Nothing was darker than the stars, an old sage had told Severus Snape many years ago. He had also told him that virtue was the best property of a young wizard or witch, so he had decided to take anything he said with a grain of salt. Of course he was seventeen at the time and his virtue one of the very last properties about himself he was eager to keep.
He had also tried to tell him of the Ancient Dark Prophecy of the Half Blood Prince, but by then Severus's attention had wandered and the only thing he remembered was the Half Blood Prince moniker which he thought was pretty cool.
"So wait a minute, you were the subject of an Ancient Dark Prophecy and this is the first time you've ever mentioned it to anybody? Are you crazy? No, don't answer that. I swear you and Harry are exactly the same with this bloody secretive martyr complex. Are you sure you're not secretly his father?"
Professor Snape drew himself up to his full height and huffed out offendedly, "Miss Granger! How dare you imply…"
"Stop, sit down, I'm just winding you up. I do love it when you do that though, you get so aristocratically offended. It's lovely, really. And it's Ms. Granger, or Professor Granger, or even Hermione, but not Miss."
Professors Granger and Snape had been having a late night supper after a trying day of Quidditch finals and the inevitable student accidents and brawls. A deep friendship had snuck up on them after all this time but they kept it hidden as they didn't know what the other staff would think. They often complained about students, talked about potions, worked on Runok Ko puzzles together. They were quite close friends now despite their pasts.
"That so called Ancient Dark Prophecy was most likely a dud, besides my virtue is long gone Mizzz Granger, so I suppose we'll never know."
Professor Granger sighed, "I suppose not." She shook her head and chuckled, "the Half Blood Prince, that's completely ridiculous; you know that right?"
"Well, I do now. I may have been a bit - dramatic at the time."
"A bit? At the time?" She howled with laughter.
"Fine, you're obviously overtired Professor, it's probably time for you to head off to your quarters."
"Okay, okay, I'm sorry. Let me just catch my breath," she shook her head, "a bit dramatic he says."
"Come along," he reached out his hand to help her up from the table. She smiled and took his hand. As she looked up at his eyes he thought he saw longing flash in them. The moment was over before he could be sure and they went their separate ways.
Hermione was gasping with laughter, "I can't believe he, he," she wheezed, "tried to pull her hair and shove the pawn up her nose."
"Apparently the Hogwarts' Chess Tournament has gotten quite competitive in the post war era," he snickered.
"And undignified, I mean it was a Ravenclaw and a Slytherin. Neither are exactly known to brawl," she guffawed.
"Your mad cackling is what's undignified here, Hermione."
She laughed and slapped his arm, "Please, you were so close to breaking character."
"Shush Severus, go get me some tea, I need to calm down."
He chuckled, "As you wish Madame Granger."
She smiled and relaxed back into the leather armchair in his sitting room. After a trip to the infirmary, they had gravitated to his rooms to ostensibly discuss the fracas.
She started when a low voice in her ear murmured, "Your tea Madame."
Hermione sighed happily as he pulled another chair next to hers and dragged an ottoman closer so she could put up her feet. "You make the best tea. So much better than mine or the house elves."
"No magic. For some reason it tastes better that way. People who grow up in the Wizarding world don't know any better and Muggleborns get so caught up in magic that they forget."
"And here I thought it was because you were a Potions Master."
"It is in part, there are some potions that have to made without magic as well."
"Huh. I knew that, but I guess it never occurred to me that it might apply to making tea." She smiled at him.
He smiled back and the silence grew full. "Hermione…"
"Severus!" His floo roared to life.
He sighed, "Yes, Poppy?"
"Our two young miscreants are ready to be escorted back to their rooms. Separately! Is Professor Granger still with you?"
"Yes, Poppy. We'll be there in just a moment."
He turned and held out his hand, "Duty calls Professor."
"There's no relaxing in academia."
They smiled at each other as they headed out.
"Hermione! Stop fidgeting and just smile and wave at the ickle students as the train pulls out."
She puts on her best fake smile and waves and says through clenched teeth, "You're not smiling and waving."
"I'm 'in character'."
"You'll never allow me to forget saying that will you?"
"Ugh. I cannot believe I allowed you to talk me into helping you with this project!"
"You said, and I quote: 'Of course I will help you gather those plants Severus! I did the Arithmancy equations after all, it can be a joint project'!"
"You didn't tell me it was going to be in the Forest of Dean! I hate the Forest of Dean!"
"You didn't ask."
"I didn't ask, oh you sneaky bugger. I'm going to have to redo those equations too."
He laughed. "Okay, this part has to be done with out magic. I'll boost you into that tree and hold the basket under you. I need those berries. You can pull them in bunches but don't crush them, the juice can be caustic."
"Lovely. Should I be wearing gloves?"
"No. Unfortunately, anything other than wood and flesh will leech the necessary properties from them."
"Alright, I think that's going to be enough. Let put put this down and then I will assist you in getting down."
"Hurry up because this branch is pretty slipper-" She squawked and began to fall.
As he caught her, the force caused him to slip on the slick undergrowth and they both went tumbling down. When she began to shake, he panicked and brushed the hair from her face. "Sweet Salazar, Hermione are you okay?"
As she raised her face to his he realized she was giggling. "Heavens, we're a mess."
"Surely we are." Neither of them moved as he pulled leaves and twigs from her hair that had also had tumbled down from her regular bun. "Hermione, I …"
"Whatever you were going to say. Yes." She smiled and kissed him.