A/N: Um, hello everyone. I know, another author's note, BUT I just wanted to say many, many apologies for the delay. I feel like I've been saying that a lot lately and for that I am sorry. I understand if you hate me; I honestly have no excuse for it to have been this long other than being extremely stressed out from school (yay speeches) being depressed, sick, and maybe losing inspiration all in the span of two months. Plus this chapter was just extremely difficult to write for some reason. However I have been adding bits and pieces here and there every now and then over the past couple months, but never got close to finishing the chapter until now…but it's a long one!

Again THANK YOU for the reviews, favs, and follows. AND to the guest reviewers: thank you all! Since I cannot PM you :( They ALL mean the world to me to hear your thoughts and responses to this little story, even if it's just one little word, it keeps me going.

This is where we (finally) start getting towards more M-rated themes, and if you are underage or don't like that sort of stuff, then kindly just don't read. Keep in mind this is my first time EVER writing something of this nature, so please be kind. I've decided I'm going to keep this story as a T-rating, and will just warn in the AN of any M themes that might be in that chapter.

Hope you are all still sticking with me, and that you like!

Disclaimer: Don't own, don't sue.

Hermione stirred awake, and began to stretch her limbs when another pair of strong arms around her nightgown-covered middle stopped her.

Her eyes snapped open, and her sleep-riddled mind soon realized that these were not her rooms. Her eyes swept over the darkened area, noticing there were no windows to let the sun stream into as her rooms allowed, taking in the deep colors of the furniture, the wood flooring, the stone dungeon walls, the tall dresser next to her with simply a lamp and a book on top- overall a plain, but elegant bedroom- until her eyes landed on the pieces of black, masculine clothing strewn about the floor.

Blinking, deciding to keep her body as still as possible since she had an idea as to where she was and the night before began to come back to her, she slowly turned her head inch by steady inch to the owner of the protective arms around her person.

Severus was still fast asleep, as she could tell by his even breathing and fluttering eyelids, and, every so often, a soft snore would escape his lips. She smiled, and simply watched him in his rare, relaxed state that no one had ever had the luxury of witnessing.

His hair was ruffled from sleep, a few escaped pieces falling over his eyes and face, the side of his head pressed into his pillow, right arm now splayed above his head. His lips were parted softly, and with every one of his soft breaths pieces of his hair would move with it, a millimeter away from his tranquil face before falling back again, only to repeat the cycle. Her gaze traveled down his interesting features; he had quite long eyelashes, for a man, and she had never noticed, his nose was quite large, yes, but it fit him, his lips were thin but somehow still looked kissable, he had worry lines likely due to stress over the years, less prominent in sleep, but he was nowhere near to having wrinkles from age. Her eyes travelled to his uncovered neck, her keen observation of his entire person pausing to stare at the mangled flesh and several jagged, angry scars left from Nagini. The long, thin line amid the snake's wrath left from Voldemort, when he had abruptly sliced him in the hopes of him bleeding to death, was still visible as a straight, red scar. Her smile fell, a surge of sadness bubbling up her throat, threatening tears to form in her eyes, remembering her nightmare the night before and the reason why she was here- in his bed- in the first place.

Shaking her head and thoughts away, she allowed her gaze to travel even further downward and was somewhat startled as she hadn't even realized he was naked from the waist up. She hadn't had time to study him the last night as it was dark and she was shaken and sleep deprived from her night terror, readily climbing into his warm embrace to finally just doze comfortably, knowing he was well and alive. Being she had always seen him covered from head to toe, she figured he would at least sleep in a light shirt. Not that she was complaining. She felt her face flush as her wandering gazing ceased once more, fascinated with his bare, pale chest, save for two copper-brown nipples that, she noticed, were slightly erect from the cold of the dungeons nipping at his body with no blanket to cover him. She was pleased to see he was practically hairless. She always deemed hairy chests rather revolting and archaic. Though he was, technically, skinny, that did not go to say he didn't have any strength; she could still see the outline of his abdominals and biceps. He would never be a model, but his body still was something to be desired. Still, if it were ever up to her she would see to it he ate more often. She noticed he was looking more peaky than usual, undoubtedly from stress. She especially didn't want to sound like his mother, or the Weasley matriarch, but she only worried for him.

