Chapter One

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Hermione Granger collapsed back into the haphazard pile of pillows and blew a sweat-dampened strand of hair from her eyes. Her heart hammered, the final echoes of her orgasm spiralling through her sated flesh. She was still shaking... Fuck, the man knew exactly what he was doing. As if she could ever doubt it. Oh, this had been an absolutely excellent idea. Her best yet.

She slid a glance to the wizard who'd sunk to the other half of her bed. Long fingered hands scrubbed at his face, his breathing still laboured. "Fuck, Granger..."

Hermione snorted. "You just did."

He pulled his hands away from his face and obsidian eyes fixed on her, cool and firm. He lifted a dark eyebrow. "I noticed."

She grinned at him. Nothing could dim her...exuberance. Not at that moment. "I said we'd be good. So...?" She rolled onto her side and propped her head up. Her muscles -every single one of them- were deliciously tired and aching in a way they hadn't for too long. "Is this a good plan? You and me, Severus. Fuck buddies."

He winced. "I would prefer you couch it in more...genteel terms."

"Friends with benefits? Our understanding." Hermione caught her fingers in her tangled hair and frowned. "No. That sounds complicated. Our... suitable arrangement? How about that?" She traced a finger over the hard curve of his bicep -she'd never before truly appreciated how toned Severus Snape was- and goosebumps followed on his skin in her wake. "Honestly, this makes so much sense."

Dark eyes held her. Ones she couldn't read. Not even when he came, groaning her name as if it were torn from him.

"Just sex?"

She nodded. "We go on as before. Friends. Occasional bickering colleagues." She flopped back into her pillows and stared up at the smooth white of her bedroom ceiling. "After the disaster with Ron. Bastard. And then the plethora of glory hunters wanting an Hermione-shaped notch on their bedpost, as if I'm to be collected like a Chocolate Frog Card..." She growled and pushed down the old anger. "That's not you. I trust you, Severus." She smiled at him and found his unfathomable eyes still fixed on her. She shrugged, glad that the flush of her climax was still hot on her skin to hide her nerves. "You won't run off with a kiss-and-tell exposé to The Daily Prophet."

She pressed her lips together to deny more rambling. Why wasn't he saying anything?

The first chill rippled over her damp skin and she shivered. Scrambling up, she tugged at the rumpled and discarded sheets and blankets. She glanced back at him. Firelight danced over his alabaster skin, catching on the silvering of too many scars. She'd kissed most of them. The one on his right hip was a special favourite because he'd arched under her and moaned as if she'd given him Christmas.

"Of course, it's not as important to you. The Prophet doesn't hound you. Well, not any more. And the old double standard of a witch spilling your sexual secrets wouldn't do your reputation or career any harm." A wry smile tugged at her mouth. "And I miss sex." Her smile grew to a smirk. "Especially wild, toe-curling sex."

"Would it be exclusive?"

Something twisted in her belly, an old ache that she couldn't dwell on. Could she ask that of him? Infidelity had ripped a hole through her. But they wouldn't be a couple... "I'm not looking any further."

She fell back into her bed, dragging her sheets with her. The cool cotton soon warmed against her skin. "I can do friends. I can't do 'relationships'." She air-quoted the word. "I need my time away from others. I'm not social. I don't want the insanity that being famous brings. And that won't change. Anyone I'm with thinks it should.

"So, if you agree, we're old friends and we have staggeringly good times in my bed. Or yours, if you prefer."

She couldn't say more. And she didn't want to expound on his relationship nightmares. It had been three years since the end of the war, and covens of witches still trailed after their 'Dark Prince' intent to heal his shattered heart.

Severus wound a curling length of her hair around his finger, his expression oddly thoughtful. "The use of each other as an...accomplice at those interminable Ministry events continues. Certain witches are becoming persistent. And there's a function this Saturday. If a hint of this suitable arrangement can spill over to deter them...?"

Hermione grinned at him. "Done. I will be subtle."

He lifted an eyebrow. "That I have yet to see."

"And then we can leave together to get thoroughly naked. Rather than returning home to a cat and hot chocolate."

His mouth twitched upwards. "I have no cat." He released the strand of hair and watched it spring back. "The Prophet will begin to speculate on an us."

Hermione huffed. "They can speculate all they want. We will be seen out as we always are, through the Ministry and work. There'll be no cosy dinners or appearing arm-in-arm in Diagon Alley."

She shuddered. Ron had insisted on that in the early days of their relationship. He'd grinned like a baboon when the flare and smoke of flash-bulbs caught them forever for the front page of every newspaper in the wizarding world. He had them seen as a couple everywhere.

She'd put up with it...until she realised his eye was starting to wander to prettier witches. Then it was more than his eye. And after she'd finished with him it was a good long while before that could wander again.

"So do we have a deal, Severus?"

His smile was dark. "We do."

He eased back the sheets to expose her bare skin to the chilled air. A slow finger teased around her peaked nipple and she bit back a quick gasp. It hadn't been a false memory, her building a fantasy around her first time. Severus Snape really could stoke fire in her flesh with his slightest touch.

They'd walked away easily from each other three years before. No entanglements. No regrets. Yet another victory party at Grimmauld Place that led unexpectedly to a simply joyous weekend of him giving her a very thorough introduction to sex.

His hot mouth closed over her nipple and Hermione groaned.

Yes, a suitable arrangement with Severus Snape. Her absolutely best idea. Ever.

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