Hermione did not know what to do. Her parent's presence at the castle and their shared adventures were what kept her sane through the days that followed. Ever since she had unknowingly been late for their brewing session in the evening, the Professor's behaviour had significantly changed. At first, he was just distant towards her and Hermione was thankful for it because her embarrassing dream made it hard for her to even look him into his dark eyes. With him mostly being a silent observer she had hoped that her crush would somewhat lessen but when the next night brought another heated dream she realized that it wouldn't be quite so easy. Even though the Professor grew colder and harsher every day her dreams stayed very much the same. In them , he was sometimes gentle, sometimes passionate while they were lying in each other's arms and kissing like there was no tomorrow. They never got any farther than that and Hermione was glad as her evenings in the lab were already hard enough as it was.
Because Professor Snape’s mood seemed to get worse every day, his expression back to the cold sneer, while his comments about her work had gotten significantly worse. It took all her willpower to not snap at him and instead tell herself what a great chance it was to work under a real potions master, but as the days went by and his comments grew even nastier, Hermione could barely motivate herself to knock at his office door any longer. His words kept echoing through her head and taunted her no matter how hard she tried pushing them away.
“No! You need to crush those Sophorus Beans hard ! Otherwise, it's impossible to get all the juice from them."
“Do you really want to do that girl? Let’s see what that leads to shall we?”
“I told you to evenly stir the potion clockwise 13 times exactly. Your stirring was way too slow in between!”
“I told you to crush those beans, not to destroy them.”
“Merlin girl, the way you are stirring this potion I could swear you did not pay attention in class.”
“Just take your time, Miss Granger. Maybe, with time, I’ll get used to having only one arm.”
“It seems to me you’re enjoying my company because I get the impression, you’d like to start again from scratch.”
“This is not a stew , Miss Granger, it’s a potion : Do I need to explain the difference to you?”
"Mince not dice!"
"This is not Polyjuice potion Ms Granger, so keep your damned hair out of it! Do you not know how to tie back your own hair?"
“Stop regurgitating the textbook as if you have two peanuts in your brain that keep clanging around in the surrounding void. Think!”
It was too much. Hermione could no longer take his more and more nasty comments, that didn’t even seem remotely helpful any longer. She tried taking them with ease, she knew Professor Snape for years after all and most of the time being taught by him meant having to learn to deal with harsh criticism. But ever since being cursed, Professor Snape had behaved differently towards her and somehow she had hoped that all his unfriendly behaviour during class had just been an act to play his role as a loyal Death Eater. But suddenly it was like the “old” Professor Snape was back, only that his whole ire now seemed focussed on her. And Hermione had no idea why.
One should have thought that the man’s unpleasant behaviour would help her to get over her stupid crush, and even though she could have sworn that she was not attracted to him throughout the day, her dreams told an entirely different story. It was like her dream world and the real world drifted more and more apart and her dreams had never been very realistic, to begin with. There was no way she would have thrown herself at a man like that , least of all Professor Snape.
"Tell me, Ms Granger, do you prefer me having only one arm?" his deep baritone pulled her out of her thoughts and she cursed herself for not focussing her whole attention on the potion.
“No, Sir,” Hermione said, carefully stirring the simmering potion. “I wouldn’t wish such a thing to anybody I know.”
“Then tell me, why you’re trying to corrupt the potion by over-stirring it,” her Professor sneered and Hermione decided that she would not take his abysmal mood any longer.
“Two minutes ago you presumed I was trying to burn the potion because I was not stirring enough,” she said, while carefully taking the stirring rod out and putting it aside. “Which is it, Sir? Because I slowly get the impression you can not quite decide how I am trying to ruin your and the Headmaster’s chance of recovery.”
Professor Snape looked at her with raised brows, his mouth drawn into a straight line. "The art of potion-making does require a lot of finesse and the ability to adapt one's strategy to the potion's requirements," he said. "A fact you should be aware of, if you read the book I have given you before you left the castle."
That was the last straw for her and even though she had sworn to herself she would not snap at him, she did. “Of course I know that one has to adapt one’s brewing strategy depending on the humidity, outside temperature and other factors. I just wasn’t aware those factors change within mere minutes, especially while staying in a perfectly isolated lab like this one."
Hermione saw the corner of his eye twitch, while a vein at his temple started to grow more and more prominent. It was no surprise that he snapped at her a moment later. “Then you’re an idiot, very much like your friends ," he said and for some reason, those were what suddenly made her grow calm.
"You're right, Sir," she said, before carefully wiping her hands at a cloth on the table. "It's obvious I am not skilled enough to help you with this potion and as you have pointed out more than once, it would be regrettable if we had to start over. Luckily, we are almost finished for today and you should not have any problems finishing by yourself. While you do so, I will visit the Headmaster and ask him to provide another assistant for you. Maybe one of the other Professors could be persuaded to help you."
