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A Choice of Roads by Imhilien [Reviews - 69]

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A Karswyll, AngelQueen, Armor, ArtemisGoddess, Bambu, Becky, Crashley, DADA_Mistress, droxy, Fictionlover_32, Florentia, hpfanfic, jolene197, June, klo, Kneazles, LilytheSpitfire, Laughing Cat, ljasell, Laiagarien, larana, LariLee, le rouret, Maela, Magdelena, ook, sakhara291, seraph, SeveressaSnape, Sniv, southern_witch_69, sparkly_mangos, – Many thanks – here’s the update and I hope you like it.

Betz – Thanks – yes, Remus has good but misguided intentions that Hermione should be protected from the clutches of people like Snape.

corky42 – Thanks – I assure you that writing fluffy lemon scenes will always appeal to me more than explicit ones (grin).

kellijo – Thanks again for informing me that my story had been practically cut and pasted by someone else and made into a H/D story. Well, they do say imitation is a form of flattery…

Kyzmette – Thanks for your constructive criticism – I assure you I do try to keep an eye on my grammar at times and sometimes go back and edit if necessary. However, no one can always be 100% perfect and I have certainly seen published books with worse grammar than mine. Certainly the characters of Harry (and sometimes Ron) have been a little darker in this story but they’re not completely lost to the light so to speak.

Lady Lynx – Thanks – yes, Severus is finding he has a definite hunger for Hermione at times!

ancientgirl, Goblynn, Helena, leonie, Maggie, Miri Tiazan, Rainbow, Shiro Ryu, Snape Fan – Thanks – you’ll see!

MlleGigi – Thanks – I’m glad you liked the lemon-aid and there might be some more along the way…

NightQueen – Thanks – you summed up the characters wonderfully!

queenp – Thanks – the character of Harry has become a bit darker and aggressive than I originally planned at times. I just feel that the very mention of Snape will often make Harry start to see red and to be honest he does have justification for feeling this way. Thinking of Snape in connection with Hermione won’t make Harry think any nice and fluffy thoughts either in a hurry.

Rubyfey – Thanks for liking the hints of lemon (smile). I’m sure the ‘slow pace’ must be frustrating at times but our couple will eventually feel it’s the right time to find a room, so to speak. I don’t feel that Severus is consciously thinking of marriage yet but he’s not planning to let her get away from him in a hurry.

That Sad Song – Thanks – I’m trying to make an effort to watch those parentheses (grin).

Winna – Thanks – I assure you I haven’t abandoned this story. I am planning to eventually finish the story with a jump forward to the time when Hermione is at the age where her younger self ‘visits’ her body – I felt that would be the right place to end it!

A/N – This update is brought to you after much pulling out of hair during the writing process. Sometimes writing chapters can be like that at times – I hope you enjoy the read though.



Part 21


Hermione folded her arms across her chest. “You’ve asked me over for just that reason?” she said incredulously, determined not to lose her temper at Harry’s attitude.

Harry stared at her. “I think that’s reason enough,” he said curtly.

“Yes, there was a perfectly logical reason that Remus saw me having lunch with Snape in the weekend. He asked me out for a meal,” she said in a reasonable tone after a moment.

“How on earth did that happen? Remus said it looked as if you were both out on a date,” Harry said in disbelief, saying the word date as if it was something horrible in his mouth. “Or did Snape force you to go out with him?”

His last comment was an absurd as well as an appalling one, and Hermione doubted that even Harry believed Severus would stoop so low. But there was a faint, almost desperate look in Harry’s green eyes as if he wanted to believe that Hermione had not gone out with Severus of all people unless there was some sort of coercion or blackmail involved.

On Monday night Remus had come over for a visit and Harry as well as Ron had been pleased to see him as always. Harry felt that the older man was his last link to the past; one of the few people left who had known his parents as well as Sirius. But there had been a troubled look in Remus’ eyes and after the usual pleasantries he had delicately explained how he had come across Professor Snape and Hermione eating lunch together at the Three Broomsticks on Saturday, the implication being that they were fairly comfortable in each others company. Was Harry or Ron aware of anything that had been going on?

Harry had looked blankly at Remus, as for a second it had seemed as if he had just heard a load of gibberish. Anything that had been going on? Fact one was that Snape had practically loathed Hermione since day one. Fact two was that even though Hermione had occasionally defended Snape she was hardly his greatest fan. Furthermore, it had been often joked by the Gryffindors at Hogwarts – but quietly, in case Snape was nearby – that the only dates that Snape would ever get were blind ones, and then the woman would really have to be blind. Ron had said to Remus in confusion that Hermione hadn’t said anything about meeting Snape at the get-together with their friends on Saturday night. Harry had felt a sour feeling in his stomach. No, Hermione hadn’t said anything about Snape at all. Unless she had been ashamed to say anything – had Snape done something to her? Had he somehow forced her to meet him for lunch because of a hold he had over her?

