The following night was the first one where Hermione was not having awkward dreams of her and Professor Snape. However unpleasant he had been towards her, it had been good for one thing: for the first time since those dreams started, she'd had a good night of sleep. It left her hopeful that her teenage crush on him was slowly disappearing because pining after Professor Snape was a hopeless cause anyway.
Still, she did not want to go back and work with him in the lab as his insults had gotten harder and harder for her to ignore. Suddenly she could understand Harry who regularly snapped at him when he encountered injustice but from her friend's actions, she also knew that sniping back would only make things worse.
Still, she had to go back and brew with him, no matter how little she wanted to. She owed the man a debt for having made the salve, that helped to treat and hide her curse scar. And no matter how little she liked Professor Snape at the moment, Hermione was thankful for that. With a sigh, she knocked at his office door.
She didn't have to wait long as the man himself greeted her a moment later. "Good evening, Miss Granger. Do come in," he said and surprisingly the scowl was absent from his face today. Instead, she was almost sure to spot a small smile, when he made room for her to step inside.
"Good evening, Professor Snape," she greeted back politely and stepped inside. From her previous days working with him, she knew, that he did not value it when she wasted time by trying to talk to him. Therefore she directly hurried to his lab and read the written instructions he had left for her on the workbench. Luckily today's steps did not look too difficult. Maybe she could get this over with without being insulted too much. But whom was she kidding? This was Professor Snape and lately, he didn't seem to see any more competence in her, than in Neville.
“Would you like a cup of tea, before we start?” his silky voice suddenly said from behind, making her jump in surprise. She hadn’t even heard him coming.
"No, Sir, it's alright. I know you prefer keeping these meetings as short as possible," Hermione mumbled before busying herself with the preparations. 'And I do, too,' she added in her thoughts.
His eyes seemed to rest on her for a long moment. Finally, she saw him nod from the corner of her eye, his long legs slowly walking closer until he was standing almost right behind her, peering over her shoulder. Apparently, he had decided that she needed to be watched even more closely as he had watched her from a distance during the last days. But now his black eyes were fixated on her hands and she had to work very hard to not let her nervousness show. This would be a long evening, Hermione realized and grabbed the Fairy Wings with a deep sigh. But she would get through it, no matter how often she had to recite the rune alphabet to stay calm, because Hermione was determined to pay her debt with him, better sooner than later.
Time of exposure: 1 hour, 20 minutes, 32 seconds
Physical interaction : none
Miss Granger seemed rather distant and unwilling to talk to me, which isn't much of a surprise, considering my recent treatment of her. I could tell she was reluctant to return for today's brewing session, seeming more and more nervous during mealtimes and when she entered the lab. I, therefore, tried to keep my interventions at a minimum and instead talked her through most of the steps, encouraging her whenever she did things up to my standards. I could tell she was slowly starting to relax when today's session was over, even though she barely talked or even looked at me. As soon as the session was over, she excused herself and left, again refusing my invitation for tea. Next time I'll try encouraging a scientific discussion. Maybe this will get her to talk to me again at it is the only way to convince her, to agree to meet me, even after the brewing process is finished. Not, that I would overly miss her presence, but it seems to be necessary due to the bond that we are sharing.
To say that Hermione was confused would have been a vast understatement. She was beyond confused. Suddenly it was like the last week had not happened for Professor Snape, as he was back to his other more sociable self. From one day to another he had stopped to criticize her. When she did something wrong, he corrected her and explained why another approach would be more helpful. But he never sneered at her or made another insulting comment. Was it just because she had been about to quit her brewing sessions with him? Probably, because there really was no other explanation for his sudden change of behaviour.
Unless he got laid last night , she thought to herself with a small snort. Then she froze. The thought alone made her heart ache and her insides run cold. Why though? Why should she get upset at the thought of some nameless woman touching him? Kissing him? Pleasuring him? It wasn't like that man's private life was any of her business, after all.
Still, Hermione did not trust the current situation. His unpleasant behaviour during the school year she had attributed to his role as a spy and the need to act a certain way as the Head of the House Slytherin. But his rough treatment of her during the last days could not be based on that same reason, as there were no Death Eaters or Slytherins around. The only logical conclusion was therefore that Professor Snape truly despised her and only played nicely because he needed her help. Her help he could get - she had not been able to deny it to him after he had pointed out that she was still in his debt - but she would not let her guard down around him again anytime soon. Because his last sudden change of behaviour had hurt her way too much for that.
