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A Choice of Roads by Imhilien [Reviews - 13]

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A/N: Well, I must apologise for the very long wait between chapters (looks embarrassed). I shall try and update more quickly in the future. Thanks to those who had reviewed!

Many thanks to countrymouse1 for her beta help.

(This chapter will be posted in two parts, as it got quite long yet again)

Chapter 28

After having made love for the first time, Severus and Hermione stayed together in each others arms, strength eventually returning to their pleasantly sated bodies.

Hermione thought to herself that she would always remember this night, even though there were still a few hours left before most people would think of going to sleep.

Severus’ mind came back fully to itself, and acutely aware that he may have been too rough with Hermione before, he then ran his hand gently down over her stomach. Even with her hair looking wilder now, and her lips swollen from his kisses, she still looked lovely to him. He realised that he did not really feel inclined to fall asleep, and by the looks of Hermione, nor did she.

“Do you feel… hurt at the moment?” he asked her gruffly, also aware that he was far from adept at asking these sorts of questions.

Hermione looked up at him, seeing signs of tension upon the sallow face close to hers.

“A little bit,” she confessed, though forgiveness of him was in her warm, brown gaze. “Don’t worry though, I did expect it to be a bit uncomfortable the first time,” she continued pragmatically.

But feeling a measure of guilt that he had brought pain to Hermione at all, Severus silently called his wand to him. He then drew the covers back from Hermione so he could cast a healing spell upon her, before casting the cleansing spell for them both and pulling the covers back up.

Hermione moved her body experimentally after that, and did feel decidedly relieved that a lingering ache between her legs was gone.

“That did help, thank you,” Hermione said sincerely. “Although something else would help as well,” she found herself saying.

“What would that be?” Severus was quick to reply.

There was an impish look in Hermione’s eyes as she lightly touched his arm to reassure him. “Your arms around me again… I think that would really make me feel better.”

A laugh born of relief escaped Severus, and he relaxed. Though their desire for each other had been consummated at last, he still heard a genuine need for his touch - even if it was only a platonic one - in Hermione’s voice, which Severus couldn’t help but respond to.

“I see,” he said meaningfully as he put his wand down and moved gently into her embracing arms, both of them shifting so that they were facing each other again. Severus put an arm around Hermione’s waist and his hand ran slowly up and down her back as she snuggled against his chest, feeling that there was a new lightness in his touch and indeed, in his heart, which had not been there before.

The feel of her warm body against him once more in this way was simply heaven, even though parts of his body were too happily tired to give their view right now. Part of him still felt shaken though after what they had shared. What seemed just as amazing was that Hermione had not looked at him with any distaste afterwards, but continued to make him feel… appreciated and loved. Still loved.

“No doubt a kiss would make you feel better as well,” he murmured against her neck with a glint in his eyes.

Hermione hummed in agreement, and Severus moved his head so that he could softly kiss her forehead, some of his black hair brushing her skin.

“There… and perhaps here as well,” he said as he went to kiss her nose. “Does that help you, madam?”

“Oh, you’re dreadful!” Hermione laughingly scolded him.

Severus arched an eyebrow at Hermione and moved a hand to brush some of her brown hair away from her face.

“No respect for me, even now,” he said dryly before his head dipped slightly to kiss her lips softly as well.

Even though Hermione felt as if she was recovering (for want of a better comparison), from having been caught up in a storm, exhilarating though it had been, she could never get tired of his kisses and so kissed him tenderly in return.

“You do realise something though, do you?” he murmured after a while, his fingers lightly brushing a hip of hers.

“What’s that?” Hermione enquired, feeling pleased inside at the way Severus’ face appeared softer at the moment. She would have thought that continuing to lie next to Severus without a stitch of clothing on either of them would have made her feel quite self-conscious, but all she felt was delight… and a sense of naughtiness, too. Just the fact that she could see (and kiss, if she wanted to) his neck and chest without all of the restrictive layers covering them, and without being glowered at too, seemed a miracle in itself.