“Harry,” Hermione said sternly, holding up her hand. “It’s a long story, but Snape didn’t force me to go out with him; I went of my own free will. Nothing bad happened. In fact we’ve… decided to both bury the hatchet and stop acting like enemies from now on.” Needless to say that was an understatement, she thought.

“But this is Snape we’re talking about!” Harry said, his voice rising in his agitation.

“Harry, he’s not the bogeyman,” Hermione remonstrated gently. “He’s human like the rest of us, you know.”

“Yeah, human enough to have had his eye on you for a while if he asked you out,” Harry retorted, started to look somewhat ill at the obvious thoughts running through his mind. “I can’t believe that you accepted,” he suddenly burst out. “I can’t believe he’s deluded you into forgetting how much he disliked you. You forgot that quite quickly. You certainly forgot to tell the others and me on Saturday night about your date with the dungeon bat. How did you run into him?”

“Don’t call him that and I didn’t forget - it was no ones business but my own,” Hermione retorted. “This isn’t about you. I don’t have to let either of you or anyone else know what I always do in my personal time. Besides, I think I can spot when people when people are trying to delude me, and Professor Snape certainly wasn’t. People can change, Harry.”

“You had that crush on Lockhart back in the second year,” Ron said abruptly. “You were mooning over him all the time – you couldn’t see what a phoney he was like we did.”

“That was different,” Hermione said curtly, remembering with some chagrin about her crush on Professor Lockhart. His good looks and charm, combined with the attention he paid to her younger self (along with the occasional wink to her) had made her blind to his faults.

Ron snorted. “Yeah, at least Lockhart washed his hair.”

“Ron, there’s more to people than just their looks,” Hermione pointed out sharply.

“Yeah?” Ron said sceptically. “Well, in Snape’s case he looks rotten on the outside and even though he belongs to the Order he’s pretty rotten on the inside too, if he you ask me. You were always defending Snape, and look at yourself, you’re doing it now.”

“Snape isn’t rotten Ron Weasley – he would have hardly been a member of the Order if that was true,” she snapped.

Harry took a step closer to Hermione.

“Hermione, whatever is going on between you and Snape has to stop,” he said grimly, but Hermione could see a look of betrayal in his green eyes, and the remark that Ginny had made about Harry still having feelings for her came back to her mind.

“Harry,” Hermione said in a quieter voice, “this is really none of your business. I’m not going to stop being friends – or more if I want to with Professor Snape – just because you or anyone else tell me to. You know I’m sorry that things didn’t work out between us. Or even between myself and Ron,” she added, looking towards Ron for a moment. “We’re better off as friends – I want us to stay friends – and I know Ginny will make you happy in a way that I can’t.

Harry looked bitterly at her. “Do you think an old wizard like Snape will make you happy? Do you think he’s going to roll over and be nice for you?”

“He’s not that old! Anyway, age doesn’t come into it, not if you feel there’s something between you. If you can feel you can talk to each other then that’s the important part,” Hermione countered, a martial glint in her eyes.

“And you and I never really had that kind of ‘something’. Get out, Hermione,” Harry said just as evenly, forgetting for a moment that Hermione had neglected to answer his question as to how she had run into Snape.

“Harry-,” Hermione began.

“I said, GET OUT!” Harry yelled at her.

There was an awful silence in the room.

Ron’s face was pale, but he said in a neutral voice, “I think you better go, Hermione.”

“Fine, then I will,” Hermione said tightly. “Don’t worry, I’ll see myself out.”

Then she turned and going to the door she opened it and walked out of the flat, shutting the door quietly behind her despite an inclination to slam it. Feeling angry she left the property and walked along the footpath, the heels of her shoes making rapid clicks upon the cracked concrete. There was still some light present in the sky and she had the presence of mind to make sure her wand wasn’t sticking out of her pocket in a prominent way.

She was angry and upset at so many things – she was upset that she hadn’t said the right things to convince her friends that she knew what she was doing. She was angry that Harry had thought he could intimidate her into doing what he wanted. She was angry that Harry – and Ron – hadn’t even tried to see her side of the story and that matters had ended with a nasty row between them. She was certainly angry that Remus had meddled in the way he had by telling her friends about her lunch with Severus.

Hermione had feared a row like this would happen, for Harry and Ron were hardly going to say it was fine that she had been out to lunch with Professor Snape, and hey, if she wanted to take it further then it was fine with them as well.