Time of exposure: 1 hour, 10 minutes, 45 seconds
Physical interaction : none
Miss Granger behaviour remains hesitant and she mostly keeps silent in my presence. It is rather worrying, considering the lively discussions we once had. Today, I tried engaging her into a scientific discussion concerning the different preparation techniques of poisonous potion ingredients. She only replied in two sentences, never meeting my eyes as she did. I will try again tomorrow and the following days but I need to make an alternative plan in case my time runs out and the potion is finished before I can find another reason to meet with her again or spark her interest in further scientific collaboration. It is most annoying, but I am sure I will find a way to manipulate her accordingly.
“ This really is a beautiful place," her mum sighed while walking along the lakeshore with her. "I'm really glad your dad and I got a chance to see Hogwarts with our own eyes, even though the circumstances leading to that privilege were rather worrying."
Hermione nodded. Feeling that sudden pain in her arm had been terrifying, but realizing that they had barely escaped a Death Eater attack even more so. Luckily, the memory of this fateful day was rather blurred and her body seemed to have forgotten how it felt to receive the Professor's pain. It was probably because it had not been her own pain.
"Yeah. I don't want to imagine what would have happened if we had not already been in hospital. Do you and dad already know where you will go?" Hermione asked, while staring at the smooth surface of the lake. The Giant Squid was nowhere to be seen.
"We considered Australia but decided it would be too far away to keep in touch. Instead, we decided that moving to Germany would not be such a bad idea. Your Professor Dumbledore said that you could easily reach us there via Portkey or owl. And as your dad and I do already have some contacts in Munich…"
Hermione nodded. That did make sense. She told her mother as much, while they slowly walked along the Black Lake, the still water reflecting the blue sky above them. Afterwards, they walked for a while in silence and Hermione was just about to lose herself in her thought, when her mum said: "What is it, Honey? You seem kind of out of it today."
Hermione looked at her with a sigh. Her mum had always been able to tell when something was wrong, but she guessed today even Ron would have realized something was amiss. "I… I do have some problems with Professor Snape," she finally confessed silently. "Sometimes I just don't know what to think about him. He's always been rather unfriendly towards me but after I landed myself in the infirmary, I somehow got the impression he changed. But now I'm not so sure. It's like his behaviour towards me is constantly changing and I just don't know what to think …” she moaned and threw her hands in the air. Her mum watched her with a contemplative expression.
"What is there to think? Maybe the man just has some good and some bad days, like we all have. He's only your teacher, love. You survived his grumpiness for five years now, you can manage another two, right? After the holidays you just have to see him twice a week."
Hermione nodded mutely. Her mum was right, of course. It was only a few more days until the potion was finished. Then, Professor Snape could be as grumpy as he liked, because she wouldn't have to stand his bad mood until the beginning of the school year. So why was she still bothered by this? "Mum? I… I think I have a crush on him," she hastily admitted with pinkening cheeks. "I know it's insane, the man probably doesn't even like me but…"
Her mum stopped in her tracks and focussed her with calm, brown eyes. “Lots of girls do have a crush on their teacher at least once in their life,” she said, a knowing smile gracing her lips, “I certainly had one on my PE teacher, when I was your age. Usually, those feelings fade after some time, as they should . You’re still so young, love, and considering you’ve barely even got to know boys…” She sighed. “Try not to read too much into it. Just remember: He is your Professor and nothing can come of it, at least not for quite a while.”
“I know that,” Hermione said tiredly. “I really do. It’s just all so confusing. Some days I don’t even like him but then again…” she sighed. “Arrrgh, puberty sucks!”
At that, her mum chuckled. “I know love. How about you try going on a date or two? How about your friend Ron, for example? He’d definitely be interested in you, that much was obvious from his recent visit.”
“You want me to date Ron?” Hermione asked wide-eyedly.
"Why not? It doesn't need to be something serious, love. Just try it out. And who knows? Maybe the two of you get along better than you expect? It will definitely help you to get your mind off certain dark, broody Professors, don't you think?" her mum asked, winking at her. Hermione chuckled at her mum's gesture, but then she started thinking. Would Ron really agree, if she asked him on a date? And did she actually want that? She did not know, but maybe the thought was worth considering it. Until the holidays ended she still had enough time to think about her mum's suggestion. And who knew? Maybe she would even find the courage to ask Ron on a date, as soon as he met him back at Hogwarts.
