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A Choice of Roads by Imhilien [Reviews - 14]

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A/N: Phew, I’ve finally been able to complete a new chapter (long story). Thanks to those who reviewed the last one, I hope you will enjoy what I have written this time. Beta help kindly provided by countrymouse1. As usual, I don’t own the characters.

Chapter 29

After having made love with Severus again, Hermione was aware that she was probably making him feel somewhat squashed, lying upon him as she still was.

Her thoughts must have been visible upon her face, for the corner of Severus’ mouth twitched as she moved so that she could lie down beside him.

“If I was feeling squashed, I believe I would have mentioned it,” he murmured with a sardonic look on his face, his hand moving to gently caress her back. “As it is, I can think of worse situations to be in.”

“I suppose you would have been quite vocal anyway if I was squashing you,” Hermione agreed, smiling as she softly brushed her thumb over his lower lip.

Severus’ eyes half-closed in pleasure, and then he slipped an arm around her waist and drew her body closer to him.

“Are you suggesting that I am a vocal person?” he asked silkily, his face only inches away from hers as he studied her.

Hermione secretly thought that since his face was still a bit flushed from before, his words didn’t have quite the same impact he was obviously hoping for.

“I didn’t say that,” she pointed out. “Besides, I didn’t complain when you were vocal,” she added thoughtfully.

At that, new spots of colour appeared on his cheeks and he kissed her, hard.

“Such a Gryffindor you are, to say such things to me,” he said severely. “All this from a woman who was dreaming of me while asleep,” he added with a glint in his black eyes.

“That was all your fault,” she said peaceably, and Severus could not think of a suitable retort.

The truth be told though, he enjoyed their frequent verbal sparring like this, as there was no malice at all on Hermione’s part, and from his point of view it was important to keep Gryffindors in their place, of course. He was inwardly satisfied as well to notice how much Hermione had blossomed (for want of a better word) since they had first encountered each other at the retreat…

And what about the changes within yourself, a little voice whispered in his heart. He bristled slightly inside at that. He surely had not changed that much… he had merely seen the advantages of having a bright-eyed mate at his side with a keen mind he could challenge and enjoy. He…

At that moment Hermione chose to press a soft kiss against his neck.

He would be lost without her.

Severus went to brush his hand gently against her stomach as he had after their first time, and Hermione caught his unspoken question.

“I don’t really need healing this time,” she told him honestly. “Thank you, anyway.”

“Very well,” Severus murmured, reaching for his wand and using only a Cleaning spell for them both this time. After that he put his wand aside and moved so that he was close to his witch again.

“Having a bath later on this morning might nevertheless be wise,” he said in a gruff tone. Despite Hermione not requiring healing, a bath might nevertheless help soothe her body.

Hermione smiled. “Your bath looks big enough for two,” she mused.

“That is just as well… how else will I be satisfied that you have been well scrubbed?” he pointed out smoothly. It seemed absurd to have such a secret thrill dart through him at the thought of sharing a bath with Hermione (with the opportunity of more kisses and caresses), but he could not help himself.

“If there’s anyone who needs a good scrubbing, it’s you,” she said firmly, a martial gleam in her eyes.

“Behave,” he said severely as a hand of his moved to caress her bottom, “or there shall be no scented oils in the bath for you.”

“Ohh… yes, I’ll behave,” Hermione quickly promised.

Severus raised an eyebrow. “Now there is a falsehood if ever I heard one,” he said dryly.

After a while Hermione started drawing herself away from Severus’ arms, and he made grumbling noises.

“Nature calls,” she explained.

“Ah,” Severus acknowledged, releasing her and lying back as she sat up.

“Now, where are my underpants?” she said aloud.

“Underpants?” Severus questioned.

Hermione looked at him. “Yes, the underpants you magically whisked away from me when…”

“…you were about to have your way with me,” Severus concluded silkily.

“It wasn’t like that,” Hermione laughingly protested.

Severus looked over his side of the bed… ah yes, there they were. He sat up and summoned what he had seen to his hand.

“Here are your underpants… and I beg to differ,” he said.

“Thank you,” Hermione said as she took them from him and sat on her side of the bed to put them on. “You’re welcome to beg all you like,” she said sweetly as she reached for her pyjama top and put it on.

But when she reached for her pyjama trousers she found them magically whisked away from her and into Severus’ hands, whereupon he promptly pushed them underneath the covers, a smug look upon his sallow face.

“Give those back!” she protested.

“We were discussing begging, I believe?” Severus purred, clearly enjoying himself.

Hermione huffed at him. He was obviously expecting her to beg him for their return… well, this was a Gryffindor he was dealing with.

“You’ll be very sorry,” Hermione said in a dire tone as she got up and walked to the door.

“I shall be waiting,” Severus tauntingly called after her. No, he hadn’t admired the sight of her bare legs as she had left the bedroom, he told himself.

When Hermione returned, she saw that Severus was lying down again, his dark head tilting to observe her as she approached the bed.

“Such a Gryffindor you are, to cavort around half undressed,” Severus said.

Hermione smiled in a way that would have worried Harry and Ron as she walked around to his side of the bed, but she was quietly pleased that Severus did not look so self-conscious at having her see his scarred chest anymore.

“No thanks to you!” she scolded him as she put her hands on her hips. “Now give me my trousers back. Please.”

“I am not yet convinced of your sincerity,” he said mockingly. Gryffindors were so easy to wind up, he thought with satisfaction.