Forcing her eyes away and even further down, her breath hitched as she saw his slight happy trail, the duvet covering anymore from her prying eyes.

Making herself shift her gaze quickly upwards once more, her blush deepening, she also hadn't missed the slight outline of numerous faint, white scars that covered his body from head to toe, that were likely years old and from his time as a spy. Her sadness for him emerged once more, and without thinking reached a tentative hand upward toward one of the many blemishes that spanned his broad chest, her index finger tracing hesitantly and softly along it. This one was rather long, spanning from his stomach to his pelvis, and as her eyes moved over the rest of his wounds while her finger continued its delicate touch along his raised flesh, she noticed they were of all different shapes and sizes, from different sources of torture and punishment he was forced to endure. One that covered his shoulder was likely a small, permanent stinging hex. Another one that appeared slightly more gruesome where his shoulder met his neck was obvious it had come from a dagger. Another one that was near his right pectoral looked as if the tormenter had used one of Severus's own created, sinister spells. Sectumsempra.

Her gaze shifted to his Dark Mark that was still visible but had faded over time. She had never seen one up close, and leaned in ever so slightly to get a better look, her eyes narrowed. It was this mark that defined him, that destined the rest of his life, one that she knew he abhorred and regretted every day of his life. The tips of her fingers reached and touched that as well, dancing over the skull and winding snake. She wondered if it had hurt him to receive it, or when He had called, or if it still did pain him every now and then, even with Voldemort long perished.

Through her fascination and scrutiny she hadn't noticed the man in question was now awake and watching her every expression and movement through lidded eyes and a slight smirk plastering his features. He was understatedly surprised to wake and find the witch in question staring at him with so much fascination and wonder and…desirability in her countenance. He could most definitely see himself staring at her with those expressions, but to see her looking at him with such wide-eyed innocence and curiosity…something other than disgust…

When his brain finally took in the fact she was tracing his Mark, he had the urge to rip his arm away from her reach as fast as physically possible, but as he caught sight of her face, he was once again amazed at how she never ran away in fear or loathing.

As she stared at his torso, she noticed his breathing suddenly seemed more close together and shallow, his chest rising and falling more rapidly than before, and looked up into his face quizzically, only to be startled by his clearly wide-awake and open eyes, in turn causing her to yelp and yank her hand back from his chest as if burned. She glared mockingly at him as he chuckled softly.

"Good morning to you, too," he said in that slightly gravelly, sleep-ridden voice she found really rather sexy.

He leaned up onto his elbows to sit up and stretch his arms, and as he did so Hermione noticed out of the corner of her eye the duvet slipping from its place on his waist, falling down and revealing black, silk boxers. She was both relieved and, shockingly to herself, somewhat disappointed he wasn't completely naked whilst she had slipped into bed with him.

'Hermione, calm yourself.'

Breathing a sigh of relief (or of disappointment, she did not know which), Severus was interrupted from his morning stretch to crack open an eye to see the reasoning for the small witch's exhalation. Seeing her eyes now trained onto his pants where the comforter had slipped off of him revealing the garment, he was overtaken with a sudden mortification that she had seen him in such a state of undress, and that he had been so careless. He had entirely forgotten he was without proper clothing in his mind of drowsiness, and how the night before he had been so exhausted from grading he simply threw his clothes onto the floor without putting them away first like usual, and tossed himself on his bed. He was reluctantly, fleetingly reminded of when Potter and company decided it would be a fun time to hang him upside down and rip off his pants for the whole school to see. That was the most any female has seen of him undressed, and the reactions that came from the female population was not one of desire; only laughter and disgust. Now that she had seen his scar-ridden, ruined body, she would surely be running away from him in revulsion at any moment, never wanting to speak with him or look his way ever again.

Hastily grabbing a fistful of the blanket to cover his entire torso up to his neck, he choked out, "I'm sorry; had I known you would've came here last night, I would have dressed more accordingly…I usually just sleep in my underclothes…," he screwed his eyes shut in humiliation at his words.

