A timing spell anchored to his wand flashed warm and red then to remind him to check on her and he reluctantly got to his feet from his chair behind his desk in the study. He'd set her the task of developing her own brew based off a base of his design and a specified list of acceptable uses to challenge her improvisation skills and it was well past time to examine the results of the trial. He glided down the hall to the laboratory and stood in the doorway, watching her shoulders inevitably tense when she registered his presence.

"Well, Miss Granger?" he said, curious. She had more than proven her right to his tutelage, though he would never admit it, and he was always fascinated by and interested in her approach to potion making and the scientific theory of the field.

"I am working on a healing draught," she stated without emotion. Her tone stung, but her answer impressed him. It was the hardest option of the three he'd offered, with the base composed of volatile and poisonous ingredients many Masters even avoided experimenting with.

"Is it complete?" The prospect was exciting, in spite of everything.

"Nearly." Her self-assurance was refreshing, though her face was blank.

He drifted closer and finally, stood beside her and examined the cauldron. The evaporation glowed faintly as it rose gracefully into the air and the draught itself gleamed golden in the light of the candles charmed to hover without dripping onto the work bench. The aroma was mostly herbal from the additives she had made to stabilise the base, though there was a faint sharpness from the inclusions of mercury, rowan sap and a tincture made of a particular variety of toxic lily.

"What is left?" he asked, speculating internally about what else she would add. Leather shavings? Dried dragon blood? Diced liver pieces from a Cornish pixie?

He turned to her, awaiting her reply, and was unprepared for the sight of her unbuttoning the front placket of the prim and practical high-necked dress she wore and slipping her shoulders through the opening. She stepped out of the dress and folded it neatly on the bench.

He didn't understand what was happening and the slow burning of his body made it hard to think or breathe. He felt exhilarated and excited and anxious and he couldn't get any oxygen to his brain. Evidently it showed.

"The final ingredient," she said slowly as if to a child or a half wit, "is going to be a virgin's first blood. I need some help collecting it."

He felt himself blinking, unable to comprehend her words. In the back of his mind, he decided that virgin's blood would be a good choice for a healing draught, both for the restorative and neutralizing qualities of a blood gift freely given, but she couldn't possibly be suggesting that he-

"What?" he heard himself say dumbly.

"I need help to collect the final potion ingredient," she said. He could hear her shaky defiance and see the stiffness in her limbs. Was it fear?

Any and all feeling other than the swift surge of illness deserted him.

Why would she do this? She must hate him, after everything, and she now she asked the unthinkable.

Only for the potion, the little voice said.

"This is appalling," he heard himself say and he turned away from her. Thinking was easier without the sight of her reclining on his work bench in her underthings to distract him. He paced as he tried to process the situation. He set her the challenge, but he didn't expect it to end this way. Or want it to- no, that wasn't strictly true. He couldn't deny that he burned for her, even before he went through her things and saw where she slept, he fantasised about it. And about being able to touch her and see the body he could only imagine under the fine cotton nightgown. It was wrong for a man in his position, but he was only just a man and not enough of one to withstand the challenge posed by his apprentice.

And she wanted him to- no, she had asked him to help her harvest her final potion ingredient: her virgin blood. The fact that she hadn't- The fact that she was going to let him- No. Logically, he knew he was the only man for miles and therefore, if she wanted the blood, there was no easier way to get it, but-

But why? Yes, she cared about her potions and getting things right and even about being right, but surely she wouldn't have him deflower her on his work bench just for the sake of her sodding apprenticeship and academic curiosity.

He looked up, remembering that she was in the room only to find that she wasn't.

She'd taken her dress and left at some point and he hadn't even acknowledged it. He'd just mumbled some stupid remark and fallen apart and she'd quietly left him to it. He remembered then exactly what he'd said before he turned away and realised how badly it must have come across to the girl virtually offering herself to him in the name of science.

Cursing himself as the worst kind of idiot, he kicked the stool next to the bench viciously. What could he have said, even had the circumstances been better and the situation perfect? He could hardly tell her that he- what? That he longed to touch her and have her touch him? That he dreamed of having the right to sleep beside her and wake up and just look at her?

He adored her. He couldn't deny that somewhere along the way, his existence had come to revolve around her and now he would cheerfully consign himself to Hell for the utter depravity of his obsession with the girl if it would appease her hurt. He knew he had not a hope in Hell of having her, but he burned already and knew his suffering would only worsen when she left, so what was Hell compared to this?

