A/N: *Skips into the room, grinning*
*Hides chapters all over the house, like Easter Eggs*
*Fixes you a hot chocolate*
*Hops away to hide more chapters*
By the time he got out of the shower, Hermione had dragged herself downstairs and unpacked the purchases they'd made. Severus found her in the kitchen, a fresh cup of tea on the table in front of her while she sat surrounded by shopping, her head in her hands.
She looked terrible. He knew he did too. He felt terrible. All they'd lived through so far from the war and its aftermath, and now this mess with Greyback was nothing compared to the terrible weakness of their magic being so wholly drained. He'd nearly fallen down the stairs, his knees refusing to hold him for each plodding step, and he'd been forced to sit in the bottom of the shower to complete his bathing ritual when his legs had given out from sheer exhaustion. It wasn't a pleasant feeling, and after all, they'd done today, he imagined this was only the tip of the iceberg for what was to come.
Fixing himself a cup of tea the muggle way, Severus watched the girl at the table moodily. He supposed he had overreacted a little bit upstairs when she'd suggested they might shag to better recuperate. The truth was, it'd been on his mind almost constantly since he'd learned that doing so would better revive their strength so that they might get on with their lives. He couldn't stop thinking about it and bunking down beside her in his bed and spooning her every night wasn't helping to dislodge the idea from his brain.
But just because he'd been thinking about it didn't mean they should do it. She'd been his student until rather recently and he had blurred the boundaries between the two of them more than enough already. Then again, she had graduated, and he was no longer a teacher and hadn't been in some time. What was more, they were tethered at the soul. For the rest of his life, no matter what he did or where he went, this fluffy-haired menace would be attached to him by the soul. For the rest of eternity, in fact.
Did it make any sense to put off shagging her for the sake of strength replenishment when in all likelihood, the tether between them would see whatever this relationship between them currently was, growing into something sexual and official and permanent and exclusive? Did it matter if he fucked her today as opposed to next year, or ten years from now, or not until the next lifetime? Was he just sour about the idea of her replenishing her strength enough to attend her Christmas plans outside of his company because he didn't want to be alone again?
"We should decorate as much as we can before we crash," Granger said quietly without lifting her head. "I could sleep for a week, at least."
She was probably right. They had gone out of their way to purchase things to make this dreary house look festive and it would be a shame to waste the effort and money they'd shelled out to get them.
"Shall we start in the living room?" he suggested.
She nodded, lifting her head from her hands and sighing heavily before rising to her feet.
"We don't have a tree," she noted idly.
"There's a shrunken one among the purchases in that bag," Severus pointed. "I purchased it while you were arguing with the merchant about the appropriate amounts of holly one ought to strew over the bannisters to look festive, rather than forested."
"Really?" she perked up, smiling.
Severus wasn't sure what to do with the fact that when she smiled at him like that, it made him feel warm on the inside. He didn't answer her, not about to encourage her before he collected the numerous items they'd purchased to decorate with and headed for the living room.
His head spun dizzily when he used magic to un-shrink the tree he'd found, the magic taking its toll.
"I think it might be best if we decorate by hand, rather than by magic," Granger said, following him into the room carrying more items.
"Agreed," he nodded tiredly, trying to blink away the spots filling up his vision.
"Here," she nudged him while he went about setting up the tree in the far corner of the room by the fireplace and he glanced down to see her offering some Peruvian Starthorn to help with mounting nausea.
He took it gratefully and gnawed it while he set up the tree and she found the baskets of decorations, beginning to twine muggle lights around the tree after she'd insisted that they wouldn't have the magic available to maintain lighting spells for the tree. They were quiet as they worked, and though Severus had few memories of ever bothering with silly things like Christmas decorations from his childhood, he expected based on what he learned at Hogwarts that it ought to have been a fun affair, rather than a chore.
Perhaps his influence really was enough to suck the joy out of everything, he thought bitterly, watching Miss Granger dutifully hanging baubles on the tree.
"Don't even think about it," he warned Erebus when the beast sauntered into the room eyeing the new invader into his territory with malicious glee. "You touch this tree and you'll be out in the snow, got it?"
Erebus yowled at him defiantly but before the ferocious feline could attack the tree, a streak of orange fur raced into the room and straight to the trunk before scrambling into the branches of the Christmas tree like the hounds of hell nipped at his heels.
"Crooks!" Granger protested though she was laughing as baubles started to fall off.
Erebus took that for all the invitation he needed and followed suit, swiping at baubles and tinsel before scrambling up the tree as well.
"I think we might need a sticking charm to keep it from toppling," Granger laughed, shaking her head when Severus had to catch the tree before it could fall over under the combined weight and wild flailing of two enormous felines.
"Agreed," he sighed, pulling his wand from his pocket and performing the spell that would stick the tree standing upright even in a gale, right there in the corner.