“All right,” she grumbled as she threw up her hands and sat down on the edge of the bed beside him.

Her brown gaze softened though as she considered Severus, and then she leaned forward so she could tenderly kiss his chest… Severus failing to see the mischievous look in her eyes.

“You know, it’s quite interesting seeing how different the male body is from a female one,” she said thoughtfully.

Severus’ eyes, which had started to close, snapped open.

“Indeed?” he said warily.

“Oh, yes,” Hermione said brightly as she kissed his chest again. “Until this weekend I hadn’t had the chance to see a male body up so close and personal.”

“I should hope not!” Severus growled. Amazingly, Hermione had found a new way to drive him to distraction. It had to be a record.

Hermione went on. “For example, these are quite different from mine,” she murmured as she went to kiss one of his flat male nipples.

A groan escaped Severus, but he refused to let his witch get the upper hand.

“I believe that I shall have to verify such differences for myself,” he said huskily as one of his hands searched for and caressed one of her breasts, a soft sound coming from her as he did so.

“Yes, you are correct in this instance, for these are quite different from mine,” he said wickedly. “Next.”

At that, Hermione’s hand dropped lower to where his lap was covered by the bed cover, and then she paused.

“You know, I think you’re missing your underpants,” she said in what appeared to be a tone of innocent surprise. “We can’t have you, er, cavorting around in your bed naked all the time… or is that a Slytherin thing?”

Hermione moved back from him and started looking speculatively around the room, while a facial tic appeared on Severus’ face. Why, there was no knowing what she would do with his underpants…

“And here I was, planning to prepare breakfast in bed for us both,” he said swiftly off the top of his head to divert her.

Distracted, Hermione looked at him with surprise and then pleasure on her face.

“Really?” she asked.

The sight of her pleasure warmed Severus and he found himself considering that bringing breakfast up here for them both was not such a bad idea after all. He would find a way to make her pay him back too… yes, it was an excellent idea.

“Yes. Perhaps something like scrambled eggs… to restore your strength,” he added smoothly.

“You don’t really have to do that,” Hermione said honestly. “Besides, I can always conjure up some breakfast.”

Severus snorted. “I think not. Remember that I have a perfectly adequate kitchen, and food is better trusted when you have prepared it yourself.”

Hermione looked at him with interest. “I meant to ask you… how do you personally cook your food when you prepare it yourself? How would you toast the bread if you put some with the scrambled eggs… and how do you keep food cold?”

“If you must know, I have a chained dragon in the kitchen, that is fed once a day on Gryffindors,” he said tartly, then relented. “I have a range in the kitchen that does what I require. A simple spell can toast bread when necessary. A spell of cold upon a cupboard keeps its contents chilled. Anything else?”

“Ah, so you do use magic in the kitchen,” Hermione teased him.

Severus raised an eyebrow. “Your toast can always be accidentally burnt, of course… do you want me to bring you breakfast in bed or not?

Hermione gave in. “All right, then. Thank you,” she said with a smile.

“I will go downstairs shortly and prepare it then. However,” he said severely, “you will eat each and every part of your breakfast, and there will not be a single crumb on the sheets afterwards. Is that clear?”

“Of course,” Hermione promised. “Now can I have my pyjamas back, please?”

Severus brought out her pyjama trousers with a martyred look on his face and Hermione swiftly came and took them from him.

“Thanks,” she said sweetly before putting them back on.

“I wonder what the weather will do today,” Hermione mused as she then walked over to the window.

“Rain, no doubt, unless it decides to be fine,” Severus said sardonically.

When she went to look out the window, movement on the grounds below caught her eye and then she smiled.

“It looks like Crookshanks is out hunting breakfast,” Hermione said, feeling a sense of guilty relief inside her that her cat had not sought her out last night as he usually would the first time in a strange place. It seemed a bit strange that he hadn’t, but then she knew from long experience that cats had their own agendas.

Severus watched her speculatively from the bed, his eyes hooded for a moment. He was quite pleased that her cat was outside.

“I’m sure that will keep him occupied,” he said neutrally.

“Definitely,” Hermione agreed in a more cheerful tone, looking towards the distant trees. Apart from the sound of birdsong and Crookshanks currently in stalking-prey mode outside, she was deeply appreciative of how quiet and secluded it felt being here… it would certainly be nice to go outdoors afterwards.

She went back to the bed and slipped in underneath the covers, while Severus quickly summoned his underpants. As he sat on his side of the bed to put them on, his back to her, Hermione was sad but not entirely surprised to see a faint tracery of old scars on the pale skin of his back there as well.

Severus heard Hermione sigh from behind him and then… ah… felt her warm lips gently pressed to his back, the strands of her hair brushing in an enticing way against his skin.

“I see I am to be kissed by you whenever you feel like it,” he commented, unable to keep a husky note from his voice.

“Yes,” Hermione said simply. It was bad enough that Severus had his scars, though she was glad he no longer had the Dark Mark present upon his arm. After the death of Voldemort, all Dark Marks had vanished from those who had borne them, and it was not a subject that Hermione felt inclined to bring up lightly. Sometimes it was better to let the past be…

She kissed his back again, briefly tasting his skin too.

Severus’ breath caught in his throat. “Stop that,” he said roughly, “or you shall be breakfast instead, madam.”

Hermione laughed quietly as she drew back from him, and Severus felt almost disappointed.

