Hermione Granger
Drama Romance
Multiple Eras
Philosopher's Stone Chamber of Secrets Prizoner of Azkaban Goblet of Fire Quidditch Through the Ages Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Published: 03/19/2002
Updated: 09/01/2005
Words: 220,150
Chapters: 28
Hits: 163,807

Falling Further In


Story Summary:
The story begins in the summer holidays before the sixth year. After her parents are murdered by Voldemort Hogwarts becomes Hermione's home. She joins the staff in the fight against Voldemort and learns more of the man behind the dark sarcasms of the classroom. Will *eventually* be Snape/Hermione. Lupin is again the Professor teaching Defence Against the Dark Arts, and has a black dog who lives with him - Sirius Black in his animagus form.

Chapter 17

Chapter Summary:
Hermione learns more about the man behind the dark sarcasms of the classroom


Irritable and out of sorts, the following morning Hermione ensured she kept herself busy because it saved her from thoughts she had no intention of examining too closely; she had never been one to indulge in a fantasy life and she wasn't about to start now. And if she told herself that enough times it might make the last part true. Working with Professor Flitwick, she applied herself to honing her knowledge and use of Charms, including many not usually taught in the school syllabus.

Flitwick looked sorrowful. "Unpleasant, I know, but necessary in these troubled times. Thanks to Severus we know many of the curses and hexes employed by the Death Eaters. While countering them is rarely easy, it is possible with application, concentration and an excellent teacher - all of which you have," he added, cheering up enough to twinkle at her. "The sharp-witted can defend themselves against the Cruciatus and Imperius - with regard to the Avada Kedavra the best they can hope for is to escape it, or incapacitate their enemy before they have a chance to administer it. So, we practice, and practice and practice. More, you need to learn to trust your instincts. Don't blindly follow every path I suggest. Do you understand?"

She had been aware of his placid temperament and great kindness for years but this summer she had come to realise that Snape wasn't the only member of staff to hide behind an assumed personality. It was no accident that Flitwick was Head of Ravenclaw- or that even Snape listened to him with respect and affection, try as he might to hide it.

"Yes," she said. "You intend that I should become the best I can be."

Patting her hand, he gave her a beam of approval. "There now. As you've stopped shaking we'll try that counter-hex once more."

The following day he began to instruct her in Advanced Duelling, with the practical assistance of Madam Hooch, who tested Hermione to her limits - and beyond. By the end of each day she was so tired she had no energy to spare for introspection before falling asleep but her reflexes were sharpening, her mind processing and reacting to information she was barely aware of possessing. She was discovering a capacity for ruthlessness in herself which she found profoundly disquieting; the word 'duel' prettied up an ugly reality and she or Madam Hooch sometimes required the attentions of Madam Pomfrey after a session.

Six hours of duelling having left her all too aware of her inadequacies in that field, Hermione had a leisurely soak in the bath, which took care of most of her aches and pains, before dressing and wandering out into the grounds. She was too tired to be hungry, plagued by an odd melancholy. It would soon be term-time. Only she didn't want the holiday to end and wasn't sure how she was going to fit back into the role she had carved out for herself. It was difficult to remember that she had ever believed the N.E.W.T.s mattered.

The air was beginning to cool and she walked around the lake and towards a small copse of trees, her only light that which came from the tip of her wand. A small breeze lifted tendrils of her hair, which had escaped confinement yet again.

She had been sitting in the same spot for almost an hour, trying not to startle every time she heard a noise, when something made her look up in time to see Snape heading towards her, casting a light bright enough to reveal his identity.

He glowered down at her, which made him ugly and stole away the things she loved most about him. She glared back.

"I was under the impression, obviously mistaken, that you had learnt a little consideration. The staff were worried about what had become of you. It's unwise to wander around the grounds in the dark."

"I wanted some time to think," said Hermione, hoping he would go away. This was Snape at his most intimidating and it closed him off from her more completely than a slammed door. Yet... He might be the razor-tongued tormentor from the classroom and an ex-Death Eater, but he didn't set off her spidery sense - quite the reverse in fact, reassuring her easily and completely with nothing more than his presence. Absurd.

