"Hermione," a gentle voice prodded with a light shake, and slowly she began to come around. Her back was stiff, and she knew as soon as she started moving the stiffness would turn to soreness, and she felt as though she hadn't gotten nearly enough sleep, but against her body's protests she opened her eyes and stretched. Severus was sitting on the bed next to her, fully dressed, a breakfast tray in his reach.
"What time is it?" she asked, stifling a yawn.
"A quarter to nine," he replied. "I tried to let you sleep as long as possible. I ordered your breakfast so you can eat down here and then go to your revision."
"Thank you," she replied with a smile as she reached for the tray. "That was very thoughtful."
"I need to thank you," he replied, then his eyes dropped, not far, but enough that she could tell he wasn't looking into her face but rather a spot just over her shoulder. "And I must apologize. My behavior last night..."
"Was the behavior most people would have exhibited in your situation," she interrupted firmly. "And I meant what I said last night, if you do not want to be here you should go home. Your promise to McGonagall is not worth your mental health."
"I should be better tonight, though for your safety perhaps it would be best if you were to move into the dormitory with your peers."
"Not a chance," she shook her head. "I'm not leaving you down here so you can spend your night down here alone, awake for fear of it happening again."
"I can be just as stubborn as you, Severus Snape," she said, buttering a piece of toast. "I will not leave you down here alone, so you might as well accept it. It's for the best of everyone in this castle that you at least get some sleep."
He let off a frustrated sigh, and Hermione knew he was at least conceding the point. "What revisions do you have today?" he asked.
"Charms, Defense, Arithmancy, and Herbology," she recited from memory. "So it looks like you're in the clear when it comes to having to deal with students today..."
"I'm holding an unofficial revision while you're at Arithmancy," he informed her. "Draco and several other students requested it. The common complaint is that their Potions education was somewhat lacking in the last couple years."
"Under Slughorn?" she raised an eyebrow.
"Slughorn, while not a bad Professor, commonly stacked his classes with potions he felt were more interesting, thus making his class more talked about and something students desired to be a part of. Some of the potions that you may be asked to brew are relatively benign cures for simple maladies, and 'benign' and 'simple' were two words Horace avoided as often as possible."
"Am I going to miss anything?" she asked, sounding concerned. "Maybe you could catch me up after the other revisions, I could push back meeting Dean and Draco in the library another hour or two..."
"Hermione," he said sharply. "I have told you repeatedly not to worry about your Potions work. You are skilled, especially in those things that the tests will cover. I do not doubt you will have the top mark of your peers, if not the top mark this school has seen in a while. The same holds true for most of your classes, though I think Longbottom has you beaten in Herbology, and your nerves tend to get the better of you in Defense which is why Potter was able to best you."
"The last time I took an exam in Defense was before I got involved in a bloody war," she grumbled.
"Which is why I expect your marks to improve. If you can face off with the likes of Bellatrix Lestrange in the middle of battle it shouldn't be very difficult to cast a simple non-verbal shield charm for a proctor."
She studied his face and saw the flash of a conspiratorial smile. "Are you saying that there is a non-verbal shield charm during the practical portion of the Defense exam, Professor Snape?"
"Madam Snape, you are lucky I am not allowed to deduct house points. You should know better than to inquire as to the exact content of the exam," he deadpanned.
"I understand, and I apologize profusely, sir."
"Bite your tongue. I have a meeting with Minerva in five minutes, so I will be leaving shortly, and it sounds as though I should not expect you until well after revisions are over for the day."
"We did give ourselves an hour or so after Herbology to unwind a bit. Dean and Ernie Macmillan even invited Draco to toss the Quaffle around a bit."
"Befriending you has been one of the best decisions that boy has made in quite some time."
"What is that supposed to mean?"
"It's not as insulting as your sudden affronted tone would suggest," he shot back. "Remember what I have told you about being a member of Slytherin house. Friendships with other houses were not as common as they were for the other houses, and that was even more true as of late. By the time I became Headmaster pretty much the entirety of my house was labeled as unwanted, and they did not do much to try to build bridges. At the moment the Malfoys are particularly unpopular with most of our world because they are seen as Death Eaters who got away with it on one side, and turncoats to those few followers of the Dark Lord who have not been imprisoned. You, on the other hand, are held in high esteem by so many. Many of your generation look up to you, Potter, and Weasley and hold your words and actions in high regard. You arguably have the most reason of the three of you to treat the Malfoys or Slytherins in general worse than dirt on your shoe, and yet you have extended the olive branch and accepted some of us into your inner most group of friends. You are doing what needed to be done after the war, lest we slip into old habits of house division and alienation. Without someone like you taking the helm and showing people it is okay to forgive and even befriend I fear that the next generation of Hogwarts students would look very much like the current, with Slytherins further ostracized and people rarely forging lasting friendships beyond the confines of their own houses."
