A/N: This story was written for the recent sshg_promptfest on livejournal and was a gift for sixpence_jones and kindly beta-read by atsuki_hime.
The prompt was: Hogwarts Castle, semi-sentient building that it is, has decided that our favourite pair would be perfect for each other. What happens when an ancient castle meddles in the affairs of these most stubborn of people?
Disclaimer: I don't own anything from the Harry Potter world, JK Rowling does. No copyright infringement is intended, I am only borrowing these characters.
He should have died.
But a passing Medi-witch finds him and he is brought back from the very brink of death to life unwilling. There is little peace… even in his restless sleep at St. Mungo's he hears the wordless urging of Hogwarts itself, asking for its Headmaster, Severus Snape, to return.
After the war, Hermione was tired and sad about those who had perished. She had felt relieved though that Professor Snape, who had really been on Dumbledore's side, had been found barely alive and rescued. He was slowly recuperating at St. Mungo's and was even being called 'The Secret Hero' now, thanks to Harry telling everyone about the difficult, heroic work he had done for the Light.
It was doubtful at this stage if he would return to Hogwarts as the Headmaster, so Professor McGonagall was the Headmistress for now.
Hermione had gone with Harry once to visit Snape at St. Mungo's but he had been asleep, bandages at his throat and his skin as pale as milk. A lump had been in her throat as she silently urged him to recover. He deserved a better life now.
Hermione was hopeful that her life would certainly get better. Perhaps she had been too hopeful.
With Ron accompanying her, Hermione travelled to Australia to restore her parent's memories of herself, which was successful. However, when her parents realised how much upheaval there had been to both their minds and lives (no matter how necessary it had been), forgiveness had been slow in coming.
"How could you learn to do such a thing to us at your school?" her father had asked her quietly, with a touch of fear in his voice and eyes as he looked at both her and Ron.
Her mother had had the same fear in her eyes as well. Hermione had felt utterly wretched and with the help of Ron had tried her best to mend the breach, but had only partly succeeded.
"We need some time — time to deal with it all. Don't you see?" her mother had said anxiously.
Besides, her parents had made a new life for themselves in Sydney and had no wish to head back to the colder climes of the UK. With a heavy heart, Hermione left Australia with Ron, knowing it would be a while before she returned.
Ron, who had gotten quite sunburned in the Australian sun before he thought to put a sun-protection charm on himself, was glad to return home.
"There was too much blue sky!" Ron had muttered to Hermione. "And what was going on with the sunlight? It was too bright."
When Hermione visited Hogwarts and saw various witches and wizards working to restore the damaged castle to its former self, it was only natural for her to stay and help. Besides, it gave her something to focus her mind on, which she needed. Harry pitched in to help too, as well as Ron.
Makeshift quarters were established in the castle where it was least damaged, with people organised into shifts around the clock to do what was necessary. The tower that had housed the Gryffindor students had sustained a lot of damage, and Hermione couldn't stop tears coming to her eyes when she saw the many scorched bricks, the ceilings of the bedrooms open to the cloudy sky.
A few tears fell upon the floor, to be absorbed by the ancient castle.
Hermione had enjoyed her schooling at Hogwarts — however chaotic it had been sometimes — and couldn't wait until her final year there, she confided happily to Ron.
"What do you mean, you want to go back to Hogwarts?" Ron said to Hermione, baffled.
"I want to go back for my final year, now that I won't be distracted by dark wizards. Or camping," Hermione said with a trace of irritation in her voice.
"But what's the point?" Ron continued patiently. "You're with me now. I've just signed up with the Chudley Cannons and besides, mum likes it when you visit."
Hermione silently winced. Only someone with a heart of stone could have ignored the grief of the Weasley family, especially that of Molly, as they dealt with George's death. However, every time she and Ron visited his family, there would always be one or two copies of Witch Weddings lying on tables where Hermione could see them. Bill and Fleur's wedding would somehow be discussed yet again, with hints made of how nice the 'next Weasley wedding' would be.
It didn't need to be said that a new Weasley generation was expected by Molly, but Hermione loved Ron — she knew she did — but she wasn't ready to be his wife and a mother just yet.
"I like your mum, I think she's nice. But I'm still going back to Hogwarts," Hermione said steadily. "Please understand, Ron."
