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Binding Darkness

Chapter Text

Author’s Note

Please forgive any spelling and/or grammar errors. I hope you enjoy it, please let me know what you think!

After several requests, I’ve finally come up with a darker plot to write about.

Considering the Harry Potter books are set in the middle of a war, and many things are implied without actually being explicitly stated, I’ve always wanted to write a darker story that explores that aspect, and goes with what several readers have asked me to do a story on including a Marriage Law fic. This is going to sort of combine the two. Not exactly a traditional Marriage Law, but it will have a marriage of circumstance that develops into something real over time while always including some of the brutalities of war.

I have another username, but I decided not to publish this under that name because a number of taboo, or at least questionable, situations will come up in this story. If you are interested in reading my other works, please PM me, and I will let you know what it is.

I’m not J.K. Rowling, so I don’t own anything.

~

Ch 1: Revel

For the first time in weeks, Hermione was bored rather than upset. The stilted conversation she’d attempted to keep up with her mum had long since dried up. They just didn’t have anything in common to keep it going, and they didn’t see each other often enough for it not to feel awkward and strained when they tried.

The shops in London were packed with people bustling about, all trying to get last minute shopping done before Christmas. Shopping was the last thing in the world Hermione wanted to be doing, but her mum had talked her into coming along, pointing out that this was the first Christmas Hermione had spent with them since her first year at Hogwarts. Her mum had added that they had only spent a total of one hundred and fifty-four days together since Hermione began attending the wizarding school. Then, for good measure, to really drive her point home and layer on the guilt, she’d also pointed out that Hermione had had four hundred and thirty-four days available to spend with her parents over the years, but that Hermione had either chosen to remain at the school during the breaks or that she’d gone with the Weasleys instead.

And people wondered where her attention to detail came from.

But this was far superior to the alternative that had been presented to her. Attending Christmas at the Burrow, and listening to Mrs. Weasley lament over her and Ron not being together or hearing Ron reminisce about snogging Lavender Brown.

That newly budded relationship was the only reason she’d even come home this year. Because she couldn’t bear to look at Ron after he’d thrown her over for Lavender. Their union was a culmination of every insecurity and self-conscious thought that Hermione had ever had slapping her rudely in the face.

Of course, she could have stayed at Hogwarts, but that would have meant two weeks of dodging Cormack McLaggen. He’d been doggedly persistent ever since he’d successfully cornered her at Slughorn’s Christmas party and managed to grope her. Hermione still cringed every time she remembered the feel of his clumsy, rough hands squeezing her chest with no finesse.

“Just one more stop, dear,” Mrs. Granger promised, exiting the clothing boutique to walk down the bristling sidewalk.

The square, lined with fancy Muggle shops were all decked out in Christmas decorations. Shiny silvers, glowing golds, radiant reds and glittering greens. Everywhere she looked, the world was celebrating. Evergreen trees, holly and wreaths filled every open space. The cheery atmosphere completely unaware, and in direct opposition to the open warfare rocking the wizarding community.

“I want to pick up a new briefcase for your father.”

“It’s fine,” Hermione promised, smiling reassuringly at her mum. The smile grew when her mum reached out and brushed a honey-brown curl off her face.

“Then I thought we might stop in Diagon Alley for a few more books for you. Only one more year of study then you’ve got to select a career. Best to be as informed as possible,” Mrs. Granger said brightly.

“Thanks, Mum. I’d like that,” Hermione agreed, knowing it was her mum’s way of saying thank you for this time together, as well as her way of being supportive of the life Hermione had chosen to fully embrace.

“Oh, would you look at that! Fireworks,” Mrs. Granger laughed, pointing upwards. “How festive!”

Red and green sparks split the sky, ripping it to shreds. The eerie green glow hovered, refusing to fade, and it wasn’t until Hermione closed her eyes, the afterimage branding itself in red against the inside of her eyelids that she could make out the shape -- an open mouthed skull expelling a curled serpent from its skeletal jaw.

The Dark Mark.

Death Eaters.

Here.

Now.

“Mum, let’s go -- we have to go,” Hermione gasped, grabbing her mum’s hand and yanking her away, towards the underground tube they’d rode from their London townhouse. Her mum resisted, turning back towards the chaos where screams of terror had suddenly erupted. Now, Mum!”

“Hermione, wait! Those people!” she gasped, instinctively wanting to help the injured. It was from her mother that Hermione had learned to value compassion and mercy. To judge an individual on their merit alone, and not their circumstances or the company they kept.

“No, now. We have to --”

The crowd heaved, a great panting beast. They were pushed and pulled, caught up in the ebb and flow of the current of fleeing bodies. Frightened people pushed and shoved. Hermione’s sweat slicked hand slipped free of her mother’s.

Hermione pulled her wand from her purse, abruptly grateful she’d already turned seventeen and was therefore considered an adult, and allowed to practice magic outside of Hogwarts. Though the idea of doing so in front of Muggles and having to explain herself terrified her. Though not nearly as much as facing Death Eaters alone did.

“Mum!”

“Something’s happened. I have to try and help,” Mrs. Granger insisted, pushing against the pulsing flow of the crowd.

“It’s Death Eaters. You can’t,” Hermione insisted, reaching out and just missing the back of her mum’s sweater.

“What? Who? Oh!” Mrs. Granger questioned, ending on a gasp as a flash of light nearly missed her. Her jaw hung open, stunned by the laser of purple fire hurled her way.

The most magic her mum had ever seen, was Mr. Weasley’s Side-Along Apparition with Hermione a few summers earlier. After that, Hermione had just begun using the Knight Bus to get about to keep her parents away from what they didn’t understand, and unfortunately were therefore reluctantly frightened of.

It wasn’t their fault. They tried to be understanding. Yet still Hermione felt their unease whenever the subject of magic and what it was capable of was brought up. It was for that reason that she’d never told them anything about her time at Hogwarts or the deadly adventures she’d undertaken with Harry and Ron. Even when that meant lying to her friends about how much she’d told her parents.

Stupefy!” Hermione cried, stunning the nearest Death Eater.

He fell with a resounding thud, but her spell drew the attention of every nearby Death Eater. Five in total. All of whom turned at the sound of her casting the spell. Never had she faced so many opponents. And never without Harry and Ron.

Panic for her mum seized Hermione. She couldn’t think, not with so many masked faces staring directly at her, but had to get her mum out of there. No matter what!

“Go, Mum! I’ll stay and --”

Two teenage boys, each bleeding profusely hurried past, knocking into her mum and sending the older woman crashing to the ground.

“Mum!” Hermione screamed, completely losing her head.

Pathetic. She was in the process of mentally berating herself and preparing to fire off another spell when an arm snagged her about the waist.

“Well, well,” a voice hissed in her ear, the owner’s other hand clamped firmly around the wrist of her wand arm and squeezed brutally. Hermione felt her bones grind together under the excess pressure. “What --”

“Ow!” she whimpered, her wand dropping from her numb and throbbing hand, her fingers suddenly useless.

“-- have we here?” he finished asking, the question sounding more like a panted grunt.

“Hermione,” Mrs. Granger whispered, starring at the man holding Hermione, terror etching deep grooves on her face. A hand lifted, silently imploring the man to release her daughter.

Avada Kedavra!” the man growled, jerking Hermione harder against his chest when she lunged forward, trying to outrace the flash of green to dive atop her mother.

The spell hit the downed woman solidly in the chest, her face going slack the moment it did. The light in her eyes, no more than an extinguished candle flame without so much as a curl of smoke to indicate it had ever burned at all. Like a puppet with its strings abruptly cut, she toppled backwards, outstretched arm still, eternally, extended.

NOOOOOOO!” Hermione screamed, twisting and writhing, desperate to free herself.

“Her -- Granger? Potter’s... little... Mudblood? Of all... the luck,” the man panted, straining as he heaved her flailing body entirely off the ground so her legs were thrashing in the air.

The man tossed her against a nearby brick wall, the jagged, abrasive edges shredding her through her winter coat and the thin, steel grey satin dress she’d worn for her mum’s sake, an early Christmas present. Hermione barely had her feet under her when the man pressed the full length of his body against her, pinning her painfully against the rough wall.

“Mum,” Hermione gasped, struggling to wrap her brain around the truth of what had just happened. That her mum was --

“Oh, no. Was that your mum I killed? Don’t worry. You can join her once I’ve had my fun,” the Death Eater said, leaning so close to Hermione that she gagged on the foul stench of his rancid breath.

Shock had left her blessedly, briefly, numb, but she was suddenly aware of the hand on her hip and the sound of fabric ripping. As well as the feel of bitingly cold air against the green lace fabric of her bra.

“I don’t think so, Crabbe. This one... is mine,” drawled the Death Eater standing behind the man molesting her.

“Mhmm,” Hermione whimpered, recognizing the smooth deep voice of her Defense Against the Dark Arts professor and former Potions professor.

“Why do you get her?” the first Death Eater, Crabbe, huffed angrily, disgruntled at having his toy taken before he’d had a chance to play with it.

“Because I am the one that has had to put up with her incessant showing off and endless questions for the last six years. Ask your son about it, if you doubt I’ve earned the right to take compensation from her flesh,” Professor Snape sneered in a rather convincing impression of a real Death Eater.

Hermione desperately tried to remind herself that he was part of the Order of the Phoenix, and that he was only saying that to maintain his cover. Except, it was nearly impossible to believe when she noted the way his flat onyx eyes drifted lazily over her, hesitating briefly on her exposed cleavage. There wasn’t a hint of a reaction at seeing her in such a state.

“Then I get her when you’re done,” Crabbe insisted petulantly. Chortling, he added, “You can break her in for me.”

“But of course,” Professor Snape agreed casually, slipping forward to assume Crabbe’s position before her in a move so smooth, Hermione didn’t have a chance to react or try to escape.

He pushed her firmly against the wall, pressing forward to stand between her legs. The thick wool of his robes flared out, settling around them, the fabric brushing her stocking clad legs.

“What --” Hermione gasped, batting at the hand that reached to hook under her thigh.

The sound of his voice, closer than it had ever been to her before, made her freeze. “Do not say a word,” he hissed by her ear, pulling her leg higher up by his hip, his fingers tearing a sizable hole in her stockings.

Then his hips shoved against her own, forcing a startled cry from her parted lips. He did it again, and again. Thoughts were slow to form, sluggish as molasses on a frozen winter morning, but the sound of laughter from the nearby watching Death Eaters helped her understand that Professor Snape was only giving the appearance of raping her.

“And for Merlin’s sake struggle, you stupid chit,” he added harshly, rocking his hips against her in a particularly hard snap.

“No! N-No, please, s-stop,” Hermione begged, lightly smacking and shoving at his shoulders. She cringed at the ridiculous waver in her voice. Her acting skills hadn’t improved any since the incident in Umbridge’s office last spring.

Professor Snape snorted, and she knew instinctively that he was unimpressed with her performance, but at least it had sounded more like a grunt on his part. Especially given the way his head was still buried in her neck, his mouth hidden by her wildly curling hair.

Over his shoulder Hermione could just make out Draco Malfoy watching. She was stunned by the look of revulsion on his face. As she took him in, Hermione saw that he was looking back and forth from the scene she presented to a man with equally pale blond hair raping another woman. Lucius Malfoy. His father. Draco was seeing both his professor and his father raping women on a street in downtown London.

Lucius was brutalizing the woman, visibly pounding into her as she screamed herself hoarse. There was blood on the woman’s thighs and her breasts were fully exposed to the frigid evening air. Red marks stained her skin where bruises would no doubt form later.

“No,” Hermione groaned, and at the sound of genuine distress from her, Snape jerked his head up. He took in her expression in a blink before following her line of sight to see what had her staring so transfixed.

There were other Death Eaters too, torturing people. A few unlucky victims were spinning upside down in the air, much as she’d seen happen at the Quidditch World Cup Tournament. Others were casting spells on Muggles crumpled on the ground, crying as they bled from a dozen or more wounds. A number of dead bodies littered the ground, so much rubbish in the streets.

The hands on her remained gentle. Occasionally, they gave her a light squeeze to remind her to struggle. “No, no, no,” she chanted, no longer having to feign her distress as she watched the horrific proceedings, tears sliding freely down her cheeks.

The books on the First Wizarding War described the acts that took place at revels in detail, but Hermione had never imagined having to witness it firsthand. Hadn’t thought that it was already happening again. The Death Eaters were monstrous.

Lucius’s assault finally came to an end, and Professor Snape took that as his cue to release a louder grunt before whispering in her ear, “Disapparate. Now.”

“My wand is gone,” Hermione moaned, letting her head fall forward as her leg fell back to the ground. “It happened just before Crabbe killed my mum.”

“Bloody hell,” Professor Snape cursed, looking about as he pretended to fiddle about with his pants.

It wasn’t difficult for him to locate her mum’s lifeless body. Her corpse was nearby, and they bore a striking resemblance. Hermione heard him inhale sharply.

“Severus, is that who I think it is?” Lucius Malfoy called loudly, drawing the collective attention of the group to where her professor stood, partially shielding her from sight.

“You know perfectly well that it is, Lucius,” Professor Snape answered coolly, icicles dripping from each word.

A maniacal glint entered the elder Malfoy’s eyes, twisting his ravaged features grotesquely. “I’d hoped, but…”

“This is why you suggested this location. Tonight,” Professor Snape accused, taking the other man in shrewdly.

Now that Hermione had a clearer view of him, she could see a number of signs that the man had come unhinged. His wild eyes and haggard appearance made him look deranged, unbalanced. Probably from his time in Azkaban. Hermione hadn’t even heard that he’d gotten out. It was possible that it had only just happened. Honestly, Lucius looked a million times worse than Sirius had when he’d first escaped.

“I’ll admit I had Bane watching her and reporting her movements,” Lucius said, smirking evilly.

“Why, Father?” Malfoy gasped, confusion marring his brow.

“Revenge, Draco. For last spring. For her part in our loss of favor with the Dark Lord. Though I must admit I didn’t expect her to hold up so well,” Lucius announced crudely. “Was she any good?”

“Small compensation for years of misery,” Professor Snape said drolly, managing to convey an air of boredom with the entire affair.

“Perhaps I should give her a go,” Lucius began, his lips parting as a new thought struck him mute. “Or…”

“Or what, Lucius? Aurors will be arriving soon,” Professor Snape snapped, impatience settling about him like a winter cloak. The reminder of Aurors had several of the Death Eaters bristling, suddenly anxious to go themselves.

“No. I don’t think they will. Not for a while yet, at any rate. They’re properly distracted at the moment,” Lucius said vaguely, hinting that he’d played more of a hand in orchestrating the events of the evening than he’d so far admitted to. “We could make this a more permanent arrangement.”

“Permanent? No, I’m sure the headmaster would miss her,” Professor Snape suggested, but Hermione had felt the way his body tensed against her, unconsciously shifting closer, every line rigid marble.

“That spell we spoke of last spring would be perfect,” Lucius continued, dismissing Professor Snape’s concerns. “With Draco -- now that could be interesting.” Malfoy’s mouth opened and closed, seeming unable to find words to express his opinion on his father’s idea. “Or maybe even with myself...”

“What? No! She’s in --” Malfoy refused, seeming to find his voice after floundering before.

“You’re right, of course, my boy. We wouldn’t want to sully ourselves with a Mudblood,” Lucius said easily.

Malfoy and Hermione both found their eyes unconsciously straying back to the unconscious Muggle woman that Lucius had just violated, blood purity be damned.

“Severus?” Lucius called, a question in his voice.

“I am already satisfied,” Professor Snape said stiffly.

“Shame. That would have been amusing for you to be carrying on right under Dumbledore’s nose -- for a little while, at least. I wonder if Greyback would like her then.”

Hermione whimpered and gripped the back of Professor Snape’s arm. He shot her a furious glare, but scanned her face regardless, a silent question. But what he was asking, she didn’t understand.

“Goyle, run and fetch the werewolf. I know he’s around here somewhere,” Lucius instructed.

“Father!” Malfoy cried, grabbing hold of his father’s arm. Lucius shook his son off, no more than an annoying fly.

Goyle lumbered off. Where were the Aurors? Surely Lucius Malfoy couldn’t keep them occupied indefinitely!

“He’ll scar and eat you as he fucks you, girl. No more than filth like you deserves,” Lucius taunted, seemingly thrilled by the idea. Nausea turned Hermione’s stomach, dragging a louder, unwilling whimper from her.

This was meant to be a simple shopping excretion. A way to spend time with her mum. But now her mum was dead, her professor had pretended to rape her, and a werewolf was going to use and abuse her until he, in all likelihood, accidentally killed her.

Hermione squeezed Professor Snape’s arm harder, meeting his stygian gaze and silently pleading with him to save her -- whatever it took. She didn’t care what that meant, only that he didn’t let Greyback have her.

A question passed over his face, and Hermione gave a sharp nod, tipping her head the smallest fraction so as to go unnoticed by those watching.

Professor Snape closed his eyes tightly for the barest fraction of a second then grabbed her hand, swiftly slicing a cut across her palm. He did the same to his own before pressing the bleeding wounds tightly together, his jaw set in a hard line. She could almost hear his teeth grinding together angrily. Hermione didn’t resist, knowing he was her best chance at survival.

“Well, Lucius? Turns out I am in the market for… regular entertainment, after all,” Professor Snape said dryly.

Lucius smirked, insanity dancing in his eyes. Then he pointed his wand at them and yelled, “Repetita Cupiditatem!

Pleasant warm filled her. But no other noticeable effect occurred. She looked around, searching for clues, and was met with a look of comprehension on Malfoy’s thin face, pity in his expression as he averted his gaze, unable to look at her directly.

“Go on. Give it a whirl,” Lucius commanded, clapping merrily.

“Father, don’t you think you’ve done enough!” Malfoy hissed, horror and disgust warring in his voice.

“We’re going before the Order arrives. You may wish to return to Azkaban, but I do not. And now it appears I have matters to attend to,” Professor Snape announced stiffly, turning on the spot to Disapparate the pair of them away.

Chapter Text

Author’s Note

Please forgive any spelling and/or grammar errors. I hope you enjoy it, please let me know what you think!

I’m not J.K. Rowling, so I don’t own anything.

~

Ch 2: Binding

The sensation of being pressed through a narrow straw ended as abruptly as it began. Hermione blinked, stumbling a step as her ears popped painfully.

“Come,” Professor Snape commanded in a clipped voice, giving no hint to what he was thinking as he removed the mask he’d dorned for the revel. His typically lank, ebony hair was sweaty and mussed from the hood. Such an informal appearance was at odds from the usual image she had of him dominating a Potions or Defense classroom.

Strange that it would be such a minor detail that she fixated on after all the other events he’d been a part of that evening. Absently, Hermione deduced that she must be experiencing some sort of shock. That was the black, still abyss surrounding her. It was only logical given her ordeal.

“Miss Granger,” he prompted when she didn’t move swiftly enough for his liking.