She stared at him for a long moment. "You know, that's an awfully big burden to be putting on me before I've even finished breakfast," she murmured.
"It's no more a burden than you had ten minutes ago," he pointed out. "You are a forgiving woman, Hermione. Nothing I just said is going to change your behavior in any way. I merely pointed out that because of the nature of your behavior you are mending relationships between houses better than any of those blathering opinion articles about friendship that the Prophet is so fond of running."
She sighed and took a sip of coffee. "Will you be down here this afternoon?"
"That is my plan, though if Hagrid has anything to say I will be roped into tea against my every wish."
"For someone who just sung the praises of developing friendships between former rivals..." she started but he cut her off.
"I would join Hagrid for drinks if that were the offer, but seeing as we are currently in the middle of a critical academic moment it's not appropriate for us to go off grounds, and thus he has offered to host. I don't know if you have noticed, Hermione, but I have not had the dental oversight you have had, I feel my molars may not survive an attempt to politely attempt consumption of one of his infamous rock cakes."
She looked at him sternly, but finally lost composure and smiled. "Set something up for one of the test days after they're complete for the day and I'll join you. That way we'll have an excuse not to linger too long, and I can distract you while you give your portions to Fang."
"As if that mongrel needs more feeding."
"Severus..." she said in a warning tone. "Remember I still like Hagrid. I fully intend on having Harry and Ron join me for tea with Hagrid on Christmas Eve."
"Am I to go to that?" he raised an eyebrow.
"I made an excuse about you visiting family. Didn't you say you had to meet McGonagall in less than five minutes?"
He stood and made for the door, but paused in the frame and turned to look at her, a mischievous smile upon his face. "Actually, I was due nearly ten minutes ago. But I do so like to make her wait. Constantly irritating her was one of the few pleasures I got around this place."
"Severus!" she chastised, but he had already gone. She quickly finished her food and got dressed, then crammed her books into her bag and started into the hallway. Before she even reached the first staircase a familiar drawl sounded behind her.
"Good morning, Madam Snape," Draco's sneer was obvious without her turning to look at him.
"Good morning to you, too, ferret," she replied, her voice as chipper as she could force it.
"You look terrible this morning," he said, falling into step next to her.
"What a charmer you are," she rolled her eyes.
"Did you get any sleep last night? Is Severus keeping you up all night now? I have to say I didn't know the old man had it in him."
"He had a nightmare, and I helped him get back to bed," she snapped before she realized she had allowed him to goad her into a response fairly easily.
"You got him back to sleep?" Draco sounded surprised and impressed. "He would never go back to sleep when he stayed in the manor. Never stayed quiet, either, to be honest. Stalked the halls at all hours of the night to avoid falling asleep again."
"Did he have nightmares when he stayed with you, too?" she asked.
"Pretty much every night. How did you get him back to sleep? Mother tried everything, but he turned it all down."
"I'm not telling you," she shook her head, and noticed the knowing smirk on his face added, "it is not what you are thinking, but it is rather embarrassing."
"What's the point of being friends with a Gryffindor if they're not going to show their daring side around you?" he said with a dramatic sigh.
"What's the point of being friends with a Slytherin if they can't even be subtle about trying to get embarrassing information about you?" she shot back.
"Touche," he smiled as they arrived at Flitwick's room. As they entered the room fell silent, all eyes turning to look at her.
"Bloody hell, what now?" she groaned softly, going to take the open seat next to Pavarti.
"Before you ask, no one here talked to her," Pavarti said, sliding that mornings Prophet towards her.
The Headmaster and the Prefect
The so-called "Gryffindor Princess" rekindles the feelings of her illicit student-teacher affair by bringing her husband with her to Hogwarts.
By: Rita Skeeter
"I didn't even need to read the byline to know who wrote this piece of tripe," she grumbled, scanning the first couple paragraphs before folding it to hide the offending story. "It didn't even take her a full day, I'd be impressed if I weren't so annoyed."
"I'm assuming you aren't going to read the full story?" Pavarti murmured, taking the paper back.