He retrieved his nightshirt and put it on, and then stood up and pushed his feet into his house slippers he kept by the bed. Conscious of Hermione’s interested gaze upon him, he went to his wardrobe and brought out a worn yet comfortable green dressing gown that he put on.

“I would have thought that at least your dressing gown would be black silk,” Hermione said in tones of sadness.

“It is a wonder that you achieved good marks at Hogwarts at all, if you thought so much about my clothes,” Severus said dryly, but the corner of his mouth twitched as he left the bedroom.

In good time Severus returned with a tray bearing a plate of scrambled eggs on toast for Hermione, which looked quite appetising to her. She promptly sat up.

“Thank you,” she said, smiling happily at Severus – making his heart beat a bit faster – as she accepted the tray.

“The things I do for you,” Severus murmured as he went back downstairs and brought back his tray so they could eat their first proper breakfast with each other, taking off his dressing gown before getting back into bed.

At one stage while they were both eating their breakfast, there was a brisk tap upon the window. Hermione looked up to see a white owl on the ledge outside, and for a startled instant she thought it was Hedwig, Harry’s owl, with Harry having found where she was and whose house she was at...

Then Hermione noticed that the owl was a different size than Hedwig, and that it was clutching a yellow cord that had a rolled up paper attached. She chided herself irritably for her thought, for if there had been a letter from Harry, his words surely couldn’t have hurt her anymore than his previous ones already had.

Severus casually lifted a hand and the window opened to let the owl in. The owl flew into the room and released its hold upon the cord, said cord then flying towards Severus’ outstretched hand. The owl gave a soft hoot and then flew back out of the window and off into the sky, the window shutting behind it.

Hermione peered with interest at the paper as Severus laid it, unopened, upon the bed.

“Is that the ‘Daily Prophet’?”

“Correction,” Severus replied sleekly, “that is my copy of the ‘Daily Prophet’”.

Hermione laughed. “Well, as your guest, I should be allowed to have a look at it too at some stage,” she pointed out reasonably.

“As my guest, you should be more concerned with eating the breakfast I slaved away in my kitchen to make for you… and showing more attention to me, than indulging your taste in gossip columns,” Severus said sardonically.

Hermione huffed at him before picking up her knife and fork again. “You’ll be getting ‘more attention’ all right, if you say that I like the gossip columns again,” she grumbled.

“Temper, temper,” Severus said chidingly. Then in an almost casual way, one of his hands found hers and stroked it.

“I do recall though, Hermione, that you like crosswords as well as I do,” he murmured.

Hermione relented. “Yes,” she agreed, remembering the time at the retreat when she had been doing some crosswords outside when Severus had sought her out.

“In which case,” Severus went on, “we can see afterwards how adept you are at today’s ‘Daily Prophet’ crossword.”

Hermione smiled. “Start preparing your congratulatory speech for me then… it’s just as well I brought my pen along. I suppose you’re one of those wizards who ends up with quill ink on the sheets all the time,” she added innocently.

Severus muttered something under his breath at that.

Once they had both finished their breakfast and the feeling of being full had subsided somewhat, Hermione moved her tray aside and got out of bed to fetch her pen from her bag. When she got back into bed, Severus put both of their plates onto one tray, unrolled the paper and then laid it out on the other tray.

“Anything interesting in the latest news?” Hermione asked as she briskly moved closer to Severus so that she was sitting right by him, the feel of her warm body so close to him both soothing and tantalising him.

Severus felt himself stir in anticipation and reprimanded himself. He was supposed to be doing a crossword with her, a worthy goal to put both of their minds to. Besides, wasn’t it wise to show that he wanted more from her in this time together than letting his passions run completely free? It was important not to alarm his bright witch with too many advances…

“Nothing deserving serious interest,” Severus said sardonically as he opened the paper and swiftly turned the pages until he reached the one where the crossword was.

Hermione thought she could never get tired of watching his elegant hands carrying out tasks, the long fingers giving his hands a deceptively fragile appearance at times. She had to admit that the feel of his warm body so close by hers both excited and reassured her.

She silently scolded herself – they were about to do a crossword together and that wasn’t the time to start thinking about an excuse to kiss him again. It was important to show that she was capable of having a mature, balanced relationship with Severus that was not fixated on well, making out all the time. It was important not to make her older, introverted wizard wary with constant attentions…

Hermione realised that Severus was speaking to her. “I’m sorry?” she said belatedly.

“Your pen… may I have it?” Severus said stiffly.

“Oh… yes. Yes, of course,” Hermione said hastily as she handed Severus the pen.

“Thank you,” he answered, his fingers lingering more than was strictly necessary upon hers as he took the pen from her hand.

He then coughed abruptly and bent his attention towards the crossword. “The first one… eight letters. A dragon known for its love of seclusion…”

Despite their desire to touch each other again, Severus and Hermione enjoyed doing the crossword together, matching their minds against each other as they both sought to be the first to correctly guess each new crossword clue. In the end though, it was a draw for them both.

“I was certain that I had come up with the most correct answers,” Severus asserted afterwards though, the lines on his face deepening with his frown.

“No, you hadn’t,” Hermione told him.

Severus narrowed his eyes and tapped the paper irritably with one long finger. “I am sure I was the first one to correctly guess the answer to number 10 was ‘hensbane’.”

“No, I had,” Hermione pointed out patiently.

