For Hogwarts: A Regency Gamble
Sunday, August 11, 2002, After Dinner to
Monday, August 12, 2002, Afternoon
Hermione passed into his room as if she were entering a dream. She had often sensed this reality on the other side of the barriers he had erected between them, those both physical and emotional. She had tried to breach those barricades in every way she knew. Now he willingly opened to her, and standing in his space, surrounded by his things, she felt as if she were inside the man, himself.
The first thing she noticed was the enormous bed on a raised dais in the middle of the room, and she felt a flutter of panic. This was no drunken visit to a schoolmate's flat after a night at the pub. She was allowing herself to be seduced by a man twenty years her senior. Would she be found wanting?
'May I offer you a nightcap?' he inquired, moving past the bed as if it were just another piece of furniture. He paused at a chest of drawers to empty his pockets. 'Dumbledore added some superb cognac to the cellars during his tenure, and there is Firewhisky—or I can procure something more to your taste.'
He stood at the drinks trolley, at some distance from her, waiting to hear her answer. There was no mad, pressing rush to his bed. She relaxed.
'I'd like the cognac, please,' she said, inspecting the spacious room. To her left were floor-to-ceiling, bulging bookcases, separated only by doors—one surely led to an ensuite bathroom. She longed to explore and peruse the book titles, but the pull of the man, his physical presence and her longing to be near him, was the stronger yearning.
That was a first, wanting a man more than books.
She approached him, only to be distracted by a familiar object on the top of the tallboy. Investigating, she took up the deck of old playing cards. She cut the deck, and the queen of hearts appeared. A second cut produced the jack—no, the knave, she reminded herself—of spades. It must be some trick deck, though she couldn't imagine why he would carry it with him.
She replaced the cards and realised she was looking at some other familiar items. There was her old ring, the one she had thrown at Ron! And her handkerchief—she had given it to Severus as a good luck token, telling him to win everything at the poker game. And beneath the handkerchief was his personalised schedule—which had once been Ron's—proof that her good luck token had brought him success.
'There's more,' he said, holding out a cut glass tumbler of cognac.
She took the glass, cocking her head curiously. He picked up a small pocketbook and fanned through the pages, past notes scribbled in his spiky hand, until he came to a flattened, dried up flower. It was yellow, like the daisies she'd worn in her riding dress buttonhole.
'Is that … one of mine?' she asked.
He quirked an eyebrow at her, and rather than answering, he clinked his glass against hers. 'To us,' he said and sipped.
Hermione felt as if an avalanche of information—of proof that he not only desired her, but cared for her—had been spilt into her lap, like an embarrassment of riches. She was too moved to speak, so she didn't try, but gazed in stupefaction at the precious collection of odds and ends.
Startled, Hermione stared down at Crookshanks. 'Why are you here?' she said softly.
From a tin pushed to the far back corner of the chest-top, Severus plucked a cat treat and dropped it on the rug, where Crookshanks began to crunch it.
'I don't know how he gets in, but he will keep coming back,' Severus said in a bored tone.
Probably because you keep feeding him treats, she thought, but what she said aloud was, 'Is this where he's been disappearing to?'
Crookshanks didn't like many people, but the way he rubbed against Severus' booted ankles, leaving a trail of ginger fur on the black fabric of his trousers, was proof that Severus was one of the chosen.
Severus bent and scooped the cat up, taking him to the door on the wall—the wall—and depositing him in the corridor. 'Go chase a rat—make yourself useful,' he advised Crookshanks before closing the door on him.
Hermione gravitated to the wall, seeing the chair drawn so close, and she stroked the wood. 'My bed was right on the other side,' she said, darting a sideways glance at him.
He advanced on her, depositing his glass on a small table in passing. Her glass, however, he disregarded entirely as he took her rather roughly in his arms, and cognac spilt on his rug. 'Do you think I was unaware of that fact?' he said. 'That I failed to imagine you there?'