"Let me guess," she sighed. "I'm some little trollop who is lying about not being with Severus until after I left school, and he's only back here to fulfill my fantasies of a sordid teacher/student relationship?"
"Well, she sort of waivers on if Snape is here because he wants to be or because you forced him, but yes, you have the general idea."
"Did it say who her source was that he's even here?" she asked.
"Slughorn," she answered, pointing to the mention of their former professor's name buried in the article. "She saw him shopping for his Christmas party and asked why he isn't here. I'm sure he just mentioned that he got Severus to cover for him, and she just filled in all the details."
"Well, it had been a while since scandal has flared in our relationship. I guess we were about due," she said dryly.
"He seemed very professional with you in the room yesterday," Padma added from behind them.
"I'm here to study. I know it sounds boring, but if we were, how did she put it? 'Befouling the dungeon' that would take away from my precious study time, and Severus knows better than to interrupt my studies like that. I can show you my schedule, no where in there have I put 'detention with the Potions Master', and that should be proof enough for anyone who knows me."
Padma, Pavarti, and Dean started laughing, and from out of the corner of her eye she saw Draco snicker. Flitwick entered the room, silencing the group, and as the revision started the gossip quickly cleared the group's mind.
"Another long day?" Severus asked as Hermione sat on the sofa next to him, dropping her book bag unceremoniously on the floor next to her with a large thud.
"Nothing more than what I expected," she sighed. "I'm glad Harry and Ron aren't here. It seems like I get a lot more studying done when those two don't need constant mothering."
"What a surprise," he drawled with a smile.
"How did your revision go?" she asked, starting to pull her hair out of the tight braid she had used to tame it during the day.
"I feel like there is something going on with the students that I don't know about," he admitted.
"Did you see the Prophet?" she asked.
"I would rather spend an hour in a pen with a blast-ended skrewt than spend five minutes reading that drivel," he reminded her.
"Slughorn let slip that you are here to Rita Skeeter. She did what she does best," she informed him.
"I see," he said, clearly annoyed. "Tell me, am I taking full advantage of being back in the school to try to influence more young women?"
"No, I'm the tart who demanded you be back here because I wanted to fulfill my role playing fantasies in the proper setting. Though, she did insinuate we're lying about this not starting while I was a student."
"I guess it was too much to ask that we get through this process without being featured on the gossip pages," he growled.
"Of course," she sighed. "I hate to dash your dreams, but I really have no interest in receiving 'extra credit' in the potions room."
He rolled his eyes. "I assure you, your outfit does nothing for me as well."
"Do I look that awful?" she asked, looking down at her uniform.
"You do not look awful, but I detest the sight of you in those clothes," he replied.
"Are you saying you want me out of them?" she raised an eyebrow.
"I would be happy if you never wore them again," he said softly. "They remind me how young you are, and how much I'm taking from you."
"Must we have this conversation again?" she sighed. "I hadn't scheduled it into my time-table, but I guess I could make room."
"No, Severus," she held up a hand. "We've been over this. You are taking nothing from me that I didn't willingly offer. I am not upset about this, but if you insist on disturbing my studies with this then I might get upset. You should know by now not to get between me and my education, so if you want to have this conversation yet again can it please wait until after I have taken my tests and had my requisite breakdown over what questions I have gotten wrong?"
He stared at her for a long moment before the corner of his mouth twitched up. "I am sorry."
"Good," she said, standing up. "You don't like these clothes? I promise I will not wear them around the rooms. Excuse me while I go shower."
He said nothing as she left the room, making a beeline for the bathroom. She took her time in the shower, letting the warm water melt away some of her stress from the day. When she finished she dried herself, brushed her hair, and put it in a looser braid to keep it off her face while she slept. Then she dressed in her night clothes, left the bathroom and frowned at the empty bed. She soundlessly entered the sitting room again, finding Severus still sitting in the same place, a book open on his lap but his eyes distant.
"Are you coming to bed?" she asked, taking her place on the sofa next to him and tucking her legs up under herself to keep her feet warm in the cold dungeon.
"You go along, I'll be there shortly," he replied, not looking at her.
Her eyes narrowed. "I don't believe you," she accused.
"You were up late last night, Hermione. You should get some sleep," he said softly.
"So you can stay up out of fear of a repeat of last night?"
"You do not need to worry about me."
"And yet, here I am, worrying. Come to bed, Severus."
She didn't let him finish, but moved so she could press her lips to his. He tensed for a moment, but quickly relaxed, letting her take control. She kissed him for a long moment, then pulled away and smiled at him.
