After a long nap, Hermione could feel her world slowly set itself right. The pain she had experienced yesterday - or has it even been yesterday? - had been terrifying, but knowing that she had shared it with Professor Snape, as it had originally been his, helped her to at least comprehend what had happened to her. And with her growing understanding the fear that had gripped her slowly disappeared. So she was in some way magically connected to Professor Snape. This was odd, but since she had entered the magical world, Hermione had experienced even more extraordinary things, being petrified by a gigantic Basilisk roaming the castle was only one of them. In comparison, that particular experience being connected to a grumpy Potions Professor did not even unsettle her … much. Especially now, that he had openly broken with You Know Who and even amputated his arm to be rid of the madman, there was really no question about the man's allegiances, so there was really nothing to worry about, right? And it wasn't like Professor Snape wouldn't fervently search for a solution to their problem, because Hermione could imagine he wanted to be linked to her as little as she wanted to be magically linked to him. He would probably fervently look for a solution and Hermione was glad. Who wanted to be magically linked to another person, if that meant having to share their pain but nothing else. But had the Professor actually said that? Could it be that they also shared other feelings? Or magic? What if they did? Would the benefits maybe even be worth keeping that strange connection? Possibly, but Hermione guessed that depended very much on the costs. Maybe it would be worth asking Professor Dumbledore about it, as he obviously had been the one talking to Professor Snape about their condition.
Time of exposure: 2 hours, 54 minutes, 55 seconds
Physical interaction : none
How could I forget that the girl would be able to feel the pain I was experiencing, when cutting off my arm? It was a foolish mistake that has forced me to admit certain aspects of that strange condition to her. Luckily she took the news well, even though she voiced the wish to undo said connection. Lately, I find myself more and more unwilling to do so, as I have gotten used to the positive aspects of this strange condition.
If all goes well, her parents will leave her at the castle and as I am forced to seek refuge here too, for the time being. It will be much easier to expose myself to her here, without behaving suspiciously. Utilizing her for the purpose of brewing a restorative potion for my arm will only be one way of keeping in touch with her from now on.
After departing the girl's room, I directly went to the library and checked out all the books only marginally relevant for researching our condition. This way I can assure that she only learns as much as I need her to. Too much knowledge about certain aspects would surely only unsettle her.
Severus stared at his notes with a sigh. He had tried to put the last hours down as rationally as possible, even though it got harder and harder for him to do so. Seeing the girl in this weakened and unconscious state had been… challenging for him, especially as he could not allow himself to show his concern. It would have been strangely out of character for him and considering what an old crooked- nosed fool Dumbledore was and that her parents were now around to watch them, he had to be very, very careful. First and foremost, he had to make sure the Headmaster kept his mouth shut. Severus knew the man's tendency to chatter only too well and it was only a matter of hours or days, until Miss Granger would seek him out in the hope to gain some more answers from him. Severus had to make sure the old fool did not scare her away with tales of white, love-based magic or equally terrifying stuff. Because this would be the most direct way to send the girl packing and leaving with her parents, only to realize that there would be no running from him, as fate seemed to have chained her to him. And he would prefer to spare the girl the heartbreak that realization brought with it. The girl was a teenager for Salazar's sake and being shackled to a man that could actually be her father was just… not what she probably wanted. Not that this whole mess meant that they would have to end up together… romantically speaking, as even maintaining a friendship would probably be challenging enough - and difficult for her to explain to her other friends.
Severus sighed. This whole situation was a mess. Still, he realized that the thought of seeing Miss Granger again made him almost happy, especially now that he would be able to talk to her again as the girl recovered and he would not be trapped in his animagus form. Depending on how she felt, they could maybe even start brewing his potion, which would mean that they would spend a significant amount of time together, doing the thing he loved most - brewing. And the thought alone of this happening soon made him almost giddy with anticipation.
“So this is where you’re having breakfast every morning,” her mum said while staring speechlessly at the enchanted ceiling of the Great Hall. Hermione was thrilled that she was well enough the next morning to eat her breakfast down there and not in the infirmary or her new private room, like she feared she would have to. She was joined not only by her mum and dad, but also Professor Snape, Hagrid, Madame Pomphrey, Mr Filch and even Professor Dumbledore. To her surprise, she felt completely fine the next day, as even the strange numbness she had felt before had vanished. Now, that her curse wound had properly healed, she felt better than she had in quite some time. As if that wasn't enough to make her feel happy, her parents were at Hogwarts, for a visit she'd never even allowed herself to dream of. Usually, the castle was protected against Muggles, even if they were a student's parents and she could not believe how lucky she was, for the Headmaster having made such an exception for them.
"You should see this place at Christmas or Halloween," Hermione gushed and from the corner of her eye, she could see the Headmaster smiling. "It's truly breathtaking. If Professor Dumbledore does not mind I would love to show you everything!"
Professor Dumbledore chuckled. "I'm sure there will be enough time for that, over the course of the next few days. Did you and Professor Snape already discuss the possibility of you helping him to prepare his potions?"