She stopped his hands with her one free arm, her other wedged delicately between her head and the pillow, her hand coming to rest softly on his bicep, "It's alright- Severus, please, look at me. It's alright, really. I don't mind." His eyes shot open at her words; his shocked gaze was riveted to her eyes, which were again unabashedly trained on his chest and lower. He narrowed his eyes, searching for the sincerity in hers.

He swallowed, "You- you don't?" it had come out more as a statement rather than a question, as he attempted to keep a straight face, determined to not let her see his embarrassment.

She looked back to his face then, a small smile forming on her lips, "Not at all; you have a rather beautiful body, Severus, truly. I'm glad I could…finally see you-," she said, her eyes once again leaving his face to appreciate his slender but sexy body, "-in all your glory." She finished, her voice quaking faintly.

She bit her lip shyly, a flush creeping onto her cheeks. She couldn't believe where she was at the moment, or what she was saying. She was never this bold, to say things like that. She shouldn't say such suggestive things to him- she shouldn't even be in his rooms, his bedroom. He was still her teacher for Circe's sake! But, she didn't care. Not one bit. She adored this man, she loved this man, and she wanted to show him how desirable he was, how much she wanted him, no matter how much he denied it. And she'd be damned if she didn't and he never knew. She'd waited so long…

Severus was in a state of awe; the girl was looking at him- him- with such desire written clearly on her face that it would've been a foolish mistake to place her in anywhere but Gryffindor, those that wear their heart on their sleeves. No woman had ever, ever looked at him that way. It was always a look of repugnance or hatred. From everyone, no matter the gender. He was not a desirable person. He was ugly, broken, and cruel. It was what he knew and what he'd always been told. But this…this girl…was looking at him with such adoration in her eyes…he couldn't look away, drinking in her expression like a man dying of thirst and memorizing it for later perusal.

She was trying so hard to appear confident, to be graceful and womanly. She had to be self-assured, for him. For him she would try to be. She was never fully confident in herself; growing up and having virtually no friends, buck teeth, and frizzy hair saw to that. But that life was long gone, and she had many people she could call friends, her teeth were perfectly straight and white- having dentists for parents was a plus, even with magic- and her hair fell in gentle waves. The past few years, she had been hearing quite more often how lovely of a woman she was transforming into, from her parents, to random relatives, to teachers, to complete strangers. She didn't think anyone in Severus's life would have ever told him such things or offer him one compliment. How she understood it, the other children would tease him for everything and anything- his looks, his clothes, what he was reading, how smart he was- and so that did nothing to boost his perception of people, or help his personality to be more friendly, so that never invited people to even comment on the weather to him- much less compliment him. No wonder his confidence was shot and non-existent.

And so he was utterly perplexed when she brought her graceful and gentle hand up to place it on his bare chest, and begin to move it lovingly up and down the span of his torso. Her eyes never left his, all the while she touched him; her fingers then reached up to the sharp planes of his face to stroke and cup his cheek. He watched her with bated breath, his lips slightly falling open, his eyes at half-mast in captivation. She then closed her eyes, moved her face and shifted her body more towards him, closing his own in anticipation. He would never get used to the feeling of lips on his, but he would never tire of it. It was such a strange, pleasurable sensation. Her plump lips touched his then, and brushed against his own thin ones lightly, while he attempted to return the favor. He could feel her delicate nose brushing against his cheek. He assumed he was doing a decent job, for he felt her smile into the kiss.

After just a few seconds she pulled away. His eyes shot open, fearing he had done something wrong, before she was pushing him onto his back softly and climbing on top of him, straddling him. Completely overtaken with shock, he was at a loss for words; they had never been this close, this intimate, and he could feel his excitement stir against the covers. He feared she would feel it, becoming even more mortified at the thought of her screaming and jumping up and off of him in horror, but she was currently draped over his lower abdomen, rather than his thighs, right above where all the blood was rushing. Where he wished to be touched most.