If she moved her hand she could immediately touch and caress his chest, and feel the steady beating of his heart, its pace hastening with her attention to Severus in this way. If she moved a leg like she did now, she could immediately feel how his longer legs felt against hers, and a smile crossed her face as she felt Severus take the opportunity to insinuate a leg between hers.

“Whenever you are in my bed, you will therefore be subject to any of my wishes,” he replied with a velvety richness to his voice that made her tingle inside.

Hermione blinked a few times and then smiled to herself. “Only if I feel like obeying them,” she pointed out reasonably.

“I see… so if it was one of my wishes to bring you pleasure until you begged for mercy, you would then deny me?” Severus murmured as he reached to gently cup one of her breasts, fascinated anew by them.

“Oh? Now?” Hermione enquired in surprise. She didn’t know if she could respond again so soon, so to speak, though she could try. She then realised that Severus could interpret her words in the wrong way, and said hastily, “That’s not a complaint, you understand… I still feel as if I need to get my breath back.”

“I am still recovering myself, I assure you,” Severus grumbled, though Hermione heard an undertone of humour in his deep voice as his arm briefly tightened around her.

“I’m probably not surprised,” Hermione allowed with a smile.

At that, spots of colour appeared in his cheeks, but she sensed he was pleased.

“Impertinent woman… your body will be quite safe from ravishment, shall we say, for the rest of the night. But I do suggest though, that you endeavour to sleep well tonight… since you will find me quite recovered tomorrow,” he said meaningfully.

Hermione found it was her turn for colour to appear in her cheeks.

“Is that a promise?” she was able to say lightly.

Severus moved his face until it was only inches away from hers. “Oh, yes,” he said softly.

Hermione’s stomach grumbled, and she was surprised to realise that she felt a bit hungry. But then, she had certainly worked up an appetite again.

Severus raised an eyebrow. “Still hungry, I see,” he murmured. “Shall I conclude that you are not quite ready for sleep, either?”

“No,” Hermione said, then hastily added, “I meant, no, I’m not really ready for sleep. We could still keep talking…

“…and both eat some of the cake you brought me,” Severus finished with a faint smirk. “Very well. The night is still young.”

There was a faint noise from the fireplace as the fire that had been lit before settled down now into glowing coals.

“I see the fire is nearly out,” Severus commented, distracted for a moment from Hermione.

“Hmm… I suppose you’ll have to get up and tend to it, then,” Hermione said thoughtfully.

Severus’ arm tightened around her again.

“I see, madam. So you wish me to parade around for your amusement, do you?” he asked dryly.

“I said no such thing,” Hermione laughingly protested, a squeak escaping her when Severus lightly pushed her upon her back and leaned over her, his black eyes glinting down at her.

“You did indeed… you cannot lie to me, Hermione, now or ever,” he breathed.

In what she hoped was a reasonable tone, though it was hard to keep a smile off her face, Hermione said, “Look, I didn’t say you had to go over to the fireplace undressed…”

“That’s not what I heard, Gryffindor,” he said, watching her closely.

“…but I wouldn’t be complaining if you did. If you decided to, that is,” Hermione finished. To add emphasis to her words, she reached up with a hand and ran it gently across his chest, her fingers, as if by accident, lingering softly at a particularly jagged looking scar of his.

Hermione heard his breath catch for a moment in his throat, a flicker of emotion passing through his black eyes as well. He bent his head to brush her lips softly with his, before moving back and saying in a sardonic tone, “Whatever shall I do with you? Very well.”

Severus then got up out of bed, and walked over to the fireplace in what he hoped was an unhurried manner, intensely aware of Hermione’s glances toward him like caresses upon his bare skin. Part of him though was glad that with the day over he was not doing this in full sunlight, since he was still used to keeping himself from the eyes of others.

Fortunately, considering his current undressed state, the fireplace was charmed not to throw out any errant sparks and the bedroom was still warm, too. As he bent and took a poker to stir the coals back into life, he heard a faint but impish sound of feminine appreciation from Hermione. Wicked woman… for all of her previous words, he could not let her get away with something like that! The warmth of his cheeks was due to the equally warm bedroom, he told himself.