Ron's mouth was set into a stubborn line. "You like your flaming books more than me. You always did," he said curtly.
Further discussions on the subject became arguments. Arguments turned into a row where things were said that couldn't be unsaid.
Ron stormed away from Hogwarts, leaving a white-faced Hermione behind. A Howler from Molly was delivered to Hermione the next day, but she wasted no time in blasting the missive to ash as soon as Molly's outraged voice came from it.
After that, Hermione spent quite some time in the library helping to repair the damage — when the Death Eaters had been in the castle, some of them had taken nasty pleasure in blasting indiscriminately at books and furniture during the chaos.
Irma Pince, the Librarian, was rarely friendly towards the students. She viewed them as mostly undisciplined rabble who would leave dirty finger marks on the books at the slightest opportunity. However, she noticed those who were studious and respectful in the library, such as Hermione.
This did not mean, of course, that Hermione received any special attention or privileges. Perhaps a slight thawing of her frosty manner when Hermione requested permission to take out books, but that was all.
But when Irma found Hermione trying to repair a scorched looking book, Irma unbent towards the Gryffindor and invited her into the back office where she could carry on with the repairs.
Hermione had been surprised and pleased at the invitation, with a tentative friendship starting between them from that point onwards.
Once Hogwarts was rebuilt, with an ancient-yet-brand-new feel about it, Hermione noticed that there were areas where the castle itself had taken an active interest in rebuilding. Or rather, remodelling. She was currently standing in a corridor full of evenly spaced windows that Headmistress McGonagall herself had planned, to let in as much of the Scottish sunlight as possible.
Only now those same windows had been replaced with stained glass versions, depicting scenes from the war and of life at Hogwarts. Sunlight shining through the rich hues of the glass made colourful patterns on the stone floor.
Hermione had found her gaze drawn to a window with three figures in Gryffindor attire — the faces only had the vaguest of features, but the hair colours made it quite clear that it was Harry, Ron and herself.
My hair really isn't that bushy, surely… Hermione thought with chagrin. She also felt uncomfortable about the very existence of this window — all right, so she was a Gryffindor and supposed to be comfortable with the glory of being a War Heroine. But she would have never expected — or asked - to feature in her own stained glass window!
To dispel her awkwardness, she turned to look at the next window and her breath caught at the sight of it. The window showed a snowy landscape at night, empty but for a solitary figure in black robes, carrying a sword whose hilt glinted red. It was Severus Snape carrying the Sword of Gryffindor — a reminder that courage and bravery were found in other houses besides Gryffindor.
What can be said about Hermione's final year of schooling at Hogwarts was that she did well, which was perhaps no surprise. At the end of the year, two things happened that did surprise Hermione. Firstly, she was offered the job of Library Assistant by Irma Pince.
Secondly, a well-recuperated Professor Snape would finally be returning as Headmaster.
Hermione was happy to accept the position — she loved being surrounded by books and working in a library such as the one at Hogwarts would be her idea of heaven. Why, there were even books she hadn't read yet (as well as unrestricted access to the Restricted Section). Irma occupied a suite of rooms that was reached through the back of the library office and there was a room set aside for an assistant.
Her relationship with her parents was still awkward, but they had been pleased for her on hearing the news.
Hermione thought it interesting that when Professor Snape returned, they would both be staff members rather than teacher and student respectively. The thought that he would be unable to scowl and dock points from her made Hermione smile. Yes, she was glad those days were over!
"We're putting on a special morning tea this Friday," Professor McGonagall said briskly to Hermione at one point, a look of approval on her face. "We have several things to celebrate — your new position as Library Assistant, the arrival of David Westmere as our new Charms professor, and the return of Severus as Headmaster."
"Thank you," Hermione said, feeling pleased and wondering what this David Westmere would be like. Since she and Ron had broken up, she had only dated a little, but her heart had not been in it. The last she had heard of Ron, he was working his way through female Quidditch players, while Harry had become engaged to Luna Lovegood.
The thought of sitting next to Severus Snape at the staff table, both of them drinking tea, certainly sounded surreal to Hermione. If he arrived before her, she could always ensure she sat on the other side of the table if she felt like it, she decided.
Minerva was privately relieved that she would be the Deputy Headmistress from now on. She had done her best as Headmistress, but during this last year she had known that Hogwarts itself still considered Severus to be its proper Headmaster. She still felt a trace of guilt that she had believed him to be the vilest of traitors, even though she had apologised to the recovering Severus at St Mungo's.
