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And They Didn't Live Happily Ever After

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Chapter Eighteen
“The Inner Hunger"

 

Disclaimer: Supplicates before the shine of J.K. Rowling. "Oh, great author. Inspire me so that I may create something based solely on your characters, which you own. So that I may continue to glorify that which you have created in your fertile imagination. Amen." Lights burning incense, places chewing gum and baby toys on the altar, then bows repeatedly while retreating from shrine.

 

============

 

Ginny was already waiting in the park when Hermione arrived. The grounds near St. James' were filled with children enjoying the summer sun and tourists walking back from Buckingham Palace, with cameras slung around their necks, having watched the changing of the guard.

 

The red headed witch was dressed in appropriate Muggle wear and sat upon a plaid blanket spread out with a large picnic hamper next to her. Hermione, who had left her cloak back at the office, looked at the small brown paper bag she clutched in her hand containing a meager cold chicken sandwich and a drink.

 

"Hermione," Ginny called out to her friend, waving her over.

 

Once Hermione was seated on the blanket next to her, Ginny said, "I hope you don't mind. I brought some extra food. I guess I picked up Mum's habit of cooking for an army."

 

"Not at all." Hermione shrugged.

 

Once the hamper was open, Hermione peeked inside and saw it filled with a cupboard’s worth of food. Sandwiches, bags of crisps, piles of strawberries, desserts and beverages were crammed into every nook and cranny of the space-enlargement charmed hamper.

 

Pulling out a large tray, Hermione was tempted to chuck her own bagged-lunch. The tray was laden with sandwiches: Black Forest ham and brie on raisin pumpernickel rye bread, lamb and chutney on thin slices of rustic Italian bread, pear and Stilton on Challah, and salmon and cream cheese. For the first time in days, Hermione had an appetite and she suddenly felt ravenously hungry just looking at the food.

 

"May I?" Hermione asked meekly.

 

"Please tuck in," Ginny offered. "Otherwise I'll have to haul it all back home." Her eyes took in the sight of Hermione, though made no mention that the brunette was looking even thinner.

 

"Thanks, Ginny," Hermione said before devouring a lamb and mango chutney sandwich in record time, beating Ron's old record.

 

While Hermione began making up for lost meals, she didn't notice Ginny's hard scrutiny of her, instead focusing on having one of each sandwich that her friend had brought, as there seemed to be a dozen of each type on the tray. The older witch pulled out her drink from her bag lunch, but decided to leave it for later when Ginny offered chilled lemonade, a drink the redhead had recently discovered.

 

"Ron must be so thrilled about playing starting Keeper. He probably doesn't stop talking about it at home," Ginny said, breaking the silence that was due to Hermione stuffing her face while trying to retain some lady-like table manners.

 

The brunette stopped chewing her food and frowned momentarily before swallowing the mouthful of Stilton and pear. "I wouldn't know. You'd have to ask him," she commented offhandedly, not meeting Ginny's eyes.

 

"What do you mean?"

 

Taking a long sip of the sweet-tart beverage in order to delay having to respond, Hermione's eyes darted guiltily to Ginny before looking away. It seemed Ron had not gone to stay with Harry and Ginny, otherwise her friend would have not phrased her questions as such.

 

"We had a big fight Saturday night. I stormed out of our flat and when I got back an hour later he was gone. I haven't seen him since." She took another sip to busy her hands, mouth and mind while allowing her statement to sink into Ginny's mind.

 

There was a long pause while Ginny studied Hermione further. "Care to tell me what the fight was about?" she asked icily.

 

Hermione put down her sandwich, her appetite gone as quickly as it appeared. Staring at the colors of the plaid blanket beneath her, she contemplated how to phrase what she was about to say.

 

After inhaling deeply and exhaling, she explained, "It was right after we got back from your place. The flat was hot and so we cast some charms to cool the place off. While we were sitting in front of a window, I tried talking with him. It's been so long since we had a decent conversation. He didn't want to talk at all. No matter what I did he just kept ending the conversation. He started getting all lovey-dovey with me and I snapped. I told him that I needed some conversation to get me into the mood for once." Ginny kept staring at Hermione silently, waiting for her to continue. "Well, it escalated from there and I told him basically how lousy he was in bed, and he had never given me an orgasm. He called me a frigid, controlling bitch. That's when I threw my drink in his face and I left. When I got back, he was gone."