"In my experience all that's required is a brain." Snape favoured Hermione with one of his less endearing expressions before sinking down to sit opposite her, his long legs crossed, his hands relaxed and his back straight. "Is something troubling you?"

Hermione's eyes widened; Snape as an agony aunt was so unlikely it verged on the surreal. Or perhaps not. He was, after all, Head of House to two hundred and fifty Slytherins. Not that she could ever remember having any cosy chats with Professor McGonagall. Or wanting to for that matter, although there had been times when it would have been nice if she'd paid any interest to someone who didn't play Quidditch. Neville, for instance.

"You want me to tell you my problems?" she said incredulously.

The severity of his expression eased a little. "I don't recall saying that."

Some of the tension eased from her shoulders. "That's more in character. Not troubling, exactly. It's just... I'm tired of hating."

"Ah. If you're in need of comforting platitudes you'd best speak to Albus."

"Aren't you? Tired of it, I mean?"

"We're not discussing my feelings."

"That doesn't mean you don't have them."

Snape looked pained. That lacked subtlety, even for a Gryffindor.

"You can't blame me for being curious," added Hermione, with an odd kind of desperation.

Snape's expression begged to differ.

"Ignore me. I'm fine," she said, getting to her feet, although she waited for Snape before heading back to the castle.

"Training with allies can be difficult," Snape said, opening the main door for her.

Hermione flinched, then fought to stop her face from crumpling. "I broke Madam Hooch's arm in three places."

"I know. She told me you seemed...upset."

"What the hell am I supposed to be?"

Snape gave her a considering look. "Are you 'upset' because you caused the injury, or because your first reaction was pleasure in your victory?"

"You bastard." Hermione swept past him and across the hall, before she stopped and with her back to him added, "You already know the answer."

"True. I wasn't sure if you did," he added quietly.

Exhaling softly, Hermione's head bent. "Oh yes," she murmured. "You treat me as an equal," she added a few seconds later, as they climbed the main staircase.

"I wouldn't go that far," he said in a tone dry as dust.

Despite herself she gave a faint smile. "No, that was overly optimistic of me. Does everything have to be paid for?"

He didn't pretend to misunderstand her. "Of course."

"Even happiness?"

His expression was bleakly revealing. "Especially happiness."

"I hate Voldemort," she burst out, her voice harsh and unfamiliar.

"I thought you were tired of hating?"

"I'll make an exception for him."

Snape paused. "I'm delighted to hear it. Good night, Miss Granger."

"Are you going to be brewing tonight?"

"Yes, another batch of second stage Wolfsbane."

"Could I help?"

"Not at this point."

"Then may I watch?" She didn't want to have to explain that she didn't want to be alone.

Snape studied her for a disconcerting few seconds. "If you wish."

Curling up in a comfortable armchair, set out of his way, Hermione rested her cheek against the cool leather and watched the quiet purposefulness of his movements. It was oddly soothing.

She was asleep in ten minutes.


"Is March free?" Snape asked Professor Sprout as he entered the Great Hall.

"Hello, dear," she said absently, the surface of the table in front of her a jumble of plates and parchment. "When I saw him last he was in the library looking for some Persian text he felt might impact on your discussions. I made him promise to rest this afternoon. He's been working with Hermione all week - in fact I've hardly seen him. And while I know he's greatly enjoying himself he isn't as strong as he thinks he is."

"Miss Granger would wear down the strongest of men," said Snape, swallowing a yawn. He had just finished brewing a year's supply of Wolfsbane and had yet to catch up on his sleep.

"If you have time I would appreciate your thoughts on this paper I'm writing. I'm sure there's a reference I've forgotten. Something we were discussing a couple of months ago. Sit down, do. I'll get a crick in my neck staring up at you."

Snape obediently sat, gave his order to a house elf and took the proffered parchment. After a few minutes he frowned, helped himself to Professor Sprout's quill and began to amend the text with the cramped, angular script which any of his pupils knew only too well.

