Pansy slipped her small hand into his, somehow comforted by the callouses that brushed against her soft skin. They were evidence of strength, of real work that transcended simply sitting behind a desk or standing before a podium.

She knew this was a rare luxury - to be holding the hand of her Potions professor as they sat beside the lake, the moon highlighting every ripple as though the water were made of thousands of sparkles. The fresh feel of a late spring breeze tussled about her hair and made every sensation dream like, made her sight seem to be in soft focus.

"You've done well," Snape's voice crept out from the darkness and nestled within her ear, for only her to hear.

"Hmm?" She rested her head against his shoulder, taking in the scent of smoke and exotic ingredients that clung to his starched black frock coat.

"You've managed to hold your tongue. Quite impressive considering your propensity to gossip."

"This is important to me," she said and sighed as though to punctuate her words.

"I know."

She bit back a grin. He was never moved by her words, was he? No, never, and yet she hung dearly on every one of his, her hunger never sated but at least acknowledged by his occasional compliment. She was grateful for even those that were insults in disguise. It was his way, and she accepted it, just as he accepted her along with her faults. After all, she was hardly more than a silly schoolgirl drunk on romance with no idea of what the world was truly like outside of castle walls.

"I'll miss you," she said.

"You'll be back with new texts and new courses far sooner than you realize," he told her.

"And new robes," she added. Summer would feel like an eternity away from him, but at least she had the promise of additions to her wardrobe to contemplate.

"It's time," he said after they had sat in silence for several minutes.

Pansy immediately regretted that her last few moments with him had been spent fantasizing about clothes, but she nodded. Her hand slipped from his as he stood and brushed the grass from his trousers. Inside of her, something ached with the knowledge that this would be their final meeting until the leaves once more began to fall to the earth. She focused on his silhouette as he walked up the slope, back toward the school. That hooked nose, his cloak that swished with every stride - she would keep this mental snapshot with her over the holidays, something to remind her of what she had to look forward to at the start of term.

"I love you," she called after him, the words rushed from her lips as her heart beat faster, "and don't say you know!"

To his credit, he didn't. She thought she saw the crook of a smirk form on the side of his face that was still visible, but he said nothing at all as he continued up the hill.

It was his way.