Author's Notes: Thanks to t_geyer for finding my mistakes, for encouragement, opinions and all the rest, especially putting up with me for so very long.
Thanks also to Bambu, who started out by skimming through these and offering reassurance. Her feedback has become one of the things that keep me plugging away at this.
Finally, I need to thank alwaysJBJ for nagging me on Yahoo.
The characters will never be mine, but JKR hasn't sued me for playing with them (so far).
This isn't Deathly Hallows compliant.
Hermione had never been more grateful for her enchanted handbag than she was that night. Severus, it seemed, had been saving up things for her to take with her, from his great-great-grandfather's wand to trays of full potion vials and ingredients. There were notes, all made by Dictaquill, on everything from her new identity to potentially patentable Potions. Then there were books, not just her homework either. Somehow, she'd neglected the Magical History section in Severus's library, hidden away in a corner on the lowest shelf. Now, she'd ignored his six book rule and taken almost everything, hoping against hope.
"Don't you wish to see your other gifts?" Severus asked, as she shifted nervously from foot to foot by the door.
"Yes—" She reached out to catch his sleeve as he made to turn. "But no. I trust you. Even if it's not something I might buy myself, it'll be perfect for where you want to take me, and I— Just hold me. Please. Just for a few minutes."
Severus looked down at her china-doll face, with its cupid bow lips and clear brown eyes, and for the first time in months he truly remembered how young she was.
"My poor Hermione," he sighed, enfolding her in his arms. "I should never have brought—"
Her digits stilled his words, and he pressed a kiss to her fingertips.
"You didn't bring me into this, Severus. Unlike you, or Ron, or even Harry I had no choice in whether I wanted to choose sides," she whispered back. "Ever since..." She rolled her eyes, knowing he would correct her if she tried to use the name Voldemort. "The Dark Lord came back, I've had no choice. I'm not fighting for a way of life. I'm fighting for the right to live."
"Nevertheless, I have placed you in greater danger," Severus opined gently as he drew her close. "It was wrong of me to forget just how young the shoulders on which I placed such a burden truly are."
"Almost as old as you were when you became Dumbledore's spy," Hermione reminded him as she snuggled into his chest, savouring the feel of silk over muscle. "I wouldn't give this up, not for anything. I wouldn't change a thing, except Viktor or maybe when I thought you were... you know, with Filch." Her eyes lifted. "Would you?"
"Except for those? Not one."
Their lips met in a sweetly trembling caress, both fearing to give their emotions free rein lest they overwhelm them with the force of a stampede.
"I shall send Hercules to find you," Severus said hoarsely as they parted. "Will you need a cage?"
Hermione shook her head. "Ron and Harry only put their owls in cages to travel. I always think Hedwig would rather fly." She tightened her grip around him until it hurt. "I'll miss you."
Severus grimaced, though it was meant to be a comforting smile. "You'll write."
"And I'll see you on Halloween, if not before."
"Halloween," Severus agreed, trying to keep the greed from his voice. "Perhaps, if there aren't any problems, you would let me take you to a late dinner after?"
"Viva Mexico?" Hermione asked.
"If that is what you wish," he acquiesced. "It is your birthday celebration, even if it is rather late. We could go somewhere more exclusive..."
"Who needs exclusive when we have our special restaurant?" A slow smile dawned on her face. "Unless you're finally offering me roses and filet mignon?"
"It would prevent any complications due to unforeseen delays."
"No delays," Hermione breathed. "I want time to... dance."
One ebony eyebrow arched upward. "What sort of dancing did you have in mind?"
"Oh, the slow unhurried sort, where we move together until all the world goes away except for you and me and the feel of your body brushing against mine in time to the music." She brushed her lips to Severus's Adam's apple, making his breathing even more ragged. "The rest is up to you, my coy Potions master. When you bought those clothes, were you thinking about what I would look like in them? Or what I would look like taking them off?"
Severus gulped deeply.
"You don't make it easy for a man to be good," he sighed.
Hermione shifted her hips, leaving no doubt as to her awareness of her words' effect. "From here, I get the impression you'll be very good indeed."
Severus's hands slid up her neck, thumbs coming to rest under her chin as he drew her mouth to his. "What do you see in this ugly old man?" he wondered in the instant before his mouth covered hers in a demanding kiss.
Hermione paused in the doorway when Severus pulled unsteadily away. "You know how to whistle, don't you, Steve?"