She was about to ask where, when she recognized the Hogwarts castle gates looming before her, the twisting wrought iron forming a tall and imposing barrier to protect the grounds and the students within. Safety. Hogwarts represented safety.

The enigmatic, dark man leveled her with a scathing glare then began stalking forward, apparently deciding she’d follow and that he should be grateful for her sudden, atypical muteness. Better than a barrage of questions, no doubt.

Hermione took a deep breath, working her jaw to relieve the changing pressure in her ears, before she proceeded to follow him.

He gave her a cursory glance as they trudged towards the main doors. “Cover yourself,” he demanded sharply. “No wonder they acted like you were a damn Slytherin gift to be unwrapped,” he grumbled under his breath, but she heard every word.

Hermione glanced down at herself, and immediately understood what he meant. Between her steel grey dress and emerald green bra that Crabbe had exposed earlier, she was a walking advertisement for the snake house. “It’s more grey than silver,” she idly mused.

The fact that one side of her chest was exposed hardly registered. It wasn’t as though her professor hadn’t caught sight of her lace clad breast at least a dozen times over the course of the last hour. And what was that in the face of the rest of the events that had taken place. Her mother was dead. Surely everything else paled in comparison to --

Professor Snape turned so quickly that she stumbled back a step, then another as she took in his incredulous expression. Hastily, she tried to tuck the torn strap of her dress into the side of her bra, but it fell forward, unwilling to stay put.

The dark look on his face turned blacker still, and she quickly reminded, “My wand is gone.”

Reparo,” he muttered, closing his eyes before resuming his forward progress.

“Are we going to see the Headmaster?” she asked dully, unable to dredge up any real emotion.

Numbness buffered her, and it was a welcome sensation -- the lack of feeling. Calm. Muffling and suppressing the deep raging of her soul. She had no wish to properly register the devastating loss she’d already suffered. There’d be time enough later to think on it. It wasn’t as though her mum would be any less gone in the morning.

“If he is here, yes,” Professor Snape ground out, pressing his lips firmly together. Hermione realized it was a distinct possibility that he might not be, given the amount of meals he’d been absent from fall term. Then with a fair amount of self-loathing, he muttered, “I must explain myself to him.”

“You saved me tonight,” Hermione reminded him, painfully aware of what would have happened to her if he’d not been there to intervene. Lucius Malfoy’s savage demonstration had seen to that.

Then there had been the threat of Greyback. The stories Remus had shared with her of what he liked to do to his victims had given her nightmares for weeks over the summer before Harry arrived at the Burrow. She couldn’t imagine a worse fate than that.

“Do not pretend I behaved honorably,” he denied, his words practically a growl. His already brisk pace kicked up a notch due to his irritation. “I --”

“You --”

“Do you not understand what's happened here tonight?” he asked stiffly, flexing the fingers of the hand he’d cut and pressed to her own bleeding palm.

Just thinking of it caused the warmth she’d felt earlier to flare in her belly. It was almost nice, like fluttering wings. From superior to trembling of her soul. The violet quaking set to shake her apart at the seams. The impenetrable shield --

“Well?” he pressed, balling his fist again. She took his action to indicate that he was referring to the spell cast upon them and not the revel itself. Not her mum.

“No, Sir,” she admitted, though it pained her to do so. She hated not having the answer to a question, hated that as a Muggle-born, she was forever at a disadvantage when it came to magical knowledge for the simple fact that she’d had eleven years less exposure to the information others took for granted. There were days she felt sure that she’d never catch up. “I'm afraid I don't, not fully.”

“Is your Latin really that abysmal?” he asked dryly, opening the front door to the castle, and standing aside to let her pass before him. It was unexpectedly galant of him.

The entrance hall was silent at that time of night. The few remaining students who had stayed for Christmas had all retired to their respective common rooms already. The numerous decorations caught her attention, reminding her of the ones she’d seen in the shops a few hours before. Yet these were untarnished, so full of promise and wonder.

Hermione gasped as a crack formed in her emotionless shield, allowing a dagger to slip through and slice a curling ribbon across her heart. Blood welled in her chest, an ache so deep she nearly couldn’t shut it out once the pain began seeping in.

Somehow she managed, clinging to the question posed to her instead. She’d always preferred facts. Found comfort in their reliability, and the confidence knowledge provided her with. Dissecting the spell was much easier. Significantly less excruciating at any rate.

“Repeating... repeating desire?” Her mind grasped the gist of the spell, but not the specifics. Something to do with sex, no doubt. Especially given Lucius’s proclivities that evening. “But... but -- oh!” she gasped, realizing they’d exchanged blood. Doing so would have acted as a powerful binding agent linking the spell specifically to the pair of them.

“I see your wits have finally returned. It will be a relief to Albus to know they weren’t addled beyond repair,” he stated drolly. The quick retort was said so blandly that she almost smiled at the unexpected dry humor, but so she was too caught up in processing the curse.

“What sort of Dark Curse is it?” she asked, never having heard the like, and flummoxed as far as uses went.

“That's the thing, Miss Granger… it's not a Dark Curse at all,” he said carefully, twin splotches of red marring his sallow complexion.

“I still don’t completely understand, Sir,” Hermione found herself admitting. If it wasn’t a Dark Curse, then why was it used at Death Eater revel, and why had Professor Snape and Malfoy been so appalled and averse to its use? Surely it was easily remedied.

“The charm has rather fallen out of favor in recent years. The last few decades to be precise. Around the same time that old men stopped marrying young girls,” he stated flatly. “It used to be a regular part of the binding ceremony when couples were married, though I’m sure some are still asinine enough to use it today as some sort of thrill.”

She’d never seen a wizarding wedding, but had heard from Bill that a number of spells were cast as part of the process. He’d been discussing his upcoming nuptials with Fleur and the spells they planned to include when she’d stayed at the Burrow over the summer.

Hogwarts didn’t have any books on the subject. Probably to keep ridiculous, hormonal teens from doing something irreversible that they’d no doubt later regret considering divorce was only a Muggle practice and not possible for wizards and witches thanks to the magic involved. An image of Ron eating Lavender’s face sprang to mind at the thought.

“But what does it do exactly?” she asked, curious despite herself and always eager to learn. “The effects, I mean. How does the spell work? What is the counter-charm?”

“Nosebleed Nougat,” he announced suddenly, the stone gargoyle standing sentry to the Headmaster’s office leapt aside for them. Hermione hadn’t even noticed they’d arrived, having navigated the halls on autopilot. “Come along, Miss Granger. Since it appears he is here, the Headmaster needs to be appraised of what transpired this evening, and I haven't the time to explain it in more detail now. Hopefully not ever, if luck would only be on my side this one time. Let's go.”

The room, explained by Harry several times over the years, held little interest for her. She hardly spared a glance for the odd magical devices she’d never seen before or the rows of portraits depicting famous witches and wizards that had all played a role in shaping the educational system she so valued. Not even the shelves of rare books were enticing enough to earn more than a cursory glance.

“Severus!” Professor Dumbledore exclaimed, quickly standing when they entered his office. “I just got word. Do --” he broke off abruptly when Professor Snape shifted enough to reveal her entering behind him.

Hermione noted that his wand arm was as blackened and dead-looking as it had been all term. It didn’t appear to be getting any better either. What could have happened to him? Harry said that Dumbledore promised to tell him, but that he’d put off doing so each time Harry brought up the burned and withered appendage.

Severus didn’t stop advancing until he was directly in front of the Headmaster’s desk, and he’d braced his hands on the surface to glare accusingly at the elderly man.

“What has happened?” Professor Dumbledore asked calmly, seeming to have collected himself and was ready to hear the latest calamity that had befallen those under his care.

“Lucius Malfoy orchestrated a revel this evening. I warned you that he was unhinged after his stint in Azkaban, Albus,” Professor Snape said angrily, eyes flashing obsidian blades at the man. Hermione swallowed at the sight, twisting her hands together before her. “I told you he --”

“Yes. Yes, you did, my boy,” Professor Dumbledore agreed, nodding slowly, a troubled frown forming. Quietly, he inquired, “Miss Granger?”

“Tonight was about her. Lucius wanted revenge, and he got it -- her mother is dead,” Professor Snape informed him coolly.

A shiver stole over Hermione at the simple words. How could such a short statement have such a profound meaning?

“I am so sorry for your loss, Miss Granger,” the Headmaster said kindly, a genuine look of sympathy descending as he turned his head to look at her. “I promise I shall see to things.”

Confusion momentarily clouded her mind, then his meaning became clear. He’d see to her mother’s remains. Another knife made its way through her blank shield, this time landing in her gut. Her stomach churned cruelly and pressure built behind her eyes, but Hermione quickly shut the emotions down, brutally blocking the internal screaming out.

“Harry can’t know,” she whispered, boldly meeting the blue eyes that had long since lost their familiar twinkle. It was impossible to be jovial in times such as these. The toll of this war was written in every wrinkle and aspect of his person.

“Are you certain? He is your friend. You can --”

“You know he’d blame himself. We can’t afford that right now,” she insisted firmly. “He has enough responsibility, and there is too much at stake if he does not handle the news well.”

As instructed, Harry had kept her abreast of his private lessons with Dumbledore. While she may not fully comprehend their significance -- not yet, at least -- she did understand that his focus needed to remain entirely on that. His obsession with Malfoy was already enough of a distraction. He couldn’t afford any more.

It didn’t escape Hermione’s notice either that Malfoy had been at the revel tonight. It could only mean one thing. Harry had been correct all along in his insistence that Malfoy had taken the Mark and joined up with their ranks. The unlikelihood of the situation notwithstanding, Hermione was not looking forward to Harry’s smug satisfaction when he discovered the truth. Especially after she’d been so unfailingly dismissive of his concerns.

“Yes, of course you’re right,” he reluctantly agreed, though his frown deepened.

“Can you send my father away? Make him believe both my mum and me are gone -- it’s the only way to keep him safe,” she insisted, suddenly positive that it was her only option. The only path left to her. “Or make him forget us entirely.”

Hermione couldn’t bear to face him again. Or worse, see him lying dead before her as well. She just couldn’t.

Better to cut all ties now. After all, her mum had just gotten through accusing her of never being around anyways. It wasn’t as though she even really knew him anymore. She didn’t want to be responsible for causing him additional misery. Already the guilt she felt for the irreparable state of her relationship with them was enormous. The damage could not be undone now either, not now that her mum was dead.

The sound of a sharp inhale registered, but she didn’t glance at the man beside her. Didn’t want to know if he was condemning or praising her for her choice. And if he pitied her -- pity from a man most swore was incapable of the emotion -- her fragile composure would shatter in an instant.

“Are you certain this is what you want?” Professor Dumbledore asked gently, scanning her face.

“Yes,” she said, a staunch resolution making her stand firm in her decision.

“Then I will see it done,” he promised, and she noted a touch of pity had entered his eyes as well. It wasn’t a solid blow coming from him. She’d already expected as much. But it still caused the numbness surrounding her to quiver noticeably. Hastily, Hermione averted her gaze. She did not want to break down in front of an audience. Dumbledore, sensing her desire, changed the subject, directing his next statement back to the dark man still glowering at him from across the expanse of his desk. “You got her out. Thank you. Young Mr. Malfoy?”

“He was horrified by his father's actions,” Professor Snape announced, sneering as he spoke. Hermione felt bile rise in her throat as she recalled the way Lucius had brutally raped the woman in front of his son.

What had Azkaban done to the man that he would behave in such a way? Or had he always been capable of such atrocities? Malfoy’s reaction definitely made it seem as though he’d never witnessed the like before this evening.

“Would you agree with this assessment?” Professor Dumbledore asked, turning back to face her.

Startled to be asked, Hermione timidly agreed, “Yes. It certainly appeared so.”

“Then the boy can still be saved,” Professor Dumbledore sighed, relief evident as his shoulders slumped and the tension drained from his rigid stance. Saved? What -- but the Headmaster continued, “That is very good to hear. I had so feared the worst.”

“And what of Miss Granger here? Are you not equally worried about her fate?” Professor Snape drawled ominously, jabbing a sharp finger in her direction.

The tension immediately returned to Professor Dumbledore’s frame. His lips parted as he took her in, visibly searching for a sign of what his Defense professor could be referring to. Finally, he carefully asked, “What haven't you told me, Severus?”

“Lucius cast the Repeating Desire Charm on us,” he stated blandly, his face suddenly an unreadable mask.

A flurry of whispering overtook the portraits of the previous Headmasters and Headmistresses, a number of them appearing to have awoken all at once to begin discussing the new development with their nearest neighbor. A buzzing din filled the room as they carried on, titillated over the recent development. Professor Dumbledore coughed, throwing a chastising look over his shoulder, but they were undeterred. Apparently, this was the most exciting thing they’d witnessed in years.

Hermione’s attention, previously riveted to the two men, now began scanning the faces of those shooting her covert glances. What did they understand that she failed to? A few, seeming to have severed the school several centuries ago, even winked at her when they caught her eye, massive grins splitting their faces. Her continued ignorance left her unsettled. She itched to run to the library and see if she could seek out more explicit details on the situation she’d now become party to. Though it’d be easier to simply demand answers and explanations from the ones now engaged in a silent battle of wills.

The portraits’ amusement and intrigue was not the reaction she had expected. Particularly in light of how Professor Dumbledore appeared too stunned for words. His lips parted as he cast about for an appropriate response. Eventually, he settled for simply saying, “I see.”

“Indeed,” Professor Snape snorted, thought without an ounce of genuine humor. Certainly it failed to rival that of what the portraits displayed.

“Severus,” Professor Dumbledore began, the placating tone seeming to set Snape off.

“Don’t. Do not dare suggest --”

“You know you must,” Professor Dumbledore interjected, tipping his head a fraction and pinning the younger man with an expectant look. “There is nothing for it.”

“No,” he denied flatly. “I will be gone in five months anyways. There seems little point in waiting. Not when it will spare the girl.”

“No, my boy. That won’t do,” Professor Dumbledore countered, a sad frown forming.

Hermione was struggling to follow their conversation. So much was left unsaid. References to previous conversations, and possibly an allusion to herself. Ordinarily, she was far more intelligent, able to garner meaning when significantly less was provided, but her shock hadn’t entirely worn off, and her mind was still sluggish, slow to make the necessary connections.

Then Snape thoroughly shocked her by raging, “Why not? I did not save her tonight simply to turn around and repeatedly force myself on her! Besides, you had no problem demanding that I kill you at your leisure! Why can I not request the same of you now?”

Hermione heard herself gasp, and quickly covered her mouth in horror. Neither man even acknowledged her outburst, too consumed with the matter at hand. And apparently deciding which had the unwanted task of murdering the other. What in Merlin’s name was that about?

“You are still needed. Your position is too valuable to lose,” Professor Dumbledore insisted, appearing almost regretful as he refused Snape.

“You still intend to force me?” he asked, clearly startled and dismayed.

“My decision has not changed. If you don’t, it will fall on young Mr. Malfoy,” Professor Dumbledore intoned softly.

“And I have just confirmed that he is not in possession of the same twisted, blackened soul as myself,” Professor Snape growled bitterly, a hollow laugh following his self-assessment. The sound was jarring and it fell heavily to the floor with a cacophonous rattling.

“I am already dying, Severus. At least this way it can gain us an advantage,” Professor Dumbledore explained wearily, lifting his damaged hand for emphasis. “We must use any means at our disposal to stay a step ahead of Tom.”

He was dying? Truly? How long did he have? Did Harry know? He couldn’t. He’d have already said if he did. What were they supposed to do without him? They needed him! He was the only one Voldemort was afraid of. Without his assistance, Hermione feared nights like the one she’d just suffered would become commonplace. That could not be allowed to happen. She couldn’t bear others experiencing such horrors.

“You are too free with your words,” Professor Snape cautioned, darting a worried look at her as his posture stiffened minutely.

“I trust that Miss Granger will keep the events and revelations of this evening confidential,” Professor Dumbledore stated calmly, his words no less an order for the gentleness with which they were issued. “She has proven herself most reliable and capable of restraint.”

“Y-yes, Sir,” she agreed, knowing some form of acknowledgement on her part was expected. Harry and Ron weren’t to learn any of this. It was just like in her third year when she’d kept the existence of her time-turner from them.

“This could prove beneficial to us,” the dying man said, contemplating the new situation and apparently finding something about it to his liking. “Think of how she can aid you.”

Alarmed, her professor demanded, “I went to great lengths tonight to prevent her enduring this, and now… You can’t honestly mean for me to --”

“You must,” he insisted firmly, meaningfully adding, “for a multitude of reasons.”

“She is my student!” he exclaimed.

“She is of age,” Professor Dumbledore replied easily. “I can grade her work if you do not feel that you can do so without bias.”

Of age? Her mind temporarily abandoned the troubling news that Professor Dumbledore was dying.

Why did it matter that she was of age? Of age for what?

Phineas Nigellus’s smirk snagged her notice. At once her mind supplied, the spell!

“That doesn’t make it right,” Professor Snape insisted tensely. The spell involved sex. Sex between herself and the man protesting with all his considerable willpower. That was what they were discussing, and why the Headmaster was offering to grade her assignments. The conflict of interest. “There must be rules in place against something like this occurring here.”

“You know that there are not. It appears I have been remiss in not seeing to them before now. Though that is currently working in our favor, is it not?”

“So I’m to teach her by day and bed her by night?” Professor Snape asked incredulously, adding, “The complications and ramifications of that alone!”

How many times would they be expected to… repeating. The answer was in the spell itself. Several times apparently. How long would the spell last? And why were they were discussing it as though it were a foregone conclusion that it would be happening -- at least now that it had been decided that Professor Snape wasn’t going to have Professor Dumbledore kill him instead.

Would he really rather die than sleep with her? Hermione wasn’t sure if she should take offense to that or not.

Wait --

“Sir?” Hermione asked, gaining both men’s attention. “There is no counter-charm, is there?”

She already knew the answer without them telling her. Because what other answer could there be if he was suggesting such an extreme and permanent alternative?

“No. The only thing for it is to appease it,” Professor Snape informed her crisply as he continued to stare down the Headmaster.

“Has it already taken hold?” the older man asked curiously.

Professor Snape finally looked at her. His eyes slowly traveled down to her previously exposed breast. Tingles erupted over her skin in the wake of his glittering gaze, soft as velvet, awakening her senses as it stroked sensually over her.

He turned away abruptly and shifted restlessly.

“Yes,” he muttered gruffly. “It will need to be seen to very soon.”

His silken, baritone voice had turned sultry, deepening further. A shiver ran down her spine at the sound of it.

“Professor Snape needs to maintain his cover as a spy. It is imperative if we are to help Harry survive,” Professor Dumbledore said, attempting to justify his decision to her. Perhaps persuade her to be a willing participant. “Can you handle this, Miss Granger?”

Honestly, she still wasn’t sure she fully understood, apart from the fact that her pulse had begun to race each time Snape spoke, something that had never happened to her before. A pretty good indicator that he was right about the effects taking hold.