He kissed her none too gently, but Hermione made no objection to his show of passion; she wished she could Vanish the dratted glass of cognac so she could use both arms to participate in the embrace, but her wand was out of reach and she was too distracted to manage a spell without it.
He held her shoulders and glared down into her eyes. 'Are you quite sure you wish to take this step?' he demanded. 'There is much you don't know about me. I am not a … nice man.'
He sneered contemptuously when he said the word 'nice', but she recognised that the derision was directed at himself. Hermione twisted away from him and took a few steps away to rid herself of the unwanted glass.
'Do you have any idea the things I've done?' she said, turning to face him. 'Does the fact that I did dreadful things without the benefit of a Dark Mark on my arm make them any less despicable?'
'You did nothing you didn't have to do to protect Potter and further the job given him by Dumbledore,' he said, approaching her slowly.
'You did nothing you didn't have to do to further the job given you by Dumbledore,' she responded stubbornly. 'So, you made some stupid mistakes when you were eighteen? I don't care.'
He stopped before her, glaring, and she glared back, saying, 'I've seen your true colours, Severus. Everyone has. You're brave and honourable, which outstrips nice every time. So forget about it; you can't impress me with your lack of niceness. I have no use for nice men.'
He drew a deep breath, his nostrils flaring, as if her words relieved him. But the emergence of his self-doubts had roused hers, and she crossed arms over her inadequately covered chest.
'You love Lily Potter,' she said, staring at one of his many black buttons, avoiding his eyes. 'It's hard to … compete with a dead woman.'
He cupped her cheek, resolutely tilting her face until she looked at him. 'Loved,' he corrected her quietly. 'It was a long time ago, Milady. It is in my past.' His thumb passed slowly over her lower lip, his eyes following the journey. 'Tonight is the beginning of my—of our—future.'
He swallowed, and Hermione, riveted by his touch, soothed and persuaded by his words, swayed towards him. He crushed her against him, his voice hoarse in her ear.
'I do not wish to speak through the wall tonight. I want to be beside you, close enough to hear every breath—every sigh—every sound you make when I touch you.'
He kissed her again, with less violence, but no less passion than before. Buoyed by her words of acceptance—by his words of the future—he held her with an overwhelming confidence, his lips moving over hers hungrily as her mouth opened to him.
She inhaled him, taste, scent, and sensation, releasing, one by one, every physical law that bound her to life as she'd always known it. She was in a reverie, an existence apart, where a wizard could bewitch her senses—and she, his—in such a way that they would cross to another plane of reality altogether. She yielded to his dominating tongue, to his possessing hands, until her senses were heightened to the point of exquisite agony: her heart racing, breath gasping, skin hyper-sensitive to the least of his touches.
He tugged peremptorily at the satin tie fastening the overdress beneath her breasts, his mouth held in a twist of inchoate sensuality so fierce it bereft her of words. The silken garment was pushed from her shoulders to the floor, and he swung her up in his arms as if she weighed nothing to move the few strides to his bed. He laid her there and stood for a moment absorbing the sight of her before he was beside her, his face buried in her throat, his teeth against her skin and a hand cupping her breast, his groaned words barely reaching her ears.
'… where you belong, Milady …'
And his responses! She slowly released the buttons of the divinely pettable coat, stroking the gradually exposed flesh. She scarcely noticed the pale skin or the smattering of dark hair about the flat discs crowning his pectorals, for she was wholly taken up with watching his eyes close and his lips part in panting breaths, as she realised her ambition of exploring his naked torso. She spread the coat wide to feast upon the revealed splendour of his ribcage, where she trailed her fingers from rib to rib, followed by her lips, down the lightly defined furrows of his abdomen, until her cheek lay just above his darkly furred navel, her eyes following the dense trail of hair disappearing into his trousers … to other glories.
His retaliatory efforts were much impeded by the extensive number and admittedly strange construction of her Regency costume components, yet there was neither awkwardness nor frustration attendant upon his labours. He simply Vanished them, one by one, deaf to her first gasped protest, after which she was too far gone to object. The exquisite languor of his process—breath upon a furled peak, followed by lips, then tongue, fingers discovering a slick cleft, eyes as invasive as ever his hands could be, delving into her very soul—the exacting attention he gave to every millimetre of bared flesh guaranteed that she would be beyond thought or reason as their exertions neared fruition.