"Perhaps we should let them have their fun until they grow bored?" Granger giggled when several baubles she'd painstakingly hung fell from the branches as the disagreeable cats proceeded to conduct another of their mighty battles whilst in the boughs of the tree, swiping and snarling at each other furiously and causing a complete ruckus.
"That might be wise," Severus allowed though he elected to sink into his favourite armchair by the fire, feeling dizzy and weak after the additional use of magic.
"I fear we might end up completely unable to use magic before we're recovered," Granger said quietly as she spread some boughs of holly over the mantle.
"As do I," Severus admitted tiredly, watching her and feeling bad to see her still managing to contribute while he felt that if he tried to stand, he would simply pass out.
When she moved over to put a little holly and an ornament on the side-table next to his armchair, Severus reached for her, pulling her down into his lap.
"I'm doing something," she complained, though with very little heat.
"Do it later," he muttered, curling his arms around her and tucking her into his chest, a little of his strength returning simply by touching her.
"You got angry at me upstairs," she reminded him.
"I'm a prick," he replied, surly and annoyed at her for bringing it up, even if technically he was still a little annoyed.
"Duly noted," she muttered, but she abandoned her ornaments in her lap and curled her arms around him in return, nuzzling her face into his neck and pressing as much of her skin to his as she could manage.
Severus sighed, a little of his strength returning, but not enough. It was never going to be enough if they didn't find a better way to utilize this bond between them.
"Were you serious upstirs, or just tossing out the idea?" he asked quietly without looking at her, his nose buried in her hair.
"Now you want to talk about it?" she needled, and Severus had to remind himself that she was just as tired and cranky and weak as he was; trying to soothe his instinct to snarl at her and shove her away with all his considerable strength.
"I suspect it's reached a point where it's no longer 'not worth considering' or discussing, but rapidly becoming our only option," he answered evenly.
She sighed heavily, sinking into him even more.
"I suspect so, too," she admitted.
"We have no guarantee that it will work," he pointed out.
"No strength for performing the act even if it does, if I'm being honest," she admitted. "I feel I might faint at any moment, even with you holding me."
"As do I," Severus muttered. "Though I suppose that if coitus is a fast-track way to speed the replenishment along, other acts of a similar nature must also have some slighter effect."
"Are you suggesting that you want to feel me up, sir?" she teased, and damn her, she always had to make a joke, didn't she? He was beginning to learn that she did it when she felt embarrassed or uncomfortable, as a means of easing some of the tension. He imagined that with oafs like those she'd called friends at Hogwarts, it was highly effective. With him, on the other hand, it was mostly annoying and made things even more awkward instead.
"I would argue that I've been feeling you up since you helped yourself to the empty space beside me in my bed, Miss Granger," he retorted coolly. "I'm suggesting I do even more than that."
"I…" she cleared her throat, pulling back from his embrace a little and peering into his face. Her cheeks were aglow with her embarrassment and Severus suspected his own must be tinged pink too, but it was of little consequence. "What did you have in mind?"
She sounded unsure and Severus had to squash the natural inclination toward defensiveness.
"It stands to reason that if the ultimate way to replenish our magic and our strength is by having me put parts of my body inside yours… then… well… there are more parts of my body that could manage the job than just the appendage you're sitting on."
Her cheeks darkened even more, and she looked nervous before her eyes fell to rest on his lips.
"Like… your tongue?" she guessed. "Are you suggesting we… snog?"
Severus rolled his eyes. He'd had rather more explicit places in mind to go sticking his tongue than just her mouth, but it would do, for the time being, he supposed.
"Unless you object?" he challenged, raising one eyebrow.
"It would be a good way to determine if it works," she admitted, her eyes still on his mouth while she worried at her lower lip with her teeth. "We don't have definitive proof that diving into bed together would be any more effective than simply spooning…"
"Trial and error is often the best way to study cause and effect," he said quietly.
She nodded, leaning forward a little like she might kiss him right that very moment. Severus hadn't been expecting that she might want to kiss him right at that very moment, but there was no time like the present, and it wasn't as though either of them had the strength for getting up or getting on with decorating right then. Biting the bullet, so to speak, Severus leaned forward to meet her, watching her every move and wonder when her damnable Gryffindor nerve might finally fail her. She was, after all, little more than a teenager, if he was calculating correctly, and he, a grown man who'd spent six years being her most unbearable teacher.
When their lips met before she could flinch or hesitate or pull away, Severus was surprised. He didn't know why he should be. It wasn't as though she hadn't spent days and day now in semi-undress and spooned around him, touching him constantly. Her lips were chapped from the cold, he noted idly, and she tasted of tea. Severus wondered what she'd make of kissing him before shutting off his mind and simply getting on with it.
He moved his lips over hers slowly, testing the feelings inside his body, trying to determine if he felt any different from an energy perspective, even if his stomach was seething with butterflies like he was some fanciful schoolboy experiencing his first kiss instead of a man almost to his forties with more life experience than one could poke a very large stick at. His strength was definitely returning. In a heady rush, in fact.