She nodded, acknowledging what had been said to her. It was getting harder to follow the conversation. Curiosity regarding just how much influence the spell had was beginning to dominate the majority of her mind. But yes, she could pretend nothing had changed in front of others even if they began a compelled intimate relationship.

“What creative new means of torturing me are you devising now, Albus?” Professor Snape asked suspiciously. Hermione had missed the calculating gleam come over the Headmaster, but she saw it then.

“A way to add a bit of respectability to this situation, ease your mind to a certain extent. As I mentioned, the ancient rules have never been rewritten. That particular charm is already part of the traditional binding ceremony. There are additional spells you would be able to utilize as well If you were to --”

“Absolutely not,” Professor Snape stated categorically.

“You would not be the first professor to marry a student here at Hogwarts.”

“What?” Hermione asked incredulously.

Hogwarts, A History had neglected to mention that particular bit of information if it were, in fact, true. Or it had been intentionally left out. As had the bit about house-elves. Funny how they only saw fit to report what displayed the school in the best light possible.

A couple of the portraits were nodding. The former presiding members seemed to find this an acceptable means of justifying what was just starting to really sink in for Hermione. It was going to be necessary for her to carry on an ongoing sexual liaison with Snape, courtesy of Lucius Malfoy. One that all of the assembled Death Eaters -- including her classmate, Malfoy -- was aware of. And now the Headmaster was suggesting they be bound even more completely.

“Surely you jest,” she added, forcing a laugh that neither of the others joined her in.

“Hogwarts has been around for a thousand years. Once upon a time, it was common practice for students to be married before they graduated. It has only been in the last century that things have changed, and still many marry immediately upon graduation.” Hermione thought of the Potters, Mr. and Mrs. Weasley too. He was right, most couples did marry young in the wizarding world. “And it is not unheard of for students to marry a professor here or there. Septima Vector did. And even Minerva was once engaged to a student here at Hogwarts, though unfortunately things did not work out between the young lovers.”

“Sixty years ago!” Professor Snape argued, sounding thoroughly exasperated, and startlingly unsurprised by a revelation that thoroughly rocked Hermione.

“The point is,” Professor Dumbledore said clearly, pausing to emphasize his next words, “that she was.”

It seemed a bit extreme to Hermione that they were talking of having a binding ceremony. Was that really necessary? Did the Headmaster honestly think it would add a flare of… What had he called it? Respectability. Yes. Did he believe that extra measure was the best way for them to move forward?

And what of the war? From the way Dumbledore was talking, this would help Snape in his spying. She didn’t see how, but given that a number of Death Eaters knew about the spell, it probably couldn’t hurt.

“Will this help keep Harry safe?” she asked, seeking confirmation.

“Unquestionably,” Professor Dumbledore replied immediately. “Next year, when I am gone, she will be a means for you to stay in contact with Harry. Think of Molly’s clock. With a binding you could have the same. You would be primed to protect them. Until we’ve seen this through to the end, as you once promised.”

“You would use that against me? Here? Now?”

Hermione listened to him resisting, recognizing that it was a futile attempt. As she watched him, she couldn’t help but remember the care he’d taken with her earlier. As well as all the times he’d saved her and her friends over the years.

He was a good man. And Dumbledore was correct. Harry needed him. The Headmaster wouldn’t be suggesting this course if he didn’t believe it was necessary.

“She is not in the Order for you to use like this -- she doesn’t deserve for me to --”

“I'll do it,” Hermione interrupted. Snape gaped at her, and as he did, the warmth in her belly became even more pronounced. The spell seemed to almost beckon her to take a step closer to him.

When she did, his eyes widened perceptively, and he growled, “Fine.”

“Then it's settled. We should handle this at once so you have time to... adjust while the majority of the students are away,” he said delicately. “As I’ve been reinstated on the Wizengamot, I am legally able to conduct the necessary rituals.”

“You’re afraid I’ll back out,” Professor Snape said drolly, though he’d yet to look away from her.

“To put it mildly, yes,” he replied casually. Then in the next breath, “If you would join hands -- the ones you used earlier -- I promise to keep this brief and to the point.”

Snape held his cut hand out, palm up. There was a challenge on his face, but Hermione couldn’t tell if he was willing her to refuse to take it or to willingly tie herself to him in such an intimate and lasting manner. With a deep breath, the comforting scent of sandalwood and butterscotch swirling around her from their proximity, Hermione placed her hand trustingly in his.

The moment their skin made contact, she felt it. Unmistakable desire. Her core heated, arousal making itself known as her blood hummed, eager for more. Crimson painted his cheekbones, letting her know he felt it too.

“Do you promise to do all in your power to protect one another and keep each other’s confidences?” Professor Dumbledore inquired, sounding willfully oblivious to the sexual current passing between the two before him.

“Yes,” they both answered dutifully, Snape’s more clipped than her own.

Dumbledore gave an elaborate wave and flourish of his wand. A thin gold band of shimmering light looped around her wrist then Snape’s. It glowed brightly, illuminating the entire room before fading.

“Then you are bound until death,” he concluded simply.

Hermione appreciated that there were no false promises or expectations of love and devotion. Such words would have rung hollow and made a mockery of her professor’s noble actions to save her that evening.

Because that had been another factor in her agreeing to do this. He’d given her a chance to decide her fate earlier, and she’d chosen him -- a choice she’d make all over again knowing that this was where they’d end up. No matter what was about to happen between them, or would happen in the future, it was significantly preferable to being at Lucius or Greyback’s mercy.

“Don’t worry -- I have no intention of surviving beyond the end of the war,” Professor Snape, her husband, drawled coldly. “You’ll be free again soon enough.”

She couldn’t imagine anyone being so willing to throw their life away. Was his existence truly so bleak?

“Perhaps, in time, you will come to view this as a blessing,” Professor Dumbledore said encouragingly. It wasn’t exactly clear who he was directing the statement towards, or if it was intended for each of them. But then he followed it up with, “In the meantime, I suggest you attempt a level of civility, Severus.”

Snape’s derisive snort told her what he thought of the headmaster’s words.

“Come, Mi -- hmm -- Granger. I’m positive you have an endless list of questions running through that head of yours,” he barked, glancing at the cold grate and seeming to decide he’d rather them take the extra time to walk to their next destination. “I might as well get started answering them immediately.”

Was she truly so predictable?

Because, of course, he was absolutely correct.

Chapter Text

Author’s Note

Please forgive any spelling and/or grammar errors. I hope you enjoy it, please let me know what you think!

I’m currently writing six different stories (three are nearly finished), so no guarantees on fast updates. I can promise that I will work on this story regularly and try to update at least once a week. I also don’t abandon my stories. I have every chapter outlined, so it’ll just be about finding the time to write it.

I’m not J.K. Rowling, so I don’t own anything.

~

Ch 3: Questions and Answers… As Well As Demonstrations

They didn’t cross paths with anyone during their long trek through the castle to the dungeons. Not a ghost. Not an out-of-bounds student. Not even Filch or Mrs. Norris. Not a single delay for what was inevitably about to happen.

And the journey seemed to be taking significantly less time than usual. Or were they just walking faster than normal? Surly eagerness wasn’t speeding their steps!

Hermione’s head was still fuzzy. The careful shell of numbness she’d cocooned herself in was slowly being infiltrated by tingles, and a steady dose of warmth. Both of which seemed intent to focus on her core. The sensation left her throbbing and achy. Hermione felt the need to stop walking and press her legs together in a feeble attempt to find a small measure of surcease.

Her heart beat faster, a rapid thudding in her ears. Was this normal?

“Sir, I --”

“Hush,” he hissed, glancing about suspiciously. “Wait until we are inside,” he demanded, descending the last flight of stairs.

Hermione followed close behind him, inhaling his unexpectedly pleasant scent. She’d have guessed he’d smell like some of the more noxious and foul smelling potion ingredients, but he didn’t. Of course, he was no longer teaching Potions, so perhaps that was the reason behind the change.

Professor Snape stopped abruptly in front of a small alcove two hallways from the Potions classroom, and a door shimmered into existence as though it were floating to the surface after being submerged in a pool of water. He paused, pressing his forehead against the door.

“I’ll have you know, I’ve never invited a student into my chambers before,” Professor Snape said crispy, the hand resting on the wooden surface curling into a fist so tightly clenched the tendons protruded noticeably from the pale surface.

“I didn’t think that you had,” Hermione replied, frowning at him.

Did he believe she thought he’d take advantage of his position to lure witches to his bed for the promise of higher marks? That was not his way. He was too distant and unassailable. For all his favoritism of the Slytherin’s, he’d never once struck her as bribable. Or so morally bankrupt that he’d coerce someone under his care.

Professor Dumbledore’s earlier statement about there being no rules to govern such activities, and the allusion to the frequency of the encounters, had her wondering if Professors such as Gilderoy Lockhart had taken advantage of such loopholes in the past. If so, she --

Then her mind scattered, unable to hold a single coherent line of thought because Professor Snape had turned his head to stare at her. His expression was unreadable, but Hermione had the distinct impression that she’d unintentionally insulted him.

Why?

She reached out unconsciously to place a questioning hand on his arm. Was it --

The thought was gone again as she felt him tense beneath her touch. Heat radiated from the spot, and as though it were attached to an invisible rope connected directly to the apex of her thighs, she felt an answering warmth explode through the bundle of nerves located there.

“Oh!” she gasped, staggering forward, into her professor.

Professor Snape’s eyes widened. His pupils were blown wide, the black swallowing the bitter chocolate irises as they dipped back down to her previously exposed breast. They glittered like wet ink. His Adam's apple bobbed noticeably.

Then the door was open and he was ushering her inside. His hand was at her back, hovering, careful not to actually touch her, as he guided her towards a dark leather couch.

Hermione was too restless to sit. As it was, she cast about for words, barely taking in the crackling fire blazing in the stone fireplace or the dozen or so bookshelves lining every wall -- all packed with books she ordinarily would have been itching to browse through. All she was aware of currently was the spike of lust that had seemed to impale her.

Her professor seemed disinclined to sit as well, and instead began pacing before the fire. His ebony hair was still mussed from the hood he’d removed earlier. Hermione watched him with avid eyes, taking in his smooth gait as he stalked back and forth, mumbling quietly to himself. The dark robes swept out around his tall frame. They billowed so much that she had no idea what they concealed. Was he lean and lanky like Ron or bulky and burly like the twins?

“The more frequently we touch, the stronger influence the spell will have on our emotions and… desires,” he informed her suddenly.

“But we’ve barely touched,” she whispered, startled that it would take so little to set it off.

A press of hands. A gentle touch -- one she hadn’t even meant to do. Some external force seemed to have been guiding her hand when it occurred. Surely this wasn’t normal. There was no way couples used this spell regularly and were able to carry on any semblance of an ordinary life!

“Hfft,” he grunted, seeming to be contemplating the same as he continued his back-and-forth progress over the plush rug before the glowing, dancing red and gold flames.

The last touch -- the one she was still reeling from and was currently making her stomach all fluttery as it had been at the start of year when Ron had openly flirted with her -- hadn’t even been skin to skin. It was apparently something they would need to keep in mind for the future. Future...

“Why don’t you plan to survive the war?” Hermione asked suddenly, his earlier words the dull, resounding boom of a falling book in the silence of the library.

“I should have been more specific earlier. I will answer any questions you have that directly impact you. I will not now, or ever, discuss my arrangement with the Headmaster or any other of my personal matters,” he said coolly, the frosty blade sharp enough to slice clean through the heat encasing her.

Hermione’s teeth ground together, biting back her retort. How could he think that his life, which was now bound to hers -- for the rest of their lives -- did not directly impact her?

At least his patronizing demeanor had taken the edge off and blunted the lust riding her. Rational thought seemed within reach once more. Though if his eyes boldly caressed her again, it’d be gone in an instant.

“How long does the spell last?” she asked briskly, trying to maintain her composure.

This was a difficult position for each of them. If for vastly different reasons. Neither of them wanted to be there. He’d made that abundantly clear, and given the man’s treatment of Harry and Neville over the years, he wasn’t exactly her favorite person either.

But she trusted him despite all of that. And after tonight, she owed him more than her life.

Their interactions would go a lot better if she focused on ignoring his defensive manner, insults, and short temper, and instead attempted to be mature and calmly rational. It might help ease his mind a bit with the concerns he voiced earlier.

“As long as the blood flows in each of the bound members,” Professor Snape replied bitterly.

Until death -- just like their binding.

“How frequently will we be required to…”

“It varies. As I said, contact speeds the process, renewing the physical urges more frequently, but I should think it likely that we will feel driven to fulfill the obligations approximately once a week,” he drawled, using the tone he often did in class when lecturing them.

It was easier to discuss when she thought of it as nothing more than a lesson. Her hunger for learning overshadowed any awkwardness and discomfort associated with the topic. He seemed to feel the same, because he finally stopped pacing, and stood, arms crossed, facing her.

“Are we both affected?”

It would be just like some ancient, misogynistic wizard to come up with a barbaric spell that only targeted the wife in order to leave her at the mercy of her husband. That sort of thing was seen all the time in Muggle history, so she’d hardly be surprised to find it had occurred in the wizarding world too.

“Equally? Yes,” he answered, surprising her.

They would both feel the effects. Somehow that still didn’t make it feel entirely consensual. But it was a touch more palatable than it would have been otherwise. Part of her brain reminded her that she’d wanted his help -- no matter what that meant. And he’d made the decision to help her. That silent agreement bound them prior to any spell or ceremony.

The stirrings began low in her core, fluttering in earnest once again. More insistently even. The pulse in her neck jumped when her professor licked his lips, drawing her eye to the action.

They weren’t as thin as they first appeared. Particularly his bottom lip. It was pump and smooth. They only looked thin because of their paleness, which made them seem to fade into his overly-pale olive skin. Probably from all the time spent in the dark dungeons. And the more he spoke, using those lips to form that deep, slow drawl, the more entranced Hermione felt herself becoming.

“Though from accounts I’ve read, the initial urgings do not always coincide in both parties,” he admitted frankly, startling her with the additional information. Crimson blotches stained his cheeks again as he considered the implications of what he’d just informed her.

“Meaning there are times I may feel the effects while you do not,” she said aloud, rolling the idea through her mind as she slowly processed how that might impact their relationship.

“Put bluntly, yes,” he said tersely, turning his head to glare at the snapping fire. A throbbing ember drifted to the stone floor next to the rug, and he angrily stomped on it, grinding it unnecessarily into the smooth rock.

Never before had she had an in depth conversation about sex. Her swotty tendencies apparently made her dorm mates, and even Ginny, think she lacked normal teenage hormonal urges, even after she’d dated Krum and let him touch her. She’d never even discussed the topic with her mum.

That thought was like being doused with ice water. Grief warred with desire, and Hermione wasn’t sure which emotion would be easier to manage or would emerge the victor.

“What happens if we ignore it?” she asked to distract herself.

She wondered if the effects would fade if put off long enough, or at least until the other party felt them as well. Was that the solution? Pretend it wasn’t happening, and it would go away on its own?

“It will eventually become painful and highly distracting. Disorienting even,” he grumbled, clearly unhappy with the fact. “Once appeased, the effects should vanish quickly.”

So he’d already thought through the possibility.

She wished he’d just share all that he’d already considered and discarded instead of making her fish for the information. But he’d always been that way. Stingy with his superior knowledge. Forcing students to earn every crumb he deigned to bestow on them.

Distracting? Disorienting? That was a fairly apt way to describe her mind for the last hour or two. She’d never had to struggle so much to pay attention before in her life. Not even when she’d fancied Professor Lockhart! She’d done just fine in his class when --

School. Oh Merlin, her studies! What was she to do about school if her mind wasn’t working properly thanks to the spell? Or how was she to have a normal life? What if he wasn’t available? Or worse, what if he was unwilling, and she had to wait?

“And it can’t be taken care of by…” Hermione trailed off, unable to voice the rest of her question. How was she supposed to ask the darkly scowling man if touching herself, so that he didn’t have to, would be just as effective?

He raised an eyebrow, snorting derisively at her embarrassment. Quietly, he said, “No. Masturbation will not work, Granger.” Something flashed across his face. Calculation and a flare of cunning.

“What? What is it?” she asked, wanting to follow him down the path his thoughts had led him.

“Solitary masturbation will not work. I do not know if mutual masturbation will satisfy the requirements of the spell,” he supplied, his challenging look almost daring her to agree to give it a try.

Need came over her like a tidal wave. Drowning her with its intensity. Satisfy. “Mmh,” she whimpered, desiring nothing more than that.

Apparently desire had won out, and her grief would be delayed making an appearance for a while longer.

Pity entered his coal-dark eyes, as well as a corresponding hunger. “I will not ever leave you to suffer,” he vowed roughly. “Should you feel the spell, come to me immediately.”

It was a blanket promise that betrayed a new facet to the enigma that was Severus Snape. He wouldn’t turn her away. Wouldn’t leave her in the grip of a spell with no recourse or means of escaping the consuming effects.

“Neither will I,” she replied in turn, stepping closer to him, drawn forward by the promise of relief.

Alarm crossed his face, but it was fleeting, quickly replaced with matching desire. “I will see if a counter-charm can be devised or at least a way to prolong the effects between interactions,” he said in a strained voice, staggering back a step.

Hermione watched as he turned, tearing his gaze from her. His impossibly rigid stance straightened further. His control a tightly leashed beast clawing at the bars confining it.

“Is full intercourse required to satisfy it?” Hermione asked, idly wondering if there was a way they could build up to that. Perhaps ease into an intimate relationship.

“I… do not know,” he admitted, seeming troubled both by his lack of clear answer and by the fact he’d had to acknowledge it to her of all people. The know-it-all.

She sighed, resigning herself to diving in headfirst. He had already stated that he didn’t know what mutual masterbation would do for the spell. This was basically the same.

“I supposed we’ll have time to figure that out for ourselves,” she murmured, knowing it was true. The rest of their lives as a matter of fact. Even if the man studying her, a silent question on his face that she was pointedly ignoring, didn’t plan to be around for much longer.

Hermione was valiantly trying to ignore the effects of the spell, but her body was continuing to respond to his mere proximity. Her core was slick with need, throbbing steadily. Distracting was putting it mildly.

“Why does the charm even exist?” she grumbled, resenting it as it thoroughly manipulated her body.

“It is intended to make both parties amorous on a regular basis. Originally, it was to make marriage more palatable between otherwise opposing individuals,” he said, reiterating something she vaguely remembered him saying earlier. If she was forced to spend her life with someone she detested, this spell would certainly make some aspects of the marriage easier to bear.

“Right,” she said, nodding.

A shiver coursed through her, and her nipples tightened suddenly. His gaze dropped to her chest again where the straining tips pressed through her bra and dress, and she blinked when he took in a ragged breath. He looked like a predator preparing to pounce.

And she wanted him to. More than anything else she’d ever wanted in her life.

“I know there’s more that we need to discuss, but perhaps it will be easier later, after we satisfy the requirements,” she suggested, giving him indisputable permission to lose control and ravish her.