“So, if we are to sample this cake of yours that you brought me, would you like a cup of tea to go with it?” he questioned Hermione as he looked over his shoulder at her.

“Yes, thank you,” he heard Hermione promptly reply.

Severus’ lips twitched for a moment.

“In that case, you will have to get up so you can have it,” he said silkily as he nodded towards the chair.

Hermione mumbled something under her breath that Severus didn’t quite catch.

“But where will you sit?” Hermione then questioned him, knowing she would feel uncomfortable if Severus was obliged to sit upon his own bed while she sat in his chair drinking tea.

“There is a Duplication spell I will put on the chair to produce its double,” Severus replied, an odd feeling inside his heart as he realised how quickly he – and his house – were changing to accommodate the presence of Hermione. But then, surely his heart had changed beyond all recognition by now after letting her in…

Severus heard the bed creak as she got out of it, resisting the opportunity to turn and watch her do so. But after putting the poker back in its stand, he couldn’t resist from turning his head slightly to observe her as she made her way to their scattered clothes and started putting on her panties.

“I said nothing about you getting dressed,” Severus couldn’t resist from murmuring to her, his heart beating faster at the sight of the tempting curves and valleys of her body tinted gold by the firelight.

“Typical male,” Hermione replied sweetly in his direction, trying hard not to blush or feel too self-conscious with Severus’ simmering gaze upon her. “It might help if you get dressed too – I wouldn’t want you to make the tea and then, erm, spill it on yourself.”

Hermione’s gaze was full of mischief as she then looked pointedly at him. She had tried hard not to ogle him too much when he had got out of bed – she was already quite aware of how hypersensitive he was of anyone in his vicinity, especially her. Even with his back turned, he would have surely known the moment that she looked his way. But there was an almost feline grace to the way he moved when naked, that was hard not to want to observe…

“Impudent woman,” Severus grumbled as he felt himself twitch hopefully for a moment. Repressing that flicker of desire, he walked over to his clothing, raising an eyebrow when he saw Hermione go over to her bags and kneel down to pull some clothing made from pale blue velvet from one of them.

As if feeling his gaze upon her, Hermione said briskly, “I’d rather put my pyjamas on instead of putting my clothes back on.”

“Indeed,” Severus said dryly as he put on his underpants and then his trousers and shirt, congratulating himself on having resisted the urge to pounce upon his witch again so soon. Then after retrieving his wand, he paused as he registered that Hermione had said the word ‘pyjamas’. He had vaguely imagined Hermione to have brought some sort of feminine night robe with her (perhaps something with lace?), instead of these… velvet trousers she was putting on.

Of course he was used to seeing female Quidditch players who wore trousers just like the men, and female students with pyjamas under their dressing gowns when there was the occasional late night emergency that needed evacuation of the students in their towers. But he was nevertheless used to seeing women in robes or dresses up close in normal, day-to-day circumstances.

Hermione had put on her velvet top when she heard Severus approach her from behind, and then her arm was quickly tugged by him, obliging her to turn around and face him. She looked enquiringly up at Severus, ruefully wondering what she had done now to bring that look of exasperation again to his face, though he had his thin lips pursed as if he was trying hard not to smile.

“I see,” Severus said meaningfully as he stroked her arm in an almost mesmerising way, “you did indeed bring some nightwear to wear.”

Hermione eyed him quizzically. “Well, I did say I had,” she said reasonably. “If you were expecting me to wear something skimpier, I’m sorry I disappointed you.” Maybe he had preferred her to wear a barely-there outfit after all, she thought.

“Skimpier?” Severus repeated in a near-growl, as he gathered her firmly back into his arms. “You would have no consideration for my heart indeed if you had brought something to wear you deemed ‘skimpier’, Hermione.”

“Well, what do you wear to bed then?” Hermione enquired, inwardly chuckling at how flustered and yet intrigued Severus was looking now – though he was trying to hide it – at the sight of her in pyjamas.

Severus huffed down at her. “I wear a nightshirt to bed, of course,” he grumbled. “Only you would think to wear something as… as provocative as these trousers to bed.”

