“Are you alright, love?” her mum asked her over breakfast the next day. “You look like you’re going to fall asleep on your toast any moment.”
She probably was, Hermione realized. There was no reason denying that. Last night had been… sleepless, at least after she had awoken from a pretty confusing dream, one containing her, Professor Snape and some pretty hot kisses on his sofa. Luckily Crooks had woken her up before things went too far and for a moment she could not say if she was glad for her pet's intervention or not. Falling asleep afterwards was… hard, as her thoughts kept returning to her mysterious Professor whenever she closed her eyes. Her mind started replaying scenes from her dream and more than once she found her hands creeping under her bed cover towards her pyjama pants. At first, she had wanted to resist, but after more than one hour of fighting, she had finally given in and touched herself. It hadn't taken her long afterwards, not when she felt like she could still feel his hands on her skin, which was ridiculous of course. Professor Snape would never touch her in such an inappropriate way, but last night she fantasized he did. Now, at the light of the morning, she felt ashamed of herself and could barely look at him, not even when she felt his eyes resting on her from time to time. She could only pray that there would never be the need for him to teach her Occlumency, otherwise she was screwed.
"I had some problems falling asleep," she finally admitted, looking at her parents with a tired smile. "So much has recently happened, and I can't help but worry about what we're going to do." It wasn't a lie per se, because she really was worried.
Her mum nodded understandingly. "We'll talk about it later, my Dear," she said, petting her hand affectionately. "Professor Dumbledore wanted to discuss some things with us after breakfast, but maybe later we could go down to the Black Lake and have a picnic, what do you think?"
"Sounds lovely mum," Hermione mumbled and she meant it. She'd never had a picnic at the lakeshore, but suddenly she found that she was eager to change that and make some nice memories with her parents. Who knew what the future would have in store for them, with You-Know-Who on the rise? There was no saying when they would be able to see each other again after th is summer, or if they would even all be alive at the end of the war. And what if they never managed to bring that maniac down?
Hermione saw her mum cast her a happy smile. "I'm sure there will be enough time for us to talk," she said and winked. "And who knows? Maybe we can even put on our bikinis and have a long swim in the lake..."
For a moment Hermione thought, she heard Professor Snape choke at those words. But as he seemed totally unfazed when she looked at him a moment later. It had probably just been her imagination.
"Where is she? Where's Mione?" an only too well-known voice rang through the Great Hall, making Dumbledore and the other staff members look up in surprise. Severus didn't need to look up as it was fairly obvious that the intruder was the second youngest Weasley spawn, obviously hoping to find his bushy-haired friend.
“Mr Weasley,” Severus heard the Headmaster say, his tone showing mild amusement. “I’m afraid Miss Granger is not eating lunch with us today. I believe you will find her and her parents down by the Black Lake, enjoying the sun and the water.”
“Does that mean our Hermione is alright? We were all so worried about her,” another voice said, this time a female one. So Molly had decided to bring the boy here, disturbing whatever little bit of peace Severus had found at the castle. Not that his thoughts had been very peaceful today, knowing that the girl was prancing around the lakeshore in a bikini for everybody to see.
"Miss Granger is well Molly, don't worry," Albus soothed the woman and from the corner of his eye, Severus saw the man patting the chair to his right, inviting her to sit down. "Why don't you sit down with us and have lunch? I am sure young Ronald will easily be able to find his friend on his own."
"Don't worry mum," the brat replied casually. "I'll find her and ask, if she and her parents want to stay with us until the Order managed to rebuild their house," the boy said and a moment later Severus heard him running out of the room, not even bothering to say his goodbyes to any of them.
Severus looked at his plate with a moody scowl before stabbing one of the potatoes with his fork, imagining he was hurting that red-haired pest instead. Dumbledore could not permit the girl and her parents to leave the castle now, not when they had just started to work on their potions. Their recovery was of utmost importance now, and it wasn't like the Weasleys had enough space at their hovel for three more people anyway. No, Miss Granger would stay, she had to, even if the girl herself wasn't aware of that because he still had not found the right words to explain the situation to her. But the two of them were dependent on each other right now, a fact that Albus was luckily aware of. Therefore, Molly could nag him all she wanted. The girl and her parents would stay here, right where they belonged.