Please, she silently begged. She was mortified by her traitorous body, but it didn’t stop her from taking another step forward.

“You wish to -- now,” he gasped.

“Is there a point in waiting?” she asked, slightly confused. “The effects are only going to get worse the longer we wait, so why shouldn’t we just get to it?”

“You don’t have to right now. I am aware of how trying tonight was for you. Though you’ve held up remarkably well,” he said softly. Probably the closest he’d ever come to complimenting her.

The evidence of his arousal had gradually become clearer in the last few minutes. Ever since they spoke of masturbation. And now, its outline was visible even through his thick robes. They’d just promised not to leave the other needing, and here they were, both feeling the spell’s effects.

“The curse only affects our bodies, not our minds, correct?” she asked determinedly.

“That is correct,” he agreed cautiously, leveling her with a suspicious look.

“Then, yes, I want to now,” she announced bravely, meeting his gaze head on.

Before she lost her nerve, she silently added.

He looked momentarily torn, but he quickly masked his expression, doning one she’d seen him wear a million times over the years.

“Very well, Granger,” he purred, a seductive note entering his voice that she’d never heard him use before in six years of knowing him. It made her breath catch in her throat, and her eyes snap to his, startled. They’d morphed into liquid heat.

He merely raised a brow, and lifted his hand in invitation, just as he’d done during the revel. The puckered, red line stared accusingly up at her where he’d cut himself to initiate the blood-bond needed for the spell. It had barely scabbed over. She knew, because her palm itched where it sported a twin mark.

When she placed her hand in his, he pulled her gently towards a closed door. Probably, it led to his bedroom. She couldn’t really think though, not with him touching her. His calloused fingers scraped against her softer skin, and her head seemed to spin.

“What should I call you? I can’t keep calling you Sir or Professor,” she asked suddenly, the realization slipping out without any forethought. His head whipped around to glare at her, and she snapped, “Don’t give me that look, I wasn’t suggesting I begin calling you by some moronic pet name!”

His glower grew darker, storm clouds gathering and growing rapidly, and Hermione shifted uneasily. She’d only lost her temper with a professor once before now -- a time when her emotions were equally heightened. She really should learn to watch her mouth and get a handle on herself when provoked.

“Er, sorry,” she tried, wincing at the way her voice came out in a timid squeak.

“Don’t apologize. It is a relief to know you still have some backbone. I suppose Snape will do for now,” he sighed, squeezing his eyes together.

His fingers flinched, and Hermione abruptly wondered if his reaction was more a result of being reminded that she was his student than it was her lack of respect in address. She wished she could ask what he was feeling, or assure him she didn’t view him as sleazy for what was happening, but he would not welcome her invasion of his privacy. Nor was he likely to give her an honest answer. Anger was about all she could expect if she went down that path, so she wisely left it alone.

He brought them to a stop beside his bed, and she was temporarily stupefied by the satin comforter on his bed. It perfectly matched her deep, metallic grey dress. Her lips parted to ask, but thought better of it.

When he dropped her hand, but made no move to touch her again, Hermione sensed that he needed a minute to collect himself, and that he wouldn’t welcome her advance if she took the initiative to start them off -- not that she really felt up to it. Snape was a man. One that likely had years of experience and no problem cutting her to the quick if her clumsy fumblings failed to entice him.

What was she supposed to do? The most she’d done was handle Krum, rubbing him to a quick and messy release while they’d been studying in the library just before the Third Task. He’d touched her afterwards, using the table for cover as his hand slipped beneath her skirt, but she’d been so nervous about getting caught that she’d stopped him after about two minutes, because she’d been unable to relax and enjoy his attention.

Snape’s hand came up to brush her long mane of wild curls over her shoulder. He watched her as he eased her Muggle coat from her shoulders, letting it drop to the floor. His fingers ghosted down her arms in a tantalizing caress.

Desire was a punch to the gut. Helplessly, her hands went to his robes, working quickly down the extensive line of ridiculously tiny buttons to reveal the crisp, white shirt beneath. The contrast between light and dark was fascinating. Much like the man himself.

She needed him. Now.

His hand pressed hers into his chest, stalling her progress. Tilting her head back, Hermione saw that he was offering her a final chance to escape. The kindness touched her. But she knew part of the reason it was there was because he didn’t want to be doing this or feeling the same way she was.

“I'm sorry you're being punished for helping me tonight,” she whispered.

“There are so many layers in that statement, that I wouldn't know where to begin addressing it,” he said darkly. Her curious expression prompted him to add, “Assuming it was any of your business in the first place.”

Hermione had no idea what he meant, but before she could try to untangle the knotted threads, his hands were cupping her breasts, kneading them softly.

“Ah,” she gasped, fingers spasming on his buttons when he began to mould and massage the mounds more firmly.

They overflowed his hands as he expertly handled them. Snape caught the puckered tip of one and pinched it lightly, plucking at the sensitive peek. Hermione’s back arched, presenting her chest like an offering, silently willing him to continue.

Her deft fingers drifted lower, freeing button after button on the dark robes. He shrugged when she finished, letting it slip carelessly from his shoulders. His shoulders were broader than she expected, his waist narrower.

She didn’t get a chance to start on the buttons of his shirt because Snape caught the side zipper of her Muggle dress and tugged it down, quickly shedding her of the flimsy garment. Breathing was suddenly difficult when she noted the way he was feasting on her standing there in nothing more than a lace, demi-cup bra and matching, barely there panties.

The situation was not as awkward as she’d first imagined it would be, when she considered her first time getting naked in front of someone. It hardly even mattered that the fact the man was her professor should have made it more so. The spell didn’t leave room for anything except pleasure. It pushed for more, stripped inhibitions. And the hungry look he gave her, making it clear he appreciated everything he was seeing, was intoxicating.

His clever fingers saw her bra and panties removed in record time. Curiosity made her want to see what he looked like beneath all the layers he was still wearing. She was about to complain that he was still dressed when his hand moved to cup her intimately, pressing the heel of his hand firmly against the little nub between her thighs.

Oh, she thought, her mouth falling open, yet unable to produce a sound. That seemed to assume Snape, because he smirked at her speechlessness. Tingles radiated outward from her core, making her knees weak.

“You’re so wet,” he breathed, slipping a finger inside her slick channel.

The digit pumped slowly in and out, lightly stroking her. Shifting his hand, he brought his thumb up to brush over her clit, flicking it repeatedly. He deliberately rubbed minuscule figure eights against the button making her gasp and quiver into his dexterous hand.

It was sensation overload. Hermione had never felt such sheer ecstasy flowing through her veins. It was incredible, delicious, and she ached for more.

Somehow she ended up on her back, Snape crouched over her, kneeling above her still almost fully clothed. The reminder was enough to get a hold of herself and spur her hands into motion unbuttoning his shirt. The open collar revealed a lightly muscled chest, and pale olive skin that had likely never seen the light of day.

He was shockingly well put together, and Hermione’s fingertips danced over the intriguing planes she’d discovered. Her actions had him pressing his hips against her thigh, the hard heat of him scalding her through his trousers. She longed to explore him, eager to touch him as he was touching her, but pinned as she was, she couldn’t reach.

A second finger joined the first as he worked them in and out of her narrow channel. Hermione felt wonderfully full. The friction as they moved generated shockwaves that rocked her.

“Please. Please, Snape. I need --” Hermione begged, needing more. Needing him. The feeling was unrelenting, bordering on painful, but exquisitely so. Her body demanded all of him, desperate to satiate the requirements of the spell.

Snape headed her plea, disappearing to quickly vanish his clothes. Hermione barely caught a glimpse of long limbs and lean muscle before he was over her, settling back into the cradle of her thighs. She felt his hardness brush her leg, an interesting sensation like hot velvet. Then his cock was sliding through her wetness, bumping against her opening.

“Please,” she whined, needing to have the emptiness caused by his missing fingers filled again.

He braced himself on his elbows, stroking a finger across her lower lip. When he moved, she felt the coarse hair on his legs rough against her, and it added a new level of sensory information for her mind to revel in.

She was a hollow void waiting for him.

Very slowly, he entered her. He’d only eased in an inch before he retreated. Then he was pushing forward again, sinking in another inch. Again and again he repeated the action until he was entirely buried inside her tight sheath. She was stretched around him, his rod filling her more completely than his fingers had.

He’d not asked if she was a virgin, for which she would be eternally grateful, but the gentleness and patience that he’d demonstrated up to this point, and even then as he waited, allowing her time to adjust to the new fullness, told her that he’d known.

The willpower he was demonstrating was staggering to her. She was a mindless puddle of aching need. Nothing more than a vessel of sensory neurons desperate to collect more, more, more signals for her brain. She’d lost all semblance of restraint ages ago.

The weight of him pressed against her, solid maleness, and his captivating scent, butterscotch and sandalwood made her dizzy and anchored her to the present all at once. It was consuming and addictive.

His fingers brushed her face again, tracing her cheekbone, and she turned her head to press a kiss to the palm of his hand, instinct guiding her.

“Granger,” he gasped, jerking his hand away even as he rolled his hips. Sparks of bliss erupted in her core, distracting her.

She rocked back against him, chasing more of the sensation, but his body had her pinned in place, and squirming only made him groan and bury his face in her neck.

“I’m all right,” she promised, giving him the permission he seemed to require to move within her.

It was enough to spur him into motion. He set a steady, lazy pace. His hand returned to her breast, squeezing the pliant globe. A direct connection to her clit seemed to form when he rolled her pebbled nipple between his finger tips. A sizzling sparkler ignited, glittering and burning bright.

Every touch sent her higher. For someone afraid of heights, it was strange. She was straining for more, reaching, searching. Flying through the clouds, aiming ever higher.

A climax rolled over her, shattering her unexpectedly with its intensity and suddenness. Her muscles seized and relaxed, endorphins flooding her system as she crested the tidal wave that had been pushing her all evening.

Snape froze, panting and nuzzling her neck as her muscles clenched and fluttered around him, but Hermione had barely blinked, still floating down from before, when he began thrusting into her again, faster, his hips pistoning into her.

Excitement gripped her. It had been too fast, too abrupt the first time. It was not the experience she’d expected it to be, and she’d not wanted it to end yet. He’d silently granted her wish.

Hermione’s hands, which had been gripping his strong arms, slipped around his back, clinging to his shoulders as she tried to meet him thrust-for-thrust. The ends of his hair brushed the back of her hands, and she was briefly startled by how soft it was.

“Snape, oh!” she gasped, feeling his teeth nip her collarbone. The pressure of the tiny bite sent electricity zipping through her, and made her forget that she’d planned to run her hand through to soft locks of his hair to explore it more thoroughly.

A finger brushed over the little bundle of nerves just above where they were joined, and Hermione lost it. She went careening off a cliff, soaring through the air as bliss rushed through her more absolute and encompassing.

Snape’s hips jerked erratically twice more before warmth filled her. He shuttered in her arms, every line of his body tense as he followed her over the edge, riding the tempest consuming them.

He pushed himself up to look down at her, and she relaxed her death grip on his shoulders, easing her hands down to his sides. A shiver ran through him.

“Is it always that… intense?” she asked breathlessly, weakly clarifying, “the spell, I mean.”

“I do not know,” he muttered, but she thought he looked troubled by it as he added, “for obvious reasons.”

Of course he’d never been bound by it before to know. Somehow she doubted regular sex was so all-consuming. Particularly in situations where the two people involved didn’t necessarily wish to engage in the act initially. Though she had to admit, it had been quite wonderful. The spell had seemed to be in control, driving them to continue, to give more, to let down any and all barriers and simply feel. She’d felt ravenous for him. Completely onboard to do that whenever the spell required.

And as he shifted, slipping out of her and moving to sit on the side of the bed, the endless drive for more ceased. The spell seemed to go dormant, temporarily content.

“I believe it will fade in time,” he said flatly. “The spell was settling into place tonight.”

Without the effects of the spell guiding her, Hermione felt self-consciousness and uncertainty kick in. She’d just slept with her professor, and would be again. Furthermore, she’d just married him. She didn’t even know how she was supposed to look at him again after what they’d just done!

Hermione pulled the edge of the comforter over her as she too sat up, another thought occurring to her suddenly. A problem, more like.

“Si-Snape?” she called, waiting for him to turn his head towards her before continuing. “Lavender is here for break.”

She hoped that would be all it would take. It was. They both knew she couldn’t return to her room in Gryffindor Tower at this hour of night without having to answer a number of questions. If it was a discrete student? Maybe. But Lavender Brown would never fall under that category. And discretion was paramount for this situation -- lives possibly depended on it being so.

He nodded as he stood. Hermione averted her eyes as he moved to his wardrobe. It may have been silly, given what they’d just done, but that had been because of a spell. He’d not invited her to look upon his person under ordinary circumstances, and she wanted to offer what little respect she could to the man that saved her.

A shirt fell to the bed beside her, she glanced up in time to see him tugging a pair of black satin sleep pants over his firm bum. She’d only grasped it briefly earlier, which somehow seemed an oversight now. Definitely something to rectify the next time.

At his expectant look, Hermione slipped the silver shirt over her head, the grey so light it nearly gleamed like true silver, and slipped off the bed. Her legs felt unsteady as she reached for her discarded underwear, pulling the emerald panties on under the long shirt that reached just past the top of her thighs.

“Slytherin gift,” he muttered, referencing his earlier remark, and she flushed, wondering if he might really think of her as a present. She internally scoffed, knowing she sounded like the silly chit he’d also called her.

When he turned to leave the room, Hermione rushed to say, “I don’t want to be alone. Not after everything that happened tonight.”

She worried her bottom lip, fearing he’d either refuse or belittle her. This night had been trying in so many ways, and even if it was Snape, and he’d resent her intrusion and presence, she wanted him close by.

He didn’t react at first. But after a minute of standing there watching her, he returned to the bed and slipped under the covers. With a pointed nod, he instructed, “Sleep.”

Chapter Text

Author’s Note

Please forgive any spelling and/or grammar errors. I hope you enjoy it, please let me know what you think!

I’m not J.K. Rowling, so I don’t own anything.

~

Ch 4: What Happens Now?

Hermione blinked, taking in her unfamiliar surroundings. The room was darker than she was used to, the bed larger and scented an alluring sandalwood. Where were the red drapes hanging about her bed? Where was --

Her wand was resting on a nightstand beside the bed, two potion vials beside it. Hermione had the sense she was seeing an old friend she’d falsely believed was lost to her forever. Without really thinking about it, she clasped the wand and brought it to cradle against her chest, hugging it like a teddy bear.

Memories of the night before assailed her, rushing back in through a burst dam to flood her mind. Death Eaters had attacked during her shopping trip, killing her mum. Snape had saved her, and they’d…

She’d had sex with her professor, and was currently in his bed.

Hermione’s head whipped around, looking for the man, but he wasn’t in the room. The bedroom door was slightly propped, light filtering in through the crack, and she guessed he was in the sitting room beyond. Without her usual windows high in Gryffindor Tower, overlooking the Black Lake and gently rolling mountains, she had no reference to the time. It could just as easily be five in the morning as it could be ten.

Part of her guessed it was later than she normally woke for the simple fact that she felt better rested than she had in a very long time. Strange. Given everything that happened, she’d expected to be plagued by nightmares, her mind too overstuffed to shut any of the horrors or novelties out. Instead, she’d slept like the dead, utterly relaxed and sated.

Lumos,” she whispered, studying the potions.

One was a pale, swirling pink, shimmering with an iridescent glow in her wand light. The other was a bright blue, the shade of glacial ice. Carefully, she uncorked each in turn, sniffing them and looking for identifying clues. A curling tendril of vapor. A tangy aroma. Anything.

There was nothing recognizable to Hermione about either potion, though she had the vaguest sense that she may have had the blue one before. After Dolohov injured her in the Department of Mysteries maybe? For weeks she’d had to take a dozen potions a day. It was possible this had been one of them, but she thought perhaps it was slightly different.

Since she couldn’t be sure, she closed them and left both on the nightstand. The night before had been an indelible reminder on the necessity of caution.

Shifting, Hermione got up, noting there were two more crammed bookcases in this room. Hadn’t the other room been overflowing with books as well? She had the slightest impression of a veritable library contained in Snape’s suite. It was perfect. Precisely what she planned on having herself someday.

She debated going immediately into the other room, but realized it might be best to use the loo before facing Snape. Give herself a moment to gather her composure. The only other door in the room proved to lead to the convenience and she made use of it, noting her core was tender and throbbing.

Her heart seemed to have relocated itself to between her legs, and was beginning to beat faster by the second.

Finished, she made to face Snape. He was seated on the couch, pouring over a tomb. Hermione swallowed, her eyes devouring the sight of him shirtless. His skin was so pale it looked like he’d been hewn from marble. The pulse between legs sped, a thudding drumbeat that refused to be ignored.

“My wand… How?” she asked, shoving the words out as she concentrated on breathing. In and out. Focus. Inhale. Exhale.

He did not look up as he crisply replied, “Albus brought it an hour ago. He wanted to check on you.” A sneer contorted his face as he finished speaking. Disgusted that the older man knew how he’d spent his evening, considering he’d helped orchestrate the activities.

“He was --”

Need hit her and she staggered, unable to continue. Her fists squeezed tightly around empty air, and she whimpered, her body feeling as though it’d been dunked in a vat of simmering water. She was spinning, disoriented like a toy top. Her small sound of distress was enough to draw Snape’s notice.

His head snapped up to assess her. Hermione watched as his eyes widened and his pale lips parted to form a startled O. With tremendous relief, she realized he understood her dilemma. Silently, she begged for his help, for him to not make her ask for what she needed from him again so soon after the first time.

“Come here, Granger,” he drawled, setting the book on the coffee table and holding out a hand for her.

Slowly, she approached his reclining form, wondering why they weren’t going back into the bedroom. Did he mean for them to have sex on the couch then?

His hands ghosted up her thighs when she reached him. They slipped beneath the hem of the shirt to hook in the sides of her panties. Gently, he eased them down, letting them fall to the ground. He offered a hand to help her step out of them and move to straddle him, her legs coming to rest on either side of his hips.

Desire gripped her faster and harder than it had the previous night. Rational thought was impossible. All she cared about was feeling, experiencing that rush he’d given her the night before.

Desperately, she pressed her core forward, rubbing herself on him. He let her, unresisting, though she somehow knew he wasn’t likewise affected by the spell. Her hands roved over the expanse of his chest, gliding across the sinewy muscle. Hermione dipped her head, trailing hot, wet kisses up his neck. She caught the lobe of his ear with her teeth and tugged.

Snape jerked, then bucked into her again when she mindlessly begged, “Touch me, please, Snape. I need you.”

She felt his Adam’s apple bob against her cheek, and huskily, she repeated, “Please.”

Nimbly, his fingers unfasted the top three buttons of her borrowed shirt, and he shifted it, exposing the globe of her ivory breast, the fabric caught beneath the freed mound. There was a brief pause, then his mouth descended to capture the shell pink tip in his tantalizing mouth.