Hermione nodded, casting a quick look at her former potions Professor, who had been completely silent throughout the meal. “I agreed to help him, but we did not discuss the timeframe yet,” she answered, focussing back on Professor Dumbledore. “If it is alright with you, Sir, I would like to first talk to you though. Only if it isn’t too much of a bother, of course.”
The Headmaster looked at her with a kind smile. “On the contrary, Miss Granger. I find talking to such an intelligent student as yourself very refreshing. How about we have tea at my office around three? This would leave you with enough time to show off Hogwarts' excellent library to your parents and still assist Professor Snape, should he ask for it."
Hermione nodded eagerly, but she did not miss the dark look that Professor Snape bestowed on the Headmaster. Somehow she had the feeling that the man was not happy, though she had no idea why.
Professor Dumbledore's office was a small miracle of its own. Hermione was fascinated by the various devices that were scattered on almost every surface, ticking and wiring away and spiking her curiosity. She wondered what they were all for, as their function was sometimes hard to even guess. Maybe she had the chance to ask the Headmaster later, but for now, there were more pressing questions on her mind.
"Thank you for agreeing to meet me," Hermione said, carefully sitting down on the cushioned chair he offered her. There were already two steaming cups of tea on his desk, together with a plate of biscuits that looked positively sinful. And even though she would usually have been careful ingesting too much sugar, she had lost some pounds during the last weeks, which made her decide that she would make an exception in her diet today.
"It's really no bother, my Dear. I'm sure you have a lot of questions," Professor Dumbledore said, looking at her with twinkling blue eyes. "You are in quite a special situation, after all."
Hermione nodded. “Professor Snape explained that we are forced to share each other’s pain until we can find a way to undo this strange connection between us. He couldn’t tell me much though, as this seems to be a rather unexplored area of magic.”
The Professor looked at her with something like pity and Hermione imagined it was because of the pain she had recently experienced. She could still remember it, but somehow it already started to blur and shift to the very back of her mind. And Hermione was thankful for it. “Was that all Professor Snape said?” he asked, his eyes imploring.
Hermione nodded shyly. "There were lots of other things we discussed yesterday, and I imagine he was rather tired or in pain. He didn't say anything, but I could feel something wasn't quite right."
The Headmaster nodded with a sigh. “I think you might be right with that assumption, Miss Granger. So what is it I can do for you?”
Hermione thought or a moment. There was especially one question, Professor Snape would not be able to give her the answer for. “Sir, I don’t mean to pry, but what happened to your arm? It looks really painful and to be frank: Madame Pomphrey seemed to be really worried about you.”
The Headmaster looked at her, his eyebrows raised in surprise. He had probably expected she would ask him after Professor Snape, but Hermione got the feeling that the man would not appreciate being talked about behind his back.
"Well, I happened to have come to the conclusion that trying on a cursed ring would be a good idea. I thought I had broken the curse but obviously, I was wrong."
Hermione stared at him with wide eyes. A cursed ring? Merlin. "It does not look like the curse could be broken, Sir." She said hesitantly and at that, the Headmaster's eyes seemed to turn serious. For a moment he seemed to consider his answer, as his eyes studied her for a long while without him saying a word. But finally, he took a sip from his cup and said: "No, it, unfortunately, could not. Professor Snape did the best he could and trapped the curse within my hand, therefore its blackened state. Unfortunately, it is only a matter of time before the curse spreads and therefore kills me. But Miss Granger, this information is not intended to leave this room."
She stared at the old man in shock, her head buzzing with the information he had just given her. Professor Dumbledore was going to die? How could he be so calm about this? Why wasn’t he looking for a cure or some other way out? “You are going to die, Sir?”
The old man nodded, a fatherly smile appearing on his face. "We all will, eventually. And believe me, when I say, I've lived a very long and full life."
Hermione listened to his words with disbelief and growing sadness. She did not know the Headmaster very well, but she doubted that she or Professor Snape had accepted that terrible fate without at least trying to fight back. And just when she thought about her Potions Professor, another thought occurred to her. "What if one decided to cut your arm off, Sir - I mean just theoretically. Would the curse remain trapped within your arm and therefore no longer be able to kill you?"
She saw the man's eyes regard her with a thoughtful expression, before his mouth suddenly twitched into a smile. "Well, it appears, sometimes it takes an extraordinary young mind to come up with the most simple and still effective solutions, Miss Granger. It is of course not sure if it would work, but as it appears you and Professor Snape are going to brew a potion to restore an arm anyway. Maybe you should make it a double batch."
Somehow Hermione had not expected this answer, but she was thrilled that thanks to her idea there maybe still was hope for the old, kind Headmaster. “I’m sure we can do that, Sir,” she replied eagerly, which caused the Professor to smile even wider. “Shall I go and see Professor Snape right away?”
Albus Dumbledore chuckled. “I suggest you take your parents for a long walk around the Black Lake, Miss Granger, while I will talk to Professor Snape. I am sure he will be happy to meet you after dinner.”
Hermione nodded. “Of course, Sir. Tell me if there is something else I can help you with,” she said, before getting up from her chair. She realized that she hadn’t even touched the biscuits, even though she had very much planned to do so.