But this didn’t make this hurt feeling she had inside go away any faster. She also felt angry inside that Harry had thought she had betrayed him by going out with Severus. Harry hadn’t even come into the equation.

Hermione really wished though that Remus hadn’t interfered and told her friends. If she had had her way she would have told Harry and Ron about her and Severus eventually, if things really were still working out with her and the professor. She would have found a way to explain it in a reasonable way.

Eventually Hermione calmed down enough to notice that she was coming up to a small cluster of trees beside the road that presented a good place for her to Apparate from without too much notice. After checking that there were no cars coming and that no one appeared to be watching her, Hermione ducked amongst the trees and Apparated back to her bedroom at the retreat.

Surrounded by the austere but familiar comfort of her bedroom again the anger drained from her and Hermione sat down on her bed with a sigh, feeling an overwhelming desire to seek out the company of Severus for comfort. After all, there was a good chance he would be in the library at the moment, engrossed in a good book…

But then Hermione reconsidered, for she didn’t want to go rushing to his side every time something went wrong. She would hardly give a good impression of herself either if she started becoming overemotional while she related what had happened. Especially if she saw a ‘I told you so’ look in his eyes as well. No, she would wait until tomorrow when she would be able to answer Severus’ inevitable inquiry in a calmer tone. Meanwhile, she felt she needed a drink of hot chocolate to settle herself down and after she got her breath back Hermione went to the kitchen.

Naturally Biddy immediately appeared in the kitchen, anxious and eager to see what Hermione required at this time of the night. However, Hermione firmly but gently insisted that she only wanted a drink of hot chocolate and yes, that she was capable of making it herself and cleaning up afterwards. The last thing she wanted right now was to be waited on by the house elf. Nevertheless Biddy brought out a plate of cookies from apparently nowhere and put it on the table with the attitude that if this was the best it could do to serve Hermione, then it would have to do.

“Thank you,” Hermione told the house elf before she was left alone in the kitchen. Although she had eaten her dinner the plate of cookies looked quite enticing right now – and fattening. Some cookies were plain, some were chocolate chip while others were dusted with sugar. Hermione told herself firmly that she would only have a few cookies - her waistline would hardly thank her in the morning if she ate them all. Pleased with her willpower she got up and went to make herself a drink.

However, later on when she had finished drinking her hot chocolate at the table she belatedly realised the plate with its cookies was quite empty now apart from a few forlorn cookie crumbs. Oops, Hermione thought guiltily, automatically saying, “pardon me,” when she couldn’t stop a brief burp from escaping. It was never a good idea to be in the presence of cakes or chocolate after being involved in an argument. But she still firmly felt that she wasn’t in the wrong, and didn’t feel like running over to Harry and Ron to say sorry.

When she eventually went to bed her dreams though were uneasy and she awoke the next morning conscious that she had not slept well. Hermione thought the dull looking day outside seemed to be a good counterpart for her mood as she splashed her face with cold water in her bathroom. When you felt overtired everyone’s voices seemed to be too loud, and she was grateful that at breakfast she could at least appear intelligent as James informed her what to do for the day.

“I want you to go and tidy up the hedge maze today – apparently some of the guests have complained that the paths are covered in debris and a few branches have blown down into them,” James said with a sigh and with a wry twist to his mouth that said we couldn’t have the guests complaining, could we. “If you can make sure it’s all restored to rights that will be a load off my plate.”

“All right,” Hermione replied in assent. The day didn’t sound that bad then if she was required to focus on one area instead of moving all over the place, so to speak. She would have some peace as well from the other guests if word had already got around that the hedge maze wasn’t worth walking through at the moment. The maze was in one of the quieter areas of the retreat and she had not had the chance to walk through it herself – it did not seem very big on the outside and the dull greenness of its hedges had hardly endeared it to her. Nevertheless she would do what she could to restore it to rights. Because it was looking as if the clouds would not be going away in a hurry she decided not to wear her gardening hat.

The maze and its shadowed entrance seemed to have a secretive air about it when Hermione approached it with bucket and wand. She knew that in some cultures mazes of these kind as well as labyrinths were regarded as sacred places where you find insight and meaning into the various troubles of your life, but right now this looming maze just appeared to be something that she could get lost and swallowed up in. The rustling sound that the various hedges made when the wind blew through them sounded threatening as well, but Hermione lifted her chin in silent defiance. She wasn’t about to be intimidated by some greenery she thought as she walked through the entrance. She stared for a moment at the long path that stretched out before her – the maze hadn’t appeared to be that big on the outside. Frowning she walked back out of the entrance and walked along the side of the maze for a few moments. Yes, according to her calculations she was right – the maze was bigger on the inside than it was on the outside. Great, Hermione thought in exasperation as her mind was briefly filled with images from her much-watched video of ‘Labyrinth’ and the seemingly endless labyrinth the heroine had to travel through. Sometimes life imitated art…

It was probably her imagination but the maze seemed to have a slightly smug air about it as she went back through its entrance. A ray of sunlight that broke through the clouds to obligingly illuminate all the twigs and leaves on the path before her was no flight of fancy though. Knowing that she would have her work cut out for her today, Hermione tried not to yawn, sighed and started working.