At times she had even heard on a deep level the mental calls of the castle towards the Slytherin, asking him to return. Since Severus had been the Headmaster and therefore still had a link to the ancient castle, it would be near-impossible for him not to hear them.
However, Severus had more than his share of stubbornness and had stayed away. Finally, Minerva had visited him at his home in Spinners End, and after much discussion had persuaded him to return to Hogwarts as Headmaster.
"It's a new era, Severus," she had said to the stony-faced wizard. "Think of it — you can be the Headmaster that Hogwarts needs without being at the beck and call of two masters."
Severus' sallow face had twitched at that, and Minerva knew she had hit home.
"I am surprised, though," Severus commented with a glint in his black eyes, "that you are willing to step down from a role of such power."
Minerva had grimaced. "Hogwarts itself wants you back. It did accept me, but only reluctantly. Have you not been hearing it call to you? I've fought many things, but I cannot fight the castle."
Severus was quiet at first, then said reluctantly, "I… have heard it call to me. But I thought it would pass in time."
Minerva sighed. "Stubborn, the pair of you."
At the Friday morning tea, Hermione felt a bit awkward at first sitting at the long staff table with the other staff members, but was soon made to feel welcome. The table itself was a bit worn and had obviously witnessed many staff meetings, but it had the scent of beeswax and her seat was fairly comfortable. The place at the head of the table was empty as Headmaster Snape had yet to arrive.
"Of course yeh would be working in the library," Hagrid said loudly and cheerfully to her. "Cleverest witch around, you be."
"Cleverest witch? Sounds like a tale or two there," the new Charms professor said to Hermione with a smile. She was certainly pleased they had both ended up sitting together. David was pleasant looking with fair, wavy hair and bright blue eyes. Other female staff members had noticed this as well, being keen to engage him in conversation.
"Well, um-" Hermione began, but then paused when she saw that Severus Snape was standing in the doorway.
She felt a strangle tingle inside at the sight of him that startled her. His sharp black eyes had a new intensity to them and his sallow face looked healthier as well… but there was a white streak in his black hair and his mouth looked as unsmiling as ever. Unsurprisingly, he was dressed in the same floor length black robes that made him blend well into the shadows.
"Welcome back, Headmaster," Minerva said with brisk kindness as she rose and approached the Slytherin. That was the cue for the rest of the staff to stand and add their greetings - many of them were sincere (such as Hagrid's), but some of them sounded a bit uneasy. The Daily Prophet had emphasised how 'brave and self-sacrificing' Snape had been, but he still looked as if he would wither you with a cold glare if you mentioned those actual words to him. Hermione guessed that he would be particularly nasty to someone if they were to ask him for a closer look at the jagged scar peeking out of his high collar.
"Let me introduce the new staff members to you, Headmaster," Minerva said firmly. "David Westmere is our new Charms professor…"
"Hello, Headmaster," David said politely.
"…and Hermione Granger is our new Library Assistant."
"Hello, Headmaster," Hermione said in her turn, putting a polite smile on her face as she looked at Snape.
"Welcome to Hogwarts, both of you," he said formally, his deep voice sounding to Hermione just as she remembered it, made up of equal parts of silk and ice. "Hogwarts will always look after those who reside here."
However, Hermione had noticed Snape's black eyes narrowing ever so slightly when he looked at her.
Clearly, he disapproved of Hermione being here as a staff member.
Nevertheless, she and David both said thank you and there were smiles from many of the staff.
Once everyone had sat down, plates of delicious food filled the table and soon the sounds of conversation and the clink of china filled the air.
It took much of Severus' self-control not to keep looking down the table at Hermione Granger. She was dressed in deep red robes that were neither too revealing or prudish, while that wild brown hair of hers was coiled neatly on her head… though a few tendrils of hair had escaped and brushed against the creamy skin of her neck.
Hermione did her best not to steal glances at Snape and told herself that she was merely interested and pleased that he was going to make a new life for himself at Hogwarts.
Hermione couldn't put a finger on when it started, but whenever she was near one of Hogwarts many living portraits, she felt as if she was being closely — but benevolently — observed for some purpose. She even felt this way when the portraits weren't directly looking her way, which argued for some paranoia on her part. And yet the feeling persisted. She didn't know what was going on, but it was odd.