 

The silence stretched on until Ginny leaned over and gave Hermione a one-armed hug. "I'm so sorry," she said empathetically.

 

Nodding halfheartedly, Hermione said listlessly, "I owled him yesterday to see if he was all right. He owled back saying he was fine, and would come back when he was ready and wanted." Tears welled in her eyes. "Pig wasn't home when I got back last night," Hermione choked out.

 

Ginny rubbed her friend's back in a gesture of comfort. "Do you guys fight a lot?" she asked.

 

Giving a half shrug, Hermione answered, "With more frequency lately. But we haven't had a fight this bad since… since…” She trailed off in thought remembering that horrible fight. "Since a month after your wedding."

 

Hermione remembered the fight all too clearly. Ron wanted her to quit work and go off potions so they could start a family, just like his mum. Lots of insults were exchanged, including several she had made about Molly. Some of them included words such as "brood mare," "domineering maternal figure," and comparisons to poor Irish-Catholic families who had never heard of birth control. Ron had his own litany of insults referring to her own family's lack of other children, insinuations to an asexual personality and lack of sex drive, a rather derogatory wizarding term for working witches, and even borrowed the phrase "Know-it-all" from Professor Snape.

 

The red head sucked air in, quickly remembering how bad that particular fight was, as it was Ginny who’d consoled Hermione afterwards. "Oh, Hermione," was all that she said, continuing to rub her friend's back in a soothing manner.

 

Looking at the half-eaten sandwich still resting in her hand, the solemn witch realized the lingering taste of the sandwich was gone, and anything else she ate would taste bland and devoid of any flavor. Taking one last sip of lemonade, Hermione contemplated telling Ginny about Calleo. It was just for conversation, but quickly decided against it, as she didn't think her sister-in-law would take too kindly to the news of her seeing a gigolo, even if it was strictly for conversation.

 

Mrs. Weasley rose from her spot and brushed off her skirt. "I'd better get back to work. Thanks for bringing lunch, it was delicious." Her voice was thick with emotion and subdued.

 

"Sure, no problem, Hermione. Say, do you want to come over for dinner tonight?" Ginny offered.

 

Shaking her head, Hermione replied, "No, I think I'd better be home in case Ron comes back tonight." It was a lie. Ron wouldn't be home until well after dinner and she was planning on going out to Flourish and Blotts anyway, instead of sitting around in a lonely, empty flat.

 

"Aw, come on. I'm fixing Hawaiian pork with a mango-pineapple salsa," Ginny encouraged her friend to accept.

 

"Given up on Spanish cuisine now?" Hermione ribbed her.

 

"Harry said if I made Paella one more time, he'd never touch another grain of rice or piece of shellfish ever again," Ginny related with a guilty smile.

 

Hermione shook her head once more. "No, I think I'll pass this one time. Maybe next time."

 

"How about tomorrow night?" Ginny asked, a mischievous smirk playing on her lips.

 

Hermione was about to accept when she remembered that she had her weekly appointment with Calleo. "Uh, tomorrow night doesn't look good," Hermione explained, trying not to stammer. "There are some errands I have to run after work."

 

"Oh," Ginny said with some finality in her tone and gave Hermione a last scrutinizing glance. "Well, owl me when Ron does come back and we'll meet up and tell me all the gory details. Everything except the sex part. He is my brother after all."

 

Laughing at Ginny's joke, Hermione felt a tad better. Ginny's invitation reminded her that she had to meet Lavender that night after work anyway, though it would have taken only a few minutes to hand over the money.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Rushing out of the lab, Hermione grabbed her cloak and decided the stairs were a quicker way to reach the main atrium, rather than waiting for the rickety elevator operated by a paroled Death Eater. If she didn't hurry, she would be late for her appointment with Lavender at the Leaky Cauldron.