She groaned into his mouth, obviously experiencing the same rush and Severus slid a hand up her back to cup the nape of her neck, deepening their kiss, his tongue slipping into her mouth to make acquaintance with hers for the very first time. He very nearly groaned himself when the sensation of being kissed after so very long combined with that of his strength boosting rapidly, like soda poured too quickly into a glass, fizzing and filling him up, poised to overflow.
It felt good. Curse her to Merlin's darkest abyss, but it felt exquisite. Severus wanted more. Kissing her harder, he pulled her in tighter against himself, rather wishing he'd pulled her down to straddle him, rather than laying her across his lap, but it was no matter. It wouldn't do to lose complete control just because the heady delight of her mouth was driving him wild. She twisted into him further, bother of her hands lifting to tunnel into her damp hair, cupping the sides of his skull and holding him firm to ensure he wasn't about to pull away and deprive her of this feeling.
Severus had no such intentions.
Like randy teenagers driven by hormones and idiocy, they snogged as though it was the last time that they might snog another living soul and Severus loathed how good it felt. How long had it been since he'd snogged someone like this, wearing his own skin instead of someone else's? How long had it been since a woman had kissed him so hungrily? He couldn't remember. Not since the height of the war, surely, and those instances had featured women he was disgusted with himself to have been snogging at all, let alone shagging them as he had done.
"Mmmm," Hermione hummed into his mouth, though in contentment or complaint about wanting more, he couldn't be certain.
Severus suspected the latter. He knew he wanted more. His cock was hard and aching beneath where she sat upon him, his hips involuntarily thrusting against her, desperate to be rid of the fabric prison that kept their bodies apart. Just as he was thinking about lifting her off him and taking this delightful dalliance to the rug on the floor in front of the fireplace, Hermione pulled back from him with a yelp, her body jolting in his grip.
"Erebus!" Severus growled, spying the cause of her distress in the form of his monstrous feline where the beast had launched himself from the Christmas tree – sending baubles scattering madly – as he attempted to outrun the furious orange creature still growling from the branches.
"He's digging his claws in," Granger complained breathlessly, her face flushed with the pleasure of kissing him, though she winced and squirmed at the assault the cat was mounting.
"Away, Erebus!" Severus growled at the cat, shoving at him in annoyance.
Granger whimpered, obviously still being clawed. Erebus growled in return and swiped at Severus's hand viciously, clearly furious and Severus eyeballed him mutinously when the wretched beast scored his hand and blood began to well.
"Wretch!" he spat before snatching hold of the feline by his scruff and lifting him bodily, throwing him off Granger's lap and onto the couch across the room. Crookshanks dove from the tree after him when Erebus landed neatly on his feet and scampered from the room.
"You're bleeding," Hermione informed him unnecessarily, levering herself off his lap quickly and reaching for his abused hand.
"It'll stop in a minute," Severus waved her concern away, but she urged him up anyway, leading him into the kitchen and digging out the first-aid box she'd unpacked from amongst her things days earlier.
"Given our weakened state, and the propensity of cat-scratches to get infected, I'd rather not take the chance," she said, her voice still husky.
Severus submitted to her insistent caretaking, allowing his hammering heart to try and regain a normal rhythm. Her cheeks were slowly flushing a deep pink, obviously overwhelmed by what they'd done, and she refused to make eye contact with him.
"There," she said eventually when she cleaned and doctored the scratches that likely would've healed just fine on their own. "All better."
Severus snorted softly, shaking his head at her.
"Initial findings?" he asked darkly, staring down at her impassively and not wanting to give away how badly he wanted to grab her and pin her to the pantry door to fuck her until he couldn't move.
She cleared her throat delicately, her cheeks brightening even more.
"Erm… well," she began awkwardly, obviously no more interested in voicing the effects she'd experienced in case she gave away her own desire. Severus had to remind himself how very young she still was in comparison to him.
"I would say positive," he offered quietly when he noted that she was having trouble finding her courage.
"Really?" she asked, her eyes widening as she looked up to meet his gaze quickly.
"I feel better than I have in days," he admitted.
"Oh, thank Merlin," she sighed, smiling. "So do I. I think the experiment was definitely a success."
He nodded, his eyes drifting from her face and down the length of her body, his pants growing uncomfortably tight the long her looked and imagined all the ways they might further their recovery.
"So," she said leadingly, biting her lower lip and looking like she was trying not to grin. "Should we… erm… continue testing the theory? A single reading is hardly well-rounded data-gathering."
Severus's mouth twitched on the urge to smile while he took a step in her direction.
"Several data samples should be necessary to draw any kind of conclusion," he agreed.
She was laughing when she tipped her head up and reached to tangle her fingers in his hair, going up on her toes to meet him as he lowered his lips to hers once more.