She had no idea where this confidence was coming from, but the desire to have him was overwhelming, and guided her movements. She needed to see him, to feel him, learn his body, to touch him, to witness the look of pure pleasure cross his face that she caused. No, they weren't ready for anything extreme just yet- she wasn't ready- but she simply needed to just touch his skin and see his reaction.

Before simple words could even formulate in his mind, she lowered her head again and closed the distance, pecking his lips lovingly. Before long she began to cover his whole face in gentle kisses; his forehead, cheek, nose, eyelid, chin, and finally his lips once more. Her head lowered to his neck, careful of his scars, kissing him gently there, feeling him suck in a breath from the sensitivity, and then kissing and occasionally biting around his neck, nipping and sucking gently, eliciting low gasps from the professor from the slight pain. Satisfied with the light red mark she left behind, she continued on her journey south, head aligned with his chest and abdominals. She again was met with the ghastly sight of his many scars, all of different shapes and sizes.

Daring a quick look up for the first time to take in his expression and reaction, instead of the look of desire and enjoyment in his eyes like she was anticipating, she saw one of scrutinization, of apprehension. It didn't take her long to figure out he was extremely self-conscious of not only his body in general, but his scars and wounds, and was waiting for her reaction to them. She needed to reassure him, and quick, because to Hermione in that moment he looked like a frightened, exposed animal in fight or flight mode.

"Severus," she began carefully, "what I see is not some damaged person who is never going to be whole and well again. Who is worthless or doesn't deserve love."

She accentuated her statements with tender kisses on his sensitive flesh, with Severus all the while watching intently, now supporting himself by his elbows, hanging on her every word, surveying her movements intently.

"I see a strong, brave, and selfless individual who would do anything for those he loves. And to me that is absolutely beautiful."

He let out a breath then, one he didn't know he'd been holding, and continued to watch her lovingly peck his damaged and ugly skin, and once more didn't know how such a lovely, goddess-like young woman could see all of that in him. Closing his eyes and saying a silent prayer to whatever deity deemed him worthy enough for her, he opened his eyes quickly to take in this rare sight, and with a sudden boldness reached out and brushed a stray, wild curl behind her ear. She looked up to him, blushing, effectively ending her worship on his skin, and crawled up to kiss him softly on the lips again. And again. And again.

"You're so beautiful," she whispered against his lips.

His breath stilled again. Had anyone ever told him that? Ugly, greasy, scrawny, of course…but beautiful?

After only a few moments of light kisses, she soon returned to her spot of sitting astride his stomach, continuing her perusal and affection to his torso, placing several open-mouthed kisses across his chest and lower abdomen.

Soon it was apparent to the both of them she was getting dangerously close to…that area, but neither wanted to point it out just yet. Severus, on one hand, wanted to stop her and tell her she didn't have to go that far if she didn't want to or was uncomfortable, but the other, virile overpowering part of him was curious and simply wanted to see what she would do. He was, indirectly, giving her her own choice in the matter. Hermione was, admittedly, at a loss. She had kissed him, sure, but this, this was something else entirely. She would be seeing him, all of him, for the first time. And she was sure something else would accompany the "seeing" part. She didn't think she would just whip off his trousers, take a gander and then tug them back on quickly. Men liked to be…pleasured didn't they? Did she want to see him? The answer was a resounding 'yes!' in her mind, but the other inexperienced and terrified half of her couldn't act on it. What if she did something wrong, what if she embarrassed herself? What if…?

Just then Severus reached down with his hand once again, taming another errant curl and cupping her cheek. Still upheld by his upper arms, watching her, he offered an encouraging smile. No words, just comfort.

Perhaps she could do this. She smiled nervously, and, swallowing anxiously, began to shift herself lower down his body, clearly searching for the waistband of his trousers. This action prompted an instant reaction in Severus, finally fully realizing what the girl intended to do.

"Hermione!…I…you…um, you don't have to, that is, if you do not want to…," he stumbled, not knowing how to word himself for this sort of predicament. He didn't exactly have young, pretty women rubbing themselves on his crotch every day. Or ever, really.