“We should find another crossword and do this again,” Severus grumbled under his breath, but Hermione heard him.

She looked at Severus in exasperation. “You’re doing your impersonation of a thundercloud again – over just a crossword.”

“I… what?” Severus sputtered as he stared at her.

“I do not recall being called a ‘thundercloud’ before, and I should know,” he said.

There was such an unexpectedly plaintive note to his last words that Hermione laughed and put an arm around him.

“Well,” Hermione said thoughtfully, “firstly, your eyes start looking like a storm is building up behind them, and your face starts looking stormy too. That deep voice of yours starts sounding dark and rumbly….”

“Rumbly?” Severus grumbled.

“Yes,” Hermione said. “Just like that.”

Severus quickly shut his mouth.

“I’m always surprised you don’t have a little baby thunderstorm above your head, squalling and throwing down lightning bolts,” Hermione concluded severely.

His narrow shoulders shook and Hermione realised it was with silent laughter.

“Wretched Gryffindor,” Severus said pointedly, though there was a trace of mirth in his voice.

Hermione returned her attention to the paper and flicked through it, pausing when a blank photo in the sports section caught her eye. Seconds later, a muscular Quidditch player flew through it, waving and grinning at the camera before going out of view. A few seconds later he flew back the way he came, waving again.

“I see,” Severus said in a low, triumphant voice by her ear, “that your true interest in the ‘Daily Prophet’ has now been revealed. Not the gossip columns after all, but the… pin-up pages are what Hermione Granger holds most dear.”

“Yes, yes, how did you guess?” Hermione said dryly. “My room is full of pictures of muscular sports stars, all happily waving like that one… look, stop that,” she laughed as Severus went to poke her in her side.

“Clearly,” Severus said silkily, “the ‘Daily Prophet’ is full of dangerous things for the easily tempted.”

Hermione made a hmphf! noise. “You’re just saying that because there were no pictures of any perky females in the sports section today,” she told him.

“Yes, yes, my day is quite ruined,” Severus said dryly.

An article in the paper caught Hermione’s eye as she turned some pages, and she paused to skim through it. She then grimaced and said, “That’s silly.”

“What is?” Severus swiftly questioned.

Hermione tapped the paper. “There’s an article here that asks whether there’s a link between the strength of a wizard or witch and the age their magic first manifests.”

Being born of ‘ordinary’ parents, Hermione couldn’t help but see the article as a subtle way of putting down people like her. Whereas wizard families actively looked for signs of magic in their offspring, children suddenly displaying magic in non-wizard families were often initially rewarded with reactions of fear or alarm before the approach from Hogwarts.

“As if it matters whether you display magic when you’re a baby or later on,” she said crossly. “The important thing is what you do with it.”

Severus was quiet for a moment and then he said evenly, “I was made to display magic quite early in my life… the thought of a squib son being quite unacceptable to my parents, naturally.”

Hermione looked at him. “What do you mean, ‘made to’ in regards to your magic?” she asked carefully.

Severus smiled mirthlessly. “As a small boy I had a toy I was quite attached to, so at one point it was put upon a high shelf and left there. Any amount of tears I produced was ignored, and my father considered the procedure a success when I eventually summoned the toy down from the shelf.”

Hermione looked appalled. “That’s horrible… surely there could have been nicer ways to find out if you had magic.”

She didn’t know what made her feel more anguished inside – the method used, or the thought of a young, tearful Severus wondering why his toy had been taken away.

There was a sardonic look on Severus’ face. “A ‘nicer’ way could have taken more time, and my parents wished to know as soon as possible what I was.”

“Well, I still think it’s horrible,” Hermione said roundly, and then she sighed and gave Severus a gentle kiss on his cheek. “And I thought the day I first displayed magic was horrible enough,” she said regretfully.

Severus drew her closer to him. “Why was that?” he asked in a low tone, his eyes narrowing. He was aware of the backgrounds of his Slytherin students, but he would have needed a valid reason to know a detailed background of a student from another House such as Gryffindor.

“Well,” Hermione said slowly, her gaze dropping down to the tray, “I was eleven and at school when it happened. I was in the library and some boys had left with all of their books in a messy pile on their table… I remember feeling how angry I was at that. I went over to the table and then all of the books suddenly lifted up into the air. I didn’t know what was going on, but I knew that I was responsible… the librarian suddenly started gasping and then backing away from me, and the next thing I knew I was in the principal’s office and my parents were being called in.”

Severus’ face was grim as he listened. How quick Muggles were to turn on their own young when they suddenly became ‘different’… though that was a trait by no means confined to the Muggle world.

“You must have had countless questions,” he said, his dark gaze fixed unerringly upon Hermione’s face.

A rueful laugh came from Hermione. “Actually, my main thought was that if it was genuinely possible to do what I had just done, why hadn’t I read about it in a book before then? Where were those kind of books at all?”

“Your eyes would have slid right past them, or saw another book entirely,” he said, sounding to Hermione then like the professor he was.

“I know that now,” she said soberly. The memories didn’t hurt as much as they used to, but they could still sting her at times. “When my upset parents arrived they had a letter from Hogwarts with them, and the next thing I knew all of my school things were gathered for me, and it was said that it would be ‘for the best’ if I went home straight away. They didn’t say the word ‘expelled’, but they might as well have.”

“The school didn’t consider how it would look to others if an apparently blameless student – I do not doubt that you were – was suddenly sent away?” he said scathingly.