His feet took him to his study and he sank down in the chair by the fire to reflect on his utter wretchedness. He had lost what would have been his only chance to touch her. She would have welcomed it, if only for the sake of her potion and even if she'd turned away from him afterwards. He'd hurt her again, but then, what was being called appalling to what he said to every day for minor infractions and even when she hadn't done anything wrong?

She remained upstairs for the rest of the day and he died a thousand little deaths imagining her upset and crying at his accidental cruelty. Eventually, he ventured back to the scene of the crime and the potion, which was by then ruined. She'd left her notes safely out of reach of spattering and he read through them and reflected on her brilliance as much as he traced the loops of her perfect penmanship with a desolate finger.

When she didn't come down for dinner, he sat down alone at the table and endured the accusing look of the house elf. He asked that her plate be left covered with a cloth and a stasis spell in the pantry for her and then retreated to the study again to stare blindly at the fire.

The day hadn't been his undoing; it had been the whole sorry apprenticeship. She'd been a model student, more than good and more than tolerant and obedient. He'd been a disgusting lecher who lost sight of proprieties and his obligations to her and was now utterly damned.

Finally, he went upstairs and had a bath quietly; anxious not to wake her in case she was asleep. God only knew how he'd face her in the morning and he contemplated sinking under the water and letting it fill his lungs, until it went too cold even for his self-loathing to bear, and he finally dragged himself out. He dried himself wearily before the fire and then walked as silently as he could to his bedroom, passing the attic ladder and following it upwards with his eyes. She might leave even without her papers signed now, though of course he would grant her his mark. She had earned it and he owed her something from this sorry mess.

His bedroom was still cold despite the established fire in the large brazier and he walked over to try and steal some warmth for his icy fingers. A sound from behind him startled him and he turned to find her in his bed, laying back against the pillows with the covers pulled up to her chest. His heart beat a tattoo so rapid he couldn't hear the crackling of the burning logs above the pounding. She met his eye defiantly.

"I can't-"he managed and darted towards the door, but she was out from under the covers and blocking his escape within a second. She was naked except for a tiny golden pendant on a fine chain and of course, her cloud of hair. He tried not to notice, but he stood within arm's reach and his itched to catch her small, fair shoulders and drag her to him.

She closed the gap between them and was so close than he could smell the milky scent of her skin and feel her breath. She tilted her head so that she could look up into his eyes and he saw a passion there that he could scarcely believe to be real. She untied the sash of the dressing gown he wore and her hands slid up his torso to the collar, which she pushed back over his shoulders in a fluid movement. She took her time easing the dressing gown to the floor and watched it fall. From there, it was natural that she would observe his hardness standing to attention. While she did this, he didn't draw a breath and when she moved in to wrap her bare arms around his bare waist and catch his erection against the smooth, warm silk of her firm stomach, he exhaled noisily and sucked in oxygen greedily while he memorized all of the sensations bombarding him.

He could feel her nipples against his chest and it sent a throb of blood into his already rock-hard cock. She seemed to feel it and rubbed against him like a cat, causing him to groan. She laughed softly against his chest as she nuzzled him and planted kisses against the hair. She arms were already firmly banded around him and she tightened her hold.

"I want you," she whispered.

Oh.

"I mean to have you."

God.

She looked up at him again. "May I?"

In response, he broke her hold, caught her up in his arms and deposited her roughly on the bed. To her delight. She smiled and slid back against the pillows and whimpered when he climbed over her and settled his weight above her. He kissed her hard with all of the pent-up longing he had suffered and groaned when she opened her mouth to give entrance to his tongue and writhed against him. Sliding a forearm under her hips, he tilted them against the grinding force of his and felt his eyes roll back into his head at the sensation.

"More!" she gasped and sank her teeth into his neck.

He released he hips and shoulders to sit back and open her thighs. He could see that she was wet in the firelight and he rubbed the tip of his thumb against her clitoris in a gentle flick, watching as her shoulders lifted off the bed and she cried out. He nudged the plump little bud with rapid strokes of his thumb and insinuated first one and then a second finger into her channel. She was so tight but so eager. God. He couldn't wait to push his way in and feel her muscles clamp around his length. He'd have to hold her down to fit it all in and he knew she would buck and try to take it all immediately.