An impish smile appeared on Hermione’s face when she realised he was serious.

“You think that I wore these pyjamas to be really provocative?” she asked as she lightly stroked his chest, curious as to what his definitions of ‘provocative’ were.

Severus huffed again and eyed her darkly. Hermione was enjoying herself far too much, he was sure. “From my point of view, you certainly have, madam. You have also conspired at the same time to be…”

Severus paused.

“What?” Hermione queried as she looked up at him, laughter dancing in her eyes.

Severus’ thin lips twisted for a moment, as if he was disgusted at having to utter his next word.

“Cuddly,” he growled.

It was too much for Hermione, and from within his embrace she burst out laughing.

“This is no laughing matter, I assure you,” Severus grumbled, which only served to make the situation funnier for Hermione. In an attempt to cease her laughter, Severus swooped down and kissed her, crushing her lips with his. But he could still sense her silently chuckling to herself as she wrapped her arms around him and kissed him back, putting affection for him as well as love in her kisses. Wretched woman.

Even though the energy between them certainly felt… appeased since they had finally made love, Hermione was glad to have a fresh reason to kiss and touch him again, to have the chance to bring even just the smallest hint of a smile to his usually severe lips. For her, that feeling did not wholly stem from desire, but more from the need to be close to Severus, her mate, a feeling that had only deepened after before. It was still very easy for her to recall the intensity of his kisses when they had been in his bed, the heated feel of his body moving upon hers…

When they had finished kissing, Severus murmured against her hair, “Now I expect this room to be tidy when I return, Hermione, instead of a pigsty with clothes all over the floor.”

“Thanks to you,” Hermione was quick to spiritedly reply. “Perhaps you had better quickly go and make that tea, then.”

Severus found himself smirking down at Hermione, before letting her go and going over to his frock coat to put it on. Hermione’s hand on his arm made him pause, though.

“Don’t put that back on – I like the way you look in your shirt,” Hermione confessed. There was just something about seeing him in his white shirt over his trousers, that made him look appealing, she thought.

It was on the tip of Severus’ tongue to refuse her request, for he rarely felt fully dressed until at the very least he had his frock coat on over his trousers. But the thought that she found him pleasing with only his shirt on, made him allow that perhaps he could listen to her request.

“If that is your wish… then I will not,” he replied evenly, not realising how soft his black gaze was upon Hermione’s face.

“I do wish,” she said promptly. “Unless you would feel cold,” she added belatedly.

Severus raised an eyebrow. “I still feel quite warm at the moment, for reasons that I am sure you are aware of.”

A hint of a smile was on his lips when he saw colour immediately appear in Hermione’s cheeks.

“I might as well ensure now that there will be a chair for me to sit down on as well,” he said dryly. “Or perhaps you would wish to drink your tea whilst… sitting on my knee?” he couldn’t resist from wickedly adding. “No? Perhaps another time, then,” he said at the sight of the added colour in her cheeks.

Severus took his wand, and within a short amount of time his solitary chair by the fireplace had an exact double opposite it.

He put on his socks and shoes and then said smoothly, “I will return shortly with the tea. Do see that you behave yourself until I return.”

Despite the still heated state of her face, Hermione asked, “Excuse me, Severus, before you go, would you mind telling me where the bathroom is?”

Severus nodded towards the door of the bedroom.

“It will be through the first door on your right when you leave this room. Do not worry about leaving the fireplace unattended for a minute – I have ensured that sparks will not fly out from it,” he said calmly.

“Thank you,” Hermione said.

After he left the bedroom, Hermione went back to her bags and pulled out her dressing gown and her slippers, both of them cream coloured and cosy to have on. She hadn’t seen the need to ‘improve’ them yesterday, as they had both been a recent Christmas gift from her parents and looked nice just by themselves.

She smiled as she put them on, thinking of how fascinated Severus had been at the sight of her in her pyjamas, as if they had been the equivalent of oh, a glittering g-string. Perhaps she should wear jeans tomorrow when she got up, just to see the look on his face, she thought with some mischief.