Hermione shrugged. “They were probably worried I would cause a ‘disturbance’ in my next class and didn’t want any unpleasantness. So there I was at home in the middle of my school year, with a lot of time on my hands before I started my first new year at Hogwarts… suddenly much of what I had learnt was useless to me now, and I had to start over and catch up.”

“Your parents did not mind that you were going to a new school they had not even heard of before?” Severus asked.

“I think they were glad I was going to a place where my abilities could be ‘dealt with’, before I destroyed the kitchen or something like that,” she said simply. “I suppose I would have felt the same in their shoes. I could only tell my friends that my parents had suddenly decided to send me to another school, but a story went around that I had really been caught doing ‘something bad’, and, well...”

She shrugged again, leaving her sentence unsaid. At that, Severus touched her face so that he could turn it up to his and kiss her, to kiss away the old pain he had heard in her voice. Hermione responded and wrapped an arm around his shoulders to hold him close as she kissed him back, their kisses both tender and needful. Their positions were slightly awkward since they were attempting to press more intimately against each other while they were sitting together in bed, but it did not matter as they held each other.

Hermione thought that if they ever married… if they ever had a child one day… it would have an easier time of finding out whether he or she had magic or not.

Severus thought how tempting it would be to ensure that Hermione’s former school suddenly had, oh, a rain of toads. Hungry toads.

Something was quietly niggling though at the back of Severus’ brain and he gently ceased their kisses.

“Hermione,” he asked, his eyes narrowing slightly and his mind working fast, “you said you were eleven when you first manifested your magic.”

Hermione nodded. “Yes”, she said ruefully, “it happened in March, and even though I had turned eleven the previous September and was ‘of age’ to attend Hogwarts, I had to wait until the new school year started later that year. So as well as my magic arriving later than most students, I was one of the oldest in my first year, which didn’t help me either.”

Surprise, even sympathy and a sense of treacherous relief spread throughout Severus… Hermione was indeed older than her peers as he had sometimes suspected. But when she had been at her last year at Hogwarts, and he had been wrestling with his self-disgust at his feelings for her, the very thought of finding out, magically or otherwise, if he was right had been abhorrent to him.

“So you will be nineteen in a few months,” he said slowly.

“I’m afraid so,” Hermione said, smiling slightly.

“I will have to remember that,” Severus murmured as he went to kiss her again.

When they had parted, Severus said dryly, “Now, madam, I shall leave you to your pin-ups while I go and take the trays downstairs. And before you ask, I have a small pump in the kitchen for water, which I magically heat when necessary.”

“You took the words right out of my mouth,” Hermione assured him. “But what about soap for washing dishes?”

“Now you are being far too inquisitive,” Severus said tartly, and Hermione smiled.

When Severus put his dressing gown back on and went down to the kitchen, he realised just how satisfied he was at having Hermione to himself this weekend, her curious nature and all. Well, as much of the weekend he could coax – or persuade – her to spend with him. He was virtually on the threshold of gaining the DADA job, but the reminding thought that Hermione would not be based at Hogwarts anymore, sent an odd pang to his heart.

Fool, he thought irritably. Now that she was no longer a student, she was now at liberty to have a relationship with him. Also, Hermione would certainly be paying him a visit in the next week once he had returned to Hogwarts… he would ensure it.

He did not feel it would be… wise, though, to visit Hermione while she was at her parents until she had moved into her own flat. He had no doubt that Hermione would be carefully breaking the news to her parents when she returned to her home that she was seeing an older wizard, rather than a wizard her own age they would have expected. Such as Potter, or Weasley. His lips curled at that thought.

Yes, encountering the parents at this stage could very well have unfortunate repercussions, and Severus gave a mirthless smile to himself. If he was Hermione’s father, how would he initially react on seeing the wizard his daughter loved with anything but alarm – the fact that his Animagus form was a crow was surely an accurate and damning summary of himself, beaky nose and all. It would surely have to take all of his skills of persuasion to convince Hermione’s parents that he was not a cradle-snatcher, or someone with a dangerous hold over her like the Boy-Who-Irritated clearly thought.

If anything, then surely his current thoughts of what Hermione’s parents would think of his appearance proved how much he had fallen for Hermione. The truth be told, at times the only reason he had been concerned with his appearance was whether it would sufficiently frighten students into next week if they had failed to do their homework. He could have altered his looks years ago with glamours or Enhancement charms, but he had been grimly determined that if this was the face fate had given him, then people would just have to look at him the way he was. It was still a source of quiet amazement to him that Hermione never had second thoughts about kissing him if she wanted to…

When he returned to the bedroom, he came around to Hermione’s side of the bed.

“Would you object if I were to run us both a bath now?” Severus said a trace stiffly, his dark eyes intent as they looked down at her.

“No. I mean yes, that would be a good idea,” Hermione said hastily, and saw his shoulders relax at her words.

“Then perhaps afterwards, would you care to be shown the rest of my home… the grounds too?” he went on in a low voice. Hermione had the feeling she had just been offered something precious in hearing that question, that they were words the private wizard beside her rarely said.

“Yes, that would be lovely,” she said honestly, and there was a pleased look in Severus’ eyes as he inclined his head.

Severus then went to the wardrobe, where he took out a pair of black trousers and a white shirt in readiness for later.