She watched him with poorly concealed amusement until, sensing he was under surveillance, Snape looked up and realised he had been correcting her work as if she was a backward third year.

Having been about to enter the Great Hall, Hermione and Professor McGonagall were hovering in the doorway the better to enjoy the moment.

"I wish I had a camera," breathed Hermione. "I didn't think he was capable of embarrassment."

Professor McGonagall smiled. "It normally takes a compliment to do it. It would be tactful to withdraw."

"Professor Snape says I have no tact."

Professor McGonagall tucked her arm into Hermione's. "No need to believe everything Severus tells you."

"But I am hungry," Hermione assured her earnestly.

"Ah, Hermione, my dear. Just the person," beamed Professor Flitwick. Reaching up to tuck an arm in each of theirs he swept over to the table.

"Saved," said Professor Sprout dryly.

Snape parted his hands and smiled at her. "Have at me. I offer no defence."

"Prettily said but I'm not convinced. Now, what have you...? Oh, is that how you spell it? March, my dear."

Flitwick's face lit up at the sight of his wife, as it always did, and he kissed her cheek before sitting beside Snape.

"Severus, I'm glad I've found you. I believe I've found a way around the difficulty of harmonising charm and potion. If my understanding of this passage is correct..." He produced and enlarged various parchments and books, including a Goblin dictionary so vast that even Snape found it difficult to lift it without the aid of a charm.

"No," said Professor Sprout sternly. "No work until you've all eaten and enjoyed some conversation not related to research."

"But - "

"No, March. Everyone is tired, whether they have the wit to know it or not. After we've eaten we'll adjourn to Severus' chambers to work."

"Too kind," he murmured.

Professor McGonagall raised her eyebrows. "You object?"

"I wouldn't dare," he said, mildly disconcerted to realise he hadn't locked his door since the incident with the Wolfsbane. Now he thought about it, Black and Lupin had been wandering in and out of his quarters at will. It would be group hugs next.

How the fuck was he going to get back into character for the next term, never mind Voldemort?

His stomach cramping, he pushed the thought aside, as he had been doing for some days, and tried to concentrate on what Flitwick was saying.

Professor Sprout occupied one table, surrounded by a stack of books taken from Snape's library, ignoring the discussion taking place between Snape and Flitwick at the table behind her. Hermione was happily exploring the bookshelves. Curiosity kept drawing her back to the extensive selection of Muggle poetry and finally she admitted defeat, made herself comfortable, and began to check out her heritage - about which Snape seemed more familiar than she was. Opening a late Victorian edition of Byron she was flicking through it, admiring some beautiful line drawings, when a snatch of verse caught her eye: '...with eagle beak so curled, That nose, the hook where he suspends the world!'

"You seem to have become sidetracked," said Snape, coming silently upon her to twitch the book from her hand.

There was a short silence.

Sitting on the age-mellowed oak floorboards, Hermione glanced up at Snape's long length, waiting for the axe to fall.

"'He that has a great nose thinks everybody is talking about it.' I knew it could only be a matter of time before you got your revenge for the busybody quotation," he murmured. "Unless I'm being unduly sensitive?"

Hermione heroically resisted the lure cast but her expression betrayed her.

Snape's mouth twitched in one corner before curling into a grin made all the more attractive by the fact he tried to suppress it. "Well done, Miss Granger. More, virtue won't be your only reward. Come and let March explain what we're about."

"I'd love to," she said, automatically taking the hand he extended to assist her to her feet. "You're taking this very well. Or is this just some ruse to put me off-guard?"

This time Snape's tired face was lit by a smile he made no attempt to quench. "'I am ashes where once I was fire,'" he said gravely. "Byron again, although not wholly appropriate. You'll have to forgive 'the petrifications of a plodding brain.'."

Professor Flitwick greeted Hermione with a squeak of pleasure before giving a brief synopsis of their research.

Within five minutes Hermione was taking notes, while worrying about her phonetic spelling of the Persian, Armenian and Turkish names.