Looking at her various clothing still scattered upon the floor, Hermione felt her body quiver when she remembered how Severus had removed her clothing before, his eyes a heated black, before she went to pick up her clothes and put them tidily away in her bags. She also picked up her hairpins that were still upon the floor, each one gleaming in the light of the stoked up fire.

Then eyeing the small table by what she felt was ‘her’ side of the bed, Hermione went back to her bags…

After that, and with a feeling of curiosity about Severus’ bathroom, she took her toiletries kit and walked out the bedroom, opening the door that Severus had indicated had the bathroom behind it. She discovered a clean yet plain bathroom, with the only obvious ornamentation being that of a mirror that was on the wall over the basin. The mirror had an intricate frame which was made up of gleaming, twisting silver snakes with tiny eyes of some black stone… all appearing to examine her watchfully in return.

The mirror looked old, and had a feminine feel to it too – perhaps it had belonged to Severus’ mother, or an older female ancestor, Hermione thought. It occurred to Hermione that so far, she had not seen any photos of Severus or any of his other family members. But then, it wasn’t as if she had had a complete tour of his home since she had arrived, she concluded.

Resolutely ignoring the glinting eyes of the snakes, Hermione peered into the mirror and blinked at her reflection before wryly bringing a hand of hers up to her lips that looked, well, much kissed. Her hair had become a mess again and her skin seemed to have a slight glow… surely she might as well have a sign upon her forehead that said she had just emerged from a man’s bed. She smiled at herself before putting her kit upon a spare spot on the floor where it would not get walked on.

Other small personal details in the bathroom took her eye – a green toothbrush of Severus’ that stood within a brown mug by the basin, a black sock that protruded from a nearby washing basket. The bath (which also had a modern shower attachment) was certainly big enough for two, Hermione thought with interest. She couldn’t resist giving the mirror a final glance, and for a moment Hermione thought she sensed ironic amusement from the snakes.

When she left the bathroom, she regarded the third closed door, wondering what was behind it. Curious despite herself, she walked towards it but stopped when she saw the door handle turn a bright green – in warning? Eyeing the door handle in surprise and feeling a little uneasy, she stepped back, thinking quite hard of how she wasn’t interested in what was behind the door at all. Why, it was probably just an ordinary closet.

The bright green colour faded, but the door handle seemed to observe Hermione in its own way.

Why on earth did things in Severus’ house – and the house itself – seem to be so alive, Hermione grumbled to herself.

She then heard footsteps and after turning her head she saw Severus walking up the stairs, a faint frown of concentration upon his face as he carried a laden tray, a wisp of steam emanating from a green teapot upon it.

“Ah. Perfectly timed,” Severus said succinctly as Hermione went to open the bedroom door so that he could carry the tray through into the bedroom without having to pause.

“Do you want me to take the tray from you?” Hermione asked as she followed him into the bedroom.

“Certainly not. You are my guest, remember, so do sit down,” Severus said repressively, resisting the urge to undo her dressing gown and kiss her wherever he felt like.

Having no choice in this instance but to obey, Hermione went and sat down in one of the chairs. Severus then advanced towards her and after stopping in front of her, lifted his hands away from the tray.

Hermione blinked and opened her mouth to say something, but when the tray remained hanging in mid air, she shut her mouth at this demonstration of wandless magic. There was a distinctly smug look on Severus’ face as he looked down at her and asked, “How would you like your tea?”

“Milk, but no sugar, thanks,” Hermione replied promptly.

Severus inclined his dark head and then prepared her tea with a minimum of fuss, but with a degree of elegance in his movements that made Hermione unable to look away from his hands with their long fingers.

“You still wish to have some cake?” Severus said dryly as he handed her the cup of steaming tea he had prepared for her.

“Yes, please,” Hermione said with a smile upon her face.

Severus gave her a sardonic glance before giving her a side plate that had a small slice of the chocolate cake already prepared for her. Then he poured his own tea, and once he had his own plate with its slice of cake as well as his tea in his hands, he silently commanded the tea tray to move to one side. He knew he was showing off, but did not care, of course. Once they were both sitting down, Severus stretched out his long legs towards the fire, enjoying its cheerful crackling.

