A/N-Woah…I was sort of joking when I said if we reached 400 reviews I would post ahead of schedule but you guys have blown me away with your kind words! 400th review came through at 22.19...it's now 22.31 and I'm about to post!The original plan was 1 a.m. so I kept my word!

Thank you all; I've been having a really hard time lately and your reviews give me warm, fuzzy feelings :-D

worrywart is the best beta in the world. She's a bloody lovely woman to boot and I don't know what I would do without her.

I'm going to put the rest of this note after the chapter…

Chapter 16-

Severus practically pulled the door off its hinges in his eagerness to see her. He was greeted with the sight of Hermione, smiling nervously at him.

Hermione lost all ability to form coherent sentences or to put one foot in front of the other when she saw the smouldering look in his eyes.

He peered around the doorway and glanced down the corridor to check that they were not being watched. When he saw the coast was clear, he extended his hand towards Hermione. Hermione gulped and took it tentatively. He pulled her gently into the room, closing the door behind her with wandless magic.

"So…" Hermione offered uselessly.

"So," Severus concurred with a smirk.

"What did you want to discuss?" Hermione threaded her fingers together nervously as she stared down at her hands.

"I can't seem to remember," Severus murmured, as he stepped towards her, the sound of his feet causing her to finally look up.

"Is there anything I can do to refresh your memory?" Hermione gulped at her own audacity. She couldn't quite believe the words that were coming out of her mouth.

Severus looked into her eyes for a moment before his eyes flickered down to her lips. He leant closer and whispered, "I'm sure you'll think of something," against her lips.

Hermione closed her eyes and kissed him chastely on the lips before pulling away with a mischievous grin. "Remember now?"

"It's still a little fuzzy," he teased with a smirk.

Hermione giggled softly before once more claiming his lips, a little more firmly this time. She pulled away and arched a brow at him questioningly.

"I believe it is beginning to come back to me, but I'm definitely in need of some further clarification."

Severus had barely finished speaking when Hermione wrapped her arms around his neck and pressed herself against him. She kissed him passionately, massaging his tongue with her own. He kissed her back with the same fervour, his hands sliding down her body as he pulled her closer.

He suddenly pulled away from the kiss with a groan and buried his head in her neck as he stilled his hands.

"Is it discussion time, now?" Hermione asked over his shoulder as she attempted to catch her breath.

"Mmmm," Severus rumbled into her skin before placing a gentle kiss on her collarbone.

"Should we…should we…sit?" Hermione stuttered nervously.

Severus withdrew slowly before taking her hand and leading her through a door behind his desk. After walking down a small, cramped corridor, they reached the door to Severus' chambers.

Hermione stilled and Severus turned to face her.

He noticed her anxious expression and brought his hand up to cup her cheek. "Are you alright?"

Hermione looked at him with watery eyes. "I'm- I'm just, I mean what are we doing? It's crazy. This is crazy, we are crazy!"

"Yes. It is completely insane and quite possibly the worst decision I have ever made, and coming from me, that is saying something," Severus grimaced. "I don't know what's going on here but I do know that I can't stay away from you. He took both her hands in his own, and continued, more seriously, "I can't live in this castle with you as things are; something needs to change. What that something is depends on how you feel-"

"You know how I feel about you, I-" Hermione interrupted.

"Not just how you feel about me, how you feel about your future, your reputation, and numerous other headache-inducing concerns." He looked at her longingly before a sad expression came across his face. "I have no idea what I am doing, I can't promise that you will get exactly what you want, I can't promise nobody will find out, but I can promise that I will do everything in my power to not hurt you." Severus awaited her reaction anxiously; this was the first time he had really broached the subject of her possibly not getting her way. He worried that she would have high expectations; that she would expect everything to be perfect now that he had embraced their connection.

Hermione smiled at him gratefully and squeezed his hands. "That's more than enough."

"Good. Now would you rather go back to my office? I admit I didn't consider how taking you to my private chambers might make you feel." Severus admitted quietly, as he furrowed his brow in concern.

"No, it's fine honestly. I just had a no-turning-back moment," Hermione confessed with a nervous laugh.

Severus opened the door and stepped back to allow her entry. As she slid past him he leant forward and spoke in the gentlest tone Hermione had ever heard him use. "You can always turn back; I will never hold it against you. You can turn back anytime."

"When you say things like that, how on earth could I?" Hermione said fondly, before bestowing a kiss on his cheek. She wandered over to his bookcase, eyeing his collection in awe. Hermione was so busy admiring the books that she didn't notice the slight reddening of Severus' cheeks.