Later that morning Severus-Crow was having more difficulty than usual in finding Her, and it vexed him. She was not in her usual areas, so where on earth was his nest-mate?

To get a better perspective of the gardens he flew higher until the land looked like a patchwork picture below him.

Where was she… where… where… ah, there – his sharp eyes could see she was walking towards a hedge maze with her bucket. In satisfaction he cawed triumphantly and winged his way swiftly down to where Hermione was.

Hermione was coming back to the maze after having dumped her bucket of its garden refuse, when she heard a familiar flutter of wings behind her. Her heart did a delighted jump in her chest but she schooled her features to appear calm when she turned around and after a few moments saw Severus walking towards her, his sharp black gaze upon her face and his robes swirling about his tall, thin form in a breeze. She wasn’t feeling as tired as before and she cast the Keep-Away charm – and a cleaning one on her hands as well. Hermione then had the overwhelming urge to run straight into his arms, but once again she felt reluctant to appear needy to him.

“Hello Severus,” she called, a natural smile for him coming to her face anyway.

“Good morning Hermione,” Severus replied in his deep voice as he approached her. He was intent on discovering how matters had gone when Hermione had met her friends last night, whether they really had confronted her over being seen by Remus having lunch with him in the weekend. Those sort of pessimistic thoughts this morning had led to inevitable and grimmer thoughts of Hermione being convinced to break off her relationship with him.

The sight of the smile on her face just for him made Severus relax slightly and warmed him inside. However, Hermione could not quite hide from him the dispirited look in her brown eyes.

“Are you well?” he continued in a slightly sharper tone as he looked down at her.

“Yes,” she replied briskly.

“You are a poor liar, Hermione,” he observed evenly after a pause.

Hermione’s smile faltered for a moment. He was far too observant, she thought.

“I’m fine, really,” she nevertheless said firmly.

Severus had spent years perfecting the kind of look that when turned upon a student would have him or her instantly confessing all whether they wanted to or not. Though he bent a milder version of it now upon Hermione it was nevertheless just as effective.

After a moment Hermione bit her lip and then shrugged. “It didn’t go very well with Harry and Ron last night… it looks like Remus didn’t waste any time telling them about seeing us both in the weekend. Unfortunately it turned into a bit of a shouting match and I couldn’t really convince them that I hadn’t lost my senses,” she said grimly.

Potter the Hero and his Boy Wonder had indeed reacted in a predictable way Severus thought and his annoyance at Remus’ meddling returned again too. The meddling do-gooder…

Hermione continued in a quieter tone. “I just wish I had had the chance to tell them about us eventually, you know, in a way that wouldn’t have too much shouting and yelling as a result.”

“If they truly are your friends, then surely they will want you to be happy,” Severus observed neutrally.

To tell the truth, part of Severus was quite pleased in the end that there had been a fight. Not because of its effect upon Hermione of course, but that he felt it would be good to have some distance between her and Potter & Weasley for a while. Although he and the others – annoyingly - owed a debt to Potter for the role he had played in bringing about the defeat of the Dark Lord, Potter nevertheless had a constant and tiresome Saving-The-World complex that inevitably dragged those around him into his schemes.

But now the war was over, Hermione and her friends had finished their education at Hogwarts and it was inevitable that they were on separate paths now. It could only be good for Hermione to develop her own sense of self rather than be in their constant shadows. After all, Severus had detailed knowledge of what it was like to live in the shadows of others.

“Unfortunately they will have a hard time seeing you as someone who can make me happy at all,” Hermione said regretfully. Attuned as he frequently was to her moods Severus couldn’t resist from drawing her into his arms and holding her close. Hermione couldn’t resist from uttering a contented sigh as she hugged him back, appreciating the tenderness he sometimes showed. She could never get sick of hugging him, but how could she explain something like that to her friends? The words ‘hugs’ and ‘Snape’ were not ones that people would think of putting in a sentence.

“Their opinions or approval of you are not always your concern, Hermione,” Severus observed dryly as if he had heard her. He dipped his dark head and being suddenly curious to hear an affirmative answer to his question whispered by her ear, “Have I brought you any measure of happiness, Hermione?”