One day when Hermione had exited the library, suddenly Peeves appeared, swooping around above her head and gleefully singing,
A Slytherin and a Gryffindor in a tree
First comes whoopee
Then comes marriage
Then comes triplets in the baby's carriage!
What was Peeves on about, Hermione thought crossly. She had no intention of kissing any Slytherins. What about Snape? her subconscious whispered, and she found herself flushing. There was no place for her at the head table in the Great Hall, so she did not get to hear the Headmaster speak at the podium. But in the library she had already started overhearing the whispers and occasional giggles of the first years, who thought that the war hero Headmaster was stern yet dramatic in his black robes, his mesmerising voice making them all sigh.
A few days later, Hermione was walking back from the staff room when she saw Snape approaching her, his face looking tight.
"It's Ms, actually," Hermione said briskly. "I think I can stop being called a Miss."
There was a pause.
"Ms Granger," Snape said, his voice sounding oddly flustered for a moment, "Would you come with me… if you would not mind?"
"Yes, sir," Hermione said politely. She would stay professional, she told herself firmly. Once again, she felt a tingle inside at being in his company, but it could just be indigestion. That she could deal with.
Severus, he thought, wanting for one absurd moment for Hermione to call him by his name - to smile at him because she genuinely wanted to.
He quashed such silly thoughts. There was a sensible reason he had sought her out and he led her quickly through the castle.
On the way, whenever they had to pass a living portrait, Hermione felt as if its inhabitants were noting that they had walked by. The pictures were probably feeling a bit bored if they were doing something like that, she told herself firmly.
Once they reached the Stained Glass Corridor, the Headmaster folded his arms in front of him as he stared down at her.
"What do you know about these windows, Ms Granger?" he asked her abruptly.
Hermione felt a bit awkward, but said, "Well, sir, when Hogwarts was rebuilt, this corridor only had plain windows. But then almost overnight, these stained glass ones appeared in their place. Everyone denied having anything to do with it and said that Hogwarts itself must have done it."
"Hogwarts… itself," the Headmaster echoed, studying her closely. "So… the presence of this window has nothing to do with you," he said, indicating the window that contained her, Harry and Ron in it.
"Definitely not," she said stiffly, though her voice faded as she looked more closely at the figure of herself in the window. If she had to walk through this corridor, she walked quickly past this window, but there was something a bit different about it now.
Instead of looking towards Harry and Ron, the window-Hermione had turned her head as if to look at the window next to it - the one that contained Snape carrying the Sword of Gryffindor. Why?
Seeing Hermione's face become uneasy, Severus felt a pang of remorse. Since returning to Hogwarts, he was aware that there were differences in the castle here and there. He had heard of the existence of this Stained Glass Corridor, but had not shown much interest in seeking it out yet.
That is, until he had heard about its 'Gryffindor window' and 'The Severus Snape window'. His own window? He had sought out this corridor and had stared at 'his' window in mute disbelief, not sure whether to be amazed or appalled. When he had gazed at the Golden Trio depicted in the stained glass of the window next to it, his mouth had tightened.
When he saw Hermione just before, he remembered being told she had helped in the rebuilding of Hogwarts. Just how much input had she had?
But now, watching the uncomfortable Hermione, he realised she was innocent in this matter.
"I see," he said in a milder tone. "And this window… Ms Granger?" he asked, indicating the one with him in it.
"It does catch the eye, sir," she said honestly.
The Headmaster looked as if he had just eaten something sour. "Indeed. But it was not something I asked for, or expected."
Without seeming to realise it, he briefly lifted a hand to his neck, as if his scar had itched.
"I know," Hermione found herself saying quietly. "I think that if Hogwarts was responsible, then it meant well."
Snape's mouth twisted slightly. "Meaning well and doing well are two different things. I shall not keep you from your work any longer, Ms Granger. Good day."
With that, he turned on his heel and strode off.
Severus was in his office the next day when he heard the abrupt sound of a book falling from a shelf onto the floor. He located the book and picked it up; frowning slightly when he noticed it was called Wooing Throughout the Ages: Famous Romances of the Wizarding World!