"Isn't that your friend Ron?" her mum said when they were about to start eating dinner. The three of them had enjoyed their time splashing and swimming in the water and after a while, they had even attracted the giant squid, much to her mum's shock. It had taken Hermione some time to explain to them that the magical animal was indeed a friendly one but in the end, the three of them had played with the squid jumping and sliding off its arms with squeals and laughter. It was brilliant!
Hermione had often heard the twins or Ron and Harry talk about swimming with the giant animal but she had always been too occupied with learning to try it herself. Now she was glad she finally had the chance to enjoy the friendly animal's company herself, even though it had taken a horde of Death Eaters destroying her home to finally do so.
"Yeah, that's him," Hermione replied, spying her friend run down towards them from the castle. It was only a few days since she had last seen him, but Hermione could have sworn, that he had already grown taller again. It was barely a minute until her friend finally reached them, his long legs and the Quidditch training making it easy for him to reach them in almost no time.
“Ron, hi,” Hermione said with a happy smile. “What are you doing at the castle?”
The boy looked at her in disbelief. “What do you think we’re doing? We heard about the attack, of course, and we wanted to know if you’re alight! Are you… alright? I mean…” his eyes trailed towards her parents, seeking them out with a hesitant expression. “...all of you?”
“Yeah, we’re fine,” Hermione assured him, a fond smile on her face. “We weren’t at home when our home was destroyed.”
Ron nodded and for a moment he seemed to contemplate her words. “Huh. Oh, hello Mr and Mrs Granger, I’m Ron Weasley. Do you remember me? Sorry for not saying hello earlier.”
“Of course we remember Hermione’s friend,” her mum said, a friendly smile on her face. “It’s so nice you came looking for our Hermione. Would you like to sit down with us? We were just about to start eating lunch.”
"Sure," Ron replied and eyed their lunch that was already spread out on another blanket to their right. A moment later he sat down with them next to Hermione, and she could not deny that she was happy to have him there. After all, she had missed Ron and Harry terribly in the days she spent alone in the hospital wing, and now that her friend was here, she was determined to enjoy the time she had with him. Who knew when she'd see him again?
"How's everybody?" she asked and offered him the plate with sandwiches, being very much aware of her mum's watchful gaze. Hermione had rarely interacted with her friends in front of her parents, simply because she did not have any before Hogwarts and she, Ron and Harry used to spend the holidays apart from each other. So she guessed it was only natural that her mum was curious about the boys her daughter had befriended.
"Fred and George opened a joke shop at Diagon Alley," Ron told her, while chewing a cheese-sandwich. "Mum was nervous about it for days, but it seems to be a big hit. They moved out at home two days after they quit Hogwarts and from there on, they have constantly been working to build up everything. Can't wait to see everything with my own eyes!"
Hermione nodded. She still could not understand how those two could have been so careless to just quit school so shortly before their NEWTs, but remembering the conversation she recently had with her mum, she decided that it was their decision - and their decision alone. "I'd love to see it, too," Hermione said, a curious smile on her lips. "But I'm not sure if I can, as we still haven't decided what we will do now." She hesitantly focussed her gaze on her parents. "Professor Dumbledore said that it would be best if my parents went abroad for a while, you know?"
It seemed to take Ron a moment, before the implications of such a decision hit him, but when they did, he looked at her with wide eyes. “But you’re staying here, right? You can’ just…. Merlin Mione, please don’t go!”
Hermione looked at him with a sad smile. “Believe me, Ron, I don’t want to. I love you and Harry and I’d hate to not be able to see you, and I also love studying at Hogwarts. But I can understand my parents, too. We… still haven’t talked it through.”
She saw how Ron’s shoulders sagged as he suddenly turned to her parents. “Please let Hermione stay with us, let her stay at Hogwarts,” he said, his voice full of honest friendship. “Harry and I would be lost without her. She’s brilliant and…” suddenly, Hermione saw his cheeks turn pink, but he did not finish the sentence. Instead, he said: “Please don’t take her from us.”
