I do not own Harry Potter, nor any of the characters from JK Rowling's fantastic books or films, I'm just borrowing and playing with them for a little while and get no monetary reward for doing so

A/N: The first Harry Potter story I ever wrote was called 'Grief'. It was written in response to my feelings about Snape's death (and my anger that he was so badly served in Jo's story) and featured a relationship between Snape and Hermione, although that didn't become clear until the end (apart from it being housed in Ashwinder which was something of a giveaway, obviously). It was a very well received story and I had many lovely reviews about it, but one reviewer questioned the timeline as I had tried to keep it canon and as she pointed out there wasn't much chance for things to play out as they did in my story if you go by the events in Deathly Hallows (mainly because of all that camping). To be honest, I didn't dwell on it too much at the time as by then I was well into writing other stories and really it had just been a release mechanism for my own grief at the Potion Master's untimely and unfair death (hmmm, guess I didn't really get over that). However, four years later I suddenly realised that actually, what I had written was entirely plausible, if a little unlikely (but hey, it's fanfic, right?) and the complete story of Hermione and Snape's relationship is what follows (which actually fulfils another request in the reviews for a prequel). I have removed 'Grief' from the archive as it now appears as the final chapter of this story. I mention this as a warning for those of you who read 'Grief' in its original incarnation, just so you don't start getting feelings of déjà vu or think I'm plagiarising someone else's work. 'Grief' was all mine and still is, just with a new name and a lot more background, although obviously, the identity of Hermione's lover is no longer in any doubt. Thank you as always to Mamacita for being my beta. I hope you enjoy. Dx

'Professor Snape, what's happening?' Hermione called through the door.

She looked around her worriedly, spotting Luna further down the corridor. She longed to run, to join Ron, Ginny and Neville, but she couldn't leave until she knew what Snape was doing. She had promised Harry she would stay outside Snape's office and keep watch on the teacher regardless of whatever else was happening in the school and she couldn't break her promise, not even with the sounds of fighting she could hear coming from upstairs. She could hear Professor Flitwick talking urgently to Snape; the minuscule teacher having arrived just moments earlier. He was telling the taciturn man that he had to help, then there was a loud thud. The door opened and Snape emerged, looking even more stressed than usual. Hermione rushed towards him.

'Sir, what's happening?' she asked. 'What should we do?'

Snape looked at Hermione in confusion for a moment as if wondering why the hell she was there, but then, recovering, he said, 'Professor Flitwick has collapsed, Miss Granger, and I need you to look after him. I have to go and fight. Before he collapsed he told me Death Eaters are in the school.'

'Death Eaters? But we should come with you,' Hermione told him worriedly. 'We can help.'

Snape grabbed Hermione's arm tightly and pulled her into his office.

'You need to stay down here,' he said quickly, his voice commanding. His dark eyes were blazing and his scowl was more ferocious than usual. 'Look after Professor Flitwick . . . and make sure you stay here.'

In one swift movement, he pulled Hermione to him and gave her a fierce but brief kiss on the lips before releasing the surprised girl.

'You need to stay safe, Hermione,' he added gruffly before heading back out the door.

Hermione looked after him in complete shock. Professor Snape had just kissed her.

A few seconds later Luna's head appeared in the doorway. 'Professor Snape told me to come and help you with Professor Flitwick,' she said, not at all in her usual dreamy manner. 'What's wrong with him?'

'What?' Hermione asked, sounding confused. She was still replaying the kiss and hadn't yet got over the shock. She shook her head to clear the thought, then looked over to where the tiny teacher was laying on the floor.

'Oh, poor Flitwick,' she said unhappily. 'I wonder what happened to him? Professor Snape said he collapsed.' She joined Luna, who had already reached her Head of House and was bending down to check on him.

'He's unconscious,' Luna said. 'Perhaps he was hit by a spell or something?' She looked at Hermione worriedly. 'What should we do, Hermione?'

Hermione sighed her mind in turmoil. 'I don't know, Luna. Snape told me we should stay here with Flitwick, but I can't help thinking we should go and help the others. Somehow the Death Eaters have got into the castle. But we need to tell Madam Pomfrey that Flitwick's been injured, too.'

'I'll go and tell Madam Pomfrey about Professor Flitwick,' Luna offered. 'You should go and join the others and I'll catch you up.'

'Good plan. I'll see you shortly,' Hermione agreed. It was exactly what she had been thinking but hadn't wanted to offend her friend by suggesting it.

She hugged Luna and ran out of the door, heading for the stairs, hoping she wasn't too late and hoping, too, that no one else she knew had been injured or worse still killed by the Death Eaters. When she reached the Entrance Hall a large number of people were milling around and confusion seemed to be the main order of the day. The door to the Great Hall had been opened and everything was in chaos. It appeared that the Death Eaters had attempted to destroy the place. Hermione looked worriedly around the Entrance Hall trying to see if she could spot any of her friends.

The door to the castle was open and people were running down the hill, heading towards the gates – people in dark robes and masks. Panic rising in her now at the thought of what might have happened to her friends, Hermione turned to see Ginny and Neville. Neville appeared to be injured and Ginny was helping him walk. Hermione was just about to go over to see if he was all right when she heard more shouting.

Snape and Draco Malfoy were running through the Entrance Hall now, as fast as their legs could carry them. Malfoy looked terrified and Snape's face wore the deepest scowl Hermione had ever seen. Without stopping they headed for the door, apparently intent on following the others out of the school. As he passed her, Snape turned and looked directly at Hermione for a moment, his dark eyes glaring at her, she supposed because she had ignored his order to stay in his office and keep safe although she still didn't understand why he had wanted her to do that. But he didn't stop or say anything to her, and a moment later he and Malfoy were gone.

Hermione heard another shout and watched in surprise as Harry came running through the Entrance Hall chasing after Snape and Malfoy. The pure hatred and anger that was etched on his face scared her. He, too, didn't stop nor did he seem to notice his friends, intent as he was on chasing down his quarry. Hermione looked round and saw Ron coming towards her. She rushed over to him and gave him a huge hug, which seemed to embarrass him somewhat. For a moment Snape and the kiss slipped back into her mind, along with the thought that he wouldn't have been embarrassed if she had hugged him. She dropped the thought immediately just as she dropped her arms, leaving Ron free.

'What happened?' she asked quietly.

'We were attacked by Death Eaters,' he said, looking grave. 'Bill got hurt . . . badly. We've got to go to the hospital wing, Hermione. McGonagall said.'

Hermione nodded. 'Of course, but Neville's hurt, too, so we'll need to help him.' She walked towards Neville and Ginny, Ron following close behind.

'We'll take him,' she told the red-haired girl. Neville was clutching his stomach and wincing in pain. 'You go and wait for Harry,' she added softly, and she patted Ginny's shoulder soothingly, knowing that her friend was scared for her boyfriend. Ginny looked as worried as Hermione felt.

'Come on, Neville, let's get you to the Hospital Wing,' she heard Ron say, and he wrapped his arm around Neville to help him walk. Hermione let go of Ginny and joined the two boys, going the other side of Neville so she could help support him, and they made their way slowly towards the infirmary.