Hermione was possessed of the body consciousness deeply ingrained in most of her sex, and she was shy to be revealed in all her imperfections to the eyes of the man she craved. But his slow, worshipful appreciation of her nakedness calmed her every misgiving.
He rested upon an elbow, nude and visibly aroused, the flat of one hand stroking reverently up the curve of her hip to the dip of her waist. 'I've never seen a sight more enticing,' he murmured, the hand continuing upward to caress a breast. 'The first time I saw you outside the window, hurrying down the path with your hair stuffed up in that silly hat, I didn't know who you were, but I wanted you—right where you are now.'
Hermione arched into his touch, drunk on her arousal. 'Naked in your bed?' she asked breathily, thinking her voice had never sounded odder.
And he shifted over her, the fascinating movement of muscle in his upper body further reducing her to incoherence. He found his place in the cradle of her body, the natural sheathe for the parts designed for such ideal confluence. She cried out at the perfection of this thrust, piercing at once her body and her soul, her fingers scrabbling for purchase against the mobile sinew of his back.
He rocked once, his head falling forward, as if he felt the impossible perfection as strongly as she did, and she gasped aloud.
'Naked in my bed,' he agreed, 'in a long, slow …'
He rocked again and she moved with him much as she had done when they danced, her body seeming to know its métier without prior instruction. Hermione turned her head upon the pillow, the flash-fire of passion they had forged singing through her in a mad rush she had neither the means nor the will to slow.
'Not slow,' he gasped, fingers of one hand gripping her shoulder, and she gently sank her teeth into the fleshy side of that hand, straining to absorb all of him, flesh and bone and striving, fiery soul. 'Hermione!'
Craving gave way to union, then to sweet, seamless transcendence.
He fell onto his pillow, pulling her with him until she sprawled half atop him, sweat-slick and breathless, looking down at his face, completion ringing through every cell of her body. She stroked his cheek, her heart full to bursting. Had she once thought him ugly? Unprepossessing? She now held dear every plane and angle of his countenance, undistracted and undismayed by his large, hooked nose. His looks were arresting, and having seen the lean length of his legs, the supple musculature of his back, the sleek curve of his bum, she was completely enamoured of his person, which rated another thorough examination … very soon.
He laced his fingers into her severely disarranged hair and regarded her with languid eyes. 'I hope you found that … satisfactory, Milady.'
Hermione laughed and flushed fierily. Severus watched this process with clinical interest.
'Ah, observing your blushes is far more enjoyable with you in this state,' he said, stroking a fingertip down her throat into the cleft between her breasts. 'See how far it goes?'
He rolled her onto her back, looming over her again, hawkish and deliciously predatory. 'Tell me you don't have to be at work tomorrow.'
She tucked a hank of sweat-damp hair behind his ear. 'I could probably delay going in until afternoon,' she said dubiously. 'But you're going to be terribly busy saving the magic …'
He scowled. 'It's a bloody inconvenient time to have an educational crisis in the wizarding world—just when I would vastly prefer to be … otherwise engaged.'
He gazed into her face, allowing his eyes to wander her naked body with a possessive assurance that bordered on insolence, as if she were his to plunder at will—as if there were no doubt of her welcoming his attentions. The fact that she was putty in his hands—that she found his outrageous cockiness unbearably sexy—was slightly appalling to a young woman of her sensibilities. Taking some control of the situation, she pulled him down into a kiss, amazed to discover how swiftly the passion—smouldering, rather than extinguished—reignited.
'Hungry wench,' Severus rumbled into her ear just before she felt his teeth upon her neck. 'You have to give a man time to catch his breath, you know.'
