A/N: Something for you to read while I'm busy being "responsible"... ugh.


Chapter 12: Not For Love Nor Money

At hearing the door slam, Severus glanced up from where he was sorting a stack of fifth-year essays to see his wife striding quickly toward her bedroom.

"Miss Granger?" he queried. "I did not expect you back quite so early."

"I don't have a class last period," she replied without looking in his direction, "and I just wanted to get a start on my homework before dinner."

"I see," the wizard replied, eyeing her form critically as she slipped into her room and shoved the door shut behind her. Exhaling quietly, he returned to his present task and began walking slowly in the direction of his office to finish preparations for his final class of the week.

He paused abruptly, however, when a confident knock sounded on the door leading to the Slytherin corridor. With a quick glance toward the second bedroom, he verified that the young witch was still out of sight and undoubtedly lost within the pages of her textbook. Swiftly crossing the room, he scowled upon hearing another knock and then yanked open the door.

"Hello, love," Tonks winked after having toppled into his chest with a loud squeak.

"You," he snapped, pushing her off of him.

She snorted under her breath as she readjusted her footing. "Me."

Snape glanced about the hallway and, seeing no one, stepped out of the doorway. "Get in here."

"Well…. don't mind if I do."

He rolled his eyes and then slammed the door behind her. "And just how is it you happened to find this door?"

The pink-haired witch giggled and leaned toward him. "Perhaps I used to follow you about, hoping to see where the Potions Master's forbidden lair was... you know, in case I ever worked up the courage to bewitch your mind and ensnare your senses."

"Had that been the case, Nymphadora, I undoubtedly would have caught you immediately and stuck you in detention with Filch for the entirety of your educational career," the man growled, glaring at her. "And probably then some."

"Alright, fine," she sighed. "You're no fun. Anywho, I've got a tracer on your wife, so I just followed that. I could have Flooed from the Headmaster's office, of course, but I wanted to verify that it was actually working."

Severus raised one eyebrow. "You have her on a tracing charm?"

The woman nodded. "You know, in case she ever makes a run for it."

"Or in case I happen to misplace her," he added as he folded his arm, crunching half of the essays in the process.

"Or that," she smirked; her gaze beginning to wander about the room.

The Slytherin let out a deep sigh. "Let me guess – Black's suggestion?"

"Well, technically Remus suggested it, but it was as a means of compromising with Sirius, yes," Tonks shrugged. "His suggestion was that you and the new Mrs. would decide to share the love by welcoming an overly large, scruffy black dog into your home."

"There is absolutely no –"

"Way in hell that you, Hermione, Dumbledore, or McGonagall would ever stand for that," she finished with a sweep of her arm. "Hence the tracer. And you never know – it may come in handy someday."

He grunted in response. "Why are you here exactly?"

"Welfare check," she answered cheerfully, straightening her posture. "Also at Sirius's insistence, but since your darling bride has yet to write, I find myself growing dreadfully impatient for all of the naughty details."

"Merlin's sake," he grumbled before gesturing toward the second bedroom. "She's in there, doing her homework. I have class."

"No worries, darling!" the witch called as he strode away. "I'll just make myself at home."

"That's what concerns me," Severus growled under his breath, pulling open his office door.

Tonks chuckled quietly before schooling her features and knocking on the bedroom door. At hearing a faint voice inside, she twisted the knob and stepped into the small room.

"Tonks?" the girl asked in surprise, pushing herself into a seated position on her bed.

"Wotcher, Hermione," she smiled before raising both eyebrows quizzically. "I thought you were supposedly being studious in here."

"Oh." The brunette rubbed her face and shook her head. "I just told Pr-Severus that I had to do homework, but I really just needed to…"

"Hide?" When the girl nodded, the Auror gave a sympathetic smile and moved toward the bed. "Mind if I have a seat?"

"No. Please do," Hermione mumbled, sliding over somewhat to give the woman more space.

"Whoa," Tonks exclaimed in surprise as her bottom touched the charmed bedspread. "Oh, this is fantastic. Shite, how do you convince yourself to get out of bed every day?"

"It's a struggle," the girl laughed softly before laying back onto the mattress.

"So," the pink-haired witch stated as she flopped into a similar position. "What's new?"


Not quite two hours later, Severus returned to his quarters with a burgeoning desire to climb into bed. The week had undoubtedly been the worst in recent history. Having had three days free of Potions classes and what seemed an endless stream of gossip to spur them on, the little cretins had not been this difficult to wrangle under control since his first year of teaching.