Standards were slipping if this sort of twaddle was on the shelves. Although, if the book was heavy with as much sugar as it seemed, no wonder it had fallen from the shelf. He certainly wasn't going to read it and besides, he had no time for romance. What about Hermione? his subconscious whispered. He ignored it.
That night, Severus dreamed that he was walking through Hogwarts, but it was quiet and still. All colour seemed to be leached from his surroundings and his footsteps echoed loudly.
He passed a corridor and something caught his eye - he saw a ball of golden light towards the end of the corridor, compelling him to follow.
"What game is this?" he snapped.
But the promise of light and warmth — perhaps just for him — was hard for Severus to resist in a dream. He took a wary step towards the light and then another. The light hovered until he had almost reached it, then darted off in an almost playful way.
Severus grumbled, but followed the light. He saw it go through a doorway and when he cautiously followed, he found himself in a room that was cosy and book-filled. There were two comfy-looking chairs before the fireplace. One was empty and Ms Granger was sitting in the other one.
"Ms Granger?" he said, feeling absurdly delighted, followed by a sense of being betrayed. He wasn't fond of Ms Granger… he didn't want to be.
"Stop this nonsense," he growled, before waking up in his bed alone.
Alone was best.
The next day, Severus decided that an inspection of the library would not go amiss. Naturally this was to see that things were running smoothly and that the Library Assistant was not being lazy.
When he entered the library, he felt himself relax ever so slightly. It was quiet and the scent of books with their promise of knowledge within was something he would never be tired of.
Thinking of her various tasks for the day, Hermione walked out of the office and stopped short when she saw that the Headmaster was here in the library. He turned towards her and Hermione's breath caught when she saw warmth in his black eyes… but it must have been a trick of the light, for his gaze was cool as he walked towards her.
"Can I help you, sir?" she asked him politely.
"I am here to see that the library is functioning as it should be, Ms Granger," he said austerely, trying to quash his quiet pleasure on being close to her again.
Hermione felt a wave of irritation at his words but strove not to show it.
"Madam Pince is not here right now, sir, but I assure you that the library is functioning quite well at the moment," she said evenly.
Severus saw though the spark of battle in her eyes and felt annoyed as well as fascinated by her impertinence.
"Oh? So if I was to inspect the library right now," he said silkily as he drew nearer to her, "I would find all the tables and chairs looking neat and tidy? Not a speck of dirt or dust to be seen and every book where it should be… Ms Granger?"
"Of course," Hermione bristled, refusing to back down.
At that point, from the shelves came the sound of a book falling to the floor with an audible 'thump' to the floor. Hermione flushed as they both instinctively looked towards the source of the sound. Of course, something like that would happen right now.
"I see," Severus said smoothly. "Perhaps this warrants… an inspection? Come along."
Hermione had no choice but to follow the infuriating, maddening Slytherin in his wake as he strode off towards the sound, seeing that his wand was held slightly at the ready. She could not fault him though for that — being suspicious of sudden noises was something ingrained in the inhabitants of Hogwarts.
It didn't take long to find the book on the floor… said book having an eye-catching purple cover.
Hermione had a bad feeling about this.
The Headmaster raised a sardonic eyebrow at her. "Accio purple book!" he said crisply, holding out his hand as the book sailed neatly up to it.
Then in a flat tone he said, "This book is called Love Poetry Throughout the Ages."
There was an odd tension in the air.
"What, the Purple Ages?" Hermione said sceptically and she saw the corner of Snape's mouth twitch in an almost-smile.
He had almost given her a genuine smile, Hermione thought with surprise. Surely that was a first. Why, next he would be reading her some of that love poetry.
Hermione bit her lip. Now she was really being silly.
Severus frowned down at the book. "This is the second time," he muttered, feeling uneasy and irritated. If he didn't know any better, he would have thought that Hogwarts was deliberating targeting him with silly books of love.
"What do you mean, sir?" Hermione questioned, her face tilted curiously up towards his. She was almost close enough to kiss, Severus thought.
He cleared his throat. "Nothing of importance, Ms Granger. I expect to see books actually worth reading the next time I visit here," he said tersely. "Good day."
Hermione saw him pause though as if he was going to say something else to her, then his face closed and he walked away.
Now that Hermione was a staff member, one of the things she undertook was to help patrol the castle at night. Without the chatter of students, Hogwarts was a different place altogether at night. Sometimes she could almost hear the hum of ancient magics from the walls themselves.