Flitwick stopped mid-sentence and turned to her. "Do you understand so far, Miss Granger?"

"March, let the child relax, " said Professor Spout, who was having difficulty deciphering a marginal note Snape had left on the last section of her article.

"Um, this is relaxing for me," said Hermione.

Professor McGonagall grinned where she was curled up in a sinfully comfortable armchair. "Severus, you've had a terrible influence on Miss Granger."

"No, I've always been a geek," said Hermione cheerfully. After six years she not only felt able to joke about it but she no longer felt the need constantly to defend or apologise for her preferences.

"Thank you for the implication," said Snape.

Hermione just grinned at him before turning her attention to Professor Flitwick. "You lost me when you started discussing the Armenian text. I don't understand the relevance of..."

Between them Flitwick and Snape applied themselves to offering a lucid explanation and from then on paid her the compliment of treating her as an equal in their discussion.

Her eyes alight with excitement, Hermione felt giddy with the heady pleasure which came from being stretched to her mental limits and encouraged to soar beyond them. It occurred to her how much she would be limiting herself by studying medicine. There were so many enticing fields of study...

Refocusing to find Snape scowling at her, she nodded as if he had spoken and applied herself to what Professor Flitwick was saying.


"...most grateful for what you've done already but this won't take long," said Professor Sprout briskly. "Just half a dozen - or maybe a dozen - roots so I can bring them on in the pool I made - "

Lupin coughed in a pointed fashion, his eyes warm with amused affection.

"That you and Sirius made," she corrected cheerfully.

"But that means diving into the deepest part of the lake where the water's more disgusting than ever." Snape's large nose twitched fastidiously. "Can't he do it?" He gestured to Black.

"No. Now, don't forget, knife and trowel only. No magic. These are fragile plants - something you remembered all too rarely in your seven years of Herbology. And you can stop sniggering, Sirius. It would be difficult to find anyone more cack-handed than you where plants are concerned. While Remus has a wonderfully delicate touch - " Professor Sprout paused to give Black a look of chilly displeasure. "Are you proposing to share that remark with us all - Miss Granger included? No, I thought not. As I was saying, Remus can't swim."

Reduced to the status of a smutty third year in seconds flat, Black looked chastened and fell silent.

Snape stood on one leg to pull off a boot. "If that bloody squid comes anywhere near me again, I swear I won't be responsible for my actions."

There was no breeze at all, the heat of the afternoon pressing down on them. The surface of the lake had an almost oily sheen on the mirror-like surface, the water an unappealing greenish-brown.

"The water's a fair depth out in the centre. Safer if two go," said Black, unfastening his shirt to reveal a muscular torso covered in silky-looking black hair.

"There now," beamed Professor Sprout, as if the notion had never occurred to her, "won't that be nice."

"I presume that's a rhetorical question," said Snape, his bare toes curling in the mud as he shrugged out of his shirt. The hollows between his ribs were accentuated as he reached back to refasten his plait, drawing attention to the shock of hair at armpit and the dusting between his pectoral muscles. A narrow line of hair disappeared beneath the waistband of his black trousers.

It was the first time Hermione had ever found a man's belly button sexy.

"While we can row out there, we'll need Gillyweed," continued Snape, his long fingers flicking over the buttons of his fly. His swimming shorts were black and unrevealing, although his legs were a better shape than she had been expecting, unlike Black, who was slightly bow-legged..

"Here," puffed Madam Hooch as she ran over to them. "Ceres has been growing it but forgot to bring it with her." Greyish-green strands of what could have been rats' tails drooped through her fingers.

"How fortuitous, there's enough for two." Snape gave Professor Sprout a hard stare.

"Forward thinking. Something we're always trying to teach our pupils," she said blandly as she divided it between Snape and Black.

Both shuddered at the smell.

"Don't be such babies. You know there's no taste to it," she said bracingly. "Anyway, it's not that bad."

United in a moment of fellow feeling, Snape and Black shared a glance of total accord.

