AN: As nearly always….this fic is Dragoon811's fault. She made me do it.
And, to my eternal disappointment, Severus Snape and the others belong exclusively to JKR.
"A curse on all bloody genius inventors, another on the Hogwarts founders, a double curse on this thrice-blasted equation…and a huge bloody jinx on the Minister of magic for proposing this exercise in futility in the first damn place."
Severus Snape was in a particularly foul mood as he slammed down his calculations and pushed a lank lock of black hair from his face. Hermione turned her head to hide a smile. It wouldn't do to gaze fondly at the man while he was in such a temper.
"It's almost six o'clock anyway. More than time to be going home, and I promised Neville and Luna I'd stop in at their place for cake and a cuddle from my god-daughter."
Severus groaned. "I can't imagine what the spawn of Neville Longbottom and Luna Lovegood will do later in life…assuming the child doesn't completely blow Hogwarts up in her first Potions class."
Hermione didn't grouse. That statement was Severus' way of politely asking after the child. "Augusta is a bright, inquisitive little witch. I imagine she'll do whatever takes her fancy…Luna isn't bad at potions now that she's a bit more down to earth…and Neville was always at his worst when you were sneering at him."
"A reaction that he eventually overcame, I assure you."
Hermione nodded as she straightened her workspace.
"Let's both of us try to rest this weekend and come back fresh next week. We're so close I can taste it…but…I don't know about you, but I haven't slept more than three hours a night this month, and if I still had cat he would be ignoring me because I haven't spent much more time than that at home. I want a glass of wine, a long hot bath, and eight solid hours with my bed."
Severus smirked slightly.
"Giving up, my dear Miss Granger?"
She smirked right back. "Taking a well-deserved weekend off…and as the ranking Ministry official on this project, I'm ordering you to do the same." She grinned as she said the last bit. Neither of them gave a rat's ass about the Ministry pecking order.
When Kingsley had asked her to re-create the Room of Requirement in the Department of Mysteries, she'd flatly refused until he had dangled the prospect of working with Severus Snape under her pert button nose.
As a contractor, he generally could be found skulking about, working with cursed objects or brewing in his private lab. He did not feel the need to bother with staff meetings, teamwork exercises, or even acknowledging that most of his co-workers existed.
Hermione hadn't asked what Kingsley had used to bribe or blackmail him into working with her, but she'd enjoyed every snarky second of it.
She smiled shyly at her former professor. "Get some rest. There's no war on. This isn't life or death."
He nodded reluctantly. "One forgets perhaps, that things are different now."
That was as close as he'd come to admitting she was right.
She gathered her coat and practical beige purse (which matched her ugly but very comfortable beige flats) and paused. "Would you like to come with me? Neville would love to have you over…you know his botanical company is supplying most of the rare plants you're using…"
His lips almost smiled. "I'd rather not watch Longbottom piss himself when I walked into his house. Despite appearances, I was never a sadist." He pulled his black cloak on over his frock coat. "No, I shall indulge in a good meal, and perhaps a glass of wine tonight…tomorrow I may run through a couple of brews that have been nibbling at the back of my mind."
She ducked her head.
"To me, you will always be the Potions Master, no matter how great your other gifts are,"
He bowed slightly at the neck and ushered her out of the laboratory with a polite hand on the small of her back. "I have been called a great many more objectionable things, I assure you."
Hermione grinned as she tickled the three year old witch in her arms. "She's getting so big Luna!"
Luna Longbottom (nee Lovegood) smiled as she cut a large slice of chocolate cake and deftly switched the little blond witch in Hermione's lap for the dessert.
Big, hazy blue eyes met Hermione's. "Thank you for my gift Godmother." The child had clearly been coached, but Hermione felt her heart melt. She leaned in and put her forehead on the child's affectionately.
"You are very, very welcome."
Harry had recommended the beautiful blond doll. It was a creation from Weasley's….George had managed to make a toy that was fun but also had an automatic shield spell to protect younglings from the results of magical outbursts. It also came with dozens of beautiful wizarding robes and an ever-changing parasol. Hermione half-wished she was young enough to play with it.
The doll (promptly dubbed Mione) was almost as big as the diminutive witch. Augusta laughed as she twirled the parasol. Luna looked on serenely and Neville shook his head.
"When we picked you to be her godmother, we never suspected you'd spoil her rotten."