Her face reddened, and she dipped her head, curls falling back into place over her eyes, "I…I think I want to Severus, I just…I don't know how to…um, well," she gestured helplessly with her hands, and he couldn't help but crack just the tiniest grin at her efforts and nervousness, despite his own anxiety.

He reached down and pulled her back up to him swiftly, "Maybe some other time," he whispered, and laid her down next to him. She curled into his side, breathing in his scent of sandalwood, and felt just a touch of relief. She did really want to pleasure him, to make him feel desirable and know how much she truly wanted him, to make herself seem sure and not some silly school girl anymore, but she sincerely didn't think she was capable of doing something like that just yet.

He was rubbing her nightshirt covered back, her face pressed into his neck and shoulder breathing in his calming, masculine scent, legs intertwined with his, both nearly on the verge of sleep once more, when a sudden thought occurred to her that she couldn't hold it in, "Can you show me?"

His movements halted, and he craned his neck to peer at her, already seeing her heating, but brave, face staring back at his unwaveringly.

"Show you…?"

"Uhmm…how to…you know…," her resolve cracked, and she looked down in embarrassment. She wasn't asking him to…no, she couldn't be. Could she?

"Hermione, you're not…are you…asking me to show you, how to…pleasure myself?" She offered no suggestions during his bumbling question, not even daring to look at him anymore, and so he was forced to utter the mortifying sentence. His own face burned from asking the question. He prayed to the gods it didn't show.

"I…guess I am." She finally squeaked, peering up from her little nook in his shoulder.

He stared at her. Could he? Could he show her? He would only be embarrassing himself…she was just about to see him for the first time only moments ago, and he was terrified then; no one…besides the obvious of himself and his mother…had seen him naked. Surely he would be absolutely scared and mortified out of his wits- even if he didn't show it- if she actually wanted him to demonstrate…? No. He couldn't do this. He couldn't stroke himself in front of her, for her, no matter how much she wanted him to. Why did she want him to…? Wouldn't she be disgusted, horrified…?


He was interrupted from his deep thoughts from her worried tone, and immediately looked to her, her wide, concerned expression filling his view.

"I can practically hear your brain working…I know what you're thinking. But I won't judge you or mock you or any of that drivel if that's what you think. I just want to see you…that is, if you want to, I won't force you…but I would really like to see how to pleasure you, Severus. See what you like."

He stared back at her for a moment, and swallowed. This…what they were about to do…was a big step in their relationship. He was going to reveal himself…all of himself…for the first time in his life…to someone...her, in that moment. No going back. But he wanted this didn't he? Of course he bloody fucking did. More than anything. He's wanted this since his adolescence. And now it was finally about to happen. But that was the selfish part of him speaking. Did he want to condemn her to him, force her innocent eyes to take in his disgusting body, no. Of course not. But she wanted him to…she was of age, she knew what she wanted, and she had always been older than her peers both mentally and physically…

"Please?" That tiny, pleading voice made its presence known once more, and this time was emphasized by her small, dainty hand drifting faintly across his skin painstakingly slowly, lower, lower still… until it was there, and she took her thumb and gently ran it across his waistband, teasing with her thumb just inside every so often and stroking the skin there softly, his abdominals straining and breath hitching fiercely. She stopped suddenly, "Remember…I have nothing to compare you to…I'm just as scared and inexperienced as you are." She murmured.

His determination spent, he closed his eyes and breathed in deeply, before jerkily nodding his head in assent.

He ran his hands down toward his waist, slowly, dragging the time out, whilst Hermione sat on her knees beside him, watching eagerly, ready to learn something that would be entirely new. Finally, his fingers reached the hemline of his pants, and he breathed in a large gulp of air, mentally preparing himself for any show of repugnance, fright, or rejection from her of his person.

She seemed to hear his intake of air and sense his hesitance, because she instantly was now sat behind him, just behind his head on the pillow, her gentle, comforting hands currently massaging his scalp and running through his hair, gods how he never knew he loved that, and bent to whisper near his ear.

"It's okay."