Hermione might have been abashed in other circumstances—when had she ever wanted one tumble immediately upon the heels of another?—but she felt no shame. Instead, she was filled with a lovely confidence of her own. Had he made her beg—seen her in extremity—heard her cry out? Well, she had observed no less from him. They were in mutual thrall, and she was as sure of her power over him as she was of her own helpless desire.
'What we need,' he said, rolling away from her, 'is a bath.'
Hermione allowed herself to be pulled to her feet, and inexplicably unembarrassed by her nakedness, she followed him into the Headmaster's bathroom. There were the usual fixtures—a basin, a toilet, a marble-tiled shower—but there was also a smaller model of the tub in the prefects' bathroom that brought a broad smile to her face.
'I thought you'd like it,' he said.
She giggled. 'Such sybaritic pleasures for the Headmaster!'
There were only four faucets on this spa-sized tub, one on each side, as opposed to the hundred in the swimming pool-sized prefect's bath, but each golden faucet was marked by a different coloured jewel in its handle. Graduated steps led into the depths, where a man might stand in water up to his neck. Severus bent, his movements drawing her rapt attention to the ripple of sinew and muscle beneath his pale skin, and as he twisted one of the faucets, steamy, scented water foamed into the tub.
'Did you think the prefects would outrank the Headmaster in comforts?' he asked. 'We'll let the tub fill, and while it does, you can take the pins from your hair.' His hand closed over the back of her neck. 'I would like to wash it for you.'
The bath led into a dressing room, a manly space smelling so totally of him that she paused for a moment in the doorway just to breathe. All about the walls, his robes, shirts, trousers, and cloaks hung on rails above highly polished black boots. There was no chair in this room, but there was a stool before an old-fashioned boot jack, and he compelled her to sit there, while his long fingers probed for her hairpins.
Hermione was acutely aware of his presence at her back. Surrounded by his clothes, inundated by the essence of him, she was in lovers' paradise. What would the witches who had so eagerly pursued him have given to be in her place at this moment? The idea gave her a shiver of pleasure so acute that she was covered in gooseflesh.
He removed the hairpins, unwound the braids, and took up a broad hairbrush from a shelf to smooth the tangled, disordered mess. It was on the tip of her tongue to tell him not to bother, but his hands in her hair were pure heaven; she surrendered to the bliss.
'Next weekend, you must visit for another riding lesson,' he said. 'One thing I will very much miss about Regency Week—though not as much as I will miss being at your side every waking moment—is daily rides. Life does not afford as much leisure time to men in this age as in that one.'
Something in his words sparked a connection in her mind, and she tilted her head back to see his total relaxation as he brushed her hair, his focus on the brush he wielded, as if there was nothing in the world now of more importance than the task he performed.
'I know what to call Apollyon and Persephone's foal,' she said excitedly. 'Not after a book character, but after this week—she could be called Regency!'
He replaced the brush on its shelf and led her to the tub. 'It's perfect,' he told her. 'Regency she shall be.'
They dawdled in the bath, washing one another at times playfully, at other times erotically, with many interruptions for kisses and caresses. He submitted to her massaging shampoo through his black hair, and she luxuriated in the same treatment from him. Then they held one another until the bathwater grew cool.
Climbing from the tub, Hermione took the towel Severus gave her, then noticed a low shelf with several bottles of Savoir Smith's Sore Muscle Reliever. She took one, turning to him curiously.
'It's marvellous stuff for saddle soreness, but why do you need so many bottles?'
He stretched the towel taut behind him, rubbing the water from his back. 'I brewed them,' he informed her smugly. 'Giving them out to the guests was my field test—the product is ready to be licensed for sale in apothecary shops.'
Hermione grinned in delight. 'You're Savoir Smith?'
He bared his teeth in answer, taking her towel from her hands and dropping it to the floor. 'Only when I am in your bath, relieving your aching muscles. I supplement my income as I can,' he said, bending to kiss her mouth.
When they emerged from the bath, tea and a napkin covered tray full of sandwiches had appeared near the drinks trolley. Severus wore a silky dressing gown and had loaned her a jumper of soft, dark cotton, which she wore with the sleeves turned up.
'I'm ravenous,' she said.