"Would you like anything to drink?" Severus asked, as he shrugged off his cloak and draped it over the back of the armchair.

Hermione looked over and tried not to react to seeing him so underdressed. It was just like that day in the bookshop, and that was where it all started. "Just some water please," she called out as she returned her gaze to the books in the hope that their comforting presence could regulate her heartbeat.

Severus poured himself a double measure of Firewhiskey before getting Hermione a glass of water. As he fixed the drinks he began to ruminate on the situation he now found himself in. What in the bloody hell was I thinking? This is a bad idea, a terrible idea. What is wrong with me! He snarled at his internal worrying and marched back into the living area. Severus stopped in his tracks at the sight of Hermione curled up in his armchair reading a book.

Severus had never been very good at letting people in; his father wasn't interested, his mother gave up trying after a while and Lily...well he pushed her away. Seeing Hermione making herself at home in his personal space felt...nice. He was surprised by his reaction; he awaited the snide comment to fall from his lips, but it never came.

"Oh, sorry," Hermione shouted jumping up from the chair and closing the book simultaneously. "I couldn't help myself," she offered sheepishly, as she waved the book in the air.

"A sentiment I am all too familiar with these days," Severus answered with a strained smirk.

Hermione placed the book down on the coffee table and took the glass of water from his hand. "Thank you," she murmured, as she blushed.

Severus placed his Firewhiskey on the table before retrieving his wand and pointing it at the armchair. He murmured a spell under his breath and with a few rather complicated wand movements, transfigured the chair into a couch with room for two.

"Just like magic," Hermione joked wryly, as she took a seat.

Severus raised an eyebrow at her poor joke before picking up his Firewhiskey and joining her on the couch. He leant forward with his elbows on his knee and the glass cupped in both hands. He stared into the glass pensively.

"So...," Hermione reiterated uselessly before taking a sip of her water.

Severus remained silent; the only change in his demeanour was a quick side glance in recognition of her speaking.

Hermione stared into her own glass before leaning forward and placing it on the table with a sigh. "It's getting late; we should probably talk."

Severus nodded before knocking back his drink and placing the glass on the table.

"What's...what's happening here? I mean, what is this?" Hermione asked.

"You mean for once you don't already know all the answers?" Severus teased, but his tense mood added a degree of flatness to his words which made it seem like an insult.

Hermione bristled at the return of his familiar tone and sat up a little straighter.

"I'm sorry, it was a joke," Severus told her as he ran a hand through his hair.

She nodded warily.

"I think I need to work on my delivery," he deadpanned.

Hermione laughed at the irony of his perfectly delivered self-critique. "I think you're better than you think you are," she admitted, as she relaxed slightly.

"One can only hope," Severus bantered back.

Hermione was getting fed up of them dancing around the issue. She realised Severus was reluctant to open up to her so she decided just to go for it herself. "This is going nowhere, so I'll start," Hermione began in her bossy tone. "What's changed? Why are you now okay with this?" Hermione asked gesturing between them with her hands.

"Nothing has changed, it's still wrong. It's still a bad idea, and I'm still-"

"Stop," Hermione interrupted. "I'm not interested in listening to you chastise yourself again."

"Nothing has changed...I just...I can't...I can't stop it." Severus admitted, sadly as he avoided her gaze. I

"Do you want to stop it?" Hermione turned to face him, her heart plummeting to her stomach

"Yes...no...oh, I don't bloody know Hermione. I don't want to do this to myself, but most of all I don't want to do this to you, but then I see you and I seem to lose all sense of reason!" He turned to face her. "I am not a particularly nice man, and I don't have many friends, but you have come to mean a great deal to me, and the thought of not having you in my life in some capacity is...disconcerting."

"How romantic," Hermione teased with an eye roll.

"Coming from me, that is as good as it gets," Severus informed her.

"I find that hard to believ-"

Severus cut across her, "No, Hermione. There will be no declarations of love or future for us. I can only hope that we can-"

"What, so you don't want to be with me?" Hermione asked, confused.

"I do. I want to be with you more than anything. I want to be with you all the time. I just can't be in a real relationship with you, ever. It is my hope that nobody will ever know about this. It would ruin you." Severus admitted bitterly.

Hermione stared at him for a moment as she nibbled on her bottom lip. "Let me get this straight; you don't see any future for us. You refuse to be in an actual relationship with me, ever, but you won't fight this anymore. So what? You're happy with a quick fumble in the library?" Hermione's voice was a little shrill, and she stuck her chin out in the air proudly as she folded her arms across herself defensively.