Giving him a miniscule shred of courage, he found, helped, and so his fingers hooked into the waistband of his boxers and began pulling them down. Slowly, leisurely, with his breath still held in his lungs, he felt his fingers reach past his knees, boxers in hand, going further down his long legs, and hadn't realized even his eyes were closed, his head reared back, lungs burning from held breath, until he heard her small gasp and felt his pants reach his ankles simultaneously, opening his eyes and allowing himself to breath only out of need.

He promptly saw her line of vision, directly on that one spot, and he desperately searched her expression from his position of being under her and upside down as she sat on her knees above him. Was that…curiosity? Admiration? Perhaps just simply her famous inquisitiveness; but no signs of any negative response. In fact she seemed the complete opposite of denying him. Her eyes went slightly wider, he saw, her mouth marginally open, and she seemed to be entirely itching to lean forward and touch him and experiment- the same look she had when she desired to read a book she could not get her hands on as in his personal rooms or the restricted section, he realized- but was too shy to do so.

He didn't think she was quite ready to do that yet, however, and besides she had asked him to show her, did she not?

Finally letting out the breath he'd been holding in a slow, steady exhalation, he reached downward and grasped his length swiftly, practically feeling her eyes watching him with every move.

He certainly had nothing to worry about in that department, of that she was sure. Of course, she had never seen one up close and personal, 'I've barely kissed a boy for gods' sake', but she was certain that his just had to be a bit larger than what was considered average. Rooming with Lavender had given her some information on male anatomy, when the shrill girl and Parvati would stay up late and talk of their hidden rendezvous in the alcoves of the castle when she was trying to sleep, and narrowing her eyes once more speculatively, she didn't see anything amiss or wrong with his impressive length that the irritating girls had spoken of with the boys they shagged. It was of decent width and size, and even though she would normally deem such a thing perhaps somewhat disgusting and strange looking, she couldn't help but stare and admire his. He was perfect. She could almost say his was…beautiful.

He was still grasping his erection, keeping still, refusing to move, his eyes shut and breath held once again. She started to wonder what he would be so ashamed of, as he really had nothing to be embarrassed about, but then she remembered this was his first time as well revealing himself to a woman, and was likely highly alert, sensitive, and mortified. And she had all but forced him to take off his undergarments and show her how he pleasured himself. How would she had felt if she was in his position, waking up half naked and having him watching her, touching her skin she was wary about, and then plead with her to touch herself simply to show him? How would she have felt? Terribly nervous and unsure, certainly. Terrified, humiliated, and discomfited.

'Gods Hermione what have you done?'

She again could sense his reluctance, and before she knew what she was doing her hands began massaging him unconsciously, running through his long strands of hair and brushing his shoulder and neck with a butterfly touch, his sensitive skin nearly humming with pleasure her gentle, soothing fingers were causing him.

This seemed to relax him enough to breathe again, and to begin to stroke himself slowly, gently, his eyes fluttering and mouth falling open slightly in pleasure. She watched his careful, slack jawed expression, and noticed his breathing becoming more and more shallow with every expert stroke, nostrils flaring, inaudible gasps of pleasure and faint moans leaving his mouth, chest rising and falling evenly. His other hand lightly gripped the sheets in a fist, but he continued with his slow and steady stroking, intent on controlling himself while in front of her.

She watched the way he pleasured himself, learning what he liked, and she saw him flick and turn his wrist every so often, speed up and then slow his movements every now and again, his thumb rubbing the sensitive tip.

She watched his face, so enraptured by him, this Severus who was experiencing pleasure so freely in her presence that no one else had the opportunity of seeing other than his trademark sneer, was so captivated and enchanted that she decided to lean down and kiss his lips lovingly, encouragingly, and whisper in his ear tenderly how gorgeous he was, how perfect he was, all while continuing to caress his skin adoringly, smoothing her hands along the planes of his pale, hard chest and rubbing his strong shoulders softly.

Her touches added to the intensity of the pleasure he was experiencing, and his lowered moans heightened to clear groans and increased stroking speed. His grunt of completion and few even thrusts of his hips signaled him finishing earlier than what she thought he might, his seed landing on his lower stomach, but leaned down to kiss his lips affectionately one last time, "That was the most beautiful thing I've ever seen," she whispered, and smiled down at him, peppering his face with gentle kisses.