"Shouldn't it be the other way around, Miss Granger?" Professor Dumbledore asked her, his eyes twinkling. "Usually it is the Professor's job to take care of the students. But I see that with you, it can also be the other way around."
He smiled and Hermione nodded. Somehow she had the impression that he was not only referring to himself, even though she had no idea who else he could mean. But it did not matter, because Professor Dumbledore was right: she really liked taking care of others.
Still, there was one problem, she would indeed need the Professor's help with. "Sir? Have you already been to my parent's house? Because, my cat, Crookshanks, is still missing."
Professor Dumbledore looked at her with twinkling, blue eyes. “I see. I will send somebody over to your house and see if your furry friend can be found. Is there anything else?”
Hermione shook her head. “No, Sir. And thank you for doing this. I really hope Crooks is alright.”
At that, the Headmaster smiled. “Don’t worry, Miss Granger. I will send my best man to get him for you.”
She nodded. “Thank you, Sir. And have a good day.” The Headmaster saw her off with a grandfatherly smile and a twinkle in his eyes. She could already feel herself relax, knowing that Professor Dumbledore would take care of Crookshanks. Because the prospect of not seeing her beloved cat again, filled her with sorrow. But no, if Crooks was still alive, they would find him and bring him back to her - they had to.
Albus Dumbledore stared at the leaving girl in contemplative silence. Miss Granger was unlike every other student he had met at Hogwarts and somehow he found himself fascinated by the girl's strong morale and kindness. He had met many intelligent students, Tom Riddle and Severus Snape were only two of them. But Hermione Granger united some character traits that made her unique: intelligence, loyalty, kindness and cunning. She could have fit easily into each of Hogwarts' houses, even though Slytherin might not have welcomed her with open arms due to the fact that she was Muggleborn. But to him, being a muggle-born witch made her even more extraordinary, as it gave her a completely different perspective and mindset. When she had proposed to simply cut his arm off, it had happened in total innocence, unknowing that proposing to cut a wizard's wand arm off, was highly offensive in the magical world. Most wizards would be rendered helpless through it and would have outrightly refused such treatment.
Albus sighed. It was a risk to follow her suggestion, as there was a good chance they would not be able to regrow an arm, after having suffered such a fatal curse. But even if he could never regain the lost limb, he would still be very much alive. Considering that he still had to find an unknown number of Tom's Horcruxes, that was more than he could have hoped for only a day ago.
But that wasn't what actually blew his mind. He had been mulling over Severus' and Miss Granger's connection for a while now, and he had to admit, that when Severus' told him of it, he had been surprised. Being able to establish such a connection to a kindred magical being was extraordinary, not only because there was rarely such a being even close enough to you, but also because it needed two pure souls to do so. Albus had always known that Severus was a good person, deep down, but he had been a Death Eater for years now, and such a life usually left marks on anybody's soul. Albus had made the experience himself on the fateful day his sister died and his world fell apart. He, too, had done terrible things, things he had been trying to set right for years now. He couldn't though and the realization of it had almost broken him apart and made him discard this idea of anyone being pure enough to perform any kind of white magic. Then there had been Lily Potter, saving her son by sacrificing herself in an act of untainted love. She had done what Albus had thought impossible, and once again his world had been turned upside down. And now there were those two… Severus Snape and Hermione Granger. He had no problems believing the girl to be innocent enough to establish such an extraordinary bond to another magical being. She had championed the innocent and helpless more than once during the last years, her attempt at freeing the house-elves only being one of the things she did. But Severus? The man had studied Dark Magic for Merlin's sake! He had played a double game for years, had been tortured and had probably tortured himself. Albus did not know for sure, of course, as he never thought it fit to ask. So how could the man's soul still be pure enough to be receptive to the call of miss Granger's magic? Albus had doubted his conclusion for a while. He had even searched for another explanation for Severus' and Miss Granger's strange condition, only to realize that there wasn't one. And then, yesterday, he saw the man do the first Gryffindor-like thing ever, a thing he had deemed impossible for Severus Snape. He had turned away from his master, knowing that he had probably just signed his death warrant. How could he begrudge Severus finally making a clean cut and turning away from his dark past, when it finally proved what Albus had hoped for him so long: there was still the chance for something good and pure in the boy's life? It was not too late to save Severus Snape. It had only needed the right person for him to realize, that there was more to life than self-preservation and survival.
Why had it taken an innocent Gryffindor girl for Albus to realize that Severus Snape could actually be saved, that he could be the light, they so desperately needed in the times ahead of them? He had almost let the man walk down the darkest path and asked Severus to kill him, when the time came - everything to strengthen the man's position as a spy. Albus had been just about to ask him, when the man stumbled in his office the morning after he had put that damned Horcrux on his finger. But then Severus had told him about his connection to the girl and it had been enough for him to pause and rethink his decision. Now he thanked Merlin that he did. There would have been no turning back once Severus had committed that particular crime, a crime which Albus had thought would no longer ever register with the man's soul. How wrong he had been! Well, Albus guessed, sometimes he, too, was an ignorant fool that needed somebody to point him into the right direction. Now he only needed to do the same for his stubborn Potions Master.