Hermione’s hips worked harder against him, and she felt his cock growing hard as she pressed along its length. Her body urged her on, instructing her to touch him, to nip his ear again, to push more of her breast into his suckling mouth.

“Mmmh,” she moaned, denying, “no, wait, more,” when his hands stilled her hips and shifted her back. She reached for him, not near ready to stop, but he simply shoved his pants down enough that his cock sprang free, the thick, swollen rod waving up at her eagerly.

Snape gripped her hips again, guiding her up, and helping her to slide down atop him. She was so ready that his hardness moved easily into her empty, needy channel.

Experimentally, she shifted, and little sparks of pleasure resulted, radiating out from her center.

“Ride me,” he ordered, voice little more than a breathy rasp. The instant he spoke, he ducked his head, averting his gaze and refocusing on her breast.

She did as instructed, finding it impossible not to listen to directions when given, not when it meant they produced more of the delicious friction that resulted when she rose up and allowed her body to slide back down his length. It was so nice that she did it again. And again. Faster.

“Yes, just like that,” he growled approvingly, squeezing her bum and nuzzling her cleavage.

He worried her nipple, tugging it roughly when her hips circled, rubbing her throbbing clit against his groin. With a groan, he abandoned the bud to tongue the neglected peek poking through the silky fabric. The cloth scraped enticingly over the sensitive skin, and Hermione’s head fell back.

Over and over she rose up only to let gravity pull her slamming back down on him, impaling herself repeatedly. It was ecstasy. He hummed and whispered encouragement, praising her actions. It was intoxicating -- approval from the one person that had never given it to her before.

Desire coiled tighter in her center, much as it had the night before. Hermione chased it, allowing it to beckon her closer. Like a hinkypunk, she followed the glowing light, caught in its trance, uncaring as to the final destination.

It pulled her down, drowning her in such a sweet release, that she surrendered completely to the pleasure that flooded her. Hermione collapsed against Snape’s chest. Arms looped around her, keeping her pressed tight against him as he bucked erratically into her, filling her with his own hot release.

The haze of desire cleared as she came down from her high, just as it had the night before. And with its absence, uncertainty crept back in. She wasn’t sure what to do, especially not when she could feel his softening membrane still inside her.

His thumb brushed her exposed nipple, and she gasped at the feel. Instantly, Snape jerked his hand back as though he’d been scalded.

The light touch had felt exceedingly different than it had moments earlier. Before, it was fuel for the inferno. This was...intriguing. Curious. And far too fleeting to make sense of.

“My apologies,” he said softly, refusing to look up at her.

“I thought you said a week between --”

“You insisted on sharing my bed last night. That was hours of continuous contact,” he explained, attempting to keep his voice level and not accusatory.

Her leg was starting to cramp in its prolonged, bent position, so she shifted, gasping as she felt him slide out of her, a trail of damp liquid following the unexpected retreat to leak down her inner thigh.

Awkwardly, she moved off of him to sit against the sofa’s arm. He adjusted his pants, covering his flaccid cock and producing his wand to vanish the glistening spot on the front that her earlier actions had produced. Hermione brought her legs up and winced when she tucked them beneath her.

“Did you take the potions I set out for you?” he inquired sharply, having noted her reaction to the movement.

“No. I didn’t recognize them,” she admitted.

Approval and something else passed over his face, there and gone in a flash.

“A good practice,” he murmured quietly, going to retrieve them from the other room.

Hermione took the opportunity to hastily re-button the shirt she wore, flushing when she noticed a matching wet spot on the front, just over her still pebbled nipple. The fabric clung to the spot, rubbing her tender flesh.

Where had her wand gotten to? She looked around, remembering that she’d been carrying it when she came into the room -- at the time, she’d never planned to release it again -- but then the spell had taken over and she’d somehow lost track of it.

There! She’d dropped it on the floor in her rush to obey his summons earlier and had him tend to her throbbing body. Swiftly, she swiped it up, her discarded panties too, muttering, “Scourgify,” to passably clean herself up a bit. She had just settled back onto the chocolate leather sofa when he returned.

“For the discomfort,” he said simply, handing her the vial of pale blue liquid first. He waited until she swallowed, cool relief soothing her strained, untried inner muscles, unused to being stretched as they’d now been twice in a short span of time. The potion was probably something of his own invention, because it definitely hadn’t been one from any of their course books. Then he handed over the other swirling pink concoction. “Albus was kind enough to remind me that you would likely not already be taking a Contraceptive Potion. I will prepare it for you each month so that you do not need to go to Madam Pomfrey for it.”

Contraceptive Potion...to prevent an unwanted pregnancy. Because what they were doing could result in a baby if she didn’t take it. A baby. At seventeen. With a man that only barely tolerated her, even if he would go to great lengths to protect her. It was a terrifying thought.

“Thank you,” she muttered, unable to look at him as she accepted the potion and swallowed it quickly. It was so surreal.

“I can see the wheels turning in that incessant little head of yours. Just ask what it is you wish to know,” he snapped, returning to his previous seat instead of continuing to tower above her.

Did he think that made conversing with him any easier? It didn’t. Not when he sounded like that.

His tone was considerably sharper than it had been at any point the night before. Why? Because he wasn’t feeling the effects of the spell anymore? Or because he was upset with either her or himself from fulfilling them?

She didn’t know him well enough to make a reliable determination. The realization stung. She was married to, and being intimate with, a man she hardly knew. And he had made it clear that he intended to keep it that way.

Swallowing, Hermione gathered her thoughts and decided to ignore his prickly attitude in favor of hashing things out. “How can we possibly make this work?”

Questions bombarded her, a faucet turned all the way up to form a gushing stream. There were so many things to be concerned about, that she didn’t know where to start!

When would they meet? How often? How could they keep it secret? What would Malfoy and the other students whose parents had been at the attack say when they returned to school? What if --

“I don’t see that much will change,” he drawled lazily, almost daring her to argue with him. His demeanor grated, sharpening her razor-thin nerves.

“Don’t you?” she asked crisply. “Where am I to stay? We --”

“You will continue to reside in the Gryffindor dormitory, of course,” he said coolly, lips curling up distastefully. “This is not a real binding.”

Her fragile temper sparked at being interrupted before she could state all of her concerns or simply finish pointing out that they couldn’t have sex in her dorm in full view of her gossipy classmates as she’d been trying to say. His verbal slap-down didn’t even open up an opportunity for any dialogue on all of the other problems she’d thought up for their situation.

His scornful remarks pushed her to snap, “What will we do when the spell affects either or both of us?”

“You cannot reside here. I will not live with a student. You’ll be underfoot enough as it is,” he said flatly, shutters closing over his fathomless inky eyes as he tried to conceal his reaction to the thought of spending more time with her.

“I didn’t ask to live with you. I was referring to getting word to each other and where we would meet to take care of the spell’s requirements,” she clarified, taking slow, even breaths. He was being deliberately difficult and obtuse, putting words in her mouth based on his own fears and thoughts.

He gave her another fleeting look, before his carefully neutral, blank mask was back. One that was impossible to identify any hidden, underlying emotions. But Hermione suspected that he might have been slightly abashed for jumping to conclusions.

“When it happens, come here after dinner has ended,” he instructed blandly, feigning indifference to the idea of her seeking him out regularly for sex.

Did he honestly think that would work? An evidenced that morning, the spell wasn’t on a timer, and she’d not be able to sit through class with her head spinning.

“What will you do when you need me?” she asked, trying to appear equally composed as the new thought struck her.

Snape gritted his teeth audibly. She wondered if he’d ever had to need anyone before this. He seemed so self-sufficient and contained that it seemed unlikely. Probably, it chaffed to admit he would now occasionally need a student he’d found so disagreeable for so long.

“Should that happen, I will inevitably get word to you,” he muttered. The clipped words rankled.

Should? They’d just seen that it would! It hadn’t escaped her notice that it had taken her rubbing herself provocatively against him for at least two minutes while he enjoyed her breasts before he’d become aroused enough to shag her. The reverse was bound to happen at some point. He was not above such base desires while the spell had its talons deep in each of them.

“How?”

“I don’t know!” he yelled, evidently frustrated. How unexpected to see him so rattled! Hermione had honestly thought him unshakable. He’d certainly appeared that way the night before in the face of the revel and his talk of dying and killing with Professor Dumbledore.

“Then I suppose it is a good thing we have nearly two weeks to figure it out. You might remember that I am not without intelligence, and --”

“Regurgitating books hardly constitutes being intelligent,” he said disdainfully.

The jab hurt. Particularly as she sat only partially clothed on his couch, an echo of the sticky residue from their encounter still dying uncomfortably on her thighs.

She’d always known he was unimpressed with her efforts in the classroom. The Know-It-All taunt from her third year demonstrating his contempt rather effectively. But she didn’t know what else she could do to prove herself to him. Or if she should even bother trying anymore.

Huffing, she figured she’d get further by not trying. She doubted he’d appreciate it if she suddenly didn’t rise to his baiting. Probably, it would infuriate him further. The idea had merit.

And, two minds would be better for coming up with a reasonable plan. Particularly since it involves both of us,” she concluded, raising a brow at him in challenge.

“I could kill Albus for doing this to me,” he growled, turning his face away from her.

“I thought that was already the plan,” she said darkly. The conversation she’d heard was a lead weight in her stomach, dragging her down to the dark depths of the Black Lake.

“Do not speak of what you do not understand,” he replied icily.

“You brought it up,” she countered, meeting his measured glare and refusing to back down.

“Enough, Granger,” he sighed, leaning back wearily in his seat. Trading cutting barbs with her seemed to have deflated him, releasing all of the air until he resembled a popped balloon.

“Why would he ask you to...” she began, sensing he was vulnerable, and possibly open to discussing the topic, but she trailed off at the return of his thunderous look. Perhaps she’d mistaken her ability to weasel anything out of him. Harry was much better at being deceptive than she was.

“I will not repeat myself again. Do not insert yourself where you and your input are neither wanted nor needed,” he said grimly, clenching his jaw until a muscle ticked along the taunt edge.

The underlying message came through loud and clear, sharing his bed didn’t equate to emotional intimacy or the privilege of hearing his secrets.

Honestly, Hermione couldn’t blame him either. She’d been thrust upon him, without warning, and he’d accepted the burden with relatively few complaints -- at least for him -- even when it seemed to compromise his morals.

She should just be grateful that he’d taken pity on her and made the encounters more enjoyable than they might have otherwise been. She couldn’t imagine being with Ron would have been anything less than a fumbling disaster -- not after watching what seemed to think constituted as snogging. Even if they had the spell to help her enjoy everything he did, she doubted she’d have climaxed.

Very little in Ron’s life had ever been wholly his. Hermione had the feeling that that would translate into him being a selfish lover, seeking only his own gratification as quickly as possible, regardless of if his partner received the same.

Guilt swamped her at the unkind, and possibly unfair assessment given her lack of firsthand knowledge. She must still be more bitter over his relationship with Lavender than she realized.

“Are we clear?” he asked, still not looking at her.

Who was Snape? The man was a riddle wrapped in a mystery. One that Hermione couldn’t hope to comprehend. She’d known him for going on six years, and still knew next to nothing about him. She didn’t even know how he liked his tea!

“Understood, Snape,” she agreed. She owed him, after all. Respecting his privacy was the least she could do.

Snape seemed to get a handle on himself, a fraction of the tension draining from his stiff limbs. “Did you have any other concerns about our arrangement?” he seemed to force himself to ask, onyx eyes glitters like a night sky.

Yes, but discussing them seemed to upset him, and she didn’t wish to argue further. She felt too emotionally raw. There was nothing so pressing it couldn’t wait. A change of subject was needed instead.

“You said Professor Dumbledore came by…” she started, thinking of him finding her mum when he located her wand. Hermione felt a stab of pain low in her gut, and rapidly changed gears, not ready to face the terrible loss just yet. That would be even harder than arguing. “The woman Lucius hurt -- is she all right?”

“She’ll survive. As for the state of her mind…” he replied, shaking his head ever so slightly, curtains of his ebony hair swishing around his chin and brushing over his shoulders. Hermione watched dark shadows seem to converge around him, like haunting wraiths swooping in to torment him. Some past atrocity lurking just out of reach.

For a moment Hermione felt sick imagining that he might possibly be recalling past victims from his Death Death activities, but then she knew. Simply knew with perfect clarity.

He’d stepped in to prevent it happening to her because he couldn’t abide it. Severus Snape would never condone rape.

“You haven’t ever,” she blurted, confidence infused in each word.

His eyes snapped to hers. Hermione braced herself, expecting a quick set down for her impertinence. Already, he had made it abundantly clear that he’d not welcome prying.

“No,” he admitted frankly, shocking her by opening up. “Unless you count last night or this morning.”

“I initiated it, and was perfectly willing -- both times,” Hermione insisted bravely.

Undiluted relief washed over him, relaxing his rigid stance. It wasn’t until just then that she truly understood how tense he’d been the entire conversation.

“As willing as I was, I’m sure,” he replied dryly, perhaps even mockingly.

Was that it then? Was he in such a foul temper this morning because he falsely believed he’d forced himself on her? Was that why he’d wanted her to take the lead this morning when it was only she suffering the effects of the spell? So she could take what she needed while he simply allowed her to make use of his person?

It was true that they’d not have been intimate without the spell, but they were in this together. It wasn’t like he apparently seemed to fear.

Hermione studied him, trying to see past the impenetrable walls he barricaded himself behind. The shields were solid obsidian, and so thick that she’d likely have to content herself with the occasional glimpse beyond the outermost exterior. It was highly unlikely she’d ever be willingly let past the gates to the innermost heart of the man.

“Why?” she asked slowly. Then specifying, “Weren’t you ever expected to? Did they not notice you didn’t participate?”

“It did not occur as often before. Now, anytime emotions are heightened… Anytime they feel the need to exert their power and superiority…

“Azkaban warped a great many of the Dark Lord’s supporters, twisted their already rotten souls, and removed all inhibitions restraining their darkest impulses,” he said, describing the sort of monsters the Death Eaters had become. “Before, they knew I would not, given my history.”

He watched her expectantly, waiting for the inevitable probing question. Probably simply so he could berate her again for prying. It was true that she was desperate to hear the story, no matter how dark, but she figured this was a test of trust. They needed to start somewhere, and he seemed to be making more of an effort in the last twelve hours or so than she’d believed he would. She could do the same.

Wonderingly, Hermione asked, “If Lucius is so...unhinged...is Malfoy safe with him? Last night…”

“Worried about the boy? I’d have thought you’d find this a fitting punishment given your own history with Draco,” Snape remarked idly, raising a brow in question at her.

“I will never take pleasure in another’s suffering,” Hermione said stiffly, meaning it with every fiber of her being.

“Hmm,” he hummed, apparently deciding not to comment.

“How often do nights like last night occur?” she wondered, wishing the war was already at an end, so that no one else had to endure something similar.

“It varies,” he said vaguely. “They aren’t often planned in advance.”

Hermione wasn’t sure if she wanted to know how often he went, and she’d already learned the one she’d been a part of occurred strictly for her benefit.

“Last night was different then,” she said without really intending to speak.

“Potter is a threat so long as he is surrounded by allies. You, in particular, have made yourself known as being the source of his cunning and ability to get out of sticky situations,” Snape informed her gravely.

“Me?” Hermione said shrilly, disbelieving that they’d put so much significance on her.

“Were you not, just mere minutes ago, bragging about your intelligence?” he asked dryly, and she was surprised to note a shred of humor woven through the reminder.

“Yes,” she agreed wryly, smiling faintly.

“They want you broken or dead. Either works as well as the other,” he warned, serious as he impressed upon her the severity of the situation.

“And now that we…”

“They do not know of our binding. You must be especially careful moving forward. They will likely think that I’ll tire of you before long and welcome them disposing of you for me,” he stated, not mincing words. She appreciated his frankness with her, the way he spoke to her as though he believed her mature and responsible enough to handle the truth. “I won’t be able to save you again.”

She wanted to ask more, specifically what danger he expected would befall her, or if he would tire of her, but her stomach growled rather loudly. She’d missed dinner the night before, her mum planning to take her out once they’d finished, but they’d been out much longer than intended.

“Hungry?” Snape asked, looking genuinely amused by the interruption. The half smile twisting his lips utterly transformed his face. His hooked nose faded, becoming far less of a focal point and he appeared years younger.

“Famished, actually,” she admitted, wincing ruefully as she blinked, bringing the Snape she was familiar with back into focus.

Two bouts of sex without refueling would do that to a person she supposed. Especially when a dash of shock was thrown into the mix for good measure.

“You may leave whenever you wish,” he offered, making it clear she wasn’t required to remain in his rooms any longer. More like he was ready to be rid of her and get back to his regular routine without her interference or questioning.

Hermione glanced at the wall of books. Every wall lined with intriguing volumes. Several hundred. Such a temptation. The sanctuary and comfort of words. So much more preferable to the alternative. Even with her surly professor beside her. Because truly, she couldn’t bear the isolation of her dorm room. Or worse -- time with Lavender.

“Or I can have something brought here, and you can assist me in searching for any references to the spell used on us,” Snape said quietly, having picked up on her reluctance to depart. She was immensely grateful for the reprieve -- however temporary.

“Truly?” she breathed, seeking verification. Hermione had not expected the kindness of him to allow her to remain, and she’d never dared hope that he’d grant her permission to touch his things.

Especially not after he’d said all that about not wanting her underfoot. The man was utterly baffling to her.

They worked in companionable silence for almost four hours. Neither had any luck finding anything useful about the spell that Snape didn’t already know. It wasn’t really surprising that he didn’t have multiple books on such a topic. His collection was more academic in nature, and she’d honestly gotten lost in reading rather than researching not long after they’d started. His tomb on mental linking magic was fascinating. He’d let her read at her leisure too.

“I must make an appearance in the Great Hall for lunch,” he announced quietly.

Hermione blinked, attention torn reluctantly from the book propped on her lap. Snape was looking at her expectantly, and she understood that it was the kindest he could bring himself to be in dismissing her.

“Thank you,” she murmured, glancing about for her coat. He’d draped it on a hook by the door. She could do with a hot shower and… Well, several things, not all of which were possible.

When she went to set the book on the table, he softly said, “Take it. This one too. It may answer some of those questions you managed to refrain from asking.”

She nodded, accepting the second book he held out to her, then froze as he helped wrap her coat tightly about her. Once bundled, she headed back to the Gryffindor common room, luckily making the journey without having to talk to anyone. The only people she saw were two first years, and they hurriedly scurried past her.

Her dorm space was thankfully empty too, those remaining behind all at lunch. Hermione realized she was still in Snape’s shirt. She wondered why he’d not pointed it out before she left. Possibly, he’d not wanted her to find another excuse to stay if she delayed by changing. Or maybe he thought this was better than the dress she’d been wearing. The one her mum had given her.

