and realized that neither of them had eaten some breakfast. If he ate breakfast.

"Are you hungry?" she asked.

"Not remotely," he snapped, continuing to catalog.

"Severus," she said. "Stop." He looked up.

"What?" he asked in annoyance.

"Are you hungry?"

"No—maybe."

"Thought so." He groaned and stood up to stretch. Hermione walked out into the main room to find something to eat. "Do you like Spanish Rice?"

"I'll eat it," he replied.

"What do you want to eat then? And real food, not junk and candy."

"I don't know. I don't really think about what I'd like to eat." He looked confused by the prospect of having to decide what to ingest.

"Well, what meals do you like? What if I made Kielbasa?"

"What the hell is that?"

"Polish sausage. You've never heard of it?"

"Is it edible?"

"Well, yeah."

"Is it poisonous?"

"No. Severs, put that down. No. Stop touching things." He'd picked up her duck napkin/salt and pepper holder. And nearly broke it.

"Fine. I can see I'm not wanted here. I'll just go back and try to shelve some mo—"

"No, you don't," she interrupted. "You're going to find me three potatoes. At least. Go to the kitchens if you have to."

He grumbled, but reluctantly went searching for the damned vegetables.

Half an hour later, the two of them sat down to a hearty dinner in the kitchen at the island. It was silent as they ate. Hermione was glad that he seemed to like the meal, even though he'd originally detested the idea of stomaching the unknown meat.

"Well, that was delightful. And after I finish the remaining dishes, I shall retire. I trust you'll have a good evening," Severus said when he'd finished, leaving her shocked.

"I understand you aren't inclined to make conversation with me, but I must insist you not do the dishes."

"On what pretext?" he asked, turning to face her and leaning against the sink behind him.

"I am the guest and you are already too over tired. Also, I thought you said I could have my way with the physical fixing of you."

"Physical—? Fine. Have your way. I have no energy to fight with you at this hour," he said, giving up ad retiring to their bedroom.

There was a moment of silence as Hermione filled the sink with water.

"Er, Hermione!" He shouted. "You may want to see this." She followed his voice.

"What is it now? Don't tell me Dumbledore played a—" She cut herself off immediately as she saw the damage.

"Yes, well…"

In the room lay a singled king-sized bed. The two twin beds were nowhere to be found. She looked over at Severus, who was holding a piece of stationary. He wordlessly handed it to her when she walked over to him.

Hermione —

Please accept this as an early present.

Dumbledore

"That damned bastard," she said.

"What does it mean?"

"I don't understand the question."

"Where is my bed?" he asked, crossing his arms.

"I have absolutely no idea. I'd suggest you ask Dumbledore," she said, trying to back out of the conversation.

He followed her out of the room and into the kitchen area.

"Why did he give us a bed and not two?" he asked, standing next to her as she continued to do the dishes.

"I have no idea."

"And what about it being an early present?"

"I'm as confused as you are."

"Miss Granger," he growled. She turned to glare at him. "Answer me."

She dipped her hands into the sink next to her and flung the soap bubbles at him.

"What the hell was that for?" he asked, flinging soap back at her.

"I told you not to call me that! It's Hermione!" She splashed him with water and ran around the island to avoid him.

The fight continued as both of them acted like children across the entire apartment. Somehow, they ended up on either side of the living room couch.

"Just give up. You know I'm going to win," he said, panting from the excursion.

"I have no intentions of giving up. I'm going to win this."

"Truce, then?"

"Hell, no. Knowing you, you're going to dump my head into the sink."

"Now, why would you think something like that?" he asked, sweetly.

"Because I know you, Severus," she responded.

"Oh, do you?"

"Of course. I've been watching you for the past ten years. All your little quirks have been uncovered. You can hide nothing from me," she said, proud of her knowledge.

He tried to edge around the couch towards her, but she moved away from him. Instead of following her, he leaped over the back of the couch and tackled her to the ground. She screeched and tried to push him away so she could get up and run.

"Oh, no. We're done. No more excess energy wasted," he panted.

"Deal," she said.

"Funny. Why do I not trust you?"