“You may have noticed there are hooks behind the bathroom door where you may hang your clothes for wearing today,” he told her gruffly.

“Thanks,” Hermione said. “Now, what shall I wear today?” she mused as she went to her bags. “Well, it’s just as well I brought along those tops with the plunging necklines,” she added innocently.

Severus made a choked noise. “Plunging necklines?” he said suspiciously.

“You like those, do you?” Hermione replied. Severus was so easy to wind up at times, she thought merrily.

“Right,” Severus said ominously, “I shall see for myself.” He put his clothes down on the bed and then swept over to where she was kneeling by an open bag, kneeling down beside her in turn.

“I didn’t say you could look through my things,” Hermione said scoldingly.

“No, I did,” Severus said sardonically. “Since I have given you the privilege of allowing you to be here under my roof, I am entitled to know what else you have brought underneath it… besides cuddly nightwear.”

Severus put his hand in her bag and brought out what appeared to be a small cloth kit of some kind that had various soft bulges. He puzzled over it for a moment before Hermione swiftly took it back from him, her face red.

“That’s where I keep my clean underwear, and other things,” Hermione said quickly.

Comprehension came to Severus’ face.

“Other things… ah. Such as spare bras?” he questioned as he reached out a curious hand again for the kit.

Hermione batted his hand away. “No,” she scolded, nearly laughing when she saw Severus’ face briefly looking like that of a boy who had just been denied the chance to have some sweets.

She did take the opportunity though to bring out a clean pair of underpants and a pair of socks from the kit.

“No!” she scolded again when Severus made a sound of male interest and darted out his hand in an attempt to take the underpants from her.

“They won’t fit you at all,” she told him.

“Impertinent witch,” Severus grumbled, but watched as Hermione then brought out her bag a red top (which did not quite have the plunging neckline he was half hoping for) and a pair of...”

“You are wearing those?” he questioned.

“Yes, I’m going to wear some jeans,” Hermione said calmly.

“I would like to see you attempt to put those on… they appear quite tight,” Severus said severely, a facial tic appearing on the side of his mouth.

“They aren’t that tight,” Hermione told him seriously, though her eyes sparkled. “I do have a spare black robe though I can wear…”

“I said nothing at all about wearing something else,” Severus quickly replied.

“Look,” Hermione said reasonably, “if you can wear trousers, then there’s nothing wrong with me wearing trousers as well.”

“Your trousers are quite different,” Severus said, putting a sharp emphasis on every word he had pronounced, with Hermione almost hearing the capital letters.

Hermione went and kissed his cheek. “I do like it when you are just dressed in your frock coat and trousers, you know,” she confessed.

“There is no need to change the subject,” he said severely, but Hermione could tell that he was pleased.

“But if you cannot put on those trousers without assistance, you will not be wearing them at all,” he said sternly.

“What, and be accused again of cavorting around half-naked?” Hermione replied, laughing when Severus seized her arms and promptly kissed her.

After eventually getting up, they both gathered their clothes and went into the bathroom, Hermione hanging the clothes up behind the door while Severus went to run the bath. Since the bath would take a little while to fill up, Hermione then went back to the bedroom, tidying away and straightening things where necessary. She fetched her hair pins as well, so there would be no chance of her hair getting wet in the bath.

Hermione looked at the rumpled, inviting bed with its sheets having been pulled back in a haphazard way, smiling before she used her wand to restore the bed to neatness. While she usually frowned at using spells to make beds, on this occasion she didn’t think she could have made the bed herself without blushing, given the circumstances.

“Making my bed so soon… you have no thoughts then of enticing me back to it at some stage today?” Severus murmured from behind her, and she turned to see his nightshirt-clad self in the doorway, watching her.

Colour did come to her cheeks then, but she rallied.

“Well, we could be somewhere else in your house when I want to…”

“Yes?” Severus said encouragingly, a wicked look in his eyes.

“Hold hands,” Hermione said sweetly.

“I see,’’ Severus said, the corner of his thin mouth twitching. “I trust you will make it quite clear when you feel an urge towards… hand holding,” he said smoothly. “And if I find I wish to hold your hands in turn?”

“I’m sure you will make your intentions quite clear,” Hermione said lightly.

His mouth quirked at her. “Indeed. Now I believe a bath awaits, though I will not expect any hand holding while we are in it… come along, madam.”

Hermione followed him back to the bathroom, putting her hair pins near the sink and unable to get the sudden images of Severus making ardent love to her in a bath out of her mind… surely such an endeavour would be a trifle awkward with water splashing everywhere, she thought, smiling to herself.

The bath was full now, with a pleasant, exotic smell rising from the slightly steaming water.

“Mmm, that smells nice,” she said appreciatively.

“Thank you… I did not think it wise to put a flowery scent in,” Severus said ironically.

Hermione laughed. “Oh, I don’t know… I think you would smell lovely if you had put lavender in there,” she teased him.

Severus looked down his nose at her. “For the sake of your continued health, I will forget those words ever passed your lips,” he said dryly.

Then an oddly intent look appeared upon his sallow face as he continued to look at her, a hand of his motioning towards the buttons of her pyjama top.

Feeling a measure of shyness return to her – which was silly, Hermione thought to herself, since he had already seen her undressed in the most intimate way – she slowly took off her pyjamas and turned to hang them up upon a hook.

“Your hair… let me…” Severus said in a low voice, suddenly there behind her, so close she could feel his warm breath upon her neck. If she leaned back she would surely be able to feel him against her back...