Her mum.

Her mum was gone.

Dead.

Murdered before her eyes.

Killed by Death Eaters because Hermione was helping Harry, and was therefore considered a threat.

She’d never have the chance to repair their strained relationship. Her mum would never have the chance to see Hermione graduate. Get a job. Get married.

Oh, Merlin! Hermione was already married, and her parents hadn’t been a part of it.

They’d never be a part of her life again.

A giant chasm ripped open inside her chest, tearing her apart. Grief poured in from all sides, crushing her beneath its weight. Sobs rose in her chest, temporarily suffocating her as they collapsed her airway, fighting to escape her as quickly as possible. Then they were free. Loud, piercing cries that rent the silent dorm.

Her entire body quaked as she fell to the floor, mourning a loss that hardly seemed bearable. Because it wasn’t. Not yet at any rate.

Her soul reached out, longing for parents that had only been on the periphery of her life for years now. Relegated to rare, vague notes and random half-truths about her activities when she infrequently saw them. What a waste. How could she not have taken advantage of the time she had with them. Hadn’t knowing Harry all these years taught her anything?

She wanted to rage, to lash out and attack someone, but the person she was most angry with was herself.

When Lavender entered an hour later, Hermione’s gut-wrenching agony had quieted to sniffles, her body unable to continue producing a full-scale tangible manifestation of her despair.

“When did you get back?” Lavender blurted, startled to find her dorm mate sitting on the floor beside her bed with red-rimmed eyes.

“This morning,” she croaked, her voice hoarse from her crying jag.

“Is it because Ron didn’t want you at the Burrow this Christmas?” Lavender asked timidly, scanning Hermione’s tear-stained face. “I didn’t ask him to do that, you know,” she added defensively, as though afraid Hermione intended to blame her.

She didn’t. Hermione knew that bit had been all Ron. Same as his relationship with Lavender was. His immature attempts to punish her because he wasn’t ready to have a real relationship. Because he was scared he’d not be good enough for Hermione, and she’d wake up and realize it as soon as they got together.

Lovely.

The mention of Ron was a double blow. First, because if she’d gone to the Burrow as originally planned, she’d not have been out shopping with her mum. Meaning her mum would still be alive. And second, because now that she was married, she’d never have a chance to see what Ron and she could have been once he was finally ready. Never have a chance to prove that she was more loyal than he gave her credit for.

Burning tears, stinging her swollen and fiery eyes, started up again. Cascading down her face in a torrent of glistening salt water.

Lavender looked horrified, clearly not having expected her words to inspire such a dramatic reaction from the usually impassive and brusque Hermione. Not since her third year had Hermione cried at Hogwarts. At least not in view of her dorm mates, or anyone aside from Harry. He was the only one she felt truly comfortable being so open and vulnerable around. The boy as close as family -- the only family she had left, in fact.

“I’m sorry,” Lavender tried, stepping closer and extending a hand to pat Hermione, but she waved the other girl away. “I-I’ll just leave you to it then, shall I?” Lavender offered, abandoning Hermione to her staggering grief.

Chapter Text

Author’s Note

Please forgive any spelling and/or grammar errors. I hope you enjoy it, please let me know what you think!

I’m not J. K. Rowling, so I don’t own anything.

~

Ch 5: Adjusting

For the next several days, Hermione refused to leave her dormitory in the Gryffindor Tower. She’d showered, changed, then gotten into bed and not gotten out again. Not on Christmas, perhaps even especially not then. Not for the epic snowball fight someone organized between Gryffindor and Hufflepuff. Not to visit the library. Not even for meals. She couldn’t bring herself to face anyone or pretend to be all right when she wasn’t.

After the third missed meal, a tray appeared on her nightstand. She forced the food down, not wishing to make herself sick, but it was tasteless. Unsatisfying. Initially, she assumed Dobby had brought it for her, but a note accompanied one of the trays on the second day, and she learned it was actually from Professor Dumbledore.

The note was brief and to the point, but she’d stared at the short spiky script so many times that it seemed seared onto the back of her eyelids.

Madam Snape,

I trust you are processing the changes that have recently occurred in your life. Your father is safely out of the country and all traces of you have been removed from his memory. I have taken the liberty of laying your mother to rest near my own family in my home town of Godric’s Hollow. Your friend, Mr. Potter’s family is there as well. I hope you find some small measure of comfort in that.

Sincerely,
Professor Dumbledore

After the first day, she’d stopped crying, and merely felt numb. Hollow. As though all of her emotions had been scooped out, leaving her a vacant shell. Then the letter arrived and she was a blubbering mess all over again.

Lavender, to her credit, didn’t bother Hermione, but she had noted the girl casting her worried glances periodically when she came into their dorm room. Hermione was grateful. She wanted the peace to work through the “changes” as Professor Dumbledore had referred to them.

The responsibility she felt for what happened to her mum was second only to her grief for all that she’d lost. As a child, she’d been so close to her mum. Hermione had never found it easy to interact with others her age growing up, so her mum had been her best friend. That all changed when she received her Hogwarts letter. Her mum couldn’t relate to the experiences Hermione had in the Wizarding world, so they’d slowly stopped talking altogether. It had been a gradual, but undeniable distancing.

It had been the same with her dad. Only with him, it had been more a result of his perceptiveness after a few choice conversations with Mr. Weasley. Ron’s father hadn’t known that Hermione didn’t share all of the gory details of what she, Harry, and Ron got up to while at Hogwarts. All the dangerous adventures and near death experiences. Once he learned of them, he started asking a few too many questions. The sort of questions that inevitably would have ended with yanking her out of Hogwarts and forcing her to attend Muggle school once again.

Hermione didn’t want to lose him as well, but there really wasn’t another choice. What happened to her mum would have been all the confirmation he needed that being a witch was too dangerous. He’d have insisted she abandon her friends, and that wasn’t something she simply could do.

Particularly not now that she was bound to Snape.

Part of her isolation had been spent adjusting to that situation as well. Hermione had no idea what to make of the man. He was every bit as ornery, harsh, and resentful as the man she’d come to know over the years, while at the same time, he was considerate, tolerant, and…passionate.

There was no other way to describe their encounters. He was remarkably skilled, and Hermione couldn’t attribute it entirely to the spell. The spell hadn’t helped her know how to touch him to bring him pleasure, it had simply enabled her to try without hesitation. Snape, on the other hand, had worked her body with easy practice, thoroughly enticing her.

And Hermione was rather startled to find that she had actually enjoyed being intimate with him. Far more than she would have thought possible. She liked sex. Rather a lot.

Theoretically, it sounded a bit messy and overrated. People wasted so much time thinking about it, pursuing it, and actually having it. There had seemed far more engaging and worthwhile ways to occupy oneself than getting all sweaty for a few seconds of fleeting pleasure.

Her experiences with Viktor and Cormac hadn’t been particularly exciting or enjoyable. And with Ron… Well, she’d always fantasized more about him suddenly acting mature and romantic with her than she had about snogging or shagging him. Hermione supposed that what it came down to was that other guys just weren’t interesting enough to compel her to investigate.

Now, here she was almost looking forward to being with Snape again. And she had no idea what to think of that.

Was it just because he managed to get her out of her own head for a bit? A feat no one else had ever successfully managed to do? That was something to consider.

Then there was also how he’d allowed her to stay with him, both overnight and the next morning. How had he known she wasn’t ready to face her loss? Why had he bothered to show her such kindness? It wasn’t required of him. Too much had already been asked of him for her sake.

Why did he have to be so shrouded in secrets and closed off? It was maddening!

Hermione rolled over to glance at the letter still sitting on her nightstand. Madam Snape. The title Dumbledore had used gave her pause. Was she to start going by that? Certainly not. They were keeping their binding secret. But what about after the war? Snape said he didn’t plan to survive it -- a matter she’d need to seriously contemplate later -- but what if he did?

Career. Love. Children. Her whole life would be different from how she’d always imagined. Hermione was a planner. She made goals, then set about meeting them. This binding threw all of her careful planning out the window. She’d have to scrap the life she envisioned, and start all over.

Trouble was, she didn’t know where to begin.

The only concrete plan she could come up with, was one day going with Harry to visit their parents’ graves together. After he got over the fact that she’d married the professor he most hated, of course. Hermione appreciated Professor Dumbledore’s consideration in having her mum buried there. She’d not even thought about what to tell him to do for her. Hermione had never discussed her parent’s wishes. She’d not seen the need -- more fool her. But this seemed fitting.

It took her three days to get to the point that she was even up to reading. Then she’d devoured the books Snape had loaned her from the isolation of her bed. The one she’d been reading in his room was merely interesting. The other he’d provided mentioned the spell used on them.

There hadn’t been much more than what he’d already told her. Only that time, as in years, would decrease the effects and frequency. A slow wearing off as usually happened with most spells. Also, that it didn’t automatically mean those under the influence would always enjoy everything the other person did sexually. This seemed to be confirmation for Hermione that Snape was, in fact, skilled, and that she liked being intimate with him. Whatever that was worth.

There was also a reference to another book, and the text alluded to it containing details of how the spell was created. Hermione wondered if Snape planned to acquire the book. Knowing how it was created would help if they had any hope of modifying the spell or developing a counter-charm. Because even though she found she enjoyed the act, with him no less, she didn’t appreciate being at the mercy of a spell’s unpredictable whims.

By the fifth day, Hermione was too restless to remain holed up any longer. That morning she got ready and headed down to the Great Hall for breakfast. Her stomach was turning long before she actually reached the room.

For a moment outside the large wooden doors, she hesitated, worried the spell had started up again, but she quickly realized that wasn’t it. This was something else, though she didn’t know precisely what. Sighing, she headed inside, figuring it was just the looks she was bound to get for returning early from break. With any luck, Lavender would have already spread the news.

The second she entered, her eyes sought out Snape. He was at the Head table, stiffly eating breakfast and discretely arguing with Professor Dumbledore. Hermione watched him, and felt herself frowning at their exchange as she took her seat and began eating. Why was he so upset?

She’d barely taken a bite before he stood and strode briskly from the room, never having noted her presence. Professor Dumbledore’s worried eyes trailed after him. The rest of the meal was rather uneventful after that, with the notable exception of Lavender receiving a letter from Pig that she hastily tucked out of sight after a less than covert peek in Hermione’s direction. At least she was trying to be considerate. It was more than she used to do.

Pig fluttered over and hooted at Hermione, excitedly hopping from one shoulder to the other as she offered the owl a strip of her bacon. She’d sort of expected at least a note from Ron over break, but he was remaining stubbornly silent, giving her the cold shoulder as he had ever since he’d begun dating Lavender. She could have really done with hearing from her friends, what with everything going on. Guess that was what happened though when your best mates were boys. Then the overly eager owl was off again, unable to remain stationary for long.

As she made to leave the Great Hall, the uneasy pit in her stomach became more persistent. A hook in her navel tugged as a guiding hand at her shoulder pushed, both aiming her towards the dungeons, urging her to check on Snape and see what had been amiss with him at breakfast. Hermione debated with herself. She could go to him and risk getting her head bitten off or spend the day with Lavender as she inevitably ended up gushing over her relationship with Ron.

Never would Hermione have anticipated that time with Snape would be her preferred way to spend the day. Yet there she was a few minutes later standing outside his door.

Still, she found herself gasping as the door swung inward to allow her entry when she made to knock. Did the castle wards recognize her position as Madam Snape and automatically grant her access? Snape was going to be furious! She could come and go as she pleased, not that she would. She had more respect for the man than that.

Shutting the door quietly behind her, she hesitantly called, “Snape?”

He’d be livid when he discovered the liberty she’d taken at invading his space uninvited. She walked forward despite that knowledge. The invisible hand nudging her onward.

The sitting room was empty. Should she have tried his office? There was no reason for him to be in his classroom, they still had more than a week before classes resumed. Perhaps he’d gone to the teacher’s lounge or left the castle altogether. The latter seemed more likely. She doubted he was in the mood for company, if his earlier scowl was anything to go by.

Maybe she should take the hint and leave too, before he found her and assumed she was snooping. But the tugging hadn’t let up. If anything, it pulled her harder -- towards the closed bedroom door.

Bracing herself, Hermione knocked on the door.

Nothing.

“Snape?” she tried again.

Still nothing.

Cautiously, she opened the door, worried for a multitude of reasons -- not least of which was herself, knowing how Snape could be at the best of times. But something was responsible for bringing her here, and the same something was silently encouraging her to see it through.

With the door open, Hermione could hear the shower running. Along with the sounds of someone grunting. Her mouth went suddenly dry as she approached the open bathroom door, curiosity guiding her forward.

Water sluiced over his bare shoulders, cascading down his back as he stood in profile to her. The glass and stone shower seemed to frame his body. It was the first time she’d really had the opportunity to study him.

Snape was rangy, lean and toned with a sparse spattering of dark hair on his chest. The dark contrasted sharply with the paleness of his skin. He was tall, and shockingly fit. She’d known his waist was narrow from their previous encounters, but now she could see how defined his abdomen and legs were. His arms too. He had a runner’s physique. Strong. Without an extra ounce of fat anywhere to be seen.

As she watched, he fisted his cock, roughly stroking it with harsh pulls and tugs of the thick appendage. He looked and sounded thoroughly frustrated. The spell must have started for him some time ago. He’d left the Great Hall close to an hour earlier. A clenched fist banged against the back stone wall, and a guttural sound echoed from his chest, but it was one of need, not release.

The scene before her was more erotic than anything she’d seen or heard in her life.

Hermione must have made a noise at the sight of him struggling to bring himself off, because his head snapped up to stare at her. His black eyes were little more than molten lust, and Hermione felt her body responding, quite apart from the compulsion of the spell, to the naked desire there.

“Granger,” he rasped, reaching to open the stall door.

The silent invitation prompted her to strip out of her clothing as hastily as possible and join him. A hand caught her own as she entered, pulling her flush against his slick body. Wet hands slide all over her, everywhere at once as they attempted to caress every inch of her.

Her hand found him for the first time, timidly grasping him. Hermione stroked his length, lightly pulling as she’d done once to Viktor, though nowhere near as roughly as she’d just seen Snape doing to himself. She had no idea if she was doing it correctly, and Snape seemed too fixated on touching her to guide her as he had during their last encounter.

What did he think of her body? Did he like it? Was it arousing, or at least satisfactory?

Hermione had never really thought she was all that attractive herself. Skinny, but not adorably petite like Ginny. She wasn’t well endowed like Lavender either, her breasts barely managing to fill out a B cup. Nor did she look exotic like the Patil twins. Her hair wasn’t bushy anymore, thanks to puberty, though it’d probably be a bit frizzy thanks to the steam from the shower curling about her, but that wasn’t a vast improvement.

Without the spell, doubt and insecurities crept in. She found it very easy to focus on all of her own failings. Or she did, until Snape’s hand slipped between her legs. Oh, dear, Merlin! His finger found the sensitive bundle of nerves and swiped over it. Once. Twice.

“Mhm,” she moaned, letting her head fall back.

It was so much different this time without her mind being addled. She was in control, able to think and decide her actions, while he was at the spell’s mercy. Which, based on her own experiences, meant he wasn’t the least bit concerned about what she looked like. Instead, it was all about what he felt.

It seemed a bit like she was taking advantage of him as she enjoyed his fingers playing with her, teasingly stroking her sex while his mouth once more suckled at her tight nipple. Even if she was doing this to help him, she was getting something out of it too.

His temper after they’d been together on the couch made much more sense.

Then he was batting her hands away. Hermione opened her mouth to ask if she was doing it wrong, but he suddenly lifted her up, pressing her against the cold stone wall. Her head spun when he pressed close, rubbing his heated chest along her own. The temperature contrast made her gasp, and clutch his shoulders, the ends of his wet hair brushing the backs of her hands gently.

“Oh!” she cried out mindlessly. He’d entered her as her legs moved to lock around his waist. The stroke was deep and rough, harder than anything she’d ever felt before.

Hermione clung to him as his hips snapped against her, sharp, quick thrusts. It didn’t take him long to finish. With a deeper press, he groaned in her ear as warmth filled her. Hermione absently noted that it had still felt really good even if she didn’t feel that ultimate burst of pleasure he usually incited when he made her climax.

“How did you get in here?” he huffed, resting his forehead on her shoulder while water continued to pound against his back. She could feel it sliding over her legs before falling to the stone floor.

“Your wards recognized me,” she admitted.

“Albus,” he gritted out, the name a curse.

“Because I’m your...because we’re bound?” she asked, having already assumed as much, but seeking verification.

“Yes,” he muttered, shifting his stance.

Hermione felt his softening member slip free of her channel before he let her slide down the length of his wet body. Her toes touched first, and she feared her wobbly legs would give out. Snape stayed close, arms braced around her, caging her in.

“Why were the two of you arguing earlier?” she asked, curiosity plaguing her.

“What have I said about staying out of my business?” he barked, tensing against her.

She swallowed, regretting asking the question and feeling small in the face of his justifiable anger. Then another one quietly spilled from her without permission, “Why didn’t you get me sooner?”

Had he waited because he was revolted by the idea of being with her more than necessary? Was he truly so averse to this arrangement? Was it not nearly as pleasurable for him since she didn’t know what she was doing?

“I intended to wait until you had need of me,” he said sharply, tensing further.

“We agreed --”

“Do not lecture me,” he snapped angrily, balling his hands into fists by her head as he pulled back enough to glare at her. His eyes were chips of onyx, sharpened to deadly points, and they were aimed directly at her.

Why? What had she done wrong now? She didn’t understand, and she was tired of trying to understand his motives and thoughts. After the emotional roller coaster of the last few days, she didn’t have the energy to fight with him.

His reaction, both the anger and his avoidance when he needed her, wounded her pride. She ducked under his arm, intending to beat a hasty exit, but his arm snaked around her waist, hauling her back against his chest.

“You didn’t…”

“It’s fine,” Hermione said, not comfortable discussing such topics with him when he was in a temper. Or ever really, but especially not then. That wasn’t the sort of relationship they had. Ha. Relationship. That was rich.

“I am aware I waited too long. But it was not my intention to be selfish. If you would like,” he said crisply, sounding slightly uncomfortable himself, but his fingertips stroked low over her belly, trailing lightly along her hipbone as he spoke.

The teasing touch renewed the need in her core. The fires had been temporarily banked by the verbal wall he’d slammed down between them, but the simple touch had reignited them, making them blaze brightly.

The temptation was too much to resist, even if he’d just acted like a git towards her. She wanted to forget all of the awful things going on in her life. Even if it was only for a minute.

“Please,” she agreed, shifting her feet slightly farther apart. It was easier to admit she desired his touch and the pleasure he knew how to give while not facing him directly.

Slowly, his hand drifted lower, having not stopped moving since he made the offer. Droplets from his wet hair landed on her shoulder, winding paths over her cleavage, one stopping to dangle from the pebbled peak of her nipple. His hand slipped between her parted thighs to cup her.