'As am I,' he replied, directing her to sit upon the chintz covered sofa. He regarded her there with lascivious pleasure. 'You must recruit your strength, for the night is long, and you are entirely at my mercy.'
Hermione sniffed, her chin in the air. 'I am young and resilient,' she informed him, accepting a cup of tea and a sandwich piled with roast beef. 'Eat up … sir.'
His laughing black eyes belied his command for her to be still and drink her tea. They sat close upon the sofa, eating and chatting, until Hermione spied the stack of books upon the table at his elbow.
'Jane Austen!' she said. 'And you behaved as if you'd never read her!'
He returned his teacup to the tray and slipped an arm about her shoulders. 'I read the books in self-defence,' he replied. 'Some wizards need defence against the Dark arts; others need defence against the Granger arts, which are far more powerful.'
Rejuvenated by bath and food, it was only natural for such a proclamation to result in Hermione straddling his lap, wrapping her fingers in his damp hair, assaulting him with kisses to which he submitted with indolent delight. It seemed that he enjoyed her high-handed demands as much as he did his own predatory incursions, and he made free of the loose-fitting jumper she wore, his wandering hands acquainting him fully with the topography of her body. At length she was curled up in his lap, cradled against his shoulder. She gazed breathlessly into his face, loving the strength of the arms that held her, loving the fierce possessiveness of his expression, loving …
His jaw set in a stubborn line, he ran a hand over her hip and down her bare leg. 'I am older than you, but not experienced with dealing with the opposite sex—perhaps even less experienced than you, when it comes to …'
He stopped and looked at her almost angrily, she thought. Tenderly, she feathered her fingertips over his cheek.
'It's all right,' she murmured. 'You can say anything you like to me.'
He tightened the arm that held her to him, his mouth twisting in the self-derisive moue she was coming to know very well.
'I tried to make myself clear before I brought you to my bed,' he ground out, his tone harsh. 'I believe I understand your … feelings in the matter.' His teeth gritted, as if against the very notion of having or understanding anyone else's feelings, much less speaking of them aloud.
She struggled to sit straighter and kissed him, wanting to relieve his obvious distress at putting emotions into words. Severus Snape had alwaysspoken most clearly with actions. She was perfectly content to allow him to go on doing so.
His hands framed her face, and he pulled back from her, ending the kiss. 'Hermione,' he said, 'I have to be sure you know I … love you.'
'Oh!' she gasped. Her jaw dropped, her eyes filled with tears, and she felt the impulse to hide her face against his neck, but he held her in place, his eyes boring into hers, his tension palpable.
She loved him so fiercely she could not immediately formulate a response, and tears of happiness began to roll down her cheeks.
His lips pressed together in a straight line. 'Perhaps you are unaware that it is customary to make some response to such a declaration!' he snapped.
Hermione dragged his hands from her cheeks and held them to her lips, kissing first one and then the other.
'Oh, Severus, only you could make a declaration of love as if you were challenging me to a duel!' she said, between a sob and a laugh. 'Of course I love you—love you like mad—and I thought you were going to send me away today with nothing!'
Relief washed over his expression like sunlight breaking through storm clouds, and she saw clearly how desperately he wanted to believe her, and how difficult it was for him to do so.
'Oh, my darling,' she said, sliding from his lap to stand before him upon the rug. She pulled the jumper over her head, standing naked for him beneath the candle-filled chandelier. 'I don't have the words for this, and neither do you. Come to bed, where I can show you exactly how I feel.'
She took his hand, and he followed her willingly, as she had known he would. She climbed onto the bed, feeling like some ancient goddess, her wild hair tumbling about her shoulders, followed by her exalted mate, potent and primal in his glory as he pinned her to the sheets.
Their communication was exceptional, if protracted, and possessed of a crystalline clarity seldom achieved between a wizard and a witch. When they lay tangled together, spent, they drifted to sleep on one pillow, each exhale of the one greedily absorbed by the other; synthesis complete.