Hermione nodded. “Yes,” she said softly. “I’ve decided to keep you,” she added in a sincere tone that had a hint of sudden humour to it. A burst of unexpected laughter came from the Potions Master; deep, rich and amused.

“Oh, I am to be your kept wizard, am I,” he purred, “wretched, impertinent girl that you are. Then his voice sobered slightly and his arms tightened momentarily around her. “But be assured that I have marked you as my own, my Hermione. Your friends and everyone else would be well advised to heed that fact.” There was a hint of ice in his tone.

Hermione tilted back her head and looked at him silently with her brown eyes, and for a moment he wondered if he had come across to her then as being too possessive of her – not that he wasn’t, of course, but it was not always wise to voice such things to the one you loved, he realised. Then she smiled at him and there was a certain quality to it that he couldn’t quite define. She laid a hand gently on his chest, feeling the steady beat of his heart under the fine black cloth.

“I chose you; you are mine,” she said simply.

Severus stared down at her wordlessly and then shifted a hand purposefully so that it was over hers and their fingers automatically moved to entwine with each other. He moved his forehead to gently bump it against hers.

Then the moment passed and Severus gruffly cleared his throat and nodded at the nearby hedge maze, releasing her. “Is this your current… project?” he questioned her.

Hermione grimaced. “Yes – I was just on my way back to it. It looks like it will take me most of the day to properly clean it up too.”

Then she pulled a rueful face, her mood having improved somewhat. “That is I if don’t get lost and can’t find my way out again.”

Severus raised a dark eyebrow. “In that case, you clearly need the guidance of someone who has more experience with labyrinths,” he said dryly.

Intrigued by his comment Hermione nevertheless said in a deliberately prim voice, “I’m supposed to be working hard at the moment not entertaining boyfr- er, partners. You will be a distraction to me.”

She had nearly referred to him as a boyfriend, Severus thought in amusement to himself. How utterly juvenile the term was. How endearing it was to hear her almost refer to him as one…

“I will not be stopping you from working, indeed it is my duty as a guest here to see that you are doing your job properly,” he countered, his voice as smooth as dark silk. “Be assured I will reprimand you if you are tardy before I transform again… and if you indeed find me a distraction it only goes to show you do not have proper control over your emotions. Now come along,” he added severely though there was a gleam in his eyes as he offered his elbow to her. Shaking her head in pretend exasperation Hermione picked up her bucket with one hand and then tucked her arm into the crook of his waiting one. The truth be told, she did like the idea of being alone in the middle of the maze with her Potions master, especially if he wanted to suddenly swoop upon her and kiss her until she was breathless. Now she really was getting distracted. What had Severus been talking about before? Oh, yes.

“What kind of experience do you have with labyrinths?” Hermione asked in a curious tone as they started walking towards the maze, secretly enjoying the sensation of her arm linked with his black-buttoned one. Why did he have to have countless buttons running along the arms of his frock coat as well, she thought wryly. It was a wonder he had the time to get dressed at all in the morning. She tried not to think too hard about undressing him, button by black button.

“I have one at my home,” Severus said matter-of-factly.

Hermione blinked. “You do?” she questioned as they both walked through the entranceway to the maze.

“Indeed. At one point they were quite fashionable for the best families to have so my father had one created… with certain spelled adjustments, of course,” Severus said ironically as they walked along the outer path of the maze. The green hedges rose tall and thick on either side of them so as to give the impression that he and Hermione were in their own private little world, and it made him feel at ease.

“Really?” Hermione said cautiously, wondering if she really wanted to know the answer given what little she knew of Severus’ late father. “What kind of adjustments?”

“Ones that ensured that you could not easily find your way out if you got lost… and you would find you could not Apparate your way out of our labyrinth either,” he said in a caustic tone. “I cannot say I regretted neutralising those spells when I inherited my home; I had not wish to waste my time looking for people who got lost in the labyrinth.”

“Naturally,” Hermione said, a sour taste in her mouth at the thought of the gleeful spite that Severus’ father must have had to enchant his own labyrinth in such a fashion.

“What is the rest of your grounds like?” Hermione found herself asking with the curiosity of a gardener.

There was a quirk of his lips as he glanced down at her for a second. “Incessant questions as always from you… why, are you eager to come and do some weeding in my own garden?” he said dryly.

“No thank you!” Hermione replied forthrightly. “Of course, if you paid me well I might reconsider,” she added in pretend thoughtfulness, enjoying how they both had fallen into the teasing, slightly mocking but oddly comfortable way of talking to the other they had discovered.

Severus smirked. “The thought of paying you would never cross my mind, I assure you,” he retorted.

