A/N: Hello, dear readers! I know I said I'd post The Blood of the Moon (my Fenrir/Dark!Hermione fic) this week, but I'm still working on it... and this little idea popped up and wouldn't go away. I will post The Blood of the Moon soon though.
This is my next Severus/Hermione story! Yay! I don't have a beta. So any and all mistakes are mine. PM or review if you see any mistakes that I should correct and I will. Constructive criticism is always appreciated. :)
I still don't own HP. Jo does though. I'm just using her characters because I wasn't totally satisfied with who ended up with who at the end of the series. :P
I've talked enough. Here goes! Allons-y!
Her Patronus was an otter. It was a playful little thing that liked to dance and float around her whenever she cast it. It suited her; otters were creatures that didn't like to be lonely, much like herself. She would always choose to have the company of another living being over no company at all.
This was the reason that when she sat alone in the library, after curfew, she cast her Patronus before settling down with the books. The little creature liked to flit about, moving through books and dancing around the shelves nearby. It comforted her and made her feel as though she wasn't all by herself in the large Hogwarts library.
He found her one night, sitting in an armchair in the back of the library, a book open in her lap and the little blue otter swimming happily in the air about her. She looked content as her eyes scanned the pages.
He stepped forward from the shadows and made his presence known. She looked up at him. He expected her to leap up, forgetting the book and making her Patronus disappear, and try her hardest to talk her way out of trouble. He expected her to blush and apologize and promise to never do it again before scurrying off to bed.
Instead, she smiled pleasantly at him. He felt his body tense in response. He knew how to deal with the stuttering and pleading, but this caught him completely off guard.
"Professor Snape," she said, appearing to be totally and completely calm.
He cleared his throat and stepped closer. The otter swirled around him, nudging against the back of his neck as it curved itself and settled on his shoulders. He swatted it away. Hermione snickered. He glared at her, but the stupid smile didn't leave her face. He felt anger rise up in him. "Care to explain what you're doing here, Miss Granger?" he snapped.
"Of course, Professor," she said, closing the book in her lap and setting it beside the chair. "Doing extra research, of course." Her otter floated gently onto the book for a moment before leaping up again and winding its way back to the surly man standing before its castor. "And please, don't call me Miss Granger. Call me by my name; we are colleagues, after all."
Snape snorted in disgust as the otter moved around his waist and up his chest before trying to settle down on his shoulders again. "Fine, Professor Granger," he muttered. "Please, get rid of this blasted thing." He swatted at it again.
"But it likes you, sir," she said, laughing.
Snape paused in his ministrations and focused on the tinkling sound of her laughter. It was carefree and full of life; everything she was and he wasn't. Her eyes shone with mirth as the sound bubbled from her lips. His anger dissipated, replaced instead by warmth that he had been gradually re-familiarizing himself with.
Hermione stopped laughing and rose from her chair. "Right," she sighed, "not funny, Miss Granger, get rid of this vile thing, Miss Granger, blah blah blah." She trotted up to him, smiling at the otter now sitting happily on his shoulder. "They're social creatures," she mused. "So unlike yourself, Severus."
"And that's the way I intend to keep it," he grumbled.
Hermione hummed and moved even closer to him. She was close enough to touch now. A small part of him wanted to. Part of him wanted to pull her close to him and kiss her. He wondered momentarily what she'd do.
She dragged his attention back to her when she reached up tentatively to her Patronus. "It really does like you," Hermione said softly. "It's never acted like this around anyone else. Only myself. And you."
"Fascinating, Miss Granger," he drawled sarcastically.
"Severus, please. It's Hermione."
"Not when you're breaking school rules."
"What rules am I breaking?"
"You're out past curfew."
She scowled at him and he immediately wished he hadn't said anything. He much preferred that smile on her lips. "I'm a professor, Severus."
He sighed dramatically and brushed her Patronus off of his shoulder again. "Fine, Hermione. But when you wake up tomorrow severely sleep deprived, don't come running to me."
Hermione paused and a sly smile moved across her lips. He wanted to take a step back, nervous about what she was about to do, but he forced himself to stay put.
The otter swooped off of his shoulder, replaced by her hand. "You're concerned that I won't get enough sleep," she purred. "That's why you came here in the first place, isn't it?"
"No," he managed. "I'm here because I realized someone was in the library past curfew."
The hand on his shoulder left and he missed it immediately. "You care but you aren't willing to admit it, Severus," she whispered. "You care about me and my sleeping habits."
"Nonsense," he growled at her. "I don't want you giving the students the thought that sleeping during class is permitted."
"Don't worry, Severus. Your secret is safe with me. Me and my otter." She winked at him and moved past him, heading for the entrance of the library.
His Patronus was a doe. It was a beautiful being that moved with grace wherever it went. Severus knew it was very much unlike him, in every conceivable way. He secretly liked it, though. It reminded him of fond memories of Lily; memories he had from when they were still best of friends.
This is why he enjoyed its presence some nights as he sat in his chambers, settling in with a drink or a book or on occasion, both. The doe would comfort him in a way that few others could.
As it settled beside him that night, he couldn't help but compare it to the lively otter that flitted around Hermione while she occupied herself in the library. Her Patronus matched her perfectly; his was a manifestation of memories from a lifetime ago. He sighed and it disappeared.
He had always used the same memory to cast it; the feeling of Lily's hand in his own as she led him away from the Marauders their fourth year. He thought that particular moment was the happiest of his life. Until recently, at least.
Recently, the thought of the young professor seemed to lift his spirits just a little bit; enough to even allow him to have some hope. Hope that maybe, one day, she'd be his and only his, for the rest of their lives.
He frowned and lifted his wand, thinking of her laughter, her smile, and the way her eyes lit up. He twirled his wand and muttered, "Expecto Patronum".
He watched as the blue cloud emerged from his wand. It took much longer to take shape than it usually did. He frowned, wondering if he'd done something wrong.
It was then that it took shape. He couldn't suppress his slight gasp of shock. He stared at the creature before him, unsure of what to think.
The lioness peered back at him with equal curiosity.
"Impossible," he muttered. "No, that's just… that's impossible."
The lioness sat back on its haunches, ghostly eyes never once leaving his. It seemed to want to voice its disagreement.
He heard rustling behind him and turned. His Patronus disappeared with his concentration as Hermione, dressed in her nightclothes, strode smoothly up to him, with as much grace as a doe. She leaned over the back of the couch and wrapped her arms around his shoulders, kissing him on his forehead. "You weren't in bed. What are you still doing up?"
"Thinking," he hummed, closing his eyes and leaning into her.
"You have plenty of time to do that tomorrow," Hermione said. "Come to bed, darling."
She let go of him and he watched as she started back towards his bedroom. "Hermione," he called out to her. She paused and turned, looking at him with curiosity. He rose and walked to the other side of the couch. "Expecto Patronum."
Hermione watched with shock and delight as the lioness leapt from his wand once more.
Before he realized she'd even moved, her arms were wrapped around him again and her lips had claimed his in a fierce and passionate kiss. He froze for a moment in surprise before groaning and pulling her closer.
When they parted again, she was grinning at him. "I love you too, Severus," she whispered before allowing herself to be swept up in his arms.
A/N: And so there you have it. :) Please leave me a review! Let me know what you thought! Reviews are like cookies: I can never have enough of them!