With a sigh, the wizard slumped onto his sofa. He knew that if he continued into his bedroom, he likely would not emerge until morning. Resting his head against the back of the couch, he folded his arms to his chest and closed his eyes. He was just beginning to drift off when the sound of a door opening caught his attention.

"You're still here?" he grumbled loudly, spying the Auror slipping out of the second bedroom. "Is there no –"

"Shhh!" Tonks interrupted, holding her finger to her lips as she pulled the door shut behind her.

"Did you just shush me in my own quarters?" Snape asked crossly.

The pink-haired witch snorted as she flounced over to the armchair. "Hermione's asleep. We wouldn't want her to wake up and discover us in the midst of a torrid affair, now do we?"

"Does that mouth of yours ever shut up?" he snapped, straightening in his seat.

"Theoretically, I suppose," she sighed as she toyed with a short strand of hair. "You wouldn't happen to have any booze nearby, would you?"

"No."

"No booze for me, or no booze in general?"

The wizard rolled his eyes. "In general. I don't drink. And if I did, I still would not allow you any."

Tonks eyed him critically and then giggled to herself. "Sheesh. No drinking and no sex. You really are a monk, aren't you?"

"I take it that Miss Granger –"

"Gave me all of the boring details, yes," the Auror nodded, tossing her legs over the arm of the chair. "I would say I was highly disappointed, but I'd be lying, truthfully. The kid's having a hard enough time without having to deal with that. No offense."

Severus grunted and shook his head. "Is Miss Granger –"

"Hermione," she corrected. "Seeing as you are regularly boinking her, anecdotally-speaking, you might try using her given name."

"Nymphadora," he warned.

"Severus," Tonks returned cheekily. "Anyway, I think Hermione is feeling better now. A few tears here and there, but having herself a good vent seemed to help things a bit."

Narrowing his eyes, the professor considered pressing the witch for further information, but eventually decided against it. He was not entirely certain as to how his wife would view the intrusion on her privacy – since she already seemed upset about the rest of the restrictions he had placed on her. With a frown, he opted to let it be unless she approached him first.

After several minutes of staring absently into the fire, Snape realized that his quarters had suddenly fallen silent. Surprised, he glanced over toward the bubbly Auror, half expecting to see that she, too, had fallen asleep. Instead, he found her quite alert, focusing intently on the door to Granger's bedroom.

"Something troubling you?" he queried hesitantly.

"Perhaps," she murmured before shifting her gaze to meet his. "What originally occupied that room?"

Snape shook his head. "Nothing. I had the Headmaster request the castle for an expansion."

"So anyone who has ever been in here prior to that would notice the addition?" Tonks clarified.

The wizard donned a blank expression as he considered the implications. It was not often that he entertained guests – well, entertained was far from the correct term – but staff members and needy Slytherins did pop in on occasion, and some of them would be intelligent enough to observe the new door. The last thing they needed was some half-wit going to one of the news outlets with even a rumor that they, as supposed soul mates, were keeping separate bedrooms.

Why the hell didn't I bother to think of that? Or Albus? Though I suppose he did and was simply waiting for me to come upon the conclusion myself that Granger and I would have to share a bed… room. Bedroom, you twit. Not bed. Ever. He took in a deep breath and then growled. "It will have to be changed."

"Mmm," she hummed in agreement. "What was there originally?"

"The Slytherin House Tapestry," he replied, gesturing to where it now sat on a different wall, squeezed in between the bookcase and the door that eventually led to his brewing laboratory.

"Well, that's definitely noticeable, isn't it?" Tonks muttered, shifting in the chair to sit properly. She eyed the floor-to-ceiling wall-hanging briefly before standing and walking toward it. After running her hand over it, she snorted under her breath. "Acromantula silk, spun Hippogriff hair, and Puffskein fur… I'm surprised it isn't stitched with unicorn hair."

"I wasn't aware that tapestry-whispering was included in Auror training," Severus sneered. "Is that a recent requirement?"

"Oh ha ha," the witch replied, glancing back at him. "Mum had me work with Madam Malkin the summer before seventh year. She thought it might kill two doxies with one spritz by dissuading me from joining the Aurory and improving my fashion sense at the same time."

"I see it failed on both counts."

The pink-haired witch adjusted the hem of her sleeve and rolled her eyes. "Anyway, though remarkably pretentious, the composition actually helps us right now. The magical capacity of the material is quite high, so it will lend itself quite nicely to any magic applied to it.