Hermione smiled wickedly. "That's what godmothers are for!"
"You must be good at it then…how many god-children do you have now?"
"Augusta makes six. All three of Harry's, and both of Ron's."
Neville grinned. "You'd better hope nothing happens to all of us, or you'll be incredibly busy."
She swatted him as she took a bite of the cake. "Prat! If anything happens to all of you, how likely is it that I'd survive?"
Luna shrugged. "As long as it didn't happen in the Department of Mysteries, the odds are pretty good. How many hours are you working a week right now Hermione?"
She frowned. "Too many. I'm at the end of a big project…not that I can tell you more than that…"
"Of course not."
"But it is almost done…and then I think I might take some of that vacation time…"
Neville laughed as he took a bite of cake. "You said that after the last two big projects. And then Kingsley lured you into taking this one. And he happened to let slip what he'd used as bait."
Hermione raised a brow in an unconscious mimicry of Severus. "Oh?"
Neville guffawed. "And that expression proves it! He actually bribed you with working with Snape?"
She rolled her eyes. Kingsley really didn't 'get' the whole concept of 'unspeakable'.
"I can't tell you who I'm working with of course…but I will say that Severus Snape is absolutely brilliant. Anyone would kill to work with him."
Neville snorted. "I would have gladly cut off my own arm to get out of Potions."
"That's before seventh year."
"He was a bloody brilliant actor. I never suspected a thing. I should have. The headmaster would naturally know how to get into the Room of Requirement. I just thought I was that good at it dealing with the room." He shook his head. "If Snape had really been on their side we would have lost."
Hermione nodded. "Too true." She cocked her head and remembered what Seamus had said about Neville really 'getting' the original Room of Requirement.
"I wonder what would have happened if two people had asked different things from the room at the same time."
Neville scratched his chin absently. "Oh that happened quite a bit when we were living in the room. It would sort of meld those requests together…"
Luna nodded, grinning. "Do you remember when Seamus asked the room for a feather pillow and Cho asked the room to shut Seamus up? It took days for him to stop spitting out feathers."
"I didn't realize the original room had multi-user interface interference issues." That meant she and Severus were closer to the original than she'd thought….
Luna's voice took on a slightly dreamy quality. "Once you started mixing requests things got very weird very quickly."
For some inexplicable reason Neville blushed brightly.
Hermione didn't ask. Her mind was altering calculations.
"I'm sorry…I've got to run."
She dropped a hasty kiss on the child's head and headed for the door.
Neville chuckled as he picked up her abandoned slice of cake. 'Same old Hermione."
He flooed home from the Ministry to the same sight that greeted him every night. The hearth was cold, the house dark, and the cheerless Manchester air seemed to drain the color from everything around it.
Or perhaps it was because of the loss of her.
He growled at himself in frustration as he waved his wand to light the fire, warm some stew, and light the candles in his dark little home. It wasn't as if he'd ever worked to make the place welcoming. It was old but sound, threadbare in places, but ruthlessly clean.
But it seemed empty and lifeless after a day in her warm, welcoming presence.
She might think she was hiding the fond smiles she occasionally gifted him with, but he hadn't been a spy for naught. For whatever reason, the Granger chit had decided she was going to be his friend, and he felt rather like he'd been hit by a tsunami. He wasn't sure how that had happened.
It all started months ago when Kingsley had threatened to cut his research budget if he didn't work with the girl on this project; he had sullenly acquiesced. Granger knew too much about him, and he dreaded some typical Gryffindor sentimental tripe…
But she'd surprised him. She hadn't gushed. She didn't ramble. She'd thanked him once for his part in the war and quickly moved on to the challenge of re-creating the Room of Requirement. Severus had been rapidly drawn into the work and discovered that though Hermione lacked the instinct for creating new potions, her skill with existing charms, spells, and the theories behind them was impressive.
And so he had unbent enough to allow her to call him Severus. She had smiled quietly and asked him to call her by her given name as well.
He'd avoided working closely with anyone for most of his life. Working alone felt right. But Hermione had worked her way into his routine…
She had worked her way into his heart.
And now, the project was almost over. Soon he'd go back to his own dank little office, and brew alone again.