"Because you have no reason to. I haven't ever really done anything to make you trust me."

"True," he acquiesced.

"Care to help me clean up the mess we just made?"

"Not especially, but I suppose I should. After all, part of it is my fault." He sat up and leaned his elbow on his bent knee.

"Part of it? Half of it at least. I'm more inclined to say three quarters of it is yours," she argued.

"I disagree."

"Of course you do."

"What's that supposed to mean?" he asked, stopping himself from getting up.

"Exactly what it means."

"Oh, because that is so helpful."

"Yep. You're welcome."

He rolled his eyes and allowed her to stand.

The two of them cleaned the flat in record time, mostly due to magic. Hermione quickly finished the dishes and Severus got ready for bed.

"Are you all through with—" She froze in the doorway to their bedroom.

Severus was standing on his side of the overly large bed, trying to carefully remove his shirt. His left side had been torn straight down the middle. It no longer bled, but the strain was obviously taking its toll.

"Oh, my God. Severus, what happened?" she asked, running to his side and helping him with his shirt. "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine. Voldemort got a bit frustrated with my lack of knowledge towards the end of the war."

"Did Madame Pomfrey help you at all?" she asked, throwing his shirt onto the bed.

"Um…she doesn't really know much about it," he said, wincing.

She ran her hands along the cut, already imagining how much pain he must have been in.

"You healed it by yourself?" she asked

"I tried, yes."

"Why didn't you ask for help? It must have been very difficult to do it by yourself."

He only grunted in response.

"Lay down on the bed, please," she requested.

"What?" he asked.

"Just do it. You heard me," she said

"Why?"

"Just trust me. I'm going to help you."

She walked out of the room and returned seconds later holding a small blue bottle.

"What the hell is that?" he asked,

"Basically, just lotion."

"Lotion?"

"It'll help heal the…well, I'm not sure what made this."

"A knife. Stupid muggle artifact," he mumbled.

She sighed and pushed him towards the edge of the large bed. "Sit," she said. He complied and tried not to wince as she rubbed in the salve.

Hermione tried to get him to lie on his stomach, but he wasn't willing to give her that amount of power over him. She moved on from just his side to the scars on his chest. She finally convinced him to relax and let her do what she knew how to do.

There was a nasty cut across his abs that she tried to heal, but he wasn't letting her get near it.

"Severus. Stop."

"Don't…"

"Severus. You have to let me—"

"Hermione!"

He grabbed her wrist and took the bottle from her. She struggled against him.

"Give it back!"

"No. I told you not to!"

"You gave me no explanation at all! I'm just supposed to take your word for it?"

"Yes! You can't touch it!"

"And why ever not, Mr. Snape?"

"It's sensitive."

"Sensitive? Doubtful, Severus. I'm going to need an honest answer." She paused and crossed her arms.

He lay on his back, lotion held above his head, while she straddled his upper thighs. He knew she wasn't moving. Not until he satisfied her curiosity.

"Ask Dumbledore," he said.

"What?" Her arms fell to her sides.

"Ask Dumbledore."

"What for?"

"Well, you wanted to know why you couldn't touch them. Ask Dumbledore."

Her eyes narrowed.

"Oh, and that reminds me, Miss Granger. I didn't have time to ask him about your strange Time Turner experience. You'll have to tell me instead."

"Oh, no. No, no, no, no, no. Not happening."

He started to sit up and she got off his lap. "And why not?"

"Well, to be honest, I don't want to be the one to tell you. I don't really want to have to see your face when you put everything together."

"When I put what together?"

"You'll understand."

"Not soon enough, I'd say."

"You can wait a bit longer."

"Can I?"

"I do hope so."

"What if I don't want to?"

"Deal with it. What are our sleeping arrangements?" she asked, desperately trying to get him distracted.

She'd backed herself into a corner. He was standing in front of her, looming, staring down at her. Having him so close was bothering her.

"We'll have to share the bed," he said. "Now, what am I not supposed to be putting together?"

"Nothing of importance. If you'll excuse me, I'll be going to bed now," she said, trying—and succeeding—to get around him.