"Come to bed, Severus," she repeated in a whisper, a smile playing across her lips.
He nodded in agreement, and she took his hand, leading him into the bedroom and pulling him onto the bed with her. Once in bed he took the lead from her, kissing her, touching her, taking his time to undress her and savor her. By the time he had brought her to climax the chill seemed to have disappeared from the dungeon air, and Hermione was so exhausted she couldn't even think of putting her night clothes back on. To her disappointment, however, he slid from the bed, walking across the room and reaching up to put his wand on a shelf.
"I thought you slept with it under your pillow," she said.
"I do, but after last night I'm not willing to put you at risk," he replied.
"Are you going to be able to sleep without it?" she asked.
"I'm not willing to put you at risk," he repeated firmly.
She bit her lip, then reached for her own wand and placed it on the table next to his side of the bed. "So you know something is accessible, but not your usual routine," she said.
"You don't have to do that," he said, climbing back into bed with her.
"I want you to feel safe," she replied. "You need your sleep."
"So do you," he pointed out.
"I'll get it when you do," she shot back.
He glared at her a moment. "Stubborn Gryffindor," he grumbled.
"Thank you, I try," she smiled before giving him a kiss. They both settled down, but she waited until he was asleep before letting her exhaustion take over and drag her down as well.
"So, if Potter is to be believed, this is the part where you analyze every single question and start to fret over what you might have gotten wrong," Draco said as they walked out of their Charms practical.
"I don't have time for that," she replied as the small group of students gathered in the entrance hall, waiting for the Great Hall to be turned back into a room where they could eat. "Two tests a day is a brutal schedule. If I fret too much over Charms I'm going to wreck my last-minute plans to study Transfiguration."
"Do you think it's going to be horrible?" Dean asked as he, Padma, and Pavarti came to stand next to them.
"I don't know. Severus isn't saying anything about tests in subjects he didn't teach."
"Oh, you're getting inside information from Professor Snape?" Padma sounded extremely interested.
"It's not as helpful as you'd think," she shrugged. "He won't say anything specifically on the test, and they do switch up which potion you have to produce for the practical, but he has hinted that certain things tend to show up in the written portion. And it's all stuff he's gone over in the revisions and stressed you study again, so it's not like I've got a leg up."
"Oh," she looked a bit disappointed.
"I know. What's the point in marrying a former Professor if they don't give you the answers?" she sighed dramatically as the doors opened back up to let them in for lunch. They moved in as a group and started to take their places along the table.
"Before I delay things too long, I would like to invite all of you out to the Three Broomsticks after the final test on Wednesday," Draco announced. "Mother has booked an area for us to celebrate the end of testing."
"All of us?" Dean asked, sounding surprised.
"Anyone daft enough to agree to this testing schedule," he added a little more loudly so the rest could overhear. "She's also made arrangements with the Knight Bus to make sure we all get back home safely."
"Brilliant!" he smiled. "Tell her thank you."
"I will," he nodded, giving a little pleased smile.
"I'll make sure word gets around," Padma added as food appeared along the middle of the table and everyone started reaching for things. "I think a little celebration is in order."
"You can bring Severus, if you want," Draco told Hermione in a quiet voice as she spooned herself a steaming bowl of vegetable soup.
"I'm sure asking him to spend time with former students will be the highlight of his day," she replied with a smile.
"He doesn't have to come if he wants to revert to his usual surly self," he shrugged. "But the offer is on the table."
"I will tell him. Tell your mother thank you for setting this up."
"It was her idea. Thinks I should be more sociable with people I might not have been social with before."
"I wonder why she thinks that," she smirked.
"Listen, Miss Know-it-all, I'll have you know I was perfectly social when I was a student here."
"With who? Mrs. Norris? Because all I remember was a giant prat."
"Say what you will about Slytherins, but I can assure you that we're a much more pleasant bunch that that ruddy cat," he scowled.
"Hmmm..." she pretended to think. "I think I'd still rather spend time with the cat."
"Watch it, Madam Snape, or I'll revoke your invitation."
"No, you won't. Your mother would kill you," she smiled smugly.
"Of all the people for her to be fond of, it had to be the one who hit me."
"Maybe it's because I hit you that she's fond of me?" she said innocently as she pulled out her transfiguration book and propped it next to her bowl of soup.
"You are insufferable, Hermione," he sighed dramatically as he helped himself to a sandwich.
"As my husband always says," she added before the table fell silent with students eating and reading.