Oh, the chit was fond of him. He didn't know why. But she'd obviously found enough forgiveness in her heart to grant him absolution for the callous things he'd done to her when she was a student. It had been wretched that the brightest mind to come through his class had been a muggle-born girl. The cost of showing her ANY favor would have been steep…it might have reminded the Dark Lord that Severus had once loved a muggle-born. At best, that could have ruined his mission and cost him his life. At worst, it might have drawn the attention of the dark lord.
He shuddered over a bite of warm stew.
No, he had not been able to do anything but deride and scorn her.
But she understood that his former scorn had been the most effective shield he could give her.
She treated him like a well-respected ex-teacher…like a man of honor. She teased rare smiles from him and had twice flung her arms around him and hugged his long, lanky frame. Who willingly hugged Severus Snape? Who tried to hide fond looks when he was especially acidic? No one.
And so he had given his heart to her bit by bit over these last long months. He knew it was an unrequited, futile thing…but it was safer in even her unknowing hands than it was in anyone else's. He had observed her for many years.
Hermione was good. Good in a way that even his old friend Lily couldn't claim…
If Voldemort had known what the girl really was, he would have given his scaly left testicle to win her devotion.
But neither of his former masters had been capable of appreciating the girl she had been, much less the woman she'd become.
You're waxing eloquent again, you fool.
He paced in his sitting room. He felt restless rather than weary. The past two months had been little but calculations and fine-tuning the magic they'd already set. His body was tightly strung, almost as bad as when he'd been serving two masters…not quite as hellish as Potter's seventh year without the release of the…
Room of Requirement.
A slow smile pulled at his lips. He had a room at his disposal now…and Hermione would be busy with ankle-biters all weekend no doubt…
Hermione raised her bleary eyes. Had she fallen asleep over her calculations? Inside the not-quite fully functional Room? Well, that wasn't a good idea. She sighed and applied the remaining calculations to the operator code, integrating the runes with the existing spells.
She saw the final rune fall into place and looked at it with admiration. How she wished Severus was here…he'd be so proud! He wouldn't do more than allow his lips to twitch of course…
A wash of magic caught her off-guard. The lights around her went out.
Her wand was in dueling position instantly, searching for foes…but she quickly understood that it was the Room's magic.
After the first second of panic (the parting-gift from spending her childhood fighting a psychotic megalomaniac) she noticed she was wearing something different. She looked down.
She sighed and slid her wand into the single, lacy sleeve of the dress. She touched her head and could feel that her hair was mostly up…a few tendrils coiled around her shoulders, a rose of some sort perfumed the air. She looked around for a mirror and one appeared.
She was wearing a few bits of black lace and satin that were apparently masquerading as a dress, four inch gorgeous spiked heels, and cherry-red lipstick.
Part of her wanted to scream and dive under the table until she could convince the room to give her back her sensible brown robes and beige flats, and part of her watched the sexy woman in the mirror with fascination.
Then, emerging from the darkness surrounding her single island of light, Severus Snape appeared.
The stupid room again. He looks like sin in a cravat.
The unmistakable strands of a tango lilted across her ears: she watched in the mirror as Severus ran one long-fingered hand down her bare arm. She closed her eyes and tried to suppress a shudder of desire. The image in the mirror smirked as he leaned down to kiss her neck lightly, with just the barest brush of soft lips, followed by a light caress.
And then, with abrupt passion, he turned her into his and dance began.
She found herself pulled into his body, dominated by the steps…twisted and dipped. Her feet had a mind of their own and they knew each twist and pivot; each and every turn and pause. Her fingers slid shamelessly over his frock coat as their bodies moved to the tyranny of the choreography. His hands guided her.
She felt her blood hammer in her ears as they moved even faster through the steps, breathing the same breath, almost two parts of the same organism.
How did people dance like this in public? His hands were everywhere; clutching her hips, caressing her skin, brushing her breasts. It was better than sex…or at least any sex she'd ever had. His nose traced the sensitive line from her elbow to her wrist and he kissed her open palm. She was flushed and feeling unbearably hot as he pulled her leg up to his hip and spun them both.
She didn't know what she looked like as she followed his demanding hands and snapping feet, but he was heartbreakingly, beautifully intense. His dark eyes shined with promises that could only be whispered by moonlight; every move was poetry, every pause a prayer. He led her faultlessly through dizzying turns and dips as the music reached a violent crescendo, and the dance ended with both of them breathless, holding on to the other for dear life.