"That's not what I meant-"

"Funny, that's what it sounded like!" Hermione stood up. "I think I should go, this is a bad idea."

"No, wait. We need to discuss this," Severus implored as Hermione headed for the door. "I will hand in my resignation."

Hermione stopped in her tracks and turned to face him. Her stance was still angry and defensive, but her expression was weary. "Why would you do such a thing?"

"Things cannot continue as they are now. It's not fair to ask you to listen to me lecture and put up with me treating you like a child when you know that's not how I think of you."

They stared at one another.

"How did you hope things would proceed?" Hermione asked. "If I hadn't taken offense, what was your idea of our immediate future?"

Severus shifted anxiously. "Honestly? I thought we could spend time together like we used to. Brewing, talking..." He looked up at her as he tailed off nervously.

"It didn't really seem like you had a platonic friendship in mind earlier," Hermione spat out in confusion.

"Sometimes, when two people who are attracted to one another spend time together, things happen; sometimes they don't. I thought we could just enjoy our time together in whatever capacity, and my primary hope was that we could get past this 'thing' between us and be friends." Severus picked up his glass and headed into the kitchen. He was surprised to see Hermione still standing there when he returned.

"So, what you just want to go with the flow?" Hermione asked incredulously, as she uncrossed her arms.

"At the risk of sounding like Trelawney, yes, I believe that would be best." Severus knocked back his second drink before placing it on the table.

"But there is no future for us?" Hermione asked, quietly.

"No; how can there be?" Severus answered sadly. "Think about it, do you really want to have your whole support network turn on you? Because I can tell you, Potter, Wesley, She-Weasley...none of them will ever accept me."

"I don't care," Hermione answered stubbornly.

"You would if it happened. Don't you want to be with someone your own age, who wants to get married and have children? I don't want any of that. All I want is your friendship...fumbles in the library are an added bonus," he added quickly with a smirk.

Hermione bit the inside of her cheek in an attempt not to smile, but failed miserably.

As if suddenly remembering the rest of his statement she sobered instantly. "You really don't want any of that?"

"I don't," Severus admitted, sadly.

"I do," Hermione countered, honestly.

"I know. What is more, you deserve all of that," he said as he rubbed his temples. "I hope you understand what I am trying to achieve by telling you all this. I respect you too much to not be entirely honest with you. I refuse to lead you to believe that this could ever go somewhere. "

Hermione wiped a stray tear away from her cheek. "I just don't see the point in prolonging this...won't it just hurt more when it ends?"

"Probably." Severus folded his arms, shielding himself from her tears.

"But...the thought of not having you in my life in some capacity is...disconcerting," Hermione admitted, throwing his own answer back at him.

"No need to be so sentimental," Severus teased.

"So, no more avoiding each other?" Hermione asked.

"Unless you want that, no." Severus uncrossed his arms and placed his hands in his pockets.

"So, we'll be friends, and you won't push me away?"

"Yes, and I promise I won't punish you for my complicated feelings by turning on you suddenly."

"So if we spend the rest of the school year drinking tea and brewing potions and never kiss again you'll be okay with that?" Hermione walked back over to the couch and sat down.

"Yes, I just can't stay away from you when we live in the same building." Severus returned to his own seat on the couch.

"And...and if I kiss you, you won't tell me to get out?" Hermione asked, as she stared at her lap.

"No, that would most definitely not be my reaction." Severus willed himself to stay calm as the impulse to kiss her began to build.

"And you do genuinely care for me?"

"The only thing stopping me from keeping you to myself for the rest of our lives is my own limitations."

"What would the alternative scenario be?"

"I would probably hand in my resignation and leave Hogwarts as soon as possible. I don't want that to influence your decision. You know I haven't been happy here; my resignation has been a long time coming."

Hermione nodded thoughtfully. "And you hope that in ten years time we'll be over this and be good friends?"

"Yes." Severus tried to focus, but he couldn't take his eyes of the way her lips moved as she spoke.

"So you'll be ok with seeing me in a relationship with someone else?" Hermione asked.

"If you are happy, I will be happy for you."

"And if I meet you for coffee and tell you I'm moving in with someone, you won't be jealous that I will be waking up with another man every day?"

"I can't answer that, but hopefully, I won't be jealous." Severus tried to answer calmly as a surge of possessiveness came over him.

"And you'll be able to watch me walk down the aisle and marry this future man?"

"Hopefully," Severus growled.

"And when you see his hand on my swollen stomach when I'm pregnant with his child, all you'll be thinking is 'I can't wait to be Uncle Severus?" Hermione taunted desperately.