Hermione looked at him with a calm expression but somehow her words only seemed to have agitated him even further. His eyes suddenly seemed even blacker and he took a quick step in her direction that automatically made her take a step back. "No," he said, his voice sounding suddenly dangerous. "You still owe me some more hours of work, Ms Granger, or have you forgotten that?" he said, before taking another step towards her and then another. Suddenly Professor Snape was right in front of her, towering over her while looking at her with black, unreadable eyes.
"No, of course not," she mumbled, while her heart started to beat rapidly in her chest. She knew he would not hurt her and there probably wasn't any insult left she had not already heard from him, but still, she felt the need to back away from him. Only that right behind her was the workbench, leaving her no room to do so. “I will help you when the school year starts once more ,” she promised and somehow her eyes were drawn to his. “But this potion is difficult and much too important for me to mess it up. Therefore I think it would be better if...”
She did not get any further, as Professor Snape took another step, leaving only a few inches in between them. His eyes never left hers while he did so, but suddenly he was towering over her, making her feel uneasy and… excited at the same time.
“ No ,” he said once more. “You seem to live under the misimpression that you are to choose when you’ll work for me. I don’t have time to instruct one of those other assistants you suggested. Most other order members are out of practice for years and therefore it would take weeks to get them back into shape. No. I've already invested too much time and effort into your brewing skills, girl. Therefore, you will stay, is that understood?"
Hermione swallowed heavily and found herself nodding, while she trembled under Professor Snape’s intensive gaze. Somehow one of her dreams suddenly sprang into mind, a dream where he had kissed here right here, in this lab, probably even at that same desk. Why did she have to think about this now? It wasn’t that anything like that would happen here right now. “Yes, Sir,” she replied, her voice suddenly hoarse.
“Good,” the stern man growled, before motioning his head towards the door to the lab. “Now go. I’m expecting you back here tomorrow after dinner.”
She nodded, staring at him with huge, brown eyes and he stared right back at her. For a long moment, none of them moved, before Professor Snape suddenly stepped back, making room for her to get away from him. It took all her willpower to start moving and hurry past him towards the door. But she did so with only a moment of hesitation, feeling his eyes on her as she did. "Yes, Sir. Good night, Sir," she mumbled and without waiting for a reply Hermione stumbled through the door, closing it behind her with a heavily beating heart. A few minutes ago she had been pretty sure that she did not want to see him again, until she had to and rationally speaking she still felt that way, after what he had put her through the last week. But then there was her traitorous heart, remembering the fire in his gaze and hoping that this one, stupid dream could have become reality just now. It was insane, of course, but Hermione could not help it. Her heart yearned for Professor Snape, the man that only tolerated her presence because he did not have time to instruct anybody else. Merlin, she really was in trouble.
Severus barely held it together until the girl closed the door behind her. As soon as she did, he warded the entrance to the lab, cast a stasis charm on the damned potion and collapsed against the wall, pressing his forehead against the cold stones, gasping for air. He had almost lost it and had done something truly unforgivable - he had almost kissed Hermione Granger, his underage student in his care, and pulled her petite body against him to claim her with his remaining hand and his mouth. After she had asked him to take another assistant instead of her, he had realized his mistake, only that it was almost too late. Taunted by those insane and oh so alluring dreams, he had tried pushing her away, not to make her run but to distance himself from her - his student . He had tried finding fault with her but whatever he did, the dreams had stayed pretty much the same, making him wake up sweaty and needy night after night after night - forcing him to take cold showers or drowning himself with Dreamless Sleep. Now, that his stupid behaviour had almost driven her away he realized, that he could not do this any longer. He could not lose Miss Granger, but he also could not have her, at least not for a painfully long while, maybe not ever. Those feelings were getting too much for him to bottle up, to reign them in, they needed an out or otherwise, he would explode and do something he would regret for the rest of his life.
With a frustrated groan, he smashed his forehead against the wall in front of him, before his remaining hand trailed down ward, opening the fly of his trousers with trembling fingers. His member was already throbbing with need, having been ignored by him far too long. But whenever he thought about wanking, his thoughts had returned to her and he had disgustedly refrained from touching himself in that way.
Now, he forced all his thoughts of one Hermione Granger back behind his strongest Occlumency walls and locked them away, before his hand roughly grabbed his cock, fisting it with long, slow strokes while his forehead was pressed against the wall, keeping him upright and steady. He was not thinking of her when his motions grew more and more frantic, his eyes closing and his lips painfully biting his lip to stifle the moan that was threatening to escape his mouth. Neither was he thinking of her when his balls contracted and his seed spilt over his hand a moment later, leaving him calmer, the sexual tension released for now.
With a deep sigh, he steadied himself, before wandlessly vanishing the mess he had made and buttoning his trousers again. Only then he set himself to finish today's brewing session, still without thinking about Ms Granger. Maybe he finally found a good way of dealing with this need he felt. A good wank had never harmed anybody, right? Especially when he was carefully avoiding thinking about a certain student he should most definitely not think about in this context. Luckily, Severus Snape was a master of Occlumency and he was not ashamed to put this skill to good use, as often as the need arose. It was for the girl's protection and his own sanity, after all, he was not a pervert .