 

As she stepped out of the fireplace, Hermione charmed the soot off her cloak before scanning the darker corners of the establishment, searching for her old schoolmate.

 

The top of a well-coifed blond head beyond a divider could be spotted in the back corner near the stairs. Approaching the cosmetic empress, she saw Lavender rise and walk up the back stairs to the second floor where the rooms were. Hermione followed and saw her walk into room number nine, leaving the door ajar.

 

Stepping into the room, the brunette witch saw the space appointed with dark Jacobean furniture that was probably original, including the finish.

 

'If they only knew how much money some of this furniture would fetch in the Muggle antiques market,' Hermione thought.

 

"Please, have a seat," Lavender offered with an outstretched arm, not yet turning around to face her customer, as she walked to the window.

 

Settling into a straight-backed chair with ornate turnings and a worn needlepoint seat, Hermione glanced at the dark wood paneling and noticed how Lavender stood out like some pink and blond apparition against the brown-black hues of the room.

 

"Here," Mrs. Weasley said, setting a small bag of Galleons on the side table next to her chair. The velvet pouch muffled the clink of the gold coins.

 

Out of the corner of her eye, Lavender glanced at the woman and bag of money sitting across the room . "Keep it." She turned to look back out the window to watch the clouds pass over the waxing gibbous moon still rising in the sky, washed out and pale against the dusky evening light.

 

"What?"

 

Lavender kept her back to Hermione. "Keep it."

 

Perplexed and confused, Hermione asked, "Why? What about Calleo's fee?"

 

"Don't worry about his fees, he's being more than compensated. Besides, with what I owe to you and more…” Lavender turned to face Hermione. "You know, the reason I'm successful is because of what you did with the house-elves from Death Eater families during the war. Without their cheap labor, I would not have been able to undercut the price on my competitors or gain a foothold in the marketplace. In part, I owe my success to you. So please don't worry about paying Calleo's fees, I'll take care of that."

 

Glaring at Lavender, Hermione fumed, "I'm not poor. I can afford to pay it."

 

"Please don't take my gesture as one of pity for your finances. I'm sorry if you construed it that way, but I feel that I am in your debt in many ways," Miss Brown explained.

 

Hermione watched Lavender slowly pace along the width of the room, noting the less than confident and amicable air that the blond usually radiated.

 

"You look like you could use a friend this time," Hermione observed. "Man trouble?"

 

Lavender fixed her with an appraising stare before giving her a tired smile. "Something like that."

 

"You want to talk about it?" Hermione offered.

 

Sitting down in the chair near Hermione's, she began to laugh lightly. Giving another glance towards Hermione, Lavender replied, "No, not now. It's a rather sticky situation at the moment. One day I'll tell you if you still want to know, but for now, let's just say it's rather complicated. Time will tell how everything will sort itself out."

 

Staring at her lap, Hermione felt the same way about herself and Ron. It was a rather sticky situation they were in, avoiding each other after their fight, not knowing when Ron would return home. "I know what you mean," Hermione added.

 

Rising from her seat with a bit of heaviness removed from her person, Lavender said, "Have you had dinner yet?"

 

Hermione shook her head. "No, I came here from work."

 

"Please stay and I'll have some dinner sent in."

 

"Oh, you don't have to–"

 

"Please," she pleaded with a wave of her hand towards the table. "It's no bother at all, my treat." She moved to the door.

 

"Aren't you staying?" Hermione asked.

 

"No. I would love to stay and talk a while longer, but… I'm expecting company at home. Perhaps another time," Lavender excused herself. "May I suggest the pork loin roast; Tom really out did himself this time."

 

Before Hermione could protest, Lavender had slipped out the door and a barmaid appeared to ask Hermione what she would like for dinner.

 

"Um, I hear the pork loin roast is very good?" she said with uncertainty.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

The boneless body laid out on the table in front of Severus groaned as he dug the heel of his hand into the rhomboid major knotted beneath his hands.

 

Nude, with only a sheet draped over her bottom and legs, she mumbled, "Ooooh, a little deeper please."