"So what we can do," she explained, turning to face the wall-hanging, "is affix permeability charms to the tapestry, so that it still appears as it would normally, but would allow passage through it. And if you really wanted, we could make it a selective permeability - though that would involve keying it specifically to anyone who could be allowed access to the room. Either way, you can just hang it back over the door, and Hermione would just have to take care not to use the door if anyone currently unaware of your living arrangement is within sight. You might want to move a trustworthy portrait in here and in her room, so that it might warn her if she is already in her room when someone shows up."

When there was no sarcastic remark immediately forthcoming, Tonks spun around to see her former professor staring at her with one eyebrow raised. A grin came to her face as she cocked her head. "I know a little something about disguises, Mr. Spy. Did you think I got by in Auror training just on my potions' skills?"

"On the contrary," he smirked, "I assumed it was in spite of them."

"Merlin's saggy ball-sack," she groaned, folding her arms to her chest. "You're such a charming man – I just don't understand how Hermione could ever have the willpower to keep her hands off of you."

Snape grimaced as he tried to tamp down the images that were attempting to surface.

"Would you like me to help with the tapestry, or can you manage on your own?" the woman asked.

"I shall manage perfectly fine," he snapped, mildly offended by the offer of assistance.

"Alright," Tonks sighed, heading back toward the Floo. "Well, I suppose I should be on my way. Give Hermione my love, if you would. And you know, Professor, if you'd rather not go through all of this hassle, it isn't too late. Just say the word, and I'll assume her identity before you can say 'canoodling in the library'."

"Out!"


Hermione woke up with a start and glanced about her now empty bed. With a yawn, she wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. She was not sure how long it had been since Tonks had left, but she had never meant to fall asleep. It certainly did not help that her bed was so warm or that her room was so dark, however. It took her a moment to locate her wand, but once she had, she cast a Tempus charm.

"Oh, Merlin!" she hissed, launching off of her bed at the realization that the evening meal was already underway. Quickly slipping on her shoes, she grabbed a jumper and threw it on over her head as she blindly charged out of her bedroom. She only hoped that Severus had not left without her because she was rather sick of hearing people theorizing about how much time she spent tied to the bedposts.

After tugging the jumper into place and brushing a few wayward curls out of her face, she stopped suddenly in the middle of the sitting room. The man had not left; he was seated on the sofa with his head tipped back and his eyes closed. When he did not react to her presence for several seconds, she realized that he was asleep. It was undoubtedly a common occurrence, his sleeping, yet it still struck her as odd. But then again, the entire week had been filled with strange interactions with the man.

A week. It had been an entire week since the horrid article had been published, but it seemed like only yesterday. On the other hand, it felt like she had been living with the irascible man for far longer than five days.

Hermione let out a soft sigh and scratched the back of her head. She was not terribly hungry, so if her husband wanted to sleep through supper, she could go back to bed herself. As she was in the process of turning away, however, a familiar rumbling sound caught her attention. Leaning forward to peer over the back of the sofa, her eyes widened in fear when she spotted her ginger-furred cat stretching out across the man's lap.

"Crooks," she whispered harshly, running quickly around the edge of the sofa. For a minute or two, she attempted to silently summon the creature to her, but Crookshanks merely blinked in response. "You're going to get me in trouble."

Holding her breath, the girl slowly reached out to take hold of her cat, trying hard not to touch the wizard beneath him. She had almost gotten away successfully until Crookshanks wriggled out of her grasp and hopped down onto the unoccupied sofa cushion. The action caught his mistress off-guard and caused her to tip forward; her hand landing on the man's leg, dangerously close to the intersection of his thighs.

A startled whimper escaped her, and she froze, realizing that she was staring straight at his crotch. Time seemed to stand still as her gaze slowly rose toward his face, and she prayed to anyone who could hear her that she would not find his dark eyes staring back at her. Her heart was in dire threat of stopping when he shifted beneath her hand and moaned softly, and the witch did not dare breathe until she was certain he was still asleep. With her cheeks flaming hot, she yanked her hand back quickly and then angrily scooped her purring cat up from the sofa.

"I could kill you right now," she grumbled into his fur. "If he had woken up, he would have had you stuffed – and I don't know that I would have stopped him, you cree—What the hell?"

At her loud exclamation, Snape jumped up from the sofa; his wand extended. It took a second for him to shake away the sleep from his mind, and then his sharp gaze locked on to the form of his wife, clutching her familiar to her chest in what looked like a death grip.