As he had earlier, Snape ran a finger along the seam of her lower lips, stroking her from opening to clit and back. Again and again he traced the length, letting only the tip of his finger dip in or brush a circle over her nub before the digit was gone again.

“Snape,” she whimpered, needing more, but still he teased her.

Again and again, all he delivered were fleeting, barely there caresses. Every bit of the tension and pain of the last few days seemed to get sucked into her belly, coiling tighter and tighter. Hermione clutched his solid forearm, her hips bucking and writhing against his hand with wanton abandon.

Then he shifted back, pulling her beneath the shower head. Water poured over her and the hand he’d been using to grip her hip slid up to cup her breast. He plucked and pinched her beaded nipples as he finally inserted his entire finger into her slick sheath.

“Yes,” she moaned, begging, “more, please.”

She gasped and sputtered, water rushing over her head as a second finger joined the first, working in and out in a steady rhythm. Everything felt heightened. His thumb pressed firmly against her clit, rubbing and flicking it.

Her body shook, threatening to burst apart as more of the recent negative energy ebbed away from her limbs. The dark ball at her center grew, expanding in time with his movements. Then it exploded, thundering through her as she shuttered in his arms.

Snape pulled her tighter against his chest, holding her and slowing his movements to ease her down from the high.

Hermione hadn’t known until that moment just how much she’d needed that. Maybe he’d sensed as much and that was why he’d offered. Perhaps it was his way of apologizing for being an ass. There really was no telling with him.

Her breathing was still slowing when he shut off the water and stepped out of the shower, conjuring a second towel that he handed to her. It was a thoughtful gesture, and one she didn’t know what to make of -- except maybe he just wanted her covered up now that the spell wasn’t compelling them to touch.

“You’re hurt,” she gasped, catching sight of a long, vicious looking cut on his shoulder that she’d not seen earlier.

“Lucius and Crabbe organized another excretion last night,” he said flatly, though it was far less curt than he’d been with her earlier.

“Why so soon? Wasn’t the last one enough entertainment for them?” she asked bitterly, wrapping the towel tightly about herself while Snape tucked one about his waist.

“You’ve formed your opinion of Azkaban inmates off Black. He was...an anomaly. And even he…”

“Was occasionally confused?” Hermione supplied. It was so much easier to make allowances for him, and his occasional reckless streak, now that he was gone.

“Indeed,” Snape snorted, clearly having thought up a few other choice descriptors. Thankfully, he refrained from sharing them.

“If Sirius was an anomaly, as you put it, then what is Lucius?” she asked, wondering how the Ministry could ever condone using Dementors knowing the effects they had on the inmates.

“Typical. Bellatrix is a much more accurate example of a prisoner’s psyche,” Snape drawled casually, nodding at her as she absorbed the truth of his words. Hermione felt horror wash through her, replacing the relaxation he’d just finished providing. “Most lose their sanity within a few weeks. Lucius and Crabbe were trapped with the Dementors for over five months. Goyle and Macnair are not much better off. The others --”

“All already spent years there, and have already clearly demonstrated their insanity,” she finished, swallowing back her revulsion as she thought of Dolohov in particular.

Hermione surveyed Snape. He seemed far more inclined to talk to her than he had in the shower. Why had he been so surly before? Was it because of his fight with Professor Dumbledore? The revel the night before? His insane former friends? Her? All of it?

It was a lot for any one person to put up with. Especially alone.

“I can’t believe the Ministry makes use of the Dementors knowing the end result,” she said, verbalizing her earlier thought, and wondering if he felt the same.

Hermione couldn’t imagine sentencing anyone to that fate. Or being sick enough to have created them in the first place.

There were no concrete records, only speculation. The most likely origin theory was that Dementors were birthed at Azkaban by the original occupant, Ekrizdis, since that was where they were first discovered back in the fifteenth century. He was known to practice the most horrific and twisted Dark Arts, and often murdered the Muggle sailors that he lured to the island fortress.

“They make a rather effective deterrent to keep many from breaking the law,” Snape said coolly, raising a brow at her as though daring her to refute the claim.

“Not everyone,” she said, glancing at the Dark Mark on his forearm.

It was the first time she was seeing it clearly. The black skull and snake stained his forearm. The very same forearm she’d just been gripping, holding onto for dear life as he pleasured her, the Mark pressed tight against her stomach. It looked like a Muggle gang tattoo, only even more sinister because she understood it’s history and personal significance.

Hermione couldn’t understand how he ever came to be a Death Eater. He didn’t seem the type. Not truly. Perhaps at first glance, but not once you knew anything at all about him. And she couldn’t ask him.

“Do you have anything to treat the cut? It looks deep, and I don’t know any Healing Charms,” Hermione said hastily, veering away from the rocky path she was heading down. The only thing it led to was a treacherously steep cliff and a brutal fall.

“Get your wand,” he ordered, seeming to approve of her self restraint in changing the subject without him needing to say a word. “Trace over the wound, and say VUL-ner-ah sah-NEN-tour.”

She tried it in the air before her, mimicking him precisely. He nodded, and presented his back to her.

She stared, dumbfounded. He meant for her to heal him? Voluntarily?

“Well?” he drawled smoothly, glancing down at her from over his shoulder.

Vulnera Sanentur,” she said quietly, performing the spell exactly as instructed.

Hermione watched, amazed as the wound knitted itself closed, fresh pink skin forming across where the cut had been seconds before. He rolled his shoulder, seeming to assess the quality of her work, and she held her breath as she waited for his reaction. Her actions earned a sharp nod, and not one word of complaint.

It surprised her to realize he actually was a good teacher when loathing didn’t drain his patience.

“I thought you didn’t care for foolish wand waving?” she remarked, feeling slightly emboldened by her success.

“How does aiding another fall under the category of foolish?” he smirked, raising a sardonic brow at her.

She was surprised enough by his jest to find herself laughing. He looked uncertain or possibly surprised that he’d made her laugh, which only made her chuckle again. The action caused the tucked end of her towel to loosen, and she realized they were both still clad in nothing more than a scrap of terrycloth apiece. Hermione moved to kneel by her clothes, and Snape turned, giving her his back.

It was much easier to ask the question that had been plaguing her for the last couple days without having to face him. “I know you don’t wish to share about your personal life, but please, Snape, I have to know -- has my situation damaged a relationship for you?”

She’d wanted to ask if he was in a relationship prior to this, that first night actually, but she’d not been able to bring herself to. Already, she was struggling not to assume he’d stop just because they were now bound. She knew she didn’t have a right to say anything, but she didn’t want to think about him bedding her, then going to someone else, strange as their situation was.

“No,” he said briskly, the word clipped and warning her not to pry further.

She ignored the tone to venture, “I’d understand if --”

“I am a spy. My position is precarious, to say the least. I would not dare endanger someone by getting involved at this time, nor is there anyone I wish to pursue,” he said flatly. There was so much finality in the statement, that Hermione knew he’d answer no further questions on the subject. “You, being the exception.”

Honestly, though, Hermione wasn’t sure what to make of what he’d said. Maybe that was the point. He didn’t want her knowing about his life. So every statement could be taken multiple ways, and possibly all of them were intended. No wonder he made such an effective double agent.

Uncomfortable, she forced herself to pursue a different topic of conversation to get past the awkward silence as they each finished dressing.

“Professor Dumbledore said Professor Vector married a student,” she prodded.

“He did say that,” he replied, amusement underlying his agreement.

Huffing, Hermione demanded, “Is it true, Snape?”

“Have you known the Headmaster to lie?” he inquired, turning to raise a single brow at her. When he saw she was fully dressed, he leaned casually against the edge of the sink.

“When it suits his purposes,” Hermione stated blandly, crossing her arms.

“Touche,” he allowed, inclining his head as though acknowledging her victory on a point well made. “She married a former student two years after he graduated.”

Hermione processed the information. She couldn’t believe it wasn’t widely discussed. Professor Vector was still quite young, so she couldn’t have married all that long ago. Hermione wondered who the witch’s husband was, and if she’d ever met him. Professor Vector’s situation likely had some influence in Professor Dumbledore’s decision to have them undergo a binding ceremony.

“But I am certain what you really wish to ask after is your Head of House,” Snape said knowingly, studying her with a critical eye.

“Am I that obvious?” she mused wryly.

“Yes,” he said seriously.

Hermione waited, then sighed, realizing that he was not going to share the story with her unless she specifically asked what she wanted to know.

“Why didn’t it work out?”

“This tale is not to be repeated. Understood?”

“Yes,” Hermione agreed at once.

Snape pursed his lips, surveying her a moment before he slowly explained, “I was a first year when I originally heard the story. The father of a seventh year was involved the prior year, and he enjoyed bragging.”

Wait. That didn’t make sense. Snape was only thirty-six. If he’d been a first year, this would have happened much more recently than he’d implied in the Headmaster’s office.

“First year? But I thought you said --”

Snape cut her off, demanding, “Do you wish to hear the story or not, Granger?”

“Yes, please,” Hermione said quickly, worried he’d decide not to tell her after all if she interrupted again or pointed out how he’d deliberately misrepresented the facts to suit his purpose before.

“Minerva was around my age when a seventh year Ravenclaw turned her head. I do not recall his name, and she has not mentioned him in all my years as her colleague. From all accounts, he was remarkably gifted. Honorable too. And quite infatuated with the witch.

“It happened over Easter Hols the spring before I started. The Dark Lord was just starting to recruit followers outside of those he went to school with personally, and Minerva’s young man had the misfortune of displeasing the Dark Lord when he refused,” Snape said, painting a dark picture in Hermione’s mind. She could easily picture it happening.

“He has a history of recruiting students then,” she murmured, thinking once more of Harry’s insistence that Malfoy was a Death Eater, and how right he was about it.

“They do not usually take the Mark until after they have left, but yes,” Snape agreed, pushing his wet hair back. It actually looked quite nice like that, instead of the usual lank curtains concealing most of his features.

She wondered if the same had happened with him. Students would be far more impressionable. More easily seduced by the promise of power and prestige as well.

“Is that why Professor McGonagall wasn’t in the Order during the First Wizarding War?” Hermione asked, having always wondered.

“Yes. She was distraught after he died. Completely shut down to everything outside of teaching. It took her a long time to come to terms. Several years after I began teaching here.” So well after Voldemort had been defeated the first time, Hermione silently thought. Her heart ached for the older woman.

Snape shifted, standing straight and nodding towards the door. Hermione realized he was subtly requesting she leave.

Hermione made to exit the room, then paused, asking, “Snape?”

“What?” he asked wearily, seeming to dread having to wade through more of her questions right then.

“Why didn’t you send word?” she asked again. He’d never really explained earlier, and she really wanted to know if he planned to do this every time. It would only make things more difficult for both of them, and it was likely to give her a complex.

“You needed time to recover,” he said quietly, not meeting her eye.

“The potion you gave me --”

“Your mother.”

“Oh,” she breathed.

For a moment, Hermione thought he was going to offer an ear, but thankfully he didn’t. That wasn’t his style. She wasn’t ready to share pain of her loss and guilt.

“Was it the spell that let me know you needed me?” she asked, confused. There’d been nothing like that mentioned in the book he’d loaned her.

“No. That knowledge would have come from the binding ritual your meddlesome headmaster performed,” Snape grumbled darkly.

“It might prove useful,” Hermione mused, considering the implications of such a spell. As well as wondering what else Professor Dumbledore had added in the binding that they weren’t yet aware of.

“I’m certain he believes so,” Snape said crossly, pursing his lips.

“You disagree?”

“I am currently too busy to ponder it further, Granger,” Snape said pointedly, glancing more meaningfully at the door to his rooms.

“Right,” she said, rolling her eyes and leaving. It wasn’t like there wouldn’t be ample opportunities to talk more on the subject in the future.

Chapter Text

Author's Note

Please forgive any spelling and/or grammar errors. I hope you enjoy it, please let me know what you think!

Any dialogue you recognize comes from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Most is changed at least a bit though to fit right. This story will follow most of the events of the books fairly closely with some notable deviations.

I'm not J.K. Rowling, so I don't own anything.

~

Ch 6: Return

Hermione woke with a start, though blackness creeped in at the edges of her vision. It felt as though she'd been forced to wade through quicksand to wake, and still it clung to her, trying to drown her. Sweat coated her body in a light sheen, and her legs were hopelessly tangled in the covers. She must have been twisting and turning for hours. Fuzzy moonlight filtered in through the window, casting the room in ghostly light and ominous shadows.

Rapid, shallow breaths failed to fill her lungs and she couldn't slow them down. Her whole body hurt. Every inch of her. Muscles that weren't used to extreme physical exertion felt as through they'd been put through an iron man without any advanced preparation. How long had her muscles been straining and cramping?

Hazy air clouded her head, leaving it stuffed full of thick cotton. What time was it? Why -

"Mhh," she whimpered, the throbbing in her core intensifying painfully as a cramp seized her middle. She doubled over, clutching her stomach tightly.

She needed Snape. Now.

Without really thinking about it, she staggered out of bed and began the trek down to the dungeons. It was slow and agonizing. Twice, Hermione found herself needing to lean against the railing and force herself to breathe through her clenched teeth.

She was crossing the Entrance Hall, the first grey lightening of approaching dawn visible through the high windows, before it even registered that she'd not put on a robe or grabbed her wand.

Foolish. Reckless. The bloody spell really had made her lose her ever-loving mind.

All she could think about was the pain and the ever increasing slickness damping her panties. Fire lashed her, whipping her with blow after blow. Another cramp doubled her over, and she kneeled on a step until it waned enough to allow her to continue. Two more hallways.

Oh, Merlin. It was excruciating.

She'd felt the initial stirrings just before she'd gone to bed, but it had been nearly ten at that point the night before, and she'd seen him only a few hours beforehand. If she were truthful, she'd been feeling the effects all evening and just not realized. She'd hoped it was just the memory of how she'd somehow, she still wasn't quite sure how, talked him into letting her use her mouth to bring him off that was arousing her, and not the spell.

Obviously not.

True to his word, Snape had contacted her shortly after lunch five days after they'd last been together. He'd sent an owl requesting that she come to his rooms if she were available. Right. As if she'd not make time to help him after he'd honored his promise. Besides, it wasn't as though she had anything else to do beyond consider all the things she could have done differently recently.

He'd been sitting on the sofa when she'd entered, his eyes tightly closed, and his head tipped back. Hermione had slowly approached him, wondering how to ask if they could try oral gratification to see how it worked with the spell, possibly discovering that it satisfied the requirements.

Maybe asking was the wrong way to go about it. Asking would mean giving him the opportunity to say no.

That thought had her moving to kneel between his spread thighs. Her nearness captured his attention, drawing his brows together in silent question as he looked upon her. She could tell from the heat in his gaze that the spell had completely taken hold of him. Slowly, she reached out and unfastened his trousers, scooting closer.

"What are you…" he trailed off, his Adam's apple bobbing.

He watched her carefully, a calculating gleam barely detectable when her hands caught him, stroking the smooth velvet of him softly as she leaned up over his lap. It was thick and dark with veins protruding like little ridges along the surface.

Then he was groaning, all traces of resistance and thought vanishing.

"Please tell me if I do it wrong," she requested, flicking her tongue out to experimentally swipe it over the head of his cock.

He tasted salty and musky, an interesting combination. Intrigued, she tried it again, gently running her fingers over the rest of him as she did. This was something she'd been thinking about trying for a few days, fantasizing more like, and was thrilled to actually be able to.

"Grip the base harder," he rasped, instructing her on what he wanted. She did as told immediately, and was rewarded by his guttural groan. "Yes, perfect."

Then she'd taken him into her mouth and sucked, swirling her tongue all around the head. Bobbing, she'd tried to swallow more of him, but couldn't fit more than half of him inside her mouth.

"Do that again, and stroke me - harder," he begged, tipping his hips up towards her mouth. The needy plea in his voice rocked her. Never had he sounded quite like that before. And she was the one responsible. The encouraging reaction prompted her to keep going.

He spoke more as she continued, and she relished his words of praise and the way his fingers had threaded through her hair, cupping her head lightly. His face had been entirely open, letting her read precisely how much he was enjoying her attention.

When he'd erupted in her mouth, she'd swallowed every bit of the thick, salty liquid while he panted above her, clarity and reason returning to his face. He was once again Snape.

Hermione stood, saying, "We should see how this impacts the spell," before he could say a word. She'd realized he was always the most testy with her immediately after they were intimate, and she wanted to head off whatever retort he planned to make.

"Experiment with it, you mean?" he asked wearily.

"Sort out the limits and constraints of it."

"If we must," he said irritably.

"Better now than after classes resume," she explained, justifying her reasoning, though they only had another three days until that happened.

Snape reached down and fastened his pants. "Very well then, Granger."

"I'll just be going - better we not accidentally touch and reactivate it again."

"Yes," he murmured, but she was already on her way out, heart still pounding at her own daring.

Using her mouth had worked, but it had only provided a short term, temporary reprieve. Apparently, no more than a few hours before the spell was active again. Probably because she'd touched him intimately without having sex.

And now, on top of that, she was suffering the effects of letting it go unfulfilled for too long.

So this is what it felt like if someone tried to ignore the urgings for more than half a day.

Hermione forced herself up on trembling legs, and shuffled forward, one foot after another. The door was just there. She forced herself to hurry forward, tugging off her shorts and panties the second she entered his suite.

Proximity made it easier to move, and she was beside his bed between one heart beat and the next. Snape was shifting restlessly, deep grooves marring his face as he slept. He appeared just as uneasy as she'd been.

Desperate need drove her to climb atop him. She roughly shoved the covers out of the way and pushed his sleep pants down, sighing in relief that he was already erect, though she wouldn't have minded putting her mouth on him any other time - when her body hurt less - and moved to straddle him, sinking down on his shaft with a shuddering sigh.

Instantly, the pain diminished and welcome relief pumped through her body with every beat of her heart. The easing of her muscles was quickly followed with a heavy dose of arousal. It drove her to her lift her hips, and ride the length she'd impaled herself on.

She'd barely managed a breath before she was rolled onto her back, Snape's obsidian eyes locked on hers. He was as consumed by lust as she. Probably didn't even know if this was real or a dream seeing as he'd woken so suddenly. Rational thought and true speech impossible.

Snape captured her hands. Their fingers tangled together, interlocking pieces of a whole, and he pressed them flat against the bed by her head. He kept her hands pinned as he thrust quickly into her, slamming their hips together and driving her into the mattress.

"Yes!" she cried, her eyes rolling up at the electric feel of him rapidly sliding in and out of her swollen channel.

After a couple more thrusts, he slowed, tormenting her by lazily pulling all the way out only to bury himself inside her completely, time and again. She squeezed his hands, using him to anchor herself lest she fly apart too soon.

"I need...please...Snape! Oh!" she rambled, near incoherent.

He didn't let up, his breath fanning her neck, and he nipped the tender skin lightly when her head lolled to the side. She was a mess, practically sobbing as she begged and pleaded for more. It was exquisite. Each movement sending her higher and driving her wild.