 

"You've been slouching at your desk again, Katherine," Severus admonished her.

 

She growled at the back of her throat as the muscle on her back began to release under the ministrations of his hands. "You know, Muggles have this fantastic invention called electric lights that fully illuminate everything so well. You don't have to bend over your parchments to read in those offices that are way too small for a proper brazier and must suffer with candles alone."

 

"Hmmmm," Severus replied, neither agreeing nor contradicting her assessment of Muggle illumination. He found electric lights too bright and glaring, but he had excellent vision to begin with. Katherine, however, did not fair well with low lighting due to poor night vision, even at her young age of fifty.

 

"Ooh, too deep" she gritted with a wince as Severus put his body weight behind the rock-hard lump that was once her levator scapulae.

 

Since the Death Eater Decree and his ban from brewing potions, Severus noticed many things about him had physically changed. His hair was not as limp and weighted down with volatile oils as it once was from working in a room full of simmering cauldrons all day in the Hogwarts dungeons. Nor did his skin have quite the same translucent pallid color now that he had living quarters with natural sunlight and worked in a room with large windows. He was still pale, but his skin did not have the blue cast it once did. The calluses that once adorned his hands, marking him as a man that worked them heavily, were gone, and along with them went his tolerance for handling objects at high temperatures, especially cauldrons that were still cooling or flasks that had recently been filled with boiling potions. The most notable, however, was his waning hand strength.

 

It was when he was trying to open a jar of gherkins one day that he realized he had to really put some effort in to it. Normally, he would have opened it with minimal effort, but when it took until the third try, he realized he was losing something he had taken for granted. All those years working as a Potions master had given him hand strength rivaled only by some of the best Quidditch players.

 

So it was that Severus complained rather loudly, as he worked on a batch of pimple purging potion with Lavender a few years ago. She recommended he start offering massages as a way of regaining some of his hand strength. At first he was reluctant, but soon found Miss Brown's idea had some merit. Not only did his clients remain mostly quiet during their visits, giving his sympathetic ear a rest, but he was also able to mentally list the different muscles of the body as he worked on them. As a Potions master, he was once required to learn each and every muscle and the effects of each potion ingredient on each group and type of muscle.

 

Most people had no idea how hard it was to become a Potions master or mistress. In addition to a firm grasp of Potions, one must be well versed in Herbology, anatomy, the pharmacological effects of each ingredient and combination of ingredients on different parts of the body, and knowing how potions will react in a wizard's body versus a witch's body, in addition to which phase a woman's body was in during her fruitful years. Add the requirement to learn at least five languages, as many of the ancient Potions texts had anti-translations spells, making the task of becoming a master or mistress of the complex and subtle art that much more difficult. It was because of this required large body of knowledge to be learned and memorized that the number of qualified people in the field of Potions was shrinking. Which was why it was such a crime that a man as talented as Severus Snape was forced to work under a pseudonym, yet still not be able to actually practice his art.

 

"Better?" he asked, as he eased off the pressure of his hands on her upper shoulder.

 

"Mmmmm, much. Oh," she sighed, "you have the hands of an angel. You have the touch."

 

"Thank you," he replied.

 

"I just wish next week wasn't my last visit," she sighed.

 

"Last visit?"

 

"Yes," she groaned with resignation. "I'm moving the business to Spain. England just isn't as commerce friendly as it once was. With all this paranoia and precautions over Death Eaters, one just can't get any proper work done with the Ministry regulations and restrictions on trade, tariffs, Portkeys, Flooing, and such."

 

Severus grumbled in sympathy.

 

Katherine lifted her head off the table and looked at Severus out of the corner of her eye. "I can't tell you what a port in the storm for me you've been these past few years." She rested her head back down on the table. "If it wasn't for your strength, I would have let my husband's business flounder and fade. You were right. I can't let the death of a loved one stop me from living."

 

Severus reflected on his own words spoken back to him. They were words he did not exactly follow, but merely words that Albus once told him after the death of his own wife. Severus scoffed at those words years before, but found they gave Katherine comfort and courage to go one when she first came to him.