"Granger," he sneered, re-sheathing his wand. "How good of you to wake before the meal is entirely finished."

"Oh, because you weren't just sleeping," she returned grumpily. "Now explain where my door went."

"Oh, that."

"Yes, that. Where is that?"

The wizard smirked lightly as he refastened his teaching robes. "Step forward as you would normally and reach for the knob."

Her eyebrows narrowed, but with a sigh, she did as instructed. A soft cry escaped her as her hand went through the tapestry and landed upon the cold metal of the door handle. With wide eyes, she spun around to face him. "It's like the entrance to the platform at King's Cross!"

"It is," he murmured with a dip of his head. "There was valid concern that the change in appearance of my quarters may raise unnecessary questions. You will, however, need to take care to not utilize that door if ever in mixed company. I mean to make arrangements with the Headmaster to procure a portrait for your room that may warn you if needed."

"Oh," she responded softly, leaning over to let Crookshanks jump down to the floor. "That's a good idea."

"Mm, I thought so," he nodded. "Now, might we eat?"

Hermione nodded and rubbed her arm as she followed him to the door. Coughing lightly, she slipped her hand into his after they had entered the corridor. An odd silence hung over them as they walked up to the Great Hall, each lost to their own musings. She could only thank her lucky stars that he had not woken up in the midst of her accidental fondling of him and killed her. He, on the other hand, was eternally grateful that her shout had woken him up before his lecherous mind could take him any farther in his dream than being straddled by the warm, young witch and caressed through the front of his trousers.

As they entered the Great Hall, the two of them were both pleased to note that only half of the student body paused mid-bite to watch their approach to the Head Table.

"And just where have you two been?" McGonagall asked pointedly upon their arrival.

"Give it a rest, Minerva," Severus grumbled, pulling out a chair beside Pomona for his wife before seating himself at her left hand. "We were merely sleeping."

"A likely story," Professor Sprout winked, causing the man to roll his eyes and Hermione to blush.

"No, it is true," the young witch murmured. "I fell asleep after class, and when I woke up a little while ago, I found he had fallen asleep as well."

The Herbology professor giggled and patted her student's hand. "You know, dear – I have always figured him for a cuddler."

"Dear gods," he growled under his breath, spearing a potato with more force than necessary.


Hermione stifled a yawn as she pushed her spoon through her porridge. It was quite early yet for a Saturday, and relatively few students were scattered about the four House tables. Even the staff table was sparsely populated, with only Hagrid, Professor Flitwick, and Professor Vector chatting on the other side of the empty Headmaster's chair.

The sound of flapping wings pierced the early morning quiet, and the witch smirked as she noticed her husband automatically place his hand over the top of his bowl. A moment after she did the same, a large brown owl swooped over their heads and dropped a large bundle of letters upon the table in front of them.

With an audible sigh, Severus grabbed hold of the stack and removed the string that was wrapped around them. After quickly sweeping his wand over them, he flipped through the letters and then began piling them in front of the girl.

"What are those?" she asked.

"Your fan mail, I would presume," he replied.

"What?" Hermione gasped, dropping her spoon and shying away from them. "They could be hexed! Or poisoned! Or –"

"I assure you they're perfectly safe," Snape sighed, tossing another one on her pile. "They've made it past the Ministry's Post Regulation Office – which, undoubtedly, is fully under the Dark Lord's control by now – as well as the Headmaster's wards and my own personal screening charms. If there is something still left to get you, I will kiss Longbottom's toad."

The girl stared at him in disbelief and then hesitantly looked to the top envelope. Blowing out a quick breath, she reached for it, muttering beneath her breath. "I almost wish there's itching powder in here. It would be worth it."

"Indeed," he sneered before taking a bite of his toast.

Biting down on her lip, she cautiously cracked open the post she held. She breathed a quick sigh of relief when she had finished extracting the letter and no ill effects occurred.

deAR mRs. HeRmine SnAPe,

my nAm is LiZZie. I m 5 yeRs oLd n I LieKt yoR dRess. U R PRetty n U will hAv PRetty BABees.

LuV LiZZie.

"Oh my god!" she exclaimed, giggling as she looked over the child's large, shaky script. "You have to be joking. This is actually fan mail!"

"Is that not what I just said?" he quipped, glancing at her over his coffee mug.

Hermione shrugged. "Well, yes, but I didn't… I don't understand why."