Hermione could tell that her parents were stunned by Ron's plea, but she could not be more pleased about it. Following an impulse, she pulled him into her arms and hugged him fiercely, and he hugged her back without the slightest bit of hesitation, unaware that more than two pairs of eyes were watching them.
When Hermione finally let go of him, she saw her mum look at them with a watery smile. “Your dad and I would hate to pull such a strong friendship apart,” her mum said, before she turned towards her father. “Isn’t that right, Dan?”
Her dad nodded. “Yeah, if you want to finish your education at Hogwarts we will not take you away from here against your will. We’d never do that to you.”
Hermione looked at both of them with wide eyes, before she leapt towards them and pulled them in a hug. “You’ll let me stay? Oh thank you, thank you, thank you!”
Her dad chuckled. "Anytime, Pumpkin. And it's not like you can't come visiting us, using one of those clever means of magical transport." He winked at her. "How about you and Ron go for another swim as soon as we're finished eating lunch? The weather is glorious and your mum and I wouldn't mind taking a short nap in the shade."
“Sounds brilliant!” Ron said, grabbing himself another sandwich. “I’ll simply transfigure my clothes and we’re good to go. You up for another swim, Mione?”
There was never a question about how her answer would be. Hermione had decided to enjoy her summer, and swimming with Ron sounded like a brilliant way to do just that.
Severus Snape was not in a good mood and the reason was not this red-haired menace that stumbled into the castle three hours ago, lounging at the black lake like there was no plan for him leaving anytime soon. It was most annoying as Miss Granger had somewhere else to be, namely his lab, but she, too, seemed in no hurry to leave the idiot's side. Their potion was in a fragile state right now, wasn't she aware of that? Obviously not, Severus thought, combing his beak through his black feathers, watching the two teenagers lying in the sun, chatting with each other. It was of no use, waiting here for the girl. If Miss Granger proved to be as unreliable as it seemed, he would have to try continuing the potions himself. He wasn't dependant on anybody, especially not for brewing a fucking potion, missing limb or not.
Half an hour and three ruined giant’s toes later Severus had to realize, that he, indeed, needed the girl to continue. It was simply impossible to prepare them satisfyingly with only his right arm, no matter what he tried to fixate the damned ingredient. He was frustrated beyond measure! Right when he was about to storm out of his lab, there was a knock at his door, so he halted before ripping the door open. There she was, the unreliable chit.
“You’re late,” he growled, blocking her entrance. “But I guess you thought prancing around with that useless idiot was more important than finishing a stupid potion, didn’t you?”
She looked at him with wide, surprised eyes. "I… we never actually agreed on a particular time, Sir," she said before her gaze suddenly hardened and her eyes stared at him in determination. "I'm sorry to have disappointed you, Sir. I wasn't aware you were already waiting for me. Why didn't you send a Patronus to fetch me, Professor?"
Why indeed? He could have had her away from that idiot a while ago and spared himself the frustration of messing up valuable ingredients. Damn. “I thought you were aware of all the facts,” he sneered, before he stepped inside. “Get in here then and hurry. We already lost enough time as it is.”
Miss Granger stepped into his lab without giving him any sort of reply and strangely it was hard for him to read her thoughts. Her posture seemed stiff, her chin raised defiantly and her brown eyes seemed to spark with fire. But at the same time, she seemed somewhat hesitant around him, shy even, but that did not make much sense, did it?
"Cut the giant's toe first," he instructed, positioning himself in a safe distance to her and her distracting scent. Today, he would not be lured into that sort of mindframe, neither in the days that followed. He did not plan on getting addicted to Dreamless Sleep, after all.
Time of exposure : 2 hours, 4 minutes, 1 second
Physical contact: none
Working in the potion went smoothly after the girl finally showed up in the lab. Her potion-making skills seem to improve with every brewing session and I get the impression that she is trying very hard to gain my approval. It is probably due to her reliance on praise, as I have found her to be an attention seeker long ago. Her tendencies to garner her Professor's approval seem to have somewhat improved though. Today the girl seemed almost hesitant to talk to me and she just silently followed my orders.
While carefully watching over her preparing the potion, I avoided standing too close. Even though I found my heart rate to be still somewhat elevated, I am positive that I will be spared from unpleasant dreams tonight.