“Mr Granger, Sir! Mrs Granger! The Headmaster has asked Dobby to invite you into his office!” a well-known voice squeaked, making Hermione look up from her book in surprise. She and her parents were sitting by the lakeshore again, as this had quickly gotten their favourite place to spend the afternoons. But now her parents looked at Dobby in surprise and confusion, unable to formulate a reply.
"Hello Dobby," she quickly greeted the elf, a friendly smile on her face.
"Professor Dumbledore wants to see my parents, you say?"
“Yes, Hermione Granger, Miss. I could take them, if you wish!” the little fellow chirped enthusiastically, bouncing on his feet excitedly.
Hermione nodded, before turning to her parents. “Mum, Dad, this is Dobby. Dobby is a house-elf and a friend,” she said and looked at the little servant with a smile. “He is working at Hogwarts, you know?”
Her mum looked at Dobby with a polite smile. “Hello Dobby, it’s so nice to meet you!” she said, crouching down to be at the same height. “I am Emma and this is my husband, Dan.”
Dobby looked at them with wide eyes. Even though Hermione and her friends had treated him civilly for years now, it was still unexpected for him to be treated with friendliness, Hermione thought sadly.
“Dobby is honoured to meet you, Mr and Mrs Granger! The Headmaster is wanting to speak with you. Shall Dobby take you to him?”
Her mum looked at Dobby with a friendly smile. “That would be lovely, Dobby. Wouldn’t it, Dan?”
“Absolutely, Dobby. Lead the way!”
“So this is where you work, Dobby,” Emma Granger said two hours later, staring at the interior of the Hogwarts kitchens with wide eyes.
"Yes, ma'am," Dobby chirped excitedly, his little chest puffed in pride. Apart from him, only a few other elves were around and most of them stared at the three newcomers with hesitation or even distrust. Hermione could see some more elves hiding behind the stoves or under the cupboards, but she chose not to say anything about it, while the little fellows could hear them. She could explain the house-elves' hesitancy to her parents later.
"Those are Hogwarts' kitchens. Many elves is proudly working here, as Headmaster Dumbledore is a very good master."
Hermione saw the assembled elves nod in agreeance and smiled. That was when Dobby continued: "House-elves are very proud to work hard for their masters, Ma'am. I is not only working in the kitchens but also taking care of the Gryffindor dormitories, as most other elves still avoid going there."
Her mum looked at the house-elf with a kind smile. "This indeed sounds to me like you are a very hard-working elf, Dobby," she said. "Why are the other elves avoiding the Gryffindor tower? Is it haunted or something?"
At that, Hermione saw Dobby getting uncomfortable, as he started wringing his hands while looking at her with wide, scared eyes. Hermione sighed. "I guess the reason would be me," she finally said and looked at her mum with an apologetic smile. "You know, house-elves are usually not paid for their work, as they are bound to their masters like slaves. They can only be freed by being given clothes." Hermione saw the assembled elves nervously shuffle their feet, some of them retreating back from her for a few steps. She sighed. "In my fourth year, I tried freeing them by putting out clothes for them to take. Because Slavery is wrong and I couldn't let it happen in front of my own eyes and do nothing about it."
Dobby looked at her with hanging ears, while the other elves retreated even further. “Miss Hermione surely did not mean any harm,” he mumbled, while nervously wringing his hands. “And Dobby is already a free elf, therefore the clothes did not bother him. And Dobby does not mind cleaning the tower on his own.”
Emma and Dan Granger looked at him with furrowed brows. “Did the other elves not want to be freed?” her dad asked, before looking around the room. There, numerous elves frantically shook their heads. Hermione looked at them with dismay.
"I stopped putting out clothes more than a year ago," she defended herself, when her dad's eyes finally came resting on her. "I realized what I was doing wasn't working and that I have to find another way to help them," she said, oblivious to the fact, that some of the elves retreated even further. But Dan and Emma Granger saw and focussed their daughter with a stern expression.
“Let me get this straight,” her father said, his voice dark, “you tried freeing those elves by tricking them?" He did not wait for her answer though, but instead, focussed the other elves in the room. "Does anyone of you want to be freed?"