"We're soul mates, if you remember," he answered, narrowing his gaze at an official-looking envelope bearing the Gringotts seal. "They occur so rarely in the Wizarding World that they're heralded as near-legends. There's a reason that photos of our wedding have been in the paper every day since."

"They have?"

"They have," Severus nodded, tearing open the bank notice. "Unfortunately."

Dear Professor Severus Snape,
Potions Master at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

We at Gringotts Wizarding Bank wish you many congratulations on your recent nuptials. May this letter also serve as confirmation that Vault 287, formerly belonging to Miss Hermione Jean Granger, has been closed and the contents successfully transferred to Vault 693 under your possession. We thank you for your patience during the standard waiting period, and apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you.

Sincerely,
Gargatak
Gringotts Account Services

"Oh, bloody hell," he whispered, staring at the document. Without moving his head, he subtly flicked his gaze toward his young wife, who was smiling bemusedly at another of her letters. Frowning, he refolded the notice and stuffed it into one of his pockets. He did not dare broach the topic while in public for he did not expect the Muggleborn witch to react well to having had her money placed in his name. Not that there was anything he could have done to prevent it – the Dark Lord was granting her more leeway than usual by allowing her to keep breathing, but undoubtedly expected that their marriage would adhere to traditional pureblood customs.

"Well," Hermione stated, catching his attention as she swept all of her post into her bag, "I was hoping to visit the library to get a bit of reading done this morning."

"And the remainder of the day?" he questioned, turning his upper body toward her when she stood from her chair.

"Erm," she narrowed her brow and then shrugged. "I hadn't planned that far ahead."

"Bear in mind our arrangement," the wizard instructed, dropping his voice to near a whisper, "should you choose to spend it with your… friends."

The girl clenched her jaw in response and then forced a smile on her face, knowing that she was the one on full display to any curious eye in the Great Hall. "Of course, dear."

"Granger," he hissed, tilting his head. "I mean it."

Gripping the strap of her bag tightly, she gave a polite nod. She was just going to leave when she caught sight of Professor Sprout yawning while stepping through the doorway. With a smirk, the young witch quickly leaned down – catching her husband slightly unprepared – and pressed a quick kiss to his cheek.

"Don't suffer too much in my absence," she cooed just loud enough to be overheard before giddily scampering down the dais and past the chuckling Herbology professor.

Her high at having undoubtedly embarrassed him carried her the entire way to the library. While she was expecting it to be practically empty given that it was Saturday morning, she was pleasantly surprised to find Neville at a table, surrounded by open textbooks.

"Good morning, Neville," the girl stated cheerfully.

"Oh," he stammered upon looking up from his studies. "Hello, Hermione. H-how are you?"

"Pretty good at the moment," she replied, pulling out a chair across from him at the table. "How are you?"

"Oh, I'm… erm…" The boy suddenly glanced around at the room's few occupants and then shifted nervously in his seat. "You're going to sit there?"

Hermione narrowed her eyebrows and paused in the midst of pulling out her own book. "Well, I thought I would –"

"Is anyone else joining you?"

She shook her head. "No, it's just me. If you don't want me to sit here, I can –"

"No, no," he mumbled, closing his books. "It's alright. I just remembered I forgot to feed Trevor, so, erm, I'll see you around."

"Oh, al-alright then…" The witch watched in confusion as he hurriedly packed his book bag and then rushed out of the library. After he was gone, she felt suddenly self-conscious and lonely. It unsettled her greatly that Neville had become so skittish around her the past few days when he had been so supportive at first.

She attempted to read her text, but when her mind kept returning to the boy's hasty retreat, she gave up entirely. Slinging her book bag over her shoulder, she abandoned the table and set on a path for Gryffindor Tower. It was clear that she needed to talk to him.


Hours later, it was a disheartened Hermione that slunk back down to the dungeons. Upon reaching Gryffindor Tower, the Fat Lady had refused to allow her entrance since she was not in possession of the most recent password and she had had to wait nearly half an hour until a group of third-years let her in as they left. Even then, Neville had not been within sight – nor had Harry or Ron – and she had been forced to run up to find Ginny in the girls' dormitory. She had then spent a fair length of time with her friends – minus Neville, who had remained up in their room – in the common room until they had left to eat an early lunch before Quidditch practice.