“Then you can weed it yourself,” Hermione said sweetly as they turned a corner, their path leading them deeper into the maze.

“Impertinent girl.”

After a moment Severus said in a contemplative tone, “My grounds are hardly as ostentatious as these… there are far too many unnecessary flowers here for one thing… but they are adequate enough and I keep a herb garden there as well as the one I have at Hogwarts. My father allowed my mother to keep a small rose garden and their petals of course have their usefulness in potions.”

“Roses are good for more than their petals, you know,” Hermione countered with a smile. Trust Severus to look upon a rose and only see how useful its components could be in a potion.

“Is that so,” he said sardonically. Perhaps I could reconsider… and perhaps one day you would consider seeing my roses for yourself… and the rest of my grounds as well,” Severus then added in a formal yet oddly tentative tone.

He had been careful not to mention that the invitation would extend to his actual home as well but Hermione nevertheless heard it underneath as well as a silent question, an asking of her, a deeper yearning for her too at that place and time from the Potions master. For everything that she was.

“I would love to come and visit one day. Thank you,” Hermione said softly after a moment, giving his arm a gentle squeeze. He paused and she stopped in turn, the energy between them surging, ebbing and flowing like something with its own secret life.

“Hermione,” he whispered as he moved his arms so that he was clasping her upper arms, his black eyes staring down at her, something twisting pleasurably inside him at the thought of Hermione in his own home, no doubt demanding to see his library as soon as possible. And then why not show her his bedroom afterwards, a darker part of him whispered slyly. His blood started running hotly in his veins and his mind needed no further provocation to supply images of his darkened bedroom, her soft moans reaching his ears as he pressed against her, taking her and loving her.

“Yes,” she agreed simply as she managed to put her bucket down and then his mouth descended and sought hers hungrily. Hermione put her arms around his waist and leaned against him as she kissed him back warmly. His tongue then darted imperiously against the seam of her lips and she opened her mouth to him. She felt a sweet ache inside her as he plundered her mouth with growing passion and then Hermione moaned in pleasure as Severus moved a hand to cup and caress her breast, the curious and gentle stroking of his fingers a sensual counterpoint to what he was doing to her mouth.

Feeling her knees starting to go weak – damn the man! – Hermione tightened her arms around his waist and then there was an evil glint in her eyes as she decided to do some exploring of her own. Her hand managed to roam down the curve of his lower back and then over his bottom, enjoying the sensation of feeling how firm and taut it was underneath her stroking hand. Very nice, she thought, a brief hum of feminine appreciation coming from her throat as she impishly gave him a pat too. His body shuddered in shocked pleasure in her arms and he hissed against her mouth, a jolt of desire running straight down from his brain to his nether regions. She was unthinkably impertinent… she was bold in a way that excited him.

“Vixen!” Severus growled and before he did something rash he pulled away from her. But his energy demanded an outlet, a release… his eyes and senses had noted the general untidiness of the maze they were in and after impatiently reaching for his wand, he hissed a word. A silent, golden ball of his power and energy burst from his wand and sped off through the paths of the maze to the interior – the grassy pathways blurring for a second after its passage and then they appeared clear of all fallen leaves and twigs. Severus crossed his black-buttoned arms and glowered down at Hermione as if this was all her fault.

Hermione blinked, catching her breath. “I’ve never heard of the earth moving that way before,” she murmured after a moment.

Severus refused to dignify that remark with a reply.

Wretched girl.

Naturally Hermione wanted to check for herself that the paths of the maze were completely tidy.

“Ah… thank you for what you did but I want to check for myself that the paths are all cleared of debris,” Hermione had explained earnestly before they continued to make their way through the maze, occasionally coming to a dead end which meant that they had to retrace their steps. Although her work in the maze was now reduced the hedges nevertheless looked as if it had been a while since they had been properly trimmed, she observed to Severus. He had linked her arm with his again in a no-nonsense way as if he wanted to make sure that at least one of her hands was under some control.

“Hmph,” Severus snorted as he strode along the path beside her.

Nevertheless there was not a single leaf or twig out of place on the paths and when they turned a corner they unexpectedly found themselves in the centre of the maze. The small area was neatly paved with shining white stone and a fountain of white marble stood in the centre, rainbows shining in the sparkling jets of water it threw out. A wrought-iron table painted white stood nearby with four matching chairs spaced around it. To Hermione’s eyes everything seemed to look cleaner than it logically should have been and there was a sharp smell to the air – the final result and remains of Severus’ spontaneous spell, perhaps?

“So much for me spending the whole day tidying the maze, oh mighty Slytherin,” Hermione said whimsically to Severus and he softened towards her.