His face heated from her compliments and attention, and shook his head slightly. Swallowing and coughing slightly to attempt to conceal his discomforting condition, 'I just pleasured myself in front of her for Merlin's sake', he said, "Yes, well," and made an effort to move into a sitting position and pull his pants up.

Her hands stopped his, however, "Thank you."

He stared at her, ceasing his movements, and she continued speaking out of nervousness of his pointed glare, "I-I mean, that is, I know that was hard- I mean…er, difficult for you to do, and um I just…wanted to say I appreciate you letting me sleep in here last night after my nightmare and for trusting me and being comfortable enough to do that in front of me…and, I-,"

"Hermione," he stopped her, successfully sitting up and pulling his pants back on to maintain his modesty, grabbing her forearms to place her sitting directly in front of him. "You do not need to thank me."

She blinked and wrinkled her brow slightly in confusion, giving him what he thought was a rather adorable look, before he knew he needed to explain himself further, "If anyone is thanking anyone it is I should thank you; I am pleased I feel…comfortable enough to do…that around you, and that you accept me enough to not instantly turn around and run the other way and scream bloody murder the instant I pull my bloody pants down," he growled, and she had to stifle a laugh.

"I meant what I said, you know," she said delicately, and it was his turn to look confused, "When I said you were beautiful. You are."

His features relaxed into that of understanding but still had an underlying hint of confusion in his eyes at her words, "Oh, yes…thank you, for that as well. No one…has ever told me that before."

Her eyes saddened, and she brought her hand up to caress his face, "No one? Not even your mum?" she asked carefully.

His eyes hardened, "No."

"I'm sorry, Severus," she continued stroking his face, "But you are. Truly."

He reached up to grab her hand that was caressing his face and grasped it softly, pulling it down into his lap, stroking her thumb with his own, "And you as well." He again brushed back a piece of her unruly hair and leaned into her now exposed ear, murmuring, "I promise to return the favor later."

She gasped in a breath of air in surprise, her face immediately blushing with color, "I-Oh, Severus, I-you don't-,"

He smirked, and moved up and off the bed before she could finish her sentence, "But right now we have breakfast we are expected to be present at."

She smiled in embarrassment before throwing a pillow in his direction which he successfully blocked.

Both readying themselves and dressing for the day, they each walked to his door which he held open for her. Smiling at him, she made her way out into the darkened halls, Severus close behind, a protective hand covering the small of her back. Soon, however, he deemed himself brave enough to reach his hand around and link it with hers, which she gleefully accepted.

Ronald had just been returning from breakfast, fleeing the Great Hall as soon as he was done eating. He had been hoping to see Hermione, to finally swallow his pride and apologize, but she had not been there. Although it was the weekend, she was usually not one to sleep in and lounge about. She was always at breakfast. Where was she? Was she sick? Doing homework? Studying?

It didn't help when nearly everyone in the Hall was glaring daggers at him every time he turned around. He knew everyone knew about his and Hermione's row, but he thought more of them might be on his side. Harry seemed to be a bit absent lately, from both him and Hermione, choosing to stay by Ginny's side at all times of the day. He still spoke to him, but only if he instigated it.

So, he figured, in order for it to be back in order the way it used to be, he would have to say sorry and they would move on. She would forgive him, she had to forgive him. It was Hermione. Forgiving, compassionate, and understanding Hermione.

Walking quickly to the direction of her rooms in the hopes of seeing her making her way to the Hall for perhaps a late breakfast, he ducked his head as she was nowhere in sight. But turning the other way headed back to his own rooms to sprawl out and nap for the day, he was greeted with familiar voices quickly rounding the corner.

He hurriedly found a dark niche and crouched down out of sight, as the one deep, silky voice and the other lighter, feminine one passed, ones that were all too familiar, ones that had him peek his head out of his hiding place to gawp at the sight of his horrid potions' master and ex best friend and girlfriend holding each other's' hands and laughing at something the git said.

A/N: Thanks for reading. Reviews are always appreciated.