As the prospect of sitting outside in the middle of a rainstorm was just as unappealing as facing all of the stares of the Gryffindor students on her own, the witch had retreated again to the library. There were more students there than she would have liked due to the poor weather, which meant that the only table that had been available was the one immediately to the left of the librarian's desk. Fortunately, Madam Pince's intimidating presence played to her benefit and kept a majority of the students from gossiping loud enough for her to hear.

By the time she had finished her Charms essay, it was mid-afternoon, and her stomach had found it necessary to remind her that she had worked through lunch. After quickly packing up her books and leaving the library, a quick glance through the open door of the Great Hall had yielded no sign of her husband among the few stragglers at the Staff Table, so Hermione and her hunger pangs had continued her descent into the darker passages of the castle.

Upon pushing open the door to Snape's office, her stomach growled loudly at the smell of food. After pausing momentarily to watch him dip a bite of sandwich into a bowl of soup, the girl sighed and then yanked the door shut behind her. "I suppose you didn't order me any."

"And what indication would I have had to do so?" he returned without glancing in her direction as he scribbled a note onto the side of a student essay.

"None," she murmured grumpily, striding across the space toward the other door. "Might I use the Floo then?"

He dipped his head smoothly as he pulled forth another essay. "You may."

A scowl settled onto her face at his condescending tone, and as soon as she was out of his line of sight, she emphatically rolled her eyes.

"Granger."

A gasp caught in the back of her throat, and six and a half years' worth of experience dealing with the irascible man made her freeze with fear. When no immediate chastisement was forthcoming, she composed herself and then slowly turned toward his desk. "Yes, sir-everus?"

Hermione grimaced at having slipped-up again. It was instinctual for her to refer to him by some means of a professional title. Every time she used his given name, she still felt the need to brace herself in preparation for a manifestation of his usual ire. Given her performance in their parting at breakfast, it was exceptionally true of this moment.

He cleared his throat and straightened in his chair. "I must ask you to tell me what was stored in your vault at Gringotts."

"Why?" she asked slowly, narrowing her eyes. "And what do you mean by 'was stored'?"

Snape raised a lip in disgust and then withdrew the letter from his pocket. After handing it to her, he silently watched her face redden as she read the brief note.

"They gave you my money?" the witch snapped, tossing the offensive parchment onto his desk.

"It's customary in Wizarding marriages that the husband takes ownership of all funds and properties," he explained with a shrug.

"Oh, it is, is it?" she growled, folding her arms. "And what, you want me to tell you exactly what of mine you now own?"

"Indeed," he sneered, dipping his quill in the inkwell. "It would help to know how much will need to be returned to you upon our eventual dissolution."

The girl's mouth parted in shocked embarrassment, and she let her arms slowly fall to her sides. She shifted uncomfortably and then met his expectant gaze. "Oh. In that case, I'm sorry for yelling at you."

"The contents?" he asked, giving no indication that he had heard her apology.

Hermione closed her eyes and scratched her eyebrow in thought. "Erm… I converted just under 400 galleons, so after books and supplies and pocket money, I think it had to be about 350 galleons or so."

"Your precision astounds me," the wizard commented, jotting down the information at the bottom of the letter.

She huffed and raised one eyebrow. "Well, if you knew the precise amount in your vault, you wouldn't have to ask me."

"With my paychecks and royalties automatically deposited and a number of expenditures automatically withdrawn from my account, I cannot at a given moment pinpoint a precise number," he sighed. "I didn't exactly have a nice round sum from Mummy and Daddy to keep track of."

"What?" the girl hissed, balling her hands into fists. "For your information, they didn't give me that money – well, they did, but only because I earned it! I spent the entire summer working as the receptionist for their practice, I'll have you know! And I opened up that vault because I actually had money of my own to put in it, but now it's yours! If I had kept it hidden in my school trunk, I would still have it!"

"Spare me the histrionics, Granger," the man grumbled, rubbing his temples. "It is no less secure in my vault than it was in yours. Should you need access to your funds, it will be granted to you, and I will return whatever remains of the 350 when we have concluded this little venture of ours."

She took in a few breaths and glared at the ceiling. "And how long will that take? A year? Five? Ten?"

"Bite your tongue, Granger," Severus groaned as he stored the letter in his bottom drawer. "I do not know how long we will be required to maintain this façade, but I am quite certain that I will not last an entire decade."

"Well, neither will I!" the witch replied hotly, stomping back toward the door leading to their sitting room. "And in case you care, I'll be eating supper with my friends tonight!"

"I assure you, Madam, I do not!" he called after her, scowling as he returned his attention to the essay in front of him.