Hermione felt a hand of his lightly brush against her bare hip, then stroke her back in a teasing, upwards motion before his hand was touching her hair. Severus ran his long fingers gently through her curls for a moment before she felt her hair gathered up onto her head, first one and then the next hair pin placed into her hair where it would be the most effective.

“Thank you,” Hermione whispered when he had finished.

With her back still to him, Hermione went and took off her underpants and put them aside, hearing Severus’ breath catch in his throat before resuming its rhythm. She turned and saw Severus looking at her for a long, heated moment before he jerkily waved towards the bath. She felt compelled to wink at him and did so, smiling to herself when his black eyes widened for a moment.

Getting into a bath in Severus’ presence was hard to do gracefully, Hermione thought, but was pleased to get into it with a minimum of fuss and splashed water. The water felt lovely and she made an appreciative sound as she stretched her legs out. The bath itself seemed a bit bigger now that she was in it, but she was not inclined to complain as she turned to look at Severus enquiringly.

She saw that his thin body looked slightly tense now… perhaps, Hermione thought, sharing a bath with someone else was something that Severus had rarely done, and was a bit wary about doing so even with her, despite having indicated his willingness. She smiled and held out a hand invitingly to him.

Severus had not moved to take his nightshirt off, but now with her hand out to him, he undertook to do so swiftly, stalking over to a spare hook to hang the nightshirt up before taking off his underpants. He turned back to her, his body pale and thin but still undoubtedly male and wonderful to her sight.

As Hermione watched, she saw his body start to stir and swell in response to her gaze. Severus muttered something under his breath, his sallow face flushed, glowering down at the part in question until it subsided with an air of dejection, or so it seemed to Hermione.

Hermione couldn’t help but see the amusing side. “I’m sure we will make it up to ah, it, later,” she offered.

The corner of Severus’ mouth twitched as he approached the bath. “It?” his deep voice questioned sardonically.

Hermione flushed in turn, and then there was an impish look in her eyes. “Little Severus?” she offered delicately.

Despite being naked, Severus drew himself up and looked down at her with all the hauteur he had as the Head of Slytherin. “Little?” he grumbled. “I think not, madam. ‘Little Severus’, indeed…”

He was still grumbling to himself as he motioned Hermione to move forward, before stepping into the bath and carefully sitting so that he was behind her, stretching out his long legs so that they brushed against her smaller ones.

“I didn’t mean it as an insult,” Hermione said earnestly as he wrapped an arm around her and pulled her closely against him.

“Hmph… do not think you can escape chastisement so easily with those words,” he said severely by her ear, his mouth moving to lightly nip her neck and then kissing where he had done so. Although he had decided she would be free from his attentions while having this bath, he was incapable of completely restraining himself while she was so close to him in this way.

Hermione hummed and then gently stroked the arm of his that was clasping her. “I swear that I do not see you as little, in any way, shape or form,” she said solemnly. “On my honour as a Gryffindor.”

“I should hope not,” Severus said sternly, but he was already relenting. He was still not entirely sure if the decision to have a bath together was a wise one or madness itself... she was warm, soft and lovely to all of his senses.

After reaching for the soap, Severus began gently washing her stomach area.

“That’s a bit ticklish,” Hermione told him as a laugh escaped her, her body squirming slightly against his.

“Stop that wriggling… all I am doing is washing you with soap,” Severus said sardonically, as he encouraged her to lift one of her legs slightly so that he could apply said soap there. “One can only conclude that you are making mischief again...”

Hermione spluttered indignantly at this.

“…or that you have very sensitive skin. Hmm…”

“You’re dreadful,” Hermione protested.

“Language, Hermione. Do remember too that I am currently the bearer of the soap,” he said silkily.

“For now,” Hermione was quick to tell him.

“Ah, but there are still areas to wash,” he murmured as he brought the soap up to one of her breasts, smiling to himself as he heard her catch her breath for a moment.

“You’re having too much fun again… oh,” Hermione sighed, closing her eyes in pleasure as she felt a wet cloth replace the soap for washing the soap suds away, keenly aware of his body against hers. Severus continued to wash her, his hands meticulous yet gentle as he learnt the aspects of her womanly body again, his breathing warm against her neck.

“My turn,” Hermione said firmly when he had finished as she went to take the soap from Severus.

“So eager,” she heard him say sardonically from behind her, but she felt a betraying quiver in his body against hers.

“Well, if you’ve had fun washing me, it’s only fair that I have some enjoyment in washing you,” she told him lightly.

“Please clarify what your idea of ‘enjoyment’ is, Hermione,” he asked with a hint of suspicion in his voice.

Hermione only hummed innocently as she reached for one of his arms and began applying the soap to it.

“That was not an answer,” he grumbled by her neck before kissing it.

“Look, I don’t know what you’re so worried about,” Hermione said reasonably, but with a hint of laughter in her voice. “You have nothing to fear from the soap, I promise you.”

“I will be remembering those words, and quoting them back to you if necessary,” Severus informed her darkly.

Hermione smiled to herself as she continued to wash his arm, noting with interest the hard muscles of his upper arm and giving them a wash as well.

Severus had fallen silent, but she could hear the occasional catch in his breathing as she washed an area that appeared to be extra sensitive, noting the location of such areas for later. She hummed again under her breath and then she felt a hand of Severus’ lazily stroke one of her thighs.