Again, the little creatures shook their heads, their ears tottering as they did so. “No, Sir,” a little female answered, carefully walking closer, more than once looking cautiously into her direction, like she was expecting Hermione suddenly throwing clothes at her. “Being freed is seen as a disgrace among the other elves. Being freed means being without a master and being without a master means being without work,” she squeaked, her huge green eyes slowly filling with tears, “It is the worst that can happen to an elf, Sir. Elves love to work, we’s live to work, Sir. Masters free their elves as a punishment for being a bad elf, you see? But Hogwarts elves are good elves, Potty swears !”
Her dad's eyes slowly focussed back on her, disappointment and anger reflecting in them. “Hermione?” he asked, in a tone that urged her to explain. She sighed.
"They can't see that it's wrong, dad. It's the way the wizarding world worked for hundreds of years, the way they are bred and brought up for generations. It's causing them to want to be enslaved. I know it sounds foreign," she said, but if possible her dad's expression grew even darker.
“No, Hermione. What sounds foreign to us is you ,” he said, the other elves seemingly forgotten. “Did we not teach you to respect other cultures and customs or to respect other people's wishes?” he said, shaking his head.
“You did,” she answered with downcast eyes. “But…”
“No buts, young lady. You just heard the house-elves. They don’t want to be freed and it is not for you to decide otherwise. Do you understand?”
"Yes, Dad," Hermione mumbled embarrassedly. Suddenly she remembered her mum's words - the conversation they had right after she came home from Hogwarts a few weeks ago. Her mum had told her she needed to stop forcing her opinion on others but suddenly she realized, that she'd done it again . Merlin, her mum was right. This had to change.
Suddenly, Hermione could see some of the elves coming closer, staring at the scene with wide, disbelieving eyes.
“Is young Miss going to be punished, Sir?” the house-elf Potty asked, her voice sounding a bit too excited for Hermione’s liking.
Still, she saw her father nod. “I promise you, she will be taught a lesson. My daughter did wrong, on all of you,” he said, his eyes travelling through the room, “and we will teach her to do better on you in the future. You will not have to fear entering the Gryffindor tower any longer, I will make sure of it.”
Potty nodded, her green eyes shining with excitement. “Thank you, Sir. Potty is so happy to hear that, Sir. I has missed cleaning the Gryffindor tower very much .”
Her parents looked at the little fellows in dismay. “Hermione? You will apologize to those elves, are we understood?” her mum said sternly. “And afterwards we are going to talk about your punishment.”
Hermione nodded embarrassedly, but before she could reply something Potty said: "If you want to punish her right here, Sir, Potty is only too happy to borrow her pressing iron. It makes very memorable punishments, you see?"
Officially apologizing to the house-elves was one of the hardest things Hermione had ever done. It wasn't that she didn't want to apologize, she did, but doing so in Professor Snape's and the Headmaster's presence during lunchtime, was more than a little bit embarrassing. Still, her parents were convinced that it would teach her a lesson and it did. Because Hermione did not want to do such a thing ever again.
She decided that she did not want to stall the inevitable until after lunch. As long as she hadn't put this task behind her, she wasn't hungry anyway. This was why she only waited until everyone had sat down, before she cleared her throat, got up and said: "It has been brought to my attention, that I have terribly wronged the Hogwarts house-elves during the last two years. Probably most of you remember my campaign to free the house-elves, even against their own will. Today I know, that this was wrong." Hermione bit her lip and stared down at her plate. She did not want to see Professor Snape's face and the disdainful sneer that was surely there. He would tell her soon enough how immature and stupid she was. "Therefore I want to formally apologize to all of you house-elves at the castle and as a punishment and reparation…" she swallowed, "I will provide you with additional work for the next year. I am truly sorry for what I did to you and I promise, to not interfere with your work again."
For a moment Hermione remained standing, her face red with embarrassment. She was just about to sit down again, when she suddenly heard somebody knocking on the table at the other end of the table. Hermione looked up in surprise and across from her, she could see Albus Dumbledore doing so with a pleased smile on his face.
"Thank you, Miss Granger," he said a moment later. "It takes a lot of courage to accept and admit one's mistakes and you have shown great courage by doing so. It is a feat most adults are still too proud to perform. I am