He smirked down at her. “Indeed.”

Since it was practically lunchtime they both decided to do what they had done the other day and went separately to get their lunch and bring it back to the table and eat. Severus narrowed his eyes at the amount of food that Hermione to eat but seemed satisfied – just. He was trying not to think of where she had touched him before… and how it would feel if she touched him in a more intimate place, her hand curious and tender…

He shifted slightly in his chair at his increasingly carnal thoughts and grimly forced himself to direct his mind elsewhere.

Once they had finished their lunch they rested a while. When it was time to return their plates Severus felt it was probably best as well (for the sake of his poor body) to put some distance between him and Hermione for a little while.

“I will see you later, Hermione. Do try and behave in the meantime,” he said in a dry tone heavy with meaning.

She had the audacity to have an impish smile lurking upon her face.

“I promise,” Hermione said in a demure tone that did not fool him.

He gave her a last baleful look from down his nose before he stepped back and Apparated to his quarters.

Hermione laughed quietly to herself as she went back to work. Nevertheless later on that afternoon Severus returned to her in his crow form as if he could never keep away from her too long. She was aware of feeling protective towards him when he was a crow, especially when he would imperiously demand some attention in his own way. When the caustic words of her friends about Severus replayed in her mind she would only have to glance across at the crow - who would be acting in his usual way that he wasn’t interested in what she was doing, but was keeping an eye on her anyway - and she would feel curiously reassured.

Later that night in the library when they were playing chess there was a wary look upon Hermione’s face when Severus said implacably, “I feel that Remus needs to know when to stay out of other peoples business. It is clearly obvious that he filled your friends heads with rubbish such as a pure and innocent Hermione,” and here Severus lifted an eyebrow meaningfully in Hermione’s direction as if to say that he, Severus knew what trouble she really was, oh yes, “ensnared by the dreaded Potions master.” He snorted.

Hermione had thought that Severus had decided against rash actions such as storming over to Remus’ place and hexing him into next week, but when she opened her mouth Severus held up a hand to stop her, his eyes ironic.

“No, I will not be confronting him to defend your honour as it were, but will be sending him a letter tomorrow.”

“Not a Howler!” Hermione immediately said in alarm, though part of her was taken with the thought of a grim Severus defending her honour and her right to go out with him if she wished.

“Gryffindors and their wild imagination,” he said ironically. “No, it will be an ordinary letter… but one that should make my thoughts quite clear.” There was a faint hint of steel in his voice. It was not cheap to use the owls to send letters at this place but he could afford it after all. He did not trust Remus that much, so naturally Severus knew these days where he lived.

“He probably meant well,” Hermione said reluctantly.

Severus’ only reply to that was another snort.

He won all of the chess games between them that night.

When they had finished playing chess and Hermione was walking over to the sofa after the chess had been packed away, Severus approached her from behind and wrapped his arms firmly around her waist. His earlier kiss of greeting had only been perfunctory as if the earlier events had made him withdraw from her slightly, but she was glad he was feeling amorous in his own way again.

“Hermione,” he murmured, pressing his body ever so gently against hers. Hermione had not been able to resist pushing the edges of the limits between them when she had earlier, but then, hadn’t he done so as well? Her figure was hardly that of a statuesque Amazon, but nevertheless her sweet curves were hard for him at times now to resist from touching and stroking. It seemed that she had felt the same way about him and he had to admit that part of him did feel a sense of male satisfaction at the thought.

She sighed and leaned against him, laying her arms over his. He bent his dark head and kissed the delicate shell of her ear before he turned his attention to the column of her throat. Hermione hummed and offered more of her throat to him, her hands restlessly stroking and petting his arms. Severus laid a slow trail of kisses along her throat and at one point he darted his tongue out to taste the faint saltiness of her skin there. She squeaked and he chuckled, the sound making her insides quiver. She eventually turned in his arms and then it was his turn to be the recipient of desire as Hermione leaned up and pressed kisses to his face. Severus made a grumbling sound after a while and then she smiled and obligingly kissed his lips, the ebbing and flowing of energy between them both a gentle one again.

That night there was a gale, and though it could not reach as much as it liked through the weather barrier to batter the retreat as it wished to, to the sleeping and dreaming Hermione it sounded like the waves at sea. Yes, that’s right, she was at sea and her bed was swaying and rocking upon its waves. No, she was in the embrace of Severus, her Black One and his body was as pale as alabaster as he shifted over her, his black eyes glinting down at her as they urgently rocked and swayed together. Oh yes. Yes. When she awoke she reached out a hand for him, believing that he had really been with her. But she was alone and for a moment felt bereft.