 

Katherine Bigelow was the wife of a prominent businessman in the wizarding community, being one of the main importers of rare botanical species from around the world. Bigelow Botanicals was one of the largest wizarding nurseries in Great Britain and Katherine was a personal friend of Professor Sprout, though Severus never mentioned he knew the professor personally as well, keeping his identity secret from all his clients.

 

When Mrs. Bigelow first met Severus, she was in the midst of a deep depression, as all her children were grown and had moved on to their own lives. She was left to grieve the death of her husband alone with no support. Severus, being a widower himself, was able to say the right things to help her move on with her life, eventually discussing her business with her and talking about the many plants she imported. He gave her a few vague, but helpful pointers regarding the Herbology and Potions trade and she paid Severus very well for her visits with a friendly masked face to talk to, with a bit of business advice thrown in. They had a very companionable relationship and were close enough in age that they could relate to each other well. Though Katherine was an attractive woman, their relationship never became sexual. The woman was still grieving for her husband and would likely do so for the rest of her life.

 

Severus rubbed his hands over her shoulder one more time and patted her back gently. "How does that feel?"

 

She inhaled deeply. "Ah, I can breathe again. I no longer have that 'knife stabbing me in the back' muscle spasm pain anymore. Oh, you are a dear."

 

"I'll retire to the kitchen so you can dress," Severus excused himself.

 

While he was in the kitchen preparing a pot of genmai cha tea, Katherine dressed and shouted through the door, "I owled that Potions master you told me about the other week, Sebastian Delgado. I can’t thank you enough. He's willing to do some consulting work for me."

 

Severus smirked to himself, as he poured the boiling water over the tea. "It's my pleasure that I could help you," he called back through the door.

 

He figured if Lavender could deal with this woman as a buyer and in the capacity of a madam, then he could act as gigolo and consultant in a dual capacity as well. Money was money, and Katherine was willing to pay handsomely for advice from the perspective of someone in the Potions trade on the potency of certain sub-varietal species of plants from different regions of the world. He would have told her some of the information she wanted without having her deal with his nom de guerre, but that would have meant revealing too much of himself, as she was probably aware of the Death Eater Potions master Severus Snape through Pomona and by reputation.

 

"I'm done," she announced.

 

Severus walked through the door to find her sitting on his settee in her usual attire. "Tea?" he offered.

 

"Yes, please."

 

They sat for a moment, both sipping the pale green brew before she spoke once more. "I must say I will miss the friendship we've developed over the past few years."

 

"As will I," he replied.

 

"Albert was a good man. I think he would have liked your no nonsense approach."

 

Severus nodded. He contemplated divulging that he would be making an exit from his current profession as a means of closure to his business relationship with Katherine. Considering the fact that in time he would be illegally fleeing the country, and Aurors might go snooping about, he supposed it was best the he would make no mention of his plans. In an investigation, Katherine's name could possibly come up and it would be best if she were kept out of the loop regarding his future plans. She was loosely tied to the Potions and ingredient trade and might be a person of interest once the Aurors had found that Severus and Draco used Polyjuice Potion to escape.

 

"I think he would be proud of what you've done with the company since his death," Severus said.

 

Katherine downed the rest of her cup and stood. As Severus escorted her to the door, she stopped and grasped his hand in a motherly type fashion. Looking at him with unshed tears in her eyes, she said, "Next week may be a bit crazy with moving the business and all, so I may not be able to see you. In case I don't see you, let me say good bye."

 

Severus made to speak, but she placed a finger in the air between them to stop his protestations.

 

"Please," she said. Taking a deep breath, she began, "When Albert died, I wished I’d died with him. I don't think I'll ever get over him being gone, but at least you've helped me so that I can cope and get on with my life. You are a good person. Though I've never learned your name, I've always considered you a friend. I hope someday you can leave this profession behind and pursue your dreams, though you've never told me what they are. I hope you can find the happiness in your life that I had when Albert was in mine, be it with another person or by your reaching your goals. Please take care of yourself."

 

As a final gesture, Katherine leaned over and gave Severus a chaste kiss on the small lower portion of his cheek that wasn’t covered by his mask.