As he was about to settle himself above her, she sat up and caught his lips in a rough, wet kiss they both struggled to dominate. Breathing hard, she pulled away to leave sucking bites on his neck and lave the marks. The feeling was incredible and he continued to push his fingers in and out of her, wringing from her moans as she applied just enough force with her teeth to the tendons of his neck to make him grunt.

"Summon a speculum and come and take me," she murmured, sucking his earlobe.

He did as she bade quickly and tossed it in the direction of his bedside table. She lay back with her knees raised and he moved between them. She wrapped her legs around him, urging his pelvis closer and he kissed her.

"Are you sure?" he asked seriously.

She frowned. "Of course."

With that, she pushed herself onto his impaling cock and moaned. He drew back and surged back in, pushing against resistant virgin muscles. He felt them give and her wince told him it had hurt. He pulled back, took the speculum and offered it to her, giving her the control. She applied it gingerly and cast a containing spell around it before settling it on the bedside table. She met his eye and smiled and dragged him back towards her. He took the position again, easing his way in and she welcomed him eagerly.

He rode her hard and she moaned, then yelled and then gasped her approval. They settled into a rapid rhythm that he would upset every now and then with an erratic thrust to surprise and unsettle her and eventually, he caught her out and pushed her into her climax; holding her tight and loving the spasming of her sheath around him. She begged and pleaded for more, harder, faster and he was powerless to refuse. He refused to come unless he could make her scream his name.

"Please!" she moaned. "Please, oh, yes!"

"Come for me again, my love," he grunted. "I need to feel it."

She dropped her head back against the pillows, expression fierce.

"Tell me you want me," she demanded.

"Of course I fucking do," he gasped. "I need you so – oh! – badly."

"Really?"

"Yes! Fuck, Hermione, oh-"she had wrestled him onto his back and sat back proudly on his hard length.

"Do you really need me?" she asked, easing up and down in slow, slow motions. The change of pace was too much and her expression was calculating as she dug her nails into his chest.

"Hermione, love, can you-"

She cut him off. "Not until you tell me what I want to hear."

The slow slide of her against his hardness was too much. "I can't think," he whined, trying to thrust upwards.

She held him down. "Try, or I'll stop," she warned. She bent down to lap at his nipples and he felt like he would die if she continued her torture.

"Beloved, please, I- oh, God!" She had swivelled her hips experimentally and evidently decided that she liked the reaction, as she did it again.

"Hermi-Oh!" she had found an angle which took him even deeper and he prayed for the strength to withstand this. "Darling, tell me what you need to hear."

"I want to know that I have your attention," she pouted, and then rose up to sink down in a fluid movement that made all the breath in his lungs rush out.

"How could you doubt it?" he gasped. In reward, she leaned forward to kiss him and he took the opportunity to roll her beneath him and quicken the pace. She didn't seem to mind ceding control to him and he made sure to show her the benefits of such an arrangement. He whispered all the things he'd wanted to tell her in her ears while he had the breath.

"You're so beautiful and I can't believe that I'm inside you. I have burned for you and been utterly obsessed with your skin and your lips and- oh, God! I've dreamed of having you here and making you come for me. I need you to come for me again, beloved. I need to feel you!"

"Do you love me?" she panted and he wanted to yell.

"Hermione, my love, I adore you." He could feel his tenuous grip on his control faltering and she was close, so close, but she wouldn't let go. "I've. Loved. You. For. So. Long," he bit out and kissed her.

"Severus!" she gasped and let out a long, loud moan. It was enough and he finally gave in and let the need overtake him.

Later, when the fired had died down and she was draped across him like a blanket, he stroked her hair aside and murmured: "I meant it. All of it."

"Did you?" she sounded exhausted but pleased.

"Of course, beloved," and he was too tired to move, so he placed a fervent kiss on her forehead.

"I love you too," she whispered.

"Good," he replied on a yawn and hitched her up so that her head was in the crook of his neck.

By the time weak, grey sunlight stole through the fibres of the curtain, he had been awake for several hours, watching her face in repose and her shoulders rise and fall as she took breath. She blinked then, eyes adjusting to the light, and when she saw him, she smiled.

"I'm going to stay here," she announced and his heart leaped,

"Forever?" he asked, knowing his happiness was riding on her answer.

"Of course," she replied haughtily and kissed him.