The next morning Remus’s keen ears heard a noise at the open window in his living room. When he hurried from the kitchen to investigate he saw an owl perched on the windowsill with an envelope for him.

“Thank you,” he said politely as he took the envelope from the owl, his eyebrows rising when he recognised the black spidery handwriting of Snape. He sighed.

At least it wasn’t a Howler, he thought ruefully as he opened the envelope and took out the letter to read.


Lupin,

Apparently I did not make it clear to you the other day the
importance of minding ones own business. I am saying it again
and it will be for the last time.

As I have no evil designs upon Miss Granger, you or her
friends have no need to be her knights in shining armour,
riding valiantly to her rescue. Of course, if you wish to do
so, I imagine she would have a few choice words to say
in return, which I would no doubt hear about later.

I trust my meaning is clear.

Professor S. Snape


Remus frowned down at the letter after he had read it. “Your words are clear, but is the meaning behind them true? Why do you have this sudden interest in a student you had disliked?” he murmured. It unfortunately appeared that Harry and Ron had failed in their task to convince Hermione about the folly of being close to Snape.

Looking at the black handwriting Remus’ eyes narrowed speculatively for a second. There was much you could learn from and do with a handwritten letter from someone, if it was the right kind of letter. If he was not mistaken then with a certain and ancient spell Remus had in mind much could be learned from this one. It was effective but could sometimes fall into the grey areas of magic because of its very prying nature, but Remus that he would be performing this spell with the best of intentions. The spell though had its price of giving the user a headache – which was why it was only used when necessary and when the conditions were right.

Remus grimaced at the thought, and going to a spell-locked wooden box of his where he kept his various medicines and potions, he brought out a bottle of headache potion. Then with potion and letter in hand he went to sit down at his table and carefully flattened the letter out upon the worn wooden surface. He ceremoniously tapped the letter four times with his wand, all the while murmuring a string of syllables that included Snape’s name. The handwriting writhed on the paper for a moment as if each black letter had suddenly come to life, and then they settled, though their appearance was now that of glistening ink that had just been written moments before. Remus put his wand down and then placed his hands carefully over the writing that would now convey to his mind the emotions behind Snape’s words at the time he had been writing.

He then tensed as a wide range of foreign feelings and emotions seemed to come streaming up his fingers and shoot straight into his mind.

Irritation… anger… how dared Remus interfere in things he shouldn’t… implacable coldness… anger that Remus would think he meant ill towards Hermione… his Hermione… she had no need to be rescued by Remus or Potter or Boy Weasley from him… no doubt they would face Hermione’s wrath if they did so… the wretched beloved woman… yes, perhaps that was a good idea and he would smirk later when she told him… be sure to remind Remus that he wasn’t a professor anymore and that he, Severus, was…

The flow ceased abruptly and Remus winced when he was left with the king of headaches. He grabbed the bottle of headache potion, his hands fumbling at the stopper and then he was gulping down the potion. Eventually the headache receded but Remus was indelibly left with the impressions he had learnt from the letter. Remus shook his greying head. That would be the last time he tried to learn something from a Slytherin mind like that of Snape’s – such depths of coldness and anger the man had, laced with a lot of bitterness as well. But Remus was forced to admit to himself that Snape did not have any evil designs towards Hermione but did indeed feel affection and yes, a strong focus of love towards her. That had come through quite loud and clear, but when had it started?

Remus had the distinct feeling that more had been going on behind the scenes than he realised. An uneasy feeling went through him when he considered that Snape might have started secretly seducing Hermione at Hogwarts, but then Remus reconsidered. No, Snape would not have gone that low and would have had too much to lose by seducing a student – if he had been found out he would have been sacked and the student shamed and possibly expelled as a result. But presumably Hermione had somehow come to care for Snape too and Remus was reminded how quickly and fiercely in her own way she had defended her right to have lunch with Snape the other day. Remus had to admit that it was unlikely he would be hearing the full story from either of them at this point in time. Those two paired together – gods, what would come from that?

Remus looked at the letter, the handwriting having returned to its former appearance. But remember this Snape, Remus thought as if he could will Snape to hear him, if any hint of mistreatment of Hermione comes out, you would never rest easy at nights for a long time after I had caught up to you…

It would be a good idea to talk to Harry and Ron again, Remus thought with a sigh.


TBC


A/N – Well, parts of that chapter were certainly hard to write, and I hope the characters of Harry and Hermione weren’t too OOC. Sometimes writing confrontation scenes can be really difficult, but I couldn’t see Harry reacting in a reasonable way to the fact that Hermione and Snape were showing signs of becoming close.



A Choice of Roads by Imhilien [Reviews - 69]

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