"I would appreciate it if you would merely explain yourself," he requested.

"Not a chance."

He sighed and they both went to bed unsatisfied.

When she woke up the next morning, she was alone. Severus had already left the bed and she couldn't hear him. She slowly sat up and got dressed for the day.

There still wasn't much food available for her to make into a good meal and the kitchens were closed, but she tried her best. After she placed the leftovers in the fridge, she heard a few noises coming from the storage room.

"Severus?" she asked, moving towards the sound. "Severus, are you here?"

"In here," he responded.

She glanced in the room and watching him for a second.

"Are you hungry? I made breakfast for you. It's in the fridge."

"I'm not hungry."

"Yes, you are, Mr. Grumpy. You need something to eat. You'll have no energy in four hours," she said, trying to help him to his feet.

"No. Hermione, stop."

"Severus. Get up. Now," she said, standing her ground. She knew he needed to start eating properly and soon.

"Fine," he muttered.

"And I know your feet were getting uncomfortable."

"Whatever you want to think, Miss Granger," he said.

"I think I remember something about telling you to call me Hermione, Severus."

"Ah, yes. In exchange for doing things for you, you get to do anything you want to me."

"That wasn't what I said. I specifically said—"

"I know what you said. I listen to you more than you think I do. Especially, since I'm now stuck in an apartment alone with you." He sat down at the table and started eating.

"I just want to help you. You know you need it."

"But I don't need it from the woman I'm supposed to be protecting!"

"I don't need you to protect me! I can take care of myself, you know."

"Barely," he mumbled through a mouthful of toast.

"Excuse me?" she asked, leaning towards him.

"Nothing. This is really good. What is this on the top?"

She knew he was trying to change the subject, but she didn't want to start the day off fighting with him.

"It's cinnamon sugar. It helps add flavor."

"Mmm. I like it," he said.

"Thank you."

They sat in silence for a while. She watched him eat for a few seconds before asking if he minded going with her to the muggle grocery store for more food. He agreed grudgingly when she said that he needed to get out of the castle.

"Can you be ready in ten minutes?" she asked.

"Of course. Can you?"

"Are you asking because I'm a girl and I'm supposed to take a long time to get ready?"

"Yes."

"Ah. Well, for future reference it does not usually take me longer than ten minutes to get ready for anything," she replied.

"Really? And the four hours spent fixing your hair for the Yull Ball doesn't count?" he said as he got up to place his plate in the sink. She stared at him and he turned to look at her when she didn't respond. "What?"

"How did you know I spent four hours trying to make my hair perfect?" she asked, slowly. He looked confused.

"Um, I'm actually not sure. Did you ever mention it?"

"No."

"Hmm."

They both stood contemplating the situation until Hermione remembered the shopping trip.

"I still need to get ready, so…" She trailed off and headed to the bedroom.

"Of course," he said.

A few minutes later, both of them were walking to the edge of Hogsmeade.

"Ready?" she asked. He glanced at her for a second. "I was just trying to be helpful."

"Helpful? Is that what you called stuffing me into these horrible Muggle contraptions called jeans?" he asked.

"Yes. I'm not taking you into London wearing robes. I'm trying to be inconspicuous," she explained.

"Fine," he mumbled. He didn't have the energy to have a proper row with her, so he opened his arms and let her wrap hers around his waist.

After the uncomfortable feeling of apparition, they landed in a small patch of trees that completely hid them from view. Severus almost slid on the muddy grass they were standing on. The hill wasn't helping his balance, either.

"Besides, the jeans aren't that bad, are they?" she asked, looking up at him.

"Well, no, but…" he said, trailing off.

"But what?"

"It's a guy thing."

"Yeah, okay," she said, deliberately stepping out of his embrace.

"What? Did you want me to give you all the details?" he asked, following her along the bottom of the hill.

"Probably not. Regardless, you're still whining like a child."

"I am not!" he protested as he caught up with her.

The tall trees around them shielded them from view and, subsequently, shielded everything from his view. All he knew was he was walking on a step hill next to a small creek. He looked into it for a few seconds, watching the green fish.