Standing beside the boat, Snape toed the water with a bare foot. "You do realise a giant squid has been peeing in this - and worse - for the last five decades. We could catch some disgusting disease."

"That's all right, I'll cure you," called Madam Pomfrey, as she, Madam Hooch and Professor McGonagall made themselves comfortable beside Hermione on the steep side of the grassy bank.

"This isn't a spectator sport," said Snape, his fists on his narrow hips as he glared down his nose at them.

"No dear," soothed Professor Sprout, careful to avoid her companions' gazes. "As for the squid, he was here when I arrived at Hogwarts as a young - well, youngish, girl. I must have been close to your age," she added fondly.

"You've lived here all that time?" asked Lupin. Squinting in the sunlight, he looked relaxed - almost happy.

"Eighty six years," said Professor Sprout, after a pause to work it out. "March arrived four months later. We were married within the year."

"You've been together eighty five years," exclaimed Madam Hooch.

"It doesn't seem that long - most of the time," Professor Sprout added realistically. "What?" she added, upon finding all three men staring at her.

"I can't imagine what it must be like to spend all that time with just one person," said Black. "That is - "

Lupin nudged him with his elbow, and for a wonder Black took the hint.

"Crass sentimentality," sniffed Snape, but he clambered into the boat without any further complaint.

"I'll row," said Black, climbing in after him.

"You'll sit over there and keep still," Snape told him, settling on the opposite seat. Before he could collect up the oars the small boat set off smoothly over the water.

"Show off," accused Black, jealous of Snape's ability to perform wandless magic.

"No, that's me," said Professor McGonagall with a cheery wave of her wand.

"They'll kill each other," muttered Lupin worriedly.

"Nonsense." Professor Sprout's gaze was on the far distance rather than the two men in the centre of the lake unenthusiastically chewing Gillyweed. "Although I might have agreed with you a few months ago. It's been a healing summer. That scare over the Wolfsbane was a blessing in disguise," she added frankly.

Lupin gave her an appalled look, then slowly nodded. "Perhaps. Although I doubt if Severus sees it that way."

"I wouldn't be so sure. It's given you both a better understanding of one another."

"For more reasons than one," agreed Lupin. "If nothing else, it's taught me never to take risks about..." It was a moment before he could go on. "I'm more careful now. I think Severus is coming to trust us a little more. Don't you?" he added, when she failed to reply immediately.

"I'm sorry, dear. I was just wishing I could give Voldemort a piece of my mind for ruining so many young lives. Yes, I do. He's never had friends of his own age - male friends, that is. This summer it's as if... He doesn't expect to live, Remus." She resolutely firmed her quivering chin.

Lupin put his arm around her. "I know. But he's finding more reasons to want to and in my experience when Severus wants to do something he usually finds a way. He's very like Harry in that respect."

"Only not so selfish. Not now, anyway."

"I wish Harry could have spared Sirius a thought this summer," said Lupin.

"He's seventeen. From what I gather he's had a miserable childhood to date. Not to mention the fact he's faced Voldemort - "

"I know, I know," sighed Lupin. "It never stops, does it."

"I would have said not, but I confess, I feel more hopeful now than I did at the beginning of the holidays."

"Truly? You think we can win?" Lupin turned to look at her and under the honesty of his grey eyes Professor Sprout's gaze dropped.

"I wouldn't go that far. We're so few. And hampered by the Ministry. If we survive Voldemort I'm going to ensure that the wizard community sits up and takes responsibility for itself - and those who are supposed to run it," she added, a harder edge to her voice, before she raised it in exasperation. "What do they think they're doing? Severus, stop swearing. We can hear you from over here. You'll be wetter still in a minute. Sirius, I'll have a word with you when you get back. Sometimes I wonder if any of you have grown up," she added crossly to Lupin, before she patted him on the arm. "Now, if you'd like to make yourself useful..."

A squabble between Black and Snape, combined with Professor McGonagall losing concentration while she was controlling the boat, resulted in it hitting the muddy bank at some speed just as Snape and Black both raised their wands to try and soften the impact of their landing. The combination of mishaps wedged the prow deep in the bank. Producing two shovels, Professor Sprout left them to dig the boat out while she headed off to transplant the lilies.