 

"Thank you," she whispered, squeezing his hand one last time as a few tears fell before she walked out the door.

 

The lock on the door clicked shut and Severus grimaced, trying not to let maudlin thoughts of farewells overwhelm him. Though never a man of sentimentality, Severus was touched by her sincere words of farewell for him and his well-being. Of all the clients he’d had over the years, she would be one of only a few that he would miss.

 

He imagined a large sniff coming from one of the chairs next to the chess table. 'That was just so lovely,' he could hear Minerva sobbing with her distinct Scottish brogue.

 

"Oh shut up," he snarled at the imaginary phantom, the moment ruined by his conscience popping up at the most inopportune time. "Don't you have a tree to go strand yourself in somewhere? Why can't I even have a moment's peace for reflection without you two taking up residence in my mind?"

 

The mental ghost of Albus gave him a knowing look over those damned half-moon spectacles Severus wanted to snap in half. 'My dear boy,' the barmy old fart croaked, 'we share her sentiments exactly. We would have wanted you to find your happiness as well. Perhaps if Hermione wasn't married to Ronald Weasley, you would have–'

 

Severus spun and glared at the empty chair. He knew no ghost was there, as ghosts could not read minds, but his own mind filled in the details of his old headmaster in his chair so perfectly, he could see the threads of his robe and each individual hair of his long white beard.

 

"Don't go there," Severus snapped.

 

'But we know you care for the young woman,' the imaginary Headmaster insisted. 'We are manifestations from within your own mind, Severus. There is nothing you can hide from us.'

 

"You go ahead and think what you like. My interest in Hermione is nothing more than to fulfill my obligation to get my percentage from Miss Brown, and to get those damned ingredients to get out of this forsaken place," Severus ranted at the empty space before him, his black eyes focusing on the twinkling blue ones he envisioned before him.

 

'You can't tell us you feel nothing for the girl,' Minerva protested.

 

"What do you think," Severus defiantly challenged, folding his arms in front of him. He really hated the fact that after all these years, he could still clearly hear their voices reproving, chastising, coaxing and encouraging him in his mind. At least his mind refused to allow the image of Albus to offer him a lemon drop.

 

'Pardon the inappropriate gender usage, but 'me thinks the lady doth protest too much',' Minerva quipped.

 

Severus snorted and turned his back on the two empty wing back chairs. "If you two will excuse me, I think I'm going to take a bath. I would appreciate it if you both would have the courtesy of staying out of my bathroom and mind while I have a long soak."

 

As the large tub filled with hot water, Severus stripped, throwing his clothes in a pile for Marf to launder and press. Slipping into the steaming water, he let the heat relax him as his mind drifted.

 

"Let the attrition begin," he sighed, his voice echoing against the tiles of bathroom.

 

Katherine was the first client to leave his service since knowledge of Hermione Weasley's job came to his attention. Now all he had to do was either guide the ones who were married back to their husbands or encourage his single clients to move on and find a nice wizard and teach their man to do with their bodies as he had done. Monday and Wednesday nights were now both open and Miss Brown had been made aware of his refusal to take on any more clients. There were a few monthly clients, but they only came to see him if an opening in his regular schedule opened up when one of his weekly clients couldn't make it.

 

The only client he could count on for the long term, until he was free, was Hermione Weasley.

 

Just before Katherine Bigelow arrived earlier that evening, Severus had received an owl from Ginny. He could only surmise that Ginny was filling him in on her lunch with Hermione earlier that day. As he did not have time to read it before Katherine's arrival, he placed it in his study to read first thing in the morning.

 

Severus was curious at to what Ginny had written in the letter, but figured it would be best to read it fresh in the morning after a good night's sleep.

 

The image of Hermione Weasley drifted into his mind as he closed his eyes, his arms draped over the side of the tub and his head lolled back. She was wearing that damn dingy blouse with the frayed collar.

 

'Take it off,' he gently commanded her, tired of remembering that over-washed shirt in his mind.