"You're pouting right now," she said.

"I highly doubt I'm—" He was cut off by the view in front of him.

A pond stretched across a small clearing in the trees. It was almost clear and from the top of the small crest they were standing on, the colored fish filled it and moved, the sun reflecting off it. A mother duck and her six ducklings swam near the edge. Tall trees framed the area, holes in their trucks where animals had nested.

Hermione loved this place. It was the only area of pure nature in the residential neighborhood. She'd taken immense pains to conserve the natural cycle. She'd added street lamps around the area to keep drivers alert. She'd found too many dead foxes who's been hit by cars. As far as she knew, this was the only area left that had wild foxes for miles.

"What is this place?" he asked softly.

"Just a place I found when I used to live over here," she said, just as quietly. "Look. Come here." She led him over to a small patch of plants at the end of the pond where it connected to the creek.

"Look here. Just stand here for a moment," she said. They waited a few moments and suddenly Hermione grasped his arm and pointed into the brush. "Do you see them?"

"Yes. Yes, I do," he said.

The plants had parted just enough to let them see through into a trampled down area in the middle. A mother fox lay on the ground, her babies rolling around each other.

"Aren't they beautiful?"

"You can't have one."

"I know. I'd much rather have them here, anyway."

After a few more minutes, she broke the silence. "Well, we still need to get food."

She led him around the pond and through the trees to the road.

"It's just down here. It won't take very long." He followed her into a small shopping mall and into a grocery store.

"Okay, I need you to get a basket from over there," she said, pointing. "Just pull it out." He walked over and complied, mumbling about being ordered around.

"What's next?" he asked.

"We pick out the food we want to eat for the next couple of days."

"So, just choose something that looks appetizing?" he asked.

"Pretty much."

"Okay."

She could tell he was very much out of his element.

"Think of it as a potion. What ingredients are going to make you happy?" He turned to look at her.

"If you think food and potions are the only things that make me happy, you're sorely mistaken."

"They do make you happier, though. Don't they?" She looked up at him and tried to steer him out of the way of an elderly woman.

"What makes you say that?"

"You loved the cinnamon sugar on your toast this morning. Don't deny it."

"Fine. Yes, I will admit that the breakfast you made for me was good." She smiled.

"That wasn't so hard was it?"

"Yes, it was."

She leaned over to him and wrapped her arms around his waist as she laughed.

"Why must you always try to be unpleasant, Severus?" she asked.

He looked down at the top of her head on his chest and realized it was the first time she'd ever hugged him outside of apparition.

"Do you like oranges?" she asked, still holding him.

"I'll eat them."

"What about apples?"

"Sure."

"Bananas?"

"No."

"Carrots?"

"Yeah."

"Lettuce and tomatoes?"

"Bother."

"Okay." And with that, she led him to each station, wrapping one or two items in a bag every time they stopped.

"What kind of meat?" she asked.

"Whatever you want."

She chose a small rack of ribs and some chicken. They went around the store in this way; she asked what he liked, he got whatever she wanted.

When it came to choosing feminine hygiene products, he wasn't as uncomfortable as she thought he would be.

"I lived with women all my life. I understand it's a cycle of nature that must be dealt with."

He insisted she let him pay for the food and necessities. Not that she didn't protest heartily along the way.

The second they got back, he disappeared into his store room and left her to put the things away. After she was done, she went to their bedroom and laid on the bed, already tired. A few minutes later, he walked in.

"Why are you in bed already?" he asked, coming to stand on the other side.

"I'm tired?" she mumbled.

"What? I couldn't quite catch that."

"Sleepy?"

"Hmm. Speak up if you want me to hear."

"Bugger off."

"Now, that I heard."

"Good."

He sat up on the bed and pulled his shoes off before getting under the covers.

"What are you doing?"

"Closing my eyes for a few minutes. I need to rest."

"A few minutes? You'll fall asleep."

"Shush," he said, pulling the blanket around his shoulders. "Stop talking."

"Fine," she huffed, not bothering to move.

Within minutes, both of them were fast asleep.