The four witches sat watching with undisguised enjoyment as the two men sweated and swore and got dirtier and dirtier while Lupin, keeping a prudent distance, offered unhelpful instructions.

"If they used magic to divert some of the lake water they could dissolve the earth, which looks rock-hard, and turn it into mud," said Hermione, her gaze on the muscles sliding under the thin-fleshed skin of Snape's naked torso. Nut-brown and gleaming with sweat, he had straightened to wipe his forehead, while offering his opinion of Black's intellect, parentage and muscle-power.

"True, but they're too busy competing and exuding testosterone to be capable of rational thought," said Professor McGonagall prosaically. "Besides, I've no objection to watching three moderately attractive young men working hard."

"Remus is looking so much healthier," remarked Madam Pomfrey, as she tossed an apricot stone into the lake. "I do believe he's finally managed to put on some weight. Happiness suits him."

"Long may it continue," said Madam Hooch, breaking open a stone to chew the kernel.

"Sirius is looking less strained. I do believe he's finally starting to live in the present," said Madam Pomfrey.

"Having Dementors drain your memories would make anyone desperate to recapture the past," remarked Professor McGonagall. "He's regaining something of his looks. He was always one of the most beautiful boys."

"And then there's Severus." Madam Hooch licked her juice-sticky fingers in a voluptuous manner.

"I thought we were going to lose him," said Professor McGonagall bleakly. "But he's looking much better now. Though no one's ever going to accuse him of good looks, are they? Fit enough, I grant you, but physically unremarkable."

Her knees tucked up to her chest, Hermione's grip on her shins tightened. It took some effort of will not to say something and she wondered why Professor McGonagall couldn't see what was in front of her nose: the sweep of those ridiculously long eyelashes; the spiked tongue and formidable mind; the way the right side of his mouth would twitch when he was trying not to betray his inconvenient sense of amusement; the bumpy bridge of his nose and the all-too-often impenetrable eyes; the angles and convexities of the planes of his face, breadth of shoulder, line of neck and jaw and that really spectacular backside.


"Have some gooseberry wine, dear. You're looking flushed," said Madam Pomfrey. "What were you thinking about just now?"

Hermione studied the view in front of her, the three men bent over the boat as they prepared to try and jiggle it free. It occurred to her that if they'd been Ron, Harry and Dean she would have said they were showing off. "Just something I read," she said absently. "'His behind impels the astonished nightingales to sing.'"

As if to confirm her suspicions that the men had been listening, they straightened as one and turned to glared at her, while Professor McGonagall spluttered into her glass.

"Ah, but how to choose?" said Madam Hooch, lazily mischief-making.

"Oh, Oliver Wood gets my vote," said Hermione, giving Snape a bland look before she sipped her drink.

Lupin was shaking his head and grinning at something Black had murmured, while Snape's expression further soured.

Professor McGonagall gave her an approving pat. "Mine, too. Though I'll thank you not to repeat that indiscretion."

"Passable, but Sebastian - " began Madam Hooch.

"In Ravenclaw? I know," agreed Hermione, just before they both grinned.


Humming contentedly to herself, Professor Sprout cut through the orchard to take advantage of the shade offered there. She froze when she came upon Snape sprawled limply on the sun-burnt grass, then relaxed upon realising he was simply dozing.

As if to contradict her he opened one eye. "Did you want me?"

"No. Go back to sleep. I didn't intend to disturb you."

Snape opened his second eye and propped himself up on one elbow. "Do I smell figs?"

"Indeed you do. I'm taking them in for March. He, Freyja and Miss Granger have been working all day. She's a nice child," Professor Sprout added inconsequentially.

"How very Hufflepuff of you."

"Not a good way to win yourself any figs," Professor Sprout pointed out.

Snape simply sat up and held out his hands. He looked drugged from the sun and the sleepy, sticky afternoon heat. His feet bare, he wore only black trousers and a loose-fitting white lawn shirt with complicated pleating down the front.