She still felt a bit uneasy when she thought about the stained glass window with its image of Hermione having turned to look at Snape. However, she reasoned that perhaps the window had the ability to act like one of the living portraits. Which meant that window-Hermione was probably looking, oh, towards mirror-Harry right now.
Hermione thought firmly about David instead. He always had a smile and a quick word for her if they passed each in the corridor and she hoped she could spend more time with him. He was friendly and her feelings for him were uncomplicated.
One night, dressed in a plain black robe, Hermione's patrol took her past the Great Hall and she noticed that one of its doors were open. Making sure her wand was at the ready, Hermione peered cautiously inside the hall. All was silent and a three-quarter moon shining through one of the ornate windows gave the interior a silvery light.
Movement caught her eye and Hermione looked up towards the ever-changing ceiling to see a mass of clouds there, moving agitatedly.
"What's the matter with you, hmm?" Hermione murmured as she walked into the hall. The clouds seemed to calm at her words, then promptly started snowing, thousands of glittering crystals falling down.
Hermione smiled indulgently. Whenever there was snow from the ceiling in the past, she had noticed it vanished about a third of the way down. But this time it continued falling, and Hermione exclaimed when she felt some falling on her.
Within a short time, her black robe was literally covered with shining small crystals stuck to the fabric. When it seemed her whole robe was covered with them (she didn't want to think about her hair), the crystals ceased to shower from the ceiling.
Hermione was further taken aback when she saw the crystals on her robe change colour to that of a soft green. The colour of new life in spring… and the colour of the House of Slytherin.
"It's lovely, but I'm not a Slytherin," she said aloud.
"Of course not," came a familiar, silky voice with a hint of amusement in it from behind her.
Hermione turned and saw Headmaster Snape in dress robes, looking down at her intently. These robes were similar to his usual black ones, but were enhanced by tasteful silver and green embroidery at the cuffs and hems.
She couldn't help but smile at him.
"May I have this dance, Ms Granger?" he asked, a pale hand of his held out to her.
"I — yes, sir," she said willingly and reached out to clasp his hand, which was warm and strong in hers.
Then she woke up.
"No!" she said in frustration and yes, despair in the darkness of her room, feeling that something special had been snatched from her.
"No," she said in a smaller voice.
It took a while to get back to sleep.
The castle hummed softly with approval.
Next morning, in the light of day, Hermione was able to look back at her dream objectively. Yes, Gryffindors were known for their reckless behaviour, but mooning like this over Snape was folly.
No. Someone like David was more approachable and would be ideal to go out with, she told herself firmly.
Later on, when she almost ran into David when she went around a corner, they both joked about the near-miss.
Seeing her chance, Hermione said in a friendly tone, "Would you like to catch up for a drink in Hogsmeade this Friday?"
David gave her a slow smile. "A drink in Hogsmeade with you sounds great — oh, hello, Headmaster."
Hermione tensed and turned to see Severus Snape standing only a few feet away, his eyes black ice — and had there been hurt in them for a second?
I've done… what have I have done? Hermione thought with sudden numbness, realising that Snape had overhead her. She opened her mouth to say something, but the words froze in her throat.
But all the Headmaster said was, "Staff should not dawdle in the corridors," in a cold voice before moving on, feeling as if his heart, his entire self was being encased in ice. He welcomed the feeling. Welcomed the ice.
"I'll see you on Friday then, Hermione," David said lightly, considering what he had just witnessed… and what was unsaid.
On Friday night, Hermione got ready to go out with David, though her heart felt heavy. When she checked herself in the mirror and put on a smile, her expression looked brittle. The truth was she did care for Severus Snape, but she had been too stubborn to acknowledge it until she had hurt him. She hadn't realised that perhaps he was feeling similar tentative feelings for her.
Hermione had only seen Snape once at a distance since their encounter and had been tempted to go after him and say she was sorry. It was all too easy, though, to imagine him looking down at her coldly. Sorry for what, exactly, Ms Granger?
It didn't help that some of the living portraits avoided her gaze if she happened to look towards them now.
When she and David went to Hogsmeade, she made an effort to be pleasant. The truth be told, she did get some enjoyment out of the evening as he had a lot of tales to tell, though some of them got taller as the night went on.
However, Hermione sometimes saw a thoughtful look in David's eyes when he looked at her.