He moved one sweaty curl from her neck and kissed it softly.
"I asked for a partner and the blasted room proves that it has a sadistic sense of humor."
He gave that look he reserved for dunderheads.
"No, witch, I'm the Easter Bunny."
She blushed as crimson as her lips.
She swallowed to wet her suddenly parched mouth. "The….the real Severus?"
His eyes widened as he looked down at her, then did a double take at his looked at the dress again.
She fought the urge to cover up and lost…but looking down she realized there was nothing to be done about the dress. It barely covered the essentials…moving any of it would be much more embarrassing than wearing it as it was. Her voice was very small. "Yes. It's the real me."
"What in Merlin's name were you doing in the room?" He stepped back, and she missed the warmth of being near his body…and being partially covered by his coat.
He pinched the bridge of his nose for a short second.
"I am afraid I must apologize..." His entire manner was stiffer than a frozen log. "I came back to the Room to indulge in a bit of ballroom dancing."
She looked up. "What?"
He rolled his eyes and snapped. "I came back this evening to work the soreness out of my limbs with a bit of healthy exercise. Surely you know that long periods of sedentary activity can lead to a build-up of lactic acid in the muscles?"
She nodded. "Of course…I-I was finishing up the calculations…I worked out the mechanics of a multi-user interface, but I haven't added any additional safety measures." She cleared her throat, embarrassed. "I was just thinking of you…of how pleased you'd be…" she swallowed "When you showed up behind me."
"How, precisely did you end up in this…dress?" His eyes held banked fire as they roved over her exposed skin.
"I'm not sure…I noticed the change, and wanted the mirror…"
"And the room set up a spotlight and the perfect beginning for a tango." His voice was like dark chocolate. "Naturally, I was surprised to see you…"
"You didn't look surprised." Her chin came up. She silently acknowledged the intense connection that they had shared as they danced.
One corner of his mouth quirked briefly.
"I stood outside the room, per protocol, and I requested a partner without specifying anything about that partner OR the dance."
Dear Merlin. The man's voice alone reached down into her knickers and did things most men couldn't do with all their digits, appendages, and a how-to manual. It was deep and rich…
She licked her lips, trying to wet a mouth that was very, very dry.
A glass of chilled white wine appeared near her elbow. Severus quirked a brow.
She downed the glass in one gulp. "Very."
How had she missed the eyelashes? True, she focused on his mocking, eloquent brows most of the time. But his eyelashes were…
"Is something wrong Hermione?"
Wrong? Well, she was practically wearing black lingerie and they'd just had the dancing equivalent to hot passionate sex…
He was mortified when he realized that he'd been doing his level best to seduce the real Hermione Granger during the dance. But then he realized…it had worked.
Her heartbeat was irregular under his searching fingers, her pupils dilated from more than the dim light…
What was wrong with the chit? Didn't she know who he was? A few paltry years hadn't changed his physiognomy, nor had skulking about the Department of Mysteries introduced color to his pale skin. He was marked, scarred, and (his knees reminded him)…twenty years her senior.
And yet, he had not spent most of his adult life on a knife's edge without learning how to read people…and this girl…woman…was aroused.
Or by something.
But most likely by him.
His instinct was to run and pretend it never happened…at least he wouldn't embarrass himself or lose her friendship…experience had taught him that was the best he could hope for.
"It is late."
His abrupt subject change puzzled Hermione a bit…had he seen her attraction? Was he repulsed? He was Severus Snape after all…his reaction to anything was his own…Merlin, she didn't even know if he preferred witches to wizards! What if…?
His eyes flicked to her lacy dancing dress again. He opened his mouth and almost darted his tongue out to wet his lips, which seemed unusually dry.
Her mind put the small, seemingly random bits together.
Brightest witch of her age indeed.
Severus Snape wanted her.
And he was going to be his typical Slytherin self about it…
She didn't let herself think about what she was doing…in fact it was much like stealing that dragon from Gringotts'…but she ended up with his surprised arms around her as she pulled his head down to kiss him in the most satisfying fashion.
"What the hell?"
She smiled up at him as the lace of her dress brushed her skin.
"Fewer questions…more kissing."