After he had eaten a few mouthfuls of cake, Severus murmured, “Your taste in cake is commendable, Hermione.”

“Thank you,” Hermione replied, a pleased look upon her face as she went to take another bite of her cake.

Severus did not say that watching her eat the cake in a dainty way as she was doing at the moment was surely a new way of torment on her part, especially when she would pause to quickly lick an errant bit of icing from her lips.

Hermione saw Severus watching her under hooded lids when she went to have another mouthful of her cake, his hand holding his cup perhaps more firmly than was necessary. Smiling to herself, Hermione carefully took her bite. Whoops, she thought, some of the chocolate icing had somehow ended up upon her lips. That would never do. With a look of innocent concentration on her face, Hermione carefully ran her tongue over her lips to ensure she got every bit of icing.

Dear gods, Severus thought.

Whoops, Hermione thought, a bit of icing had ended up on her fingers as well. That would also never do. She lifted her hand and delicately suckled the errant fingers, thinking cheerfully that the icing was really good.

A stifled sound came from Severus.

“You, madam, are an unrepentant tease,” he said gruffly at her over his cup of tea, a visible tic at the side of his mouth.

Hermione shook her head sadly. “Here I am, just cleaning up some mess I made, and you immediately think the worst of me,” she sighed.

“I see you should have been in Slytherin instead,” Severus grumbled.

Hermione smiled.

Once they had both finished with their tea and cake, Severus lifted a hand casually and the still hovering tea tray floated obediently over to Hermione so that she could put her cup and plate upon it. The tray then floated over to Severus for him to do the same, and since he did not feel inclined to get up yet and take the tray downstairs, he silently commanded it to move back to its former place afterwards.

Hermione looked at him thoughtfully. “So, one of the doors outside here,” and here she nodded towards the bedroom door, “leads to the bathroom,” she said. “Where does the other one lead to?”

Severus looked darkly amused. “Let me see. You saw a certain door handle turn green, and wondered why.”

Hermione flushed. “I didn’t intend to be nosy,” she said quickly.

“Of course not,” Severus replied sardonically, though his mouth twitched. “It leads to my personal library, and since some of my books would have a… regrettable affect on unauthorised people if they read them, the door will only let people in if I am present.”

“Oh,” Hermione said, though Severus saw there was an interested expression on her face. Then her face cleared and she smiled at him.

“I don’t think I will be thinking about reading much while I’m here, anyway,” she said lightly. “However…” she added.

“What is it now?” Severus said drolly.

“I did like the mirror in your bathroom,” Hermione said to Severus, and he could hear the undertone of curiosity in her voice. “Can you tell me where that came from?”

“I am pleased to hear it,” Severus said dryly. “My mother brought it with her when she came to this house as a bride.”

He did not say that the mirror had been repaired more than once after his fathers rages, and his face became grim as he stared down at the fire for a moment. So many memories of his mother were tainted with that of his father…

“Do you think your mother would have approved of you bringing me here?” he then heard Hermione asking him softly.

Startled, he looked up at Hermione and saw a look of sympathy on her face as if she had sensed the darker direction his thoughts had taken him for a moment.

“No,” he said dryly, and before Hermione could take offence, he quirked an eyebrow at her. “You would have been too fiery and outspoken for her tastes, of course, and as a Gryffindor you would have been unsuitable just because of that.”

“But,” he added, “I believe she would have come around.”

Hermione had to smile at that. “So,” she said lightly to Severus, “I’m ‘fiery and outspoken’ now.”

“Since you talk back to me,” Severus said sardonically, “then yes. That goes without saying, of course.”

Hermione shook her head ruefully and then looked thoughtfully at Severus.

“I would love to see a photo of your mother, when you have the time,” she said gently.

Severus looked at her with an unreadable expression on his face, and then he nodded.


A Choice of Roads by Imhilien [Reviews - 13]

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