Depositing half a dozen plump brown figs in his cupped palms, Professor Sprout smiled down at him. "Enjoy. I know they're your favourite fruit."

He frowned. "How?"

"Observation." Patting him on the shoulder, she went on her way.

Snape was disconcerted to realise he had been under surveillance and worse, that he didn't resent the fact. Distracted by the ripe, heady scent of the fruit, he resettled himself and glanced up to see Hermione hovering a few feet away.

"Do you like figs?" he asked abruptly.

"Uh, yes."

"Then share these with me. They were a present from Ceres."

He looked rumpled, half-asleep and more approachable than she could ever remember seeing him. But even at his most casual his clothes were beautifully tailored, with small, exquisite details such as the embroidered serpents coiling around each button-hole. This summer, she had come to know a little of the man behind the mask, had seen him revel in intellectual pursuits, take delight in teaching, smile, enjoy food, sex, the sun...

Who would have thought the buttoned-up bat of the dungeons would turn out to be a hedonist? It belatedly occurred to her that he must hate his half-life during term-time, stuck in the dungeons trying to balance the roles he was required to play. It was a wonder the strain of it hadn't driven him mad - or perhaps it had, a little.

It abruptly occurred to her how much she was going to miss him, how difficult it was going to be to forget what she had learnt of him. More, she was going to lose someone she thought of as a friend.

"Miss Granger?"

She looked up to find him watching her, a quizzical expression on his face.

"Sorry. It must be the heat making me so slow," she lied, wishing fiercely that she had the right to touch him, to make him smile - to make him content enough to forget the memories which made his eyes so bleak at times.

"And the fact you've been working so hard," he said. "Here." As he shared out the fruit she was struck again by the beauty of his hands.

She settled on the grass beside him without attempt to eat the figs. As she watched he broke one open and brought it to his mouth, sucking at the honey-sweet flesh. Staring like one mesmerised at his parted mouth and hollowing cheeks she shuddered where she sat, feeling the internal contractions as if it was his mouth sucking on her parted flesh, his tongue stabbing -

Helpless with longing, she couldn't have moved if her life depended on it.

"Have you not eaten figs before? They're simple enough to prepare." Taking up another fruit, Snape used his thumbs to split open the plump fruit for her, exposing the moist, soft flesh inside. "Eat," he murmured, holding it out to her.

Making no attempt to take it from him, Hermione caught back her hair and bent to feed from his hand. Intoxicated by the heady scent of ripe fig and the man holding it, she sucked the sweetness into her mouth, once, then again. A succulent morsel of the purple-brown flesh slipped onto the side of his hand and she captured it with a swipe of her tongue.

His hand shook.

It took her a few seconds to process what she had seen. When she slowly raised her head her heavy-lidded gaze was caught and trapped in the velvety blackness of his eyes. Without being aware of it she eased into the curve of his body, her hand sliding up to his shoulder, the fingers of her other hand sinking into the untidy luxuriance of his hair, her mouth poised a breath away from his.

For one terrible moment his lips thinned, shutting her out.

"Please," she whispered, hardly aware that she was speaking.

The muscles of his face shifted infinitesimally and she glimpsed his answering hunger in the instant before their mouths met, bodies melding into one another.

Then there was only the wet and warm of his mouth and those wonderful hands moulding her to him.


'...with eagle beak so curled,

That nose, the hook where he suspends the world!'

- The Age of Bronze: Byron (of Wellington)

He that has a great nose thinks everybody is talking about it. - English proverb

the petrifications of a plodding brain

- English Bards and Scottish Reviews: Byron

(Not that I think it's likely Snape would have this in his library.)

His behind impels the astonished nightingales to sing.

Hermione misquotes a verse omitted from the published version of ' The Golden Road to Samarkand' from 'Hassan' by James Elroy Flecker.

And we have boys and girls of special kinds

White, brown and black, fragile, fair or strong;

Their bosoms shame the roses; their behinds

Impel the astonished nightingales to song.