She didn't need to ask twice. He descended on her like a starving man, kissing her deeply, grasping her body so tightly that she wondered if he knew he was leaving bruises. A few seconds later all rational thought fled as she was pulled into a delicious haze of pleasure…
She felt something solid bump her legs, knocking her off-balance. She pulled Severus down with her as she fell to a soft bed that was suddenly there.
Severus growled. "This Room has an agenda."
Hermione laughed, then kissed him slowly, devouring and being devoured…
"I approve of this Room's current agenda if you must know."
Severus pinned her lower body with his and wound long fingers into her curls. "Do you?"
His fingers teased her sensitized flesh though the lace of the dress.
She whimpered. His face was incredibly smug.
A second burst of reckless courage hit her system and she flipped their position, ending up straddling his lean hips.
She ran her teeth across the puckered scar on his neck, watching in pleasure as he trembled under her teeth, desire writ plain on his face for anyone to see. She flicked out her tongue to his ear, the sucked the lobe into her mouth for a second before whispering to him.
"As we seem to be confessing things Severus Snape, I am going to prove I'm a Gryffindor and tell you that I don't want you for one night, or a week, or three years."
His breath caught at the rich, possessive tone in her words, the feeling of her body moving over his.
She kissed him, and it tasted like passion and possession…heady stuff, more intoxicating than any wine.
"No. I want you to be mine, forever."
It was forward, and moving too quickly, and…His erection hardened painfully. When had words engineered such a response? Never.
But these words, these were the words he had longed to hear for all of his miserable existence. Perhaps tomorrow he would doubt her intent to follow through, look for hidden meanings, brood…but for the moment he simply ripped the lacy excuse for a dress away from her body, kissing every smooth bit of skin he could reach and muttering about how if she wanted him so badly, she would have him.
There was no organized give and take between them as their clothing was impatiently shucked and tossed wherever it landed. Her mouth roamed his body, her hands frantically explored the planes and dips, the old scars and flaws…and for the first time in his life, he did not feel judged as he made love. Her heated caresses were free of anything but worshipful lust-filled affection…
He cast a hasty, wordless, wandless charm and positioned himself in between her thighs. He regretted that he hadn't had time to taste her….but if what she said was true, then this was simply the tip of the iceberg…there was time to explore…to taste…after he claimed her completely.
Sliding inside her was like finding home when he hadn't even known he was searching. He had to stop, trembling, gathering some semblance of discipline. She looked up at him with wondering, joyful eyes and it was his undoing.
His fingers teased her nipples as he moved frantically in her body, his mouth sucking at her neck. She came as he grazed her jaw with his nose (he was certain that was simply coincidence, but it did engineer in him an affection for the appendage that it did not often excite). He held on somehow while she shuddered and began to move in her again, slowly.
"I'll be yours if you will be mine." His voice was rough as he spoke into her ear, and her expression finished the job their bodies had began.
A handful of quick strokes later he was panting, head pillowed on her breast. Her fingers were twined in his hair.
He moved off her body, fearing the weight would bother her, but her bereft expression as he pulled out was both satisfying and alarming.
Alarming because she was his now, and somewhere between the realization that she wanted him and mindless ecstasy he had already decided that keeping this witch happy was going to be his life's work.
He pulled her into his arms and kissed her sweaty curls.
"How quickly can you arrange a wedding?"
She smiled as she pillowed her head on his chest.
"If Kingsley agrees that we can use the room, about a week…why….are you planning to marry someone?"
He swatted her delicious bare derrière.
"Make the arrangements witch. You've already claimed me, you might as well make your possession legal."
She smirked as heat filled her warm brown eyes.
"Possession is nine-tenths of the law…but I was never one to settle for ninety percent of anything."
He kissed her pink mouth lightly as he began a much slower exploration of her body.
"Of course not. Little know-it-all swot."
She groaned lightly and began a trail of warm, wet kissed down his chest.
The New Room dimmed the lights.
All was well in the world. The two who had created the Room were happy, and soon there would be more of their kind (thanks to a small interference in the charm that the slick-haired one tried to set. Silly human.
And the bushy-haired creator was NEVER getting those atrocious beige flats back.
AN: I know I've been AWOL with writer's block for a bit, but I swear…until a few days ago I couldn't finish anything. I've also been busy on my original stuff…making a blog and doing all the things I need to do (editing my first professional anthology! Woo-hoo!) But I missed my Severus! Lol
I will return to PTSD as soon as my Muse decides to give me something to add to it.