Severus stood at the window, watching the dawn come to the most sublime day of his existence. The days when he had been dogged by Darkness were finally, indisputably at an end. Hermione Granger had exploded into his life like a meteor from a distant universe, bringing light he had not known he had been without until she shined it upon him. Now, he needed it—needed her—as a flowering plant needs the sun and continually turns its face to the source.
He was in a state of awe and freely acknowledged it to himself, giddy as ever Lucius had been at his most annoying. Things with Hermione were progressing perfectly—he could ask for nothing more—and he was wholly unused to getting what he wanted. He had long ago given up hope of ever receiving the deepest desire of his heart. His heart! That organ, which he had believed to be dead long since, useless and disregarded, had been brought back to thundering life by the smile of his brown-eyed witch.
He wasn't so foolish as to think there would be no challenges—distance alone would be a bugger—but he was confident that they could find a way through any problems. Hermione was not blind to his faults—she had made that perfectly clear—but knowing he was possessed of them, she accepted him anyway.
The edge of the rising sun surmounted the treetops of the Forbidden Forest, and the distant mist over the lake began to diminish. He looked down at the deck of cards he held and felt a foolish rush of affection for them. After a lifetime of the ill-luck inherited from Tobias Snape along with his ugly, hooked nose, Severus had finally been dealt a winning hand. The cards had said Hermione was his to win if he was man enough to take the risk.
He had gambled everything, and the gamble had paid off … in hearts.
His reverie was broken by her voice, which sounded sleepy and wistful and stirred his blood powerfully. She sat up in the bed, the sheet falling from her shoulders to reveal her beautiful breasts, limned irresistibly golden by the early morning sun.
Ah—life was calling his name, and the promise it held was beyond anything he had ever imagined.
Abandoning the deck of ancient playing cards upon the window ledge, he started quickly towards her, saying the words he knew she needed to hear as badly as he needed to say them.
Hermione Granger sat at her desk in her cupboard sized office at the Ministry of Magic. The Senior Assistant to the Minister for Special Projects rated her own office, but not a large one.
Her desktop was covered with a light film of dust—she had, after all, been away for more than a week—but her workspace, which was ordinarily ruthlessly organised, was in some disarray this afternoon. In place of pride, directly in front of her and absorbing all of her dreamy-eyed attention, was an enormous bouquet of red roses, interspersed with the occasional yellow daisy, 'in case you should find yourself in need of a buttonhole,' the card had proclaimed. The imprint was that of the florist in Hogsmeade, and the card bore the spiky script of the one and only Severus Snape—he had walked into the village, then, to send her flowers, which had been delivered less than an hour after she had Disapparated from the gates of Hogwarts. Had he gone directly from their goodbye kiss to send them?
Against the rounded base of the vase, two photographs were propped. The first had been taken by Dennis Creevey the night of the Grand Ball—had it been only two days ago?—and in it, she twirled in Severus' arms around the dance floor. In the photograph, they looked like something right out of a Jane Austen novel, the gentleman and lady in their Regency garb, wooing in the only socially acceptable way.
The second was of a frisky black foal, prancing across the green grass; across the top of the photograph, in silvery ink, Severus had scrawled 'Regency'.
'We'll school her for you from the beginning,' he had told her after making love to her at daybreak. 'By the time she's ready to begin training, you will be as familiar to her as the stable-elf who tends her. She'll make you a fine hunter, and the two of you will learn to jump together.'
Hermione allowed her mind to wander to the fantasy of riding across the fields beside Severus, their black steeds neck and neck, soaring over fences. The idea produced a surprising ache, considering how many times she had satisfied that craving in the last twenty-four hours.
Also on the desktop, now abandoned and disregarded by her, were newspapers and a periodical. The Daily Prophet bore the headline, 'Save the Magic!' above a photograph of Kingsley Shacklebolt and Headmaster Snape shaking hands. The Quibbler was folded to show the heading, 'Behind the Walls at Hogwarts' Regency Week!', beside which was an amusing photograph of Harry and Draco, playing blindfolded badminton. And the cover of Probe!Magazine's special edition proclaimed, 'Publisher and Editor-in-Chief Launches Educational Reform at Hogwarts!', Rita Skeeter's face superimposed over a stock photograph of Hogwarts.