“What are you doing?” Hermione enquired suspiciously as she reached for his other arm to wash.

“Nothing at all… my hand merely needed a place to rest,” Severus said silkily.

“If you say so.”

“I do say so.”

When Hermione went to wash one of his long legs though, Severus promptly moved his hand up to her stomach, caressing it softly.

“That’s not exactly a resting place, you know,” she told him firmly, though her voice came out sounded breathy instead, to her chagrin.

“It is now,” Severus drawled, before kissing her neck again.

When Hermione went to wash his other leg, Severus’ hand caressed her torso wherever he seemed to feel like it, almost moving up to her breasts at one point but not quite, then also down below her stomach… but not completely.

Hermione could not help a whimper escape her at this kind of torture.

“How unfortunate that your skin is so sensitive,” Severus murmured with regret. “Still, if you cannot help it…”

“You… you…” Hermione said indignantly.

“Yes?” Severus purred, greatly enjoying himself.

“You’ll be getting soap where you’ve never had it before, if you don’t behave,” she informed him.

“Are you threatening me, the Head of Slytherin, in my own bath?” he asked sardonically.

“That does it!” Hermione said decisively, and after drawing her legs up towards her, and then scooting forward a bit, she managed to turn around so that she was facing Severus, moving so that she was kneeling before him.

Her gaze took in several details as she looked at Severus, the colour that came and went in his sallow face… some of his black hair hanging limply from the baths heat… the almost lustrous darkness of his eyes as he looked unblinkingly back at her… his hand that reached up to promptly pull her closer to him.

“What then, exactly, are you planning to do if I don’t behave?” he asked her in a low and almost playful tone.

“I…. I’m… Look, I’m trying to continue washing you, you know,” Hermione said in an attempt at sternness.

“Well, then, do continue, my dear,” Severus murmured as he went to kiss her mouth fervently, unable to resist lovingly stroking her breasts as well that were there before him like the sweetest of fruits.

Hermione did her best to maintain her composure between his kisses. “You’re being…


“…very distracting!”

“Surely you are capable of doing two things at once… did I once overhear teachers call you ‘the brightest witch of your age’ for nothing, then?” Severus said silkily.

Hermione couldn’t help but laugh. “Yes, but it depends…. oh… what those two things are,” she managed to point out.

Severus kissed her again. “Also, how am I expected to behave when I have a water nymph in my bath?” he said severely. “I am not capable of total restraint in these circumstances...”

“Well, you could wait until I’ve finished washing you,” Hermione laughingly protested.

Severus paused and appeared to consider her words. “No,” he then said simply and went to kiss her again.

He did cease caressing her though, and Hermione found herself able to continue washing him between kisses. She gently washed his chest, taking care with some of the nastier scars, and was rewarded from time to time with soft hisses of pleasure from Severus. Attempting to wash the more… sensitive parts of his anatomy wasn’t the best idea, Hermione thought ruefully, when Severus nearly rose half up out of the bath with a gasp and much splashing of water on them both as a result. Yes, she should have given him more warning, Hermione promised afterwards, in response to his grumblings and nips of her neck.

When they had finished with their bath, Severus summoned a bath towel and gave it to Hermione once she had got out of the bath and stood on the waiting floor mat.

“Thank you,” Hermione said gratefully as she wrapped the towel around her body and began briskly drying herself, and Severus’ heart softened towards her again.

“I am sure that is not the correct way to dry yourself,” he said severely as he rose up from the bath and stepped on to the floor mat beside Hermione, water still dripping from them both.

“Well, what would you call the correct way, then?” Hermione said pertly to him, her brown eyes dancing. “I hate to think I’ve been doing it wrong all these years.”

“Impertinent witch,” Severus murmured as he touched the towel and began drying her with gentle sensuality, unaware of the soft look in his eyes as he did so.

Once he had finished, Hermione took the towel and began drying his thin body gently in return, Severus’ gaze darting at times from her face to where she was drying him, his breathing often sounding irregular to her ears. When she made a motion to dry the last part of him that needed attention, Severus gave her such a dark, suspicious look that a giggle escaped unexpectedly from her. He raised his eyebrows at that, but the corner of his mouth twitched as she carefully patted him dry.

Severus emptied the bath and then they both got dressed after that, both of them sneaking looks at each other in the process when they were sure the other wasn’t looking. There was a bit of travel from the bathroom to the bedroom for them both as they both did their toiletries and prepared themselves for the day, both taking a bit more care than they usually would have (though both would have quickly denied it).

Once they were both finished, Hermione looked at Severus with approval… he looked imposing in his black frock coat and trousers with hardly a wrinkle to be seen in either, the hints of his shirt at his neck and wrists gleaming white to her gaze. His face looked scrubbed and his hair hung in gleaming black curtains on either side of his sardonic face, and Hermione was fascinated anew with him.

“Do I meet your requirements?” Severus inquired as he drank in the sight of Hermione before him. She looked lovely to his gaze in her red top and those trousers of hers which surely showed off too well the delightful curves of her body. Her mass of brown hair radiated in a semi-orderly fashion from her smiling face, and Severus was beguiled anew with her.

“Yes,” Hermione agreed as she took his offered arm. “Do I?” she asked.

“Vain Gryffindor.”

The echoes of her laughter hung in the air after they both left the room.


A Choice of Roads by Imhilien [Reviews - 14]

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