Hermione strained against his restraining hands, seeking to grip him tighter, pull him close, use her body to beg him to push deeper inside her, but his grip was unrelenting. It was strangely exciting, seeming to heighten every reaction within her body, making her keen and writhe beneath him. Moreover, from the way he squeezed her hands briefly and chuckled against her neck, he knew the effect it was producing.

Her heels dug into his firm bum and she tried to rock her hips up, meeting him thrust for thrust, but her body shattered, every joint coming undone, an earthquake rumbling through her. Then he was coming too, squeezing her hands just as tightly.

The satin of her sleep tank was soaked with sweat, and clung to his bare chest. Awareness seeped into Snape, and he averted his eyes, peeling himself off her and collapsing back to the spot he'd recently vacated. His breathing was every bit as labored as hers.

"Apparently, the spell prefers full intercourse," she said dryly, seeking to break the rapidly mounting tension.

He seemed unable to look directly at her, but she'd felt like her limbs were a heap of goo, so it didn't bother her as much as it might have under different circumstances. Hermione thought she might prefer him like this, just woken and recently sated. He was noticeably less tense than normal even if he was staring intently at the ceiling, processing what had just happened.

"Are you all right?" he asked quietly several minutes later.

"That was bloody brilliant," she exclaimed, the words spilling out before she could think better of saying them.

His head turned so fast, she heard his neck pop loudly. Hermione's lips curled in an assumed smile at the shock she saw carved into the little lines around his eyes and mouth.

"Indeed," he finally drawled slowly, though he continued to search her, seeking answers. "And before that?"

"The spell started just before I fell asleep last night," she admitted, wondering if he'd felt her distress as she'd felt his previously, but not understood the cause. From the way he'd just touched his navel, she suspected that he had, even if he'd not identified the cause.

He raised an unimpressed eyebrow, and asked, "Weren't you -"

"I know!" she huffed irritably, though it lacked any real heat. She was too relaxed after the climax he'd just given her. That didn't seem to stop him from glaring at her for interrupting him though and sitting up to recline against the headboard. Hermione followed suit. "I didn't realize it was the spell," she admitted in explanation.

"You mistook the stirrings of the spell," he stated dully. Something dark and foreboding lurked beneath his words.

"I thought I was just aroused from what we did yesterday afternoon," she said frankly, determined not to be missish about it. Their circumstances were difficult enough without her behaving as a child and reminding him just how young and inexperienced she was - a fact she knew still bothered him a great deal.

"You are telling me you enjoyed that," he asked skeptically.

The truth was, that it made her feel powerful. In control. Two emotions she'd not felt much in the last two weeks, and now welcomed gladly. To have someone like Snape praising her, and reduced to begging her for more. To know she was the one responsible for unraveling the always cool and collected professor. The combination was a heady mixture. An addictive one.

"Yes," she said bravely, steeling herself for whatever unpredictable reaction it would draw from Snape. His jaw visibly clenched, and his brow furrowed.

She wasn't sure if she should have admitted as much or not, but he'd been very worried over feeling like he was forcing her before. Hopefully, her words would alleviate some of those concerns.

"The spell. The effects were severe enough to wake you?" he asked, declining to acknowledge or discuss what she'd confessed, but she could tell he was slightly troubled by it.

"It hurt," she said simply, nodding.

"How badly?"

"I nearly collapsed on the way down here," she said, flinching at the memory.

Snape glanced at the wall, and following his gaze, Hermione noticed a clock she'd not seen before.

The realization that she was getting a rare glimpse into the man behind the billowing cloaks and snark hit her all at once. She was in his personal rooms. His sanctuary away from nosy children.

Hermione looked around, checking for photos or keepsakes - anything special or meaningful enough to be displayed. Anything she'd been in the right mind to notice last time. There was nothing. What did that mean? Was he truly so self-contained and isolated?

It was a sad fate to contemplate. Nobody deserved to be entirely alone. Was that part of why Dumbledore had pushed for a binding between them? Did he -

"What time did it start?" Snape asked, mentally filing this new information away.

"Around ten," she replied, then, recognizing the importance of the information, added, "possibly earlier." The clock showed that it was just after six in the morning now.

"Was it earlier or not?" he demanded.

"It was," she answered quietly, the need to answer questions posed to her ingrained into her very soul.

"How early?"

"Maybe four?" she tried. It was difficult to be precise. She'd been replaying their encounter on repeat since it happened. Right up until the moment she fell asleep.

The look he leveled her with was sufficiently chastising, and guilt came over her. He'd told her to come to him immediately, and she hadn't. She knew from when he did the same, that it wounded her pride. She wasn't sure what he'd make of it, or if he'd consider it a slight, but she doubted it would be anything good.

He again chose not to comment. Probably because she'd already explained earlier. She wished he'd be more open with her, instead of always leaving her to guess at his motives!

"I was feeling the effects when you woke me as well," he murmured.

"Oral is a stop gap, but actual sex is required if we wish to go several days in between," she concluded clinically. At least now they knew. "I can't believe couples perform this spell voluntarily," she grumbled, recalling the pain. Who'd willingly accept that they might have to experience that on a regular basis? It was insane!

"Most don't try to push the limits or avoid intercourse in between compulsions," he reminded her drolly. "I would imagine they only ever feel the positive effects and believe it an exciting extra element, or motivation to work through a tiff."

"Right. Did you see the reference in the book you loaned me?" she asked, suddenly recalling the other book she'd been interested in getting her hands on.

"Yes. I ordered a copy from Flourish and Blotts, but it is back-ordered," he said, pursing his lips in displeasure.

"Oh," she sighed. It'd be nice to be actively trying something - anything really - rather than letting the spell completely control various aspects of her life.

"I should have a better idea of how to create something to counter it, if it can be, once the book comes in," Snape said, sensing her shift in mood at the news.

"You sound as though you have a bit of practice messing with spells," Hermione said, blinking at him. It reminded her of Harry's book and all the little crossed out versions of newly invented spells in the margins.

"I have created a fair number of spells over the years," Snape informed her modestly. She'd never have guessed. Not with the way he talked about Charms.

"You have?" she gasped, conveying her surprise.

"I just said I did," he said crisply, and she winced, knowing how he hated to repeat himself.

"How is it done?"

"For starters, you don't merely regurgitate what you have read in a book. Anyone can do that. Creating a spell means you have to actually apply the theory involved in wand movement, the art of language, and true, innovative intelligence," he said cuttingly, reminding her that he'd always found her lacking as a student, and scoffed when others praised her school work.

The pointed barb didn't so much hurt as provoke her. She wanted to understand why he stubbornly clung to this opinion, then prove him wrong. One day she would.

"What sort of spells?" she inquired eagerly, curious to know something more about him.

"The kind I teach you to block in class," he drawled, a black scowl coming over his face.

The reminder of his position had him glancing at her revealing top and uncovered sex. Hermione imagined it would be easy to deduce what she'd just done if someone saw her. Especially if her hair was as wild as she thought it might be after how he'd pounded her into the bed.

"You must go before you are seen leaving my rooms," he said, getting up from the bed, and gesturing her into the other room ahead of him.

"I expected you to be more of a prude," Hermione announced, the unbidden thought verbalized as she too stood, only to remember she'd shed the remainder of her clothes in the other room.

Hermione gasped and quickly covered her mouth, horrified that she'd let the stray thought slip out.

"Did you?" he asked, humor thickly coloring his tone.

"Yes," she said, brushing past him to collect her clothing. After their shower together, she'd gotten over any lingering bit of self-consciousness she possessed.

"I hardly see the point. Already we have been intimate. The few places we have not yet touched or seen on the other person will undoubtedly be in the coming weeks given our situation. These are my rooms, and I prefer to be comfortable within them," he volunteered, shocking her by offering up the rare insight into his actions.

"How very practical of you," she murmured, biting back a smile and trying not to make a big deal of what his sharing meant to her.

"Does it bother you?" he asked seriously.

Hermione's eyes raked slowly over him. His body was everything his nose, teeth, and attitude weren't. And she was even coming to find she liked his dry, sarcastic retorts. The verbal sparring they seemed to be engaging in on occasion kept her on her toes, and was slightly thrilling, even titillating.

"No."

"Granger," he said solemnly, all humor gone as he waited until he had her complete attention before he continued. "I am aware this is your first foray into a sexual relationship."

When he said nothing more, only watched her carefully, a deer ready to spook, she acknowledged, "Yes."

"It is easy to mistake the emotions involved when people are physically intimate as something they are not," he said, clearly casting about for the right words as he spoke.

She nodded, urging him to go on. To get to the heart of what he was trying to tell her, instead of dancing tentatively around whatever had him so on edge all of a sudden. That ominous foreboding she'd sensed earlier seemed to be surfacing, floating up and breaking the surface after being submerged these last two weeks.

"I can't ever love you," he said hoarsely, the words only barely suppressing a bone-deep grief.

Instantly, Hermione knew that he'd been hurt deeply in the past, and she didn't doubt his sincerity in warning her of this now. She appreciated how upfront he was being with her. It displayed just how real the consideration he'd been showing her was.

"I won't ever ask you to," she promised, trying to allay his concerns, and knowing love wasn't the their interactions.

Hermione thought of all she knew of him, and all she didn't. Of everything his actions hinted at. There was a very real possibility that they would be stuck together for the rest of their lives, with him incapable of giving her more of himself than just his body and possibly, someday, friendship. Would it be enough? Probably not.

So why did his warning make her want to look after him? Protect him. Spare him from the lonely existence he was leading. Why did it make him all the more intriguing to her?

And why hadn't it escaped her notice that she'd not said a word about not ever loving him?

"Then we understand one another?" he asked softly. She could practically see new walls being erected between them even as the current ones were fortified further.

"Perfectly," she said, offering a small smile to suggest there were no hurt feelings on her part.

He released a heavy sigh of relief and gave her a brief nod.

"Oh, and see that Potter gets this when he arrives tomorrow. The Headmaster has left it for him," he grumbled, picking up a scroll from the coffee table and handing it over, then returned to his bedroom, trusting that she'd see herself out.

~

The next day, Hermione frowned at the Fat Lady. She'd just stepped out to head to lunch, and the Fat Lady had stopped her to relay the new password.

"What did you just say the new password is?" Hermione asked shrilly, horrified at what the busty woman was implying she knew.

"Abstinence," she huffed, repeating precisely what Hermion thought she'd heard. The robust woman wrapped so tightly in pink satin that she resembled an under-cooked sausage, looked pale and sickly from her adventures with Violet, but no less disapproving in spite of her hungover state. "You needn't shout at me, particularly in light of what you've been getting up to lately. Don't think I haven't seen you coming and going at all hours this break. It's not been hard for me or Violet to suss out what's happening."

"If you've a problem with me, I suggest you take it up with the Headmaster," Hermione barked, hurrying away before her burning face literally caught fire.

"I think I'll do just that!" the Fat Lady called after her.

The next two hours passed in a blur of food and a quick trip to the library in preparation for the following day. Hermione had discovered that keeping busy and focusing on school helped her forget everything else that had overturned her life.

Then she heard the sound of Harry's disgruntled voice saying, "But we've been away, how're we supposed to - ?"

"Harry! Ginny!" Hermione exclaimed, hurrying down the hall towards her friends and barely sparing a surly-faced Ron a glance.

The sight of him was a punch to the gut. All of her self-directed resentment seemed to view him as a more appropriate target. The urge to smack him, or at least conjure another flock of canaries to attack him abruptly rose up within her. It took all of her willpower to contain the bubbling, boiling anger.

Hermione rushed on speaking before the Fat Lady could explain her personal reasoning for the new password, and hurriedly asked, "Did you have a good Christmas?"

"Yeah, pretty eventful, Rufus Scrim -"

Hermione cut in, talking over Ron as if he'd not been speaking at all. "I've got something for you, Harry. Oh, hang on - password. Abstinence."

She shot the Fat Lady a reproachful and quelling look as she said it, shoving the others inside and slamming the portrait shut before the woman could tattle on her. She bet inspiration for the change had been a result of the prior morning when she'd returned before breakfast wearing only her skimpy night clothes and had wild sex hair. Or maybe because she'd left before dawn.

Ginny's questioning look prompted Hermione to add, "Overindulged over Christmas, apparently. She and Violet drank quite a bit of wine over break. Anyway…"

Hermione searched through her bag for the scroll Snape had given her.

"Great," Harry said, scanning the contents quickly. "I've got loads to tell him - and you. Let's sit down -"

"Won-Won!" Lavender cried, hurrying down the dormitory stairs and rushing over to throw herself on Ron.

Hermione felt her face contorting at the sight, her vision turning briefly red. How was it fair that he got to be happy after he'd made her so miserable? Her future was gone, but he could still have any he desired.

The haze quickly cleared when Harry dragged her to the opposite side of the common room. He was watching her with the worried expression she usually gave him, and she forced a laugh to indicate it was no big deal. It sounded hollow and screechy to her own ears, but she smiled and laughed again to sell it.

Even if it was the biggest lie she'd tried to perpetrate before.

Harry, clearly unconvinced by her efforts, tentatively asked, "So how was your Christmas?"

"Oh, fine. Nothing special. How was it at Won-Won's?" she asked, redirecting the conversation. Hopefully, he'd chalk up the strain in her voice to seeing Ron and Lavender together and referencing their relationship.

The last thing she wanted to do was get into the truth with Harry. He'd completely overreact and automatically assume it was entirely Snape's fault. He'd never believe that the man had actually saved her. He'd wrongly view the spell as a way for Snape to have a willing witch at his beck-and-call - just as Lucius intended.

"I'll tell you in a minute. Look, Hermione, can't you - ?" Harry started, shooting a pointed look at Ron.

"No, I can't. So don't even ask," she snapped, shutting him down cold.

The very idea of trying to be friends with Ron right then seemed a Herculean task. One she was up to tackling. Even thinking about it was painful.

Harry gave her an imploring look, trying a different approach. "I thought maybe, you know, over Christmas -"

"Break only made it perfectly clear why Ron and I aren't currently friends. Do not push me on this, Harry," she insisted fiercely, and Harry nodded rather reluctantly.

Then Harry proceeded to tell her all about what happened before break when she'd left Slughorn's party early - to escape Cormack's wandering hands. As Hermione listened to him talking about Snape offering to help Draco, and Draco doing something on Voldemort's orders, she realized the position her new "relationship" put her in.

Hermione knew things she shouldn't. Thinks she'd have to hide from Harry. Because when it came to Snape and Malfoy, Harry was completely irrational.

The whole time Harry spoke, Hermione debated what to do. How much should she say? How much should she try to redirect the leads he was following? Harry was the most tenacious person she had ever met in her life - herself included. He could put himself at risk if he kept on trying to figure out what they were up to.

Or he'd discover what had happened to her. She couldn't bear considering that. Not right then, at least.

From Dumbledore's comments that night in his office, Hermione assumed he was already very well informed on the matter. And he was meeting with Harry regularly. If he'd chosen not to divulge the details to Harry, then it was probably with good reason. That realization determined her course of action.

"Don't you think - ?" Hermione began indulgently.

But Harry finished in a defeated voice, saying, "- he was pretending to offer help so that he could trick Malfoy into telling him what he's doing?"

"Well, yes," she said, infusing the words with boredom. Hopefully, he'd see how little she believed in his theory, and give it up. "You've already shared your suspicions with Dumbledore, and he didn't seem either surprised or worried. Snape is probably acting on his orders."

"Hermione, you didn't hear them. This was -"

"I feel like we go through this every year, Harry. You suspect Snape, gather evidence and spend all year trying to convince me and Ron that he's guilty, then it turns out Dumbledore knew all along and Snape was secretly trying to help you. This is just more of the same."

They debated a bit more, with Hermione pointing out the gaps and flaws in his arguments or just playing Devil's advocate, until Harry finally sighed and seemed to give up, deflating in his chair by the fireplace. For now, at least. Hermione doubted he'd let it go for long. He wanted too desperately to believe the worst of each Slytherin, and they were doing a pretty good job of making a case for him to do so.

Hermione would have to warn Snape to be more careful in the future. And let him know Harry knew a bit too much.

The jury was still out on Malfoy. Hermione kept seeing fleeting glimpses of his horrified expression as he'd watched the events of the night her whole world changed. Dumbledore seemed convinced that he could be saved still. Was he correct? Or was it naive, wishful thinking?

She wasn't sure.

Sometime after dinner, Ron approached her after a pointed nudge from Harry.

"Lavender said you came back early over break," he said, an inherent question in the statement, but Hermione refused to acknowledge it. Just having him standing so close and mentioning the fact that she'd had to come back early set her on edge.

Hermione subconsciously knew it wasn't Ron's fault. She knew that it was irrational and unfair. She knew she was displacing her guilt, but knowing didn't stop it from happening. And she was already so angry with him over everything with Lavender, that her mum's death just magnified everything she was already feeling.

"Yes," she agreed flatly, not inviting him to continue the conversation.

As so often happened with Ron, he failed to pick up on the cues she was sending his way. Instead, he quite tactlessly asked, "What? Did your parents not want you along with them when they went on holiday?"

"Of course they wanted me!" she cried, jumping to her feet to glare at him.

Her mind was screaming at her to calm down. To know he'd not meant it the way it came out. Ron had always been in the habit of saying the first thing that popped into his head, unkind or not. He never meant any harm by it.

But right along with that voice was another - this one reminding her that she'd lost her parents, and that they'd never have the chance to want her around again.

"Oi! Don't yell at me," Ron said defensively, staring at her as though she'd gone mental all of a sudden or like she'd suddenly become a slimy slug he should avoid.

"Just because you don't want me around doesn't mean others feel the same way," Hermione hissed through gritted teeth, balling her fists and focusing on taking even, measured breaths.

"Is it any wonder I asked when you go all barking mad at a simple question?"

It hurt so much, despite her anger with him, that he didn't immediately deny that he didn't want her around. He was such a bloody prat sometimes!

Even right then, she knew he was only talking to her because Harry had insisted. Because Harry wanted them to make up so that things would return to normal between the three of them. Hermione wasn't entirely sure that they could ever go back. Too much had happened.

"Sometimes you really are a prat, Ronald," she announced, sharing her mental assessment and leveling him with the nastiest look she could manage.

"Don't know why I bothered. You're about as prickly as those pods from Herbology - as liable to squirt foul sap when poked as well," Ron muttered, scowling darkly.

"Oh! Just leave me alone!" Hermione fumed, feeling her face burn with mortification at the insult.

Ron waved a dismissive hand at her and stalked back over to where Harry and Lavender were waiting for him.

Turning on the spot, Hermione stormed upstairs, ready for the day to be over already. It wasn't as though the next day could get any worse. Could it?

~

I don't normally beg for reviews, but I stayed up most of last night to finish this, and the next chapter in each of my other fics since today is my birthday (my gift to anyone reading). If you feel up to taking a moment to let me know what you think, I'd consider it the greatest birthday present ever! Thanks :)