"Of course I fucking won't," Severus growled before grabbing her and kissing her deeply. He trailed a few kisses down her jaw before whispering, "I will probably be consumed with jealousy, but ultimately happy that you are happy. I can't even think about these things because right now, I feel like you are mine. I need you to be mine."

Hermione kissed him desperately as he pushed her back until she was lying flat on the couch, and he was cradled between her legs.

"Gods," she moaned as he suckled at her collarbone.

"Mine," Severus stated before kissing her once more.

Hermione's hands gripped the back of his shirt as she felt his hands wrap around her thighs and pull them open slightly wider.

"Say it," he growled, as he nibbled on her ear.

"W-what," Hermione choked out, as she shifted her hips towards him.

"Say that right now, you're mine," he gasped, as he trailed kisses down her neck.

"Yours...only yours," she murmured frantically, before kissing him once more.

Their kisses continued for several minutes. Things began to grow more frantic as his hands ran up her sides and cupped her breasts gently through her top. It was when she began to thrust against him more firmly that Severus realised what was happening.

"Stop," he panted, as he pulled away.

"No," Hermione moaned deliriously as she tried to pull his lips back to her own.

"Yes, stop." Severus groaned, as he pulled himself back slightly. "This isn't fair; I didn't give you a chance to consider our discussion."

"I considered it, now kiss me," Hermione pleaded as she ran her hands over his shoulders and upper arms.

"No, you haven't considered it properly; sleep on it." Severus deposited a chaste kiss on her forehead before using all of his resolve to stand up.

He stared down at Hermione lying on the couch, legs slightly parted, hair dishevelled, chest heaving as she took deep breaths. Fuck; effortlessly sexual indeed, he thought as he looked away.

When he looked back a moment later she was sitting up, and he was painfully aware of just what part of his anatomy her mouth was level with. She looked up at him with faux-innocence, and he snarled before pulling her up to standing.

"Stop," he growled before kissing her deeply. "Go to bed, Hermione."

"Where is i-"

"Your bed, Hermione," Severus groaned at her playfulness, before kissing her forehead and walking away.

"We'll talk about this tomorrow," he said, once he was safely on the other side of the room.

"But tomorrow is Christmas; I don't want to have lots of serious, potentially upsetting things to discuss on Christmas," Hermione whined.

Severus smiled. "Fine, there will be no discussion tomorrow. We can either act as if today never happened, or we can continue with our reckless behaviour and worry about the future after Christmas."

"I'll take that second option," Hermione said with a smile.

"I was hoping you would say that. Now, go to bed," Severus smiled at her again.

"Ok...well...goodnight then," Hermione said awkwardly as she turned to leave.

Severus strode over to her and spun her round to face him. He leant down and kissed her gently, but sensuously. He pulled away ever so slightly and opened his eyes. "Goodnight, Hermione."

She smiled at him before opening the door.

"Will you get back okay?" Severus asked.

"I'll be fine. You just stay here. If I get caught I can always say I was stealing from your store cupboard."

"Funnily enough, I don't think anybody would find that difficult to believe," Severus offered with a raised brow.

Hermione giggled before making her way along the cramped corridor. "I can't imagine why," she called back playfully. "Night, Severus."

xxx

For the first time in a great many years Severus Snape went to bed on Christmas Eve too excited to sleep, wondering what surprises the day ahead would have in store.

A/N-

tumbleweed.

Okay, let's discuss this seriously.

I have always wanted this story to be different.

I have always wanted the character development in this story to be as realistic as possible.

Speaking as someone who has experienced a slightly inappropriate relationship with an older man in my teenage years, sometimes things just seem too difficult.

The two involved usually fight it as best they can, see that there is no future in it but constantly put themselves in situations where something will happen.

The man I had a relationship with was completely honest with me and told me, "If things were different, I could really fall in love with you." I can still hear the sincerity in his voice, and I don't doubt that he cared for me deeply. Sometimes you know things won't work out but that doesn't stop you wanting to experience them.

I don't think someone like Snape knows what he wants at this point in his life and I think it would take actually experiencing a relationship for him to know.

I also think it will be interesting in the following chapters to delve into Hermione's thinking a bit because you rarely read a story where she is reluctant to go public but I'm not sure she would be thrilled at telling the world she was in love with Severus Snape...at least not until she actually realised she couldn't live without him.

I've got the rest of the plot mapped out in detail…things are about to get smutty and I promise I will keep you guessing right until the very end.

Next Chapter- Have yourself a smutty little Christmas…

I can tell you it will be up in November...that is as specific as I can be lol.