 

He could see her peering at him with wide brown eyes, clutching the shirt to the front of her chest before she relented and started unbuttoning her blouse slowly, looking up at him through lowered lashes shyly, trying to keep some semblance of modesty.

 

In his mind, he could envision the pale skin of her shoulders being bared as she pulled the blouse off, still clutching the shirt to her front.

 

Severus let a small groan escape from the back of his throat as he wrapped on hand around his stiffening cock.

 

"Yes," he whispered, as his hand started to move up and down his hard length.

 

Visions of a bra with tattered lace flashed in his mind. 'This will simply not do,' he imagined himself saying, as his hands slipped the offending brassiere off her shoulders and unclasped it so she could remove it as well.

 

He hissed as his cock grew even stiffer in his hands, wondering what the shape and lines of her back must look like. In his mind, she was too skinny, as he remembered her from her two visits, but he didn’t seem to mind, at the moment.

 

Severus enjoyed looking at women, be they tall or short, lithe or voluptuous, blond, brunette, red or raven-haired, he liked the feminine softness about them. The way their hair felt in his hands and the shape of their thighs, be they thin or plump. The only thing he enjoyed more than looking at women was touching them. And to be buried inside of them was heaven on earth. Granted, there was no emotional satisfaction from his many liaisons with his clients, he still reveled in the physical sensuality that came with his job. The sigh of a woman's voice from his touch, the look in her eyes as she glowed in post-orgasmic bliss. The feel of their breasts, large or small, pert or pendulous, areolas that were large or small, colored brown, rose or pink in his hands as he stroked, licked and caressed them. And for those seeking physical pleasure with him, he brought them all joy and satisfaction. Granted it did feed his ego that he could please them thoroughly, but he also took his own pleasure while with them, be it for some cuddling and simple kisses or wild sex.

 

Until that moment, Severus had avoided thinking of Hermione in a sexual manner, but with the knowledge of his meeting with her tomorrow night looming in his mind, he began wondering what sort of sexual creature she was. Was she timid and reluctant or bold and confident between the sheets?

 

Knowing that a larger percentage of his married clients he was physically intimate with tended to have Gryffindor or Hufflepuff husbands, he could only assume that Hermione was a woman left unsatisfied by her husband. From the sexual tension emanating off of her in waves from their previous meetings and the arousal he evoked in her from that simple chaste kiss upon her hand, he could only assume she was an untapped geyser of passion waiting to be released.

 

As he stroked himself faster, he imagined pulling her close to his body before roughly shoving her up against a wall and plunging into her with no preamble. He wondered if she would shriek if taken so roughly or would she moan loudly. Visions of her legs wrapped around his waist as he propped her up against a wall and shoved his length into her over and over, her head tilted back, his head buried at the base of her exposed neck, grunting with each thrust.

 

His brow furrowed and he growled as he released his seed across his stomach, his hips thrusting up from the water, the tiny waves lapped at the side of the tub before his hand movements slowed. Severus eventually collapsed back into the hot water.

 

"Like that's ever going to happen," he gasped, tranquil and momentarily drowsy, as his heart hammered against his rib cage.

 

Severus was not interested in being physically intimate with Hermione. Eventually, he would have to reveal himself to her, and to have physical interaction with a woman who knew him as the greasy dungeon bat of Hogwarts would drive her off, once she learned his identity. He would have to make sure that he would never reciprocate any physical advances she made while she knew him as Calleo. Severus could imagine the humiliation she might feel if she had sex with him, only to learn later it was her old Potions professor. Though from any other woman he would welcome the change from emotional comfort to physical intimacy, he would have to make the exception with her. She was a means to his and Draco's escape and there was no point in ruining it by letting her attraction or repulsion to Severus Snape get in the way.

 

Thoroughly relaxed, the raven-haired man rose from the tub and dried off, before slipping into bed.

 

As he lay in the dark, his mind began ticking off things to do in order to set Hermione's mind on the right track. Little things that would begin to hint at his identity without giving the whole game away at once.

 

Severus smiled, wondering what the look on her face might be when she finally discovered it was he, her old Potions professor and fellow Order member, whom she had been secretly seeing and confessing her heart out to.