A dark purple paper airplane zoomed into her office to hover above the middle of her desk. It was not the first memo she had received since she arrived at the office today; all the others she had sent to her overstuffed inbox with the flick of her wrist. But this airplane was not the lavender of the Ministry underlings; it was the vivid purple of Kingsley Shacklebolt's office, and as such, merited Hermione's immediate attention.
She plucked the paper from the air and smoothed it open on her desk, forcing her mind to a somewhat disciplined state for the business of the Ministry.
Excellent job on the Regency Week Project. I have read your Report to the Governors of Hogwarts, and already today, my office has received a number of effusive comments from those who attended. A suitable commendation will be added to your file to mark your outstanding achievement.
I know that you have scarcely had time to catch your breath since the end of Regency Week, but I also know that you detest having time on your hands. Accordingly, I have a new project for you .
A shivering flutter of anticipation rippled up her spine, and she felt the hair on the back of her neck standing on end. Could it be …? She continued to read.
'Save the Magic' is the program Headmaster Snape has instituted for the Muggle-born students displaced by the war. It is a project with a limited timeline, because it will end when the last of those students completes their magical education, but it is a very important one. I need my right hand witch on the job, to spearhead this venture and be the Ministry contact on the ground. You will work in close conjunction with Headmaster Snape, and your title will be Director of the Displaced Students Alliance. You will report to me on a weekly basis, and as usual, you will function with the full authority of the Ministry of Magic.
This project will require you to be housed at Hogwarts, to live in the castle and eat your meals with the students under your direction. In many ways, you will function as the Head of House for the displaced students and the Deputy Headmistress for their academic affairs. Because of the urgency of this undertaking, I need you on site immediately—today, if possible.
Headmaster Snape has agreed to this arrangement, pursuant to your acceptance of the assignment. I feel confident, after observing your collaboration for Hogwarts in the matter of Regency Week, that you and he will make a successful partnership in this venture, as well.
You have my full confidence, Hermione.
The Minister's signature was written at the bottom of the page, below which his Seal was pressed into the paper.
Hermione looked blankly around her cramped office. There were a million things to do! What was she waiting for? She didn't belong here. Her job—her place—her life was with Severus. Why had he not mentioned this to her before she left? For the blackguard he claimed to be, Severus Snape was hemmed in by scruples on all sides.
She took up her quill and scribbled a quick acknowledgement beneath the Minister's Seal. I'm on my way, to begin consultations with the Headmaster today. Owls for me can be directed to Hogwarts.
She was going back … to Hogwarts. She was going back … to Severus. And they could be together … for Hogwarts.
'For us,' Hermione said aloud, pocketing her photographs. Then she took up her vase of flowers and walked out of her office without a backward glance.
Most people would regard it as chancy, throwing in her lot with Severus Snape, but she knew, with utter certainty, that it was no gamble.
It was a sure thing.
A/N: This story was written to the prompt below, which was submitted by sshg316 for the Summer 2010 SSHG Exchange on Live Journal, but was not chosen by her author. I used the prompt to write for swythyv in the 2011 Exchange:
Prompt Used: Ron and Hermione are engaged. Stay with me a sec. Harry, Ron, Severus, Neville, Arthur, and Dumbledore's portrait have a monthly poker night where they play cards, lose a ton of money (always to the same person - you decide who), and get rip-roaring drunk. The drinking starts early one night, and drunken Ron is convinced he can win back his money with his current hand. Only problem is, he doesn't have enough to wager. So instead of money, he raises the stakes... by wagering one fiancée! Snape wins the hand, the pot, and a fiancée. Hermione is FURIOUS, and Snape isn't exactly happy. Unfortunately, magical bets have serious repercussions. They're stuck together unless they can figure a way out. Like another bet, perhaps? Let the games begin! Humor and fun, with our couple together at the end.