When it was time to go and they Apparated back to the gates of Hogwarts, they both stood there for a moment.
"Well. Thank you for the evening," she said honestly.
David smiled, but there was a trace of sadness in it. "Thanks, Hermione. You're a great witch, but I think we both know we should part as friends."
"What do you mean?" Hermione asked evasively.
"I think you have feelings for someone else. Also, the Headmaster keeps looking at me as if I'm a beetle he wants to crush."
Hermione flushed at that. "I'm sorry."
"It's all right. But let's leave it like this."
Once they reached the castle, they both went their separate ways. Hermione was too engrossed in her own thoughts to notice the tall, black clad figure in the shadows that had seen them both return.
That same figure frowned. If Hermione and David were lovers, they had not parted as such.
Not that he really cared.
One day when he was in Hogsmeade during his lunch break, Severus' eyes narrowed when he saw David hand in hand with a pretty, unfamiliar witch. Was he two-timing Hermione now? It was none of his business, but how dare he treat a witch such as Hermione so poorly.
Hermione was patrolling Hogwarts a few nights later when a familiar voice from behind made her stop cautiously.
"Ms Granger," Snape said coolly.
"Yes, Headmaster?" she said politely as she turned.
His face looked remote in the light of his wand, but Hermione thought she saw concern there as well.
"It has come to my attention that David is not treating you as a wizard should," he said abruptly.
"I only went out with David for a short time, sir," Hermione said carefully, feeling as if she was tiptoeing on fragile ice. "If he has found someone else, I don't mind."
"I see," Severus said tersely, but inside him elation and hope was stirring. Despite his refusal to care, the thought of Hermione and David as lovers had made him feel furious and miserable in turns. He had sworn not to give his heart away, but had done so to a woman who had looked elsewhere.
They both gazed at each other… neither quite sure how to bridge the chasm between them.
"Well. Safe patrolling then, Ms Granger," he murmured.
"Thank you, sir," Hermione said quietly.
In a nearby classroom there was the clatter of something falling to the floor. Severus and Hermione both turned their heads towards the sound… and sensed the hopeful silence all around them.
Severus thought of the books about love he had been obliged to pick up from the floor since Hermione had come back into his life, and the dream of a warm, inviting seat in her presence.
Hermione thought about the stained glass window of herself looking towards Snape in the next window, the dream where she was going to dance with him, dressed in green. Oh yes, and Peeves singing that silly song about kissing.
"We should check it out, sir," she murmured.
With both wands lit and at the ready nevertheless, they both walked cautiously into the empty classroom… and the door behind them promptly swung shut on them both.
"Hey!" Hermione exclaimed and tried the handle, but it was locked. "It's locked — who did this?"
Severus tested the door for signs of dark magic, but found none. Only that of Hogwarts keeping the door shut, for now.
"I do not think we will be allowed to leave, until…" he said evenly.
"Until what?" she questioned although deep down, she knew the answer.
"Until we have… resolved things, Ms Granger," he said quietly.
With his wand he lit the various candles in the room, their golden light dispelling the shadows. A chair that had fallen over had turned out to be the source of the clatter.
They both stared at each other, Hermione seeing a mixture of hope and wariness in his eyes. He was afraid of her rejection, she realised.
"You can call me Hermione," she offered.
Severus' eyes warmed and he drew closer to her.
"Hermione," he murmured, each syllable sounding like music to her ears. "My name is Severus, by the way."
"There was this dream, you know," Hermione said with a tentative smile.
Severus paused and stared down at her. "Oh?" he enquired. He did like the sound of that. Yes.
"We were in the Great Hall, and you asked me for a dance. I wanted to," she confessed, "and then I woke up. I told myself I was stupid for wanting that… for thinking that way about you."
She bit her lip and looked down.
His hand trembling, Severus reached out and tipped her chin gently up to his.
"You are many things, Hermione, but being stupid is not one of them."
Severus then bent his head and brushed her lips gently with his. Hermione kissed him back, wrapping her arms around his waist. His breath catching, he kissed her with passion, beguiled by her scent of apricots and yet more kisses from her in return.
When they both paused for breath, their bodies trembling, Hermione smiled at him and it warmed his heart from within.
Severus embraced her, softly kissing the top of her head.
The future was full of promise and they would meet it together.