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Undone

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There she stands, this lovely creature
There she stands, there she stands
With her hair full of ribbons
And green gloves on her hands
So I asked this lovely creature
Yes, I asked. Yes I asked
Would she walk with me a while
Through this night so fast
She took my hand, this lovely creature
"Yes,” she said, "yes,” she said.
"Yes, I'll walk with you a while…”
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds

 

Undone

 

She dreamt of his hands. Pale, long-fingered. Marked; harsh. Short nails and rough edges.

They were open to her scrutiny in the classroom. Ingredients were readied, the knife was held—the voice instructed, soft-as-ice—and the hands bore down: crushing, slicing.

Outside the castle, winter leaves were thrown across the sky. Cold seeped in; her many layers did not protect Hermione Granger from the chill. She sat at the laboratory table, waiting for the moment that the dark, foreboding man lifted his hand in a gesture for the class to begin their own preparations. She watched his hands so closely that she discovered a thin spread of dampness under his right palm, lying flat and still on the surface, as his left commanded the cauldron.

Her eyes tracked his every movement.

:

Hogwarts was strange, a twisting fullness. The war left burnt walls; black floors. Heels echoed. Her belly was oddly empty; without the frenzied, hopeless energy of the previous months, Hermione retreated. Essays were completed; notes were taken; letters were dutifully read and replied to. She gave what she must, and hid what lay beneath.

:

Harry and Ron did not return for the final school year. Relief was heavy, riddled with guilt. Their time in the wilds whilst searching for Horcruxes left her with no prospects at all of a match within the English magical community; the impropriety of their desperate feat remained, despite success. It was simpler to walk the school without the boys, now that the shock had worn off and she had become quite the pariah of iniquity. She never thought of considering the non-Magical world to be easier – but it was. She had plans—many—and yet, Hermione treasured the thought of removing herself after her post-Hogwarts education.

:

The Professor would be behind his desk. She knocked; once.

“Enter,” he said, in a voice of dark, morning mists and black sky over the moors.

She dithered. Their fortnightly progress meetings were painful – he often saw through her, as he always had. Just before his ire was bound to flourish, she opened the door and slipped inside, leaving it glaringly open as propriety dictated.

“Miss Granger. Sit, if you please.”

The chair was comfortable; a recent surprise.

“Good morning, Professor Snape.” Hermione crossed her ankles. Her black student robes felt all-encompassing and comforting.

Why did he return? He came with no fanfare, no announcements. She simply took her seat at the end of the Gryffindor table on the first night, and he was at the high table, snapping a napkin over his lap with fastidious fingers. Longer hair, whiter skin. Robes of midnight.

It was odd, indeed, to act as if May did not occur, when she was spreading healing salve over his neck and tipping potions between his open lips on the dirty floor of the Shrieking Shack.

He stared at her from across the desk. Had she forgotten—

“Your journal, Miss Granger.”

“Oh. Of course.” She was determined to remain collected, even though the room felt entirely too small for his proximity. Very good, Hermione.

Snape steepled his fingers. They were not required to successfully invent a new potion, or even modify one – rather, they were expected to try, and to document, and evaluate. The black leather journal that greeted them on each of their desks upon their first lesson still carried the dark scent of polish and crisp parchment.

She handed it over. She was hoping to modify a healing salve to be useful for house elves; Tip the she-elf proudly handed over her gnarled hand each fortnight for Hermione to rub on each adjusted mixture, hoping to remove uncomfortable scars that remained from the final battle.

One long, thin finger dragged out the red ribbon that marked the current page. There was a slow and steady coiling throughout her body as that very finger tapped on the desk as he read. It was unrecognisable. Books told her of burning love and ardent affection. But they did not confess to a peculiar, aching sensation that bloomed constantly, without the reprieve of a closing bud.

She trembled, once. Snape’s eyes—black as coal—flicked up and over her. He frowned, and she did not know what to do with her gaze. Finally she looked down at her gloved fingers, twisting and pulling at the delicate material.

“You are progressing well,” he declared in a low voice. “I trust there were no incidences after the adding of the lavender?”

“None at all, sir.”

“I see that you persisted with reducing the flame, despite my advice.” He pressed his lips together. “And the result?”

“Ah.” She uttered an awkward little hum. “No negligible change or improvement.”

“As I thought,” he said shortly. “Otherwise – good. I approve of this”—he pointed to her inked question mark beside Dried dittany?—“but not of anything to do with a bezoar. On its own, the stone is sufficient for poison. Using it to embellish something else is wasteful.”

“Would it not increase the healing power?” she ventured quietly, tilting her head. Gloves were forgotten, and she met his dark eyes. “I had thought to try… conduct an experiment, perhaps. After all, this is not for poison…”

“Then on your purse be it, if you know best,” he muttered. “You know where the order form is for the apothecary. Two weeks, as before. Have you drained the coffers yet, or are there still funds in the account established by your father?”

Hermione coloured briefly as she thought of her parents, returned now from their forced sojourn to the North Yorkshire moors for an extended visit with a distant cousin. Her father had indeed paid her fees for the subject, though not without pursed lips.

“There is enough.”

“For how many attempts after this?” he asked, just a flash of sarcastic amusement in his voice.

“Each attempt that is deemed ill-advised will be from the student’s own funds,” she parroted blandly. “I should think that I have three more attempts remaining, sir.”

“Proceed, then. Take the form and be off with you.”

She rose from the chair and smoothed down her robes. “Thank you kindly, Professor.” Despite her politeness, he had never budged from strict gruffness. Which was an improvement on meanness, she knew.

Hermione walked towards the bookcases that lined the walls. On one, set on the middle shelf, was a stack of parchments tied with a white ribbon. Slowly, she slid the top sheet out, eyes fixed on the other shelves. Books upon books upon books… she was filled with a sudden wish to seize them all and transport them somewhere, anywhere, to create a private space, somewhere that only she could access, with knowledge and quietness and a distinct lack of gossip conducted in shadowy corners. A cottage – or a townhouse away from a high street. No bustling carriages. No yapping dogs or loud market stalls.

Silence.

But—

“Miss Granger,” said Snape flatly, admonishing her in tone if not with words.

Turning on her heel, she fixed a bland smile on her face. “I shall return the form to you after class tomorrow morning, sir, with the money.”

She would go to the library now, and spend her time slowly marking each section of the order form. Tedious, but it would certainly save her from the emotional drama of paying attention to her surroundings, and thus whispering classmates who either thought her heroine or harlot. She could not prevent a last, desperate look around his quiet office.

He stood swiftly and nodded to her departing curtsey. She was at the threshold before he cleared his throat loudly.

“You may stay,” he offered, voice thick with something that she might have thought was hesitation if he were another man. “That is, if you wish.” He gestured vaguely to the door on the other side of the room. “I shall be brewing – undisturbed, mind you.”

“If you consent to it, I would like nothing more, sir,” she exclaimed, stepping back into the room. There was no hiding the hot, mortifyingly eager blush on her cheeks. “Merlin knows this would be a—”

“Yes, yes,” he grumbled, waving off her eager acceptance. Without another word, he strode through the other door and shut it with a thud.

“—a great improvement,” Hermione finished in a whisper, staring at the closed door.

Silently she crossed the room and laid her palms on it, listening to the clinking sounds of instruments being sourced and readied behind the wooden barrier. It took her a long while to turn around again and sit herself in her usual chair before turning to her work. Her heart was racing; her mind could not be ordered to task. She stayed in his office, drinking in the scent of the air – of him. It was thick; ripe. She put out her tongue and tasted it.

:

On the same Thursday evening, on each second week, she sat in his office, work spread over the desk. With every fortnight, Hermione became bolder, more at ease. She closed the door to the dungeon corridor, now, and he—

The Professor now left the laboratory door open, just a tiny space, just a small slice of warm light to fall out of it and cast a glow upon her hands as she worked. She was so quiet that her breaths felt too loud. Barely breathing, Hermione wrote line after line of class work and project plans to the sound of a rod scraping the bottom of a cauldron; a measuring spoon set down; a flask decanted. She could sense the oft unforgiving man in the other room. She was aware of him, in a way that seemed to slowly slide its way inside of her, until she found that she was looking forward to each quiet evening near him.

The relief of the revelation was sharp and unrelenting. She lived for his strange and welcoming—though indubitably he did not mean to act so—presence.

:

She dreamt of his hands. Elegant, ivory-coloured. Spidery; delicate. Full of purpose.

In the evenings, she mapped how his fingers curved around the door handle to the laboratory. How they laced together over his lap when first they speak. How one—one tantalising, enthralling—finger would tap his cheek—chin, brow, nose—as he read her journal notes.

Thursday now, and chastened by her wayward thoughts, Hermione gathered her books and stood. She arched her neck, stretching out the stiffness. He was never here when she departed – rather, he stayed cloistered away, as if to prove that if he was not suffering her presence, then surely he was begrudgingly allowing it.

She was at the door to leave when he spoke.

“Miss Granger.”

Gasping, she turned, unprepared after his silent entry to the room. “Professor Snape!”

“I startled you,” he said, face falling into a scowl. “Forgive me,” was uttered seemingly automatically. The witch did not even begin to consider the possibility that he meant it.

Nodding, she gathered herself. “Merely taken by surprise, sir. I did not expect you.”

He took a step. “An odd turn of phrase. Do you ever?”

“You are right – no.”

“And yet these are my rooms.” Snape looked around as if to confirm it. “Mine indeed.”

She arched an eyebrow. “Quite. Though I do believe the invitation was also… mine.”

“And you are content with this arrangement?”

“If an arrangement is what you deem sharing an office to be, then yes,” she answered, blushing hotly. She could hardly believe the words that were leaving her lips.

He folded his arms over his chest and stared at her, straight on.

“Miss Granger,” he said, “there would be circumstances where such arrangements could continue, if one was in need of it.”

She frowned speculatively. “And if one… was in need?”

“Bah,” he grumbled, sighing roughly. “Enough of the dance. You may use my office two times a week. Your presence seems to stave off students requesting my assistance, and I am not fool enough to think that you do not also benefit somehow. Agreed?”

“Agreed? To what exactly?” She was happy, if thoroughly bewildered. His mood seemed to be changing too quickly. Even now he glared at her question.

“Two nights a week,” he ground out. “Here.” Snape turned and rapped his knuckles on the desk. “I wish to brew, and you wish to do… whatever it is that you do. Yes?”

“Sir, I would think this a trick if you did not look so discomfited,” said Hermione, before she blinked at her own tongue.

The wizard’s lips gave a tiny twitch. “Yes?” he repeated.

“Yes. I should think such an arrangement would work, yes.”

“Cease your prattling, then, and be off with you.”

“I will, sir.”

She swept out of the room, only pausing once the door was out of sight. Then she stopped. She stared at the stone stairs in front of her. In the moonlight, she saw the ethereal paleness of his hands reflected back at her.

:

Her hands are pressing down deep on her belly. Intoxicating vines of desire twine around her, and she is alone behind the velvet curtains, aching and straining to satisfy the unfamiliar need that arises. She is drowning in him.

She wants—nay, needs—his hands on her. Spreading over her skin. Fingers splaying out on her flesh, rough tips sinking in, allaying the storm.

:

The dream stayed with her. She was wrong-footed in the office, stammering out responses to his short questions on her potions journal, then touching quivering hands to her hot, mortified cheeks when he exited in a whirl of robes and scents of spices. Once or twice she found him dressed in Muggle clothing, still carrying the scent of the wind from whatever errand he had performed away from the castle. Her mind went wild at his close-fitting ebony coat and hessians; it was all she could do to stammer out a greeting instead of become lost in tracing the clearer lines of his chest and lean, powerful body.

A fancy. Smitten – she was merely smitten. She had a fascination with the black-haired man, the same man that longed for a dead woman, if the newspapers were to be believed. A lost cause.

At mealtimes, she sat carefully with her back to the staff table. In the classroom, her head was bent towards her cauldron.

It was only in his office that Hermione allowed herself to be drawn into the spell that was his voice, his hands, his body, tall and commanding. She felt small, seated opposite him, and it was not an unwelcome sensation.

This is what they mean, she decided. The twittering girls in hallways; the hushed conversations conducted behind cupped hands on mouths. The boys during their trip, guffawing and muttering about times past when they thought her asleep. Her sisterly affection for them both, at times laced with quiet and unfamiliar curiosity when each would return from bathing in the river, hair damp and shirts sticking to their skin.

When Viktor led her into the ball years ago now, she felt flashes of triumph, mixed with curiosity and perchance an appreciation of his soft mouth when he bent over her hand and brushed her gloved fingers with his lips. Mama was furious when Hermione had written to her, in a rush of girlish pleasure. Too young, really, to be introduced to such society at that age, but then, this is Magic – a nonsensical mix of Muggle values and nature virtues.

:

She waited for him to leave for the laboratory. He did not. Minutes ticked by, and still Professor Snape stayed at his desk. His fingers held a quill dipped in familiar red ink. Cautiously, she enfolded herself further into her robes, wishing for a shawl or her woollen cloak. It was cold – too cold.

“Sir?” she ventured.

He set down the quill. “I have marking to do.” He gave her an odd, unsure look. “The laboratory is—ah.”

Angrily, Snape thrust his wand in the air, aiming it at the fire where it roared back to life.

“—cold,” he muttered, sliding the wand back up his sleeve. Then, harshly: “Were you cold? Are you?”

“I… No, sir. That is, not any longer.”

“Not any longer,” he repeated quietly, studying her.

“Shall I go, Professor?”

To this, he gave no answer, instead bringing his elbows to the table and resting his chin on his joined hands. It was unbearable. She could not look away from his mouth, so close to his capable hands. She was transfixed.

“Do you wish to go?” he asked solemnly.

There was nothing in it. And yet…

“No, sir.”

The life in his eyes from the previous anger—passion—dulled. His lips turned down, and he shook his head. He looked disappointed with her – or himself, she thought suddenly.

“Professor?”

“What?” She threw herself into it; into him. She had spent too long trying to ignore his magnetism. Nothing—not rumours, nor opinions, nor society—could have halted her next words.

“Why did you return to the school?”

“An impertinent question, if ever there was one.”

“If you choose to interpret it so, then yes,” she said, determined to remain unruffled.

“It certainly is one, from a student to her Professor.”

Her Professor.

Mine.

Despite his words, Snape had not moved an inch. His shoulders were stiff, though moment by moment, the deep line between his eyebrows seemed to soften.

Hermione held her tongue, though it had been lost from the moment her Professor left his mouth and wrapped around her, warming her.

Suddenly he subsided, and rested more casually in the chair. If she knew him at all, she might have thought he was amused, for there was a glint in his eyes that made her think he might just give her a light smile, for once in her entire life.

“I returned to the school for the same reason you did, I imagine.”

“What – graduation? A certificate? I think not, sir.”

“By no means. I had nowhere else to go.”

She opened her mouth, then realised she could no more call words to mind than she could stop the quizzical glance upon her face.

“I shall explain,” he continued wryly, “for it seems that you are slow to fathom my meaning. You see, Miss Granger, you and I returned to Hogwarts because it is our only option. No.” He held up a hand to her furious glare. “Hold your tongue, girl. Did you really wish to enter into a career at the Ministry? A secretarial position, perhaps, or an apprentice Auror? Mark my words, the day the decrepit, despicable old guard in Law Enforcement allow a woman to lead an investigation is the day that the swine shall break free from his rope and fly off into the air on golden wings. You,” he declared, “had no answer to the question of how best to conceal your intelligence and your gender, and so you returned here, to the only place that does not care about your accolades and your womanhood. You are no-one here, as you should be, and so here you are.”

It was the longest thing he had ever said to her, and she was livid, despite the veiled compliments. She stood swiftly, hands balled into fists.

“The devil I am!” she swore hotly, thrilling to the exchange – it had been a long time since she’d had the freedom to use language picked up from Harry and Ron. Even the dour Professor was not going to rob her of it.

“Language!” he thundered, though curiously, it lacked heat.

She could not stop. “I tell you sir, you are wrong! Wrong, wrong, wrong! You—” she began, pointing a trembling finger; his casual amusement infuriated her even further. “—have analysed me, I see, and come out the worst for it. Firstly, I wished to do right by my education. Do you think, knowing me as you so obviously do, I would be content with a stamp and a signature on something I had not earned? And do you think, sir, that after I finish my study here, and university, that I shall simply disappear into the bowels of the Ministry? I would no rather do that than – than—”

“Go on, Miss Granger,” he said coolly, narrowing his eyes.

“I have no comparison!” she exclaimed, half-hating herself for wanting to dissolve into laughter. Her heart was racing – she was exhilarated, and she loved it.

He gave a low whistle, and his lips began to curve into a sly smirk. Life sparked in his gaze. “Ah, and here she is: reduced to a stammering mess. It did not take long.”

“Do you treat all of your students this way, sir?” She sat back down and cleared her throat, patting her lap briskly.

“Did you expect otherwise?” Snape held out a mocking hand. “A game of whist? Quotes of Cowper? Sherry? Do you partake, Miss Granger?”

“Claret,” she retorted. “I repeat: do you treat all of your students this way, sir?”

“If need be.”

Utterly bewildered, Hermione dragged a hand over her curls, patting the ribbon that held them in place. “I would like to study now, Professor, if you are quite finished in your incorrect analysis of my character.”

“I am not finished,” he said immediately, smirk widening into an unsettling grin. “But it will do for now. Carry on, Miss Granger.”

And with that, Snape picked up his quill and continued marking.

She stared at him, flummoxed, before she collected herself enough to open her book. It was only later in the evening, when the rain was lashing the windows of the dormitories, that Hermione realised that Professor Snape had managed to force her to forget her curiosity about him.

:

His tongue is there and his hands, they are here, oh, here and she cannot breathe nor think. White hands are on her hips, drawing her closer, and a dark head bends down to—
To—

:

She awoke with a gasp, her fingers flying down to press madly against her centre, searching, seeking, needing, but not knowing, not finding—

Unfulfilled.

:

“Thank you, Tip,” said Hermione, handing the Hogwarts she-elf a small ribbon. Tip took it, bobbed a curtsey, ears flapping, before disappearing with a crack. The elves would not accept payment per se, Hermione had learned, yet sewing supplies and other service paraphernalia were quite welcome gifts for those that attended the female dormitories for dressing assistance.

She eyed her reflection, turning this way and that in the mirror. Mama would be pleased. Father would not notice if she walked in with the dove-grey bonnet tied onto her hands instead of over her hair. And perchance, would he—

A spell laced her half-boots; another charm guarded them from weather damage. Clicking her tongue, Hermione adjusted her teal shawl. The artfully frayed ends danced over the grey morning dress as the witch moved about the room, reaching for her gloves. White kid, soft and supple. She drew them on, finger by finger, then tucked them beneath the lace cuffs of the dress. They were a decadent change from the standard-issue ebony velvet preferred by the school. For the purpose of her departure, she pointed her wand and white gloves became black.

Hermione curled her fingers. She swirled her wand about herself, encasing her body in a warming charm. Barely an inch of her skin showed, yet for all their beauty, her Muggle clothes never quite seemed to match the absolute warmth of magical robes. Still, she thought, reaching for her checked cloak, it wouldn’t be a bad thing at all if a certain person were to happen upon her in the Entrance hall as she descended the—

Gritting her teeth, the witch looped her purse around her wrist and swept out of the room.

“Good bye, Ginny,” she called, knocking once on the first door she passed. “Lavender,”—knock—“Parvati,”—knock.

A chorus of voices bid her farewell as she passed their doors – it was early enough that most were still waking, and she did not wish to stop, having said her proper goodbyes the night before.

:

He was there, right in front of ornate doors in the Entrance hall.

Oh, by God, let him turn around, if only he would turn around, then I would… I could…

Snape stood—in black and black and black—with his back to her, his gaze cast out over the grounds. Rain pounded down from the sky in thick sheets of glass. His pale hands were covered in black gloves; she darted a glance at his neckcloth—black—and cast her eyes away when she noticed a sliver of an angry, reddened scar.

There was no advantage to be gained from attempting to surprise the man.

“Good morning, sir,” she said, coming to stop at his side. He did not turn to face her.

“Miss Granger,” he murmured. “You are off, then?”

“For the week? I am, sir.”

“Your parents will be glad to see you.”

“I hope so,” Hermione answered, daring to glance at his face. Hair hung down, framing his thin cheeks. “One never knows, does one?”

Snape’s lips gave a tiny twitch. “One does not. Nevertheless, I wish you luck. My condolences, of course, for your grandmother’s sister.”

“Of course.”

He gave her a slow, sideways glance. “You are dressed for the part, I see. Clothes upon clothes upon clothes.” Scowling, he added: “I thought you were above such frippery.”

“That is quite uncouth, sir, even for you,” she said, failing to stop the smile in her voice, for he had noticed, he had noticed the shawl, the bonnet, the dress—

“You knew her?” he asked lightly.

“Who?”

Snape sorted – he seemed pleased with himself, and she rolled her eyes.

She smiled. “You mean my grandmother’s sister. Not at all, sir.”

“Yet you are in black gloves. You are not sad, then, Miss Granger?”

He turned to her as if pulled by strings. Every movement was deliberate. There was a fresh burst of rain, and she leant forward, wanting to hear him better. The distance between them remained all that was good and proper, but in her mind…

“No,” she admitted unashamedly. “I do not remember ever having met her. But I am glad that my parents requested me to return – it is an opportunity to see them, and it is… good that they felt the same.”

Snape frowned for a moment. “You expected otherwise?”

She drew in a breath then released it, considering how much truth to share with the man that was slowly but surely covering every inch of her heart.

“Since they returned—since their memories… since I fixed what I changed, matters between us have been… strained, is the word, I suppose. It is a consequence that I knew would come, and it is only fair, after all. Our minds…” Hermione paused thoughtfully. “Our minds make us what we are. Who we are. Our thoughts, our memories. I robbed them - I stole from them. I stole from the deepest, most treasured place we have. A little discomfort between us is less than I deserve, no matter the motive.”

“Generous of you,” he said, a sardonic glint in his eyes.

She was far from chastened. “If you are looking for insight, you shall find it in me. If you are looking for regret… no, I do not have it, and I must own that I am content with the decision I made. There was no-one else to ask for assistance, after all.”

“No-one else? No-one at all, Miss Granger?”

“Do you know of someone?” she retorted, colour rising. “You were certainly unavailable.”

“Regrettable,” he said promptly, and the heavy mantle of the topic dropped instantly. With a short, wry grin, Snape raised his head and examined the sky. She failed to tear her eyes from his throat, newly revealed, the only skin other than his stern face that she could see.

“You speak in riddles, sir,” Hermione muttered.

“More often than not.”

“Ah, he admits it!”

Snape glowered. “Are you quite finished, Miss Granger?”

Hermione pressed her lips together to stave off a wave of questions. “I suppose I am. So: my parents’ hesitancy is unavoidable.”

He took a step back and raised his arm to her. “I should think so. Come. Apparently the hour is too early for any other staff member to attend to you. I am to escort you to the gates. Your parents will meet you at your arrival point?”

Hermione reached for his arm and placed her fingers lightly upon it. Through the gloves she felt him – his warmth, his solidity, the inescapable presence of him. Never had she touched him – never had she known what it was to be on his arm, filled with an ardent wish to never be removed from it. Something deep within her gave a flutter, and she looked at him searchingly, unable to disassemble the edge of hardness in his dark eyes.

“Thank you, sir,” she said eventually as they began to walk. Instinctively she huddled closer beside him, untouched by the rain thanks to charms cast by both. “It is kind of you, no matter the reason.”

A deep, sardonic laugh rumbled from his chest. “You think so, do you? Always one to find the good, aren’t you?”

Her brow wrinkled and she twisted her lips. “I should think not. But goodness is where goodness is, and I am honest.”

“Even if there are ulterior motives? Ones you cannot approve of?”

They reached the gates and instead of drawing his wand, the Professor grabbed hold of the iron with his long-fingered hands, dislodging her hand on his arm. He gave them a push and they groaned open, complaining from his effort. He swivelled around, beckoning her with a brisk wave of his hand.

“Come, Miss Granger. Go back to your estate. I shall see you in a week, when I assume you will be darkening my door again, in search of sanctuary for your ever-important studies.”

She stepped through the gates and gathered her skirts before raising her eyes to his face. There was no fear within her – no trepidation.

“I do not think,” she said firmly, ignoring his farewell, “there are any motives coming from you that I could not approve of.” Then, curtseying to his stunned face, she grinned. “Farewell, Professor Snape.”

She disappeared in a whirl of grey gown and laughter.

:

The kid gloves are dragged over her skin, circling her belly, easing over her breasts, swirling around tightened buds—

She gasps; tosses her head; arches towards him—

White kid becomes black leather—travelling gloves—and they smell of him, and they are on her, and suddenly his gloves become his hands, rough and searching, coaxing, guiding—

:

The dream stayed with her. In the second week after her return, Hermione saw a pair of black leather gloves discarded upon his desk, as if the Professor had just returned from a turn about the grounds and thrown them there uncaringly. Throughout their conversations that evening, and later on in the week, he did not move them.

They remained there, unobtrusively, unavoidably.

She wet her lips and stared at them, lost in the creases between each finger. She was sure that if she were to lift them to her face, they would carry his scent – a deep, male musk, with traces of herbs and rain from the day that he escorted her to the gates.

She went to bed with a spinning mind of ideas. Were they wrong? Was she wrong? Surely it was not correct form to imagine his body, long and lean, stripped of clothing, stripped of covering, moving over her and into her—

A lady should not know these things – and if she did, she should not speak of them. She should feign innocence, never daring to dip below the tiniest innuendo. It was deeply conflicting – Hermione found herself lost in her new knowledge of her awareness of the Professor. She was innocent by flesh, if not by mind. The more she tried to combine the two, the more she found herself confused and out of sorts.

How to conduct herself like a young, unmarried woman of modest fortune, and still nurture the scenes of the powerful wizard of her dreams… There was no real answer. For nurture them she must. The week without him was torture. It dripped by, minute by minute, excruciatingly slow. The first breakfast when she returned, on that first moment that she saw the dour man glaring down at his plate…

Oh, him…

In bed, her nightgown tangled between her legs as she shifted restlessly. Oh, but there was nothing for it – he was there and they were there, the gloves, the evidence of him, of everything that beguiled her. Black, soft, male, just out of reach…

Three days later she took them.

:

“Do it. I want you to do it.”

“Do what?”

“Put your hands on me. I want that – you.”

Smiling lips; gleaming eyes. Ebony hair tied back with a plain black leather band. Lily-white hands reaching for her, pausing a hair’s breadth from her skin.

He released a ragged breath. “Now?”

On the bed—beneath him on the bed—she whimpered. “Now, now. Now, or I shall go mad, sir.”

“Sir? Even here? Say it.”

“I…”

He placed the tip of one finger upon her belly, and she watched, transfixed, as he traced a languid circle on her flesh. It burned—it thrummed and throbbed. She rubbed her thighs together, seeking—

“Say it.”

“Severus,” she said helplessly, crying out when both hands descended on her, their warmth and intent covering her, enveloping her…

:

She woke with a gasping breath and without thinking, Hermione threw out her hand and summoned the gloves. They smacked into her palm. She wrenched her nightgown over her head. Still in the dream—still under his spell, his charms—she gave into it and moved the black leather gloves over her body, her belly, her breasts. She panted once—twice—and her legs fell open uncaringly, beckoning the gloves, the leather, the man.

Hermione pressed the gloves between her legs. She moved under them, over them, and ground her teeth to quell a scream of frustration when nothing… nothing…

“You,” she whispered into the dark room, spent from unsuccessful effort. “Only you, it seems.”

:

If she felt at all doubtful about her rising desire for the man, their subsequent meetings banished it. Hermione had been content with him, content with her affection and imaginings of the impossibility of the man returning her interest. Over the months, contentedness had morphed into being recognisant of his every move. It was stifling heat; unquenchable desire.

There was a strange, minute shift in his behaviour – as if he had shed a driving coat after arriving into a warm room. He was still as sardonic and wry as ever, yet the layer of insulting amusement that so often used to colour his insults was gone. Gone entirely, she might have thought, though she was aware that still she did not know the man as she wished to.

And, there. That was it.

She wished to know him. In every sense. She had had enough of pretending otherwise in her interactions with the Professor. There was no point in it. He could read her well enough, and as she had no hope of the man declaring for her—pigs would fly before, to borrow a phrase of his—Hermione could only allow herself to be with him without formality. She stored up every moment, every smile, every exasperated scowl. All would stay with her when she left, never to return. She forbid her wandering mind from torturing her with flashes of reality—that his heart could never be hers, that he would never be at all interested, that she was just a child compared to the woman he had once known—and focused on what pleased her: he, alone.

She had weeks left before the final examinations. Time ticked away swiftly, and before she knew it, she was standing outside of his office, a certificate of success held in her hand.

:

“Enter.”

Hermione’s heart raced. She touched a hand to her curls, and refrained from checking her gown. It was a dress of fire for her House – gold silk with streaks of red, gathered under her breasts before cascading over her body. Gloves the colour of fresh cream covered her hands and arms, and the formal graduating cloak of ebony with a lion clasp was already carefully folded in her beaded bag that hung over her wrist. She did not believe herself to be beautiful, yet she knew that if there was a night to appear before the black-haired man, heart in her hands, then this was it. She needed him. She ached for him. She could not deny herself.

Snape had not been at the ball, appearing only at the ceremony to participate in the customary signing of certificates. He had seen her swathed in the black cloak, but it was custom that the cloaks were cast off before the dancing began. From the moment attention began to drift from dinner to dance cards, he was nowhere to be found.

“Enter,” he repeated, a glower evident in his deep voice.

She drew breath.

“Good evening, Professor,” she said as she pushed open the door.

At first, she did not find him; he was not at his desk, nor the chairs by the bookcase. He was nearer. He stood by the windows, his back to her, black gloved hands linked together behind his back. He was silent and still.

Free to observe him while he could not see, she bit her lip. He wore a conservative coat of ebony, skimming to his knees, she decided, after delicious consideration. Close-fitting trousers tucked into gleaming black boots; his neckcloth was a splash of cream amongst the funereal attire. She smiled, wondering not for the first time what her mother would make of the dour man.

“Good evening, sir,” she repeated quietly, boldly walking to his side.

He stared out at the depths of the lake. The water swallowed the light of the room, and when he turned to her, she saw him almost entirely in shadow.

There was a pause as he looked at her, without a single change to his blank expression. “Miss Granger,” he said finally. “Have you come to bid me farewell?”

“Amongst other things,” she said, eyes flitting over his dark waistcoat and the fabric buttons that she wished to feel under her hands. “I did not see you when the dancing started.”

“No.”

“Do you dance, sir?”

He snorted. “Good God, no.”

“Why?” she pressed laughingly. “Is it the steps? The music?”

“The company,” he ground out.

“Dancing is a refined art.”

“I think not, Miss Granger. Anyone can dance. I have not yet seen a gathering where skill matters at all.”

“Odious man,” she remarked dryly, thrilling to his gruff, short laugh. That she was flirting with him barely entered her thoughts – he provoked her, he must know it!

“You are dressed for travelling,” she said next, glancing at the top-coat that hung over his desk chair. “Are you going somewhere, sir? For the summer holidays?”

“That remains to be seen.”

She could only muster a grimace. Was he going to a woman? A wife? She had heard nothing, and surely the Daily Prophet would have reported on it – he was forever in the news, with badly-written articles on his loyalties and heartbreak. Desperately, she thought now that she was ruining herself – however kind, however enthralling he could be, surely she was running after a man whose heart could never be hers.

The desperation fuelled her. Hermione touched a hand to her pounding heart then reached for him, pulling his hands gently from behind his back until she had them in her grasp. She stared at their joined, covered hands. She could not look at him.

“Miss Granger…”

She swallowed and tightened her grip. “Do not say it. I beg you, sir. Just… if you would but allow me to…”

“To what, little girl? I should ask that you remove yourself from me, and leave this room, never to return.”

“Should you?” she asked breathlessly, finding the courage to look up at him searchingly. “Will you?”

Snape opened his mouth, but a sudden, wild need overtook her. Without conscious thought, she placed gloved fingertips over his lips. His eyes widened, shocked, and Hermione trembled at the softness of his lips, the heat there, the warmth…

“Do not speak,” she implored daringly, “for I am not finished.”

Slowly, she removed her hand. He looked furious – brows drawn done, mouth pursed. His eyes flashed but she ignored it, returning her gaze to his hands. Slowly, surely, she traced his covered palms, marvelling at how small her hands were next to his.

He cleared his throat.

“No,” she said firmly. “I am not finished.”

“Silly chit,” he burst out coldly, “you have no idea—”

“Hush!” she commanded, then on a whim, grabbed one leather glove and jerked it off his hand. She took his delicate fingers and placed them on her cheek, eyes fluttering shut. “Oh, hush,” she repeated, entirely aware that his magical power would see her out of the room in an instant if he so wished it.

She dragged his fingers across her cheek; her lips; her neck. They left a trail of desire, and it emboldened her. She dropped his hand and went for the other, stepping closer until suddenly his back was against the window.

Carefully, slowly, she slid each finger out of the leather glove. “Oh, soft,” she sighed, releasing his hand.

“Soft?” His voice was a low, warning growl. “Did you imagine this, girl?”

“Constantly,” she admitted uncaringly, beyond the point of propriety.

“And when you were here, in my office? You were thinking of it?”

Hermione took his hands and kissed each fingertip. He drew in a long, ragged breath.

“I was,” she confessed.

Still he did not move a muscle. She felt her heart miss a beat as she pressed down with his index finger, letting it sink into her lower lip. Unable to help herself, she moaned, lost in the sensation.

“I have thought of you,” she whispered, touching his finger with the tip of her tongue. He was clothed so severely that to have his bare hands here, in her mouth, at her mercy, was as if he were undressed before her, his body pale in the shadow of the lake—

Hermione opened her mouth. Barely believing herself, she slid his finger between her lips. Deep down below, she throbbed with a full yearning for him, for the taste of him—

The Professor was frozen still; rigid.

She closed her eyes to the lake and submitted to the act of exploration. She swirled her tongue around his finger, feeling each callous, savouring the taste of him, of ink and crisp parchment, wintergreen and lemon. Severus—oh, Severus—was irresistible. The rest of her resolve fled and she gathered another finger, whimpering as she tightened her lips around him, suckling the roughened skin—

Hermione opened her eyes. With his long-fingered hands at her mouth, she stared at him unashamedly. He was breathing heavily, gaze intent upon her face. He took in the sight of her and growled, body springing to life, his free hand seizing her shoulder, pulling her closer and closer still. Their mutual embrace, illicit as it was, set her free. She leant closer to the hard planes of his chest, revelling in his groan that was dark and deep and full of raw desire.

“Hermione—” he managed, his hand sliding up from her shoulder to delve into her curls, fingers slipping through the strands. He teased the ribbon away, and muttered a release to the charms that kept her hair bound and neat. It spilled over her shoulders, this way and that; his lips curved into a half-smile. He guided her to his shoulder and she stayed there, pressed to him, his two fingers in her mouth, her forehead resting on his coat.

“You have me here, little witch,” said Severus, voice hardly above a whisper. “Is this how you have thought of me?”

She took his slick fingers from her mouth. Without answering, Hermione brought his palm to her lips and kissed it. His breath caught. She placed another kiss to his flesh. He exhaled, head falling back against the glass. The flickering shadows from the gloom of the lake highlighted the faint line of sweat upon his brow; how his mouth was half-open; his tongue that darted out to wet his lips.

“I have dreamt of you,” Hermione admitted, bringing his palm closer, with a wild heart and trembling body. She breathed in the scent of him; coaxed it to wrap around her, enfolding her in the deep, rich musk of his skin. “I have dreamt of these hands. I have imagined them…”

“Where?” he demanded, his free hand leaving her hair and clutching her waist. He thrust hard against her once, twice; she felt a hardness at her belly and moved her hips in a roll against him. Severus hissed and held her firmly so she could not move. “Where?”

Hermione smiled triumphantly. She moved back and saw him fully: undone.

“Everywhere. Everywhere.”

“Gods,” he gasped, and she grabbed his hand and turned to his palm, her lips forming a tiny, delicate circle on his skin. She tasted him with her tongue, powerless to abandon what she craved.

“The taste of you…” she murmured, overcome.

He gave a delicious groan, then thrust against her once more. She let her teeth sink down gently, biting his palm, and he froze, helpless, before he moaned—a delectable sound, so intimate and full of fire that Hermione gasped with delight—and slid slowly down to the floor, pulling her with him until she sat almost in his lap.

He was silent for a long while, before he began to laugh. It was a rich, deep sound, full of disbelief. Until she saw him summon his wand, Hermione thought him upset with her, but his cheeks were red and he pointed it at his trousers with a rueful and surprisingly honest grin.

“You are…” he said slowly, “a force to be reckoned with.”

Hermione gave a tiny gurgle of laughter. “It is the greatest pleasure, and I have dreamt of it, and thought of it, and hoped… I have spent months thinking of you, sir.”

“Months?” The man was spent. He looked at her through half-lidded eyes.

“Since I returned.”

“Good,” he declared quietly, bringing his arms about her.

She pushed back, shocked. “Good? What do you mean, ‘good’?”

“It is a bit late for maidenly behaviour, witch,” Severus said firmly.

Hermione arched an eyebrow. “I’ll have you know that I am the epitome of maidenly, sir. I am the furthest thing from improper.”

Grinning wickedly, the wizard cupped her cheeks and kissed her roughly. He withdrew, took a breath, and then kissed her once more, his hands gripping her shoulders.

“Oh—” Hermione squeaked.

“Be quiet,” he ordered, and she could taste his smile as he kissed her again.

Afterwards he held her face in his hands then took her elbows and helped her to stand.

“You will be the death of me,” he said eventually, as he drew his wand carefully down her gown, smoothing the silk.

Hermione could only smile shyly. In the quiet shadows, she was lost for words.

He approached her slowly, hesitantly.

“Why were you dressed for travelling?” she asked. “Where were you going?”

“Ah.” Severus rubbed at the back of his neck. His cheeks were aflame. “I had… miscalculated.”

“How so?”

He gave her cheek a gentle flick with his fingers. “I had… I had hoped to escort you from the grounds.”

“To my home?”

“Indeed,” he grunted.

“But… the leave taking is not until tomorrow…”

Severus scowled and drew her to him. “Must I spell it out? You left me unmanned, witch. I took leave of my senses. I might have been foxed for all of my ineptness. Don’t laugh.”

Her lilting smile could not be hidden so easily. He scoffed and brought her cheek to his chest, ensconcing her in his hold. She closed her eyes, feeling the familiar thrum of pleasure that now throbbed with the promise of fulfilment, if not now, then…

Oh, then…

“I dressed to escort you. I had thought… mistakenly… that I would have the chance after the ceremony. Despite years of presiding over these insipid balls, these mindless events… I still made myself believe that I would have you on my arm this night; that I would see you home. Present myself to your parents. But I did not think of the ball. It did not enter my mind – not once.”

“You dressed for me?” she pressed.

“For you. Delightful little witch.”

“For me,” Hermione echoed, smiling widely as she rubbed her cheek against his soft black coat.

“For you, Hermione.”

He sighed, and rested his chin on her head of dark curls.

:

She dreamt of his hands. Gentle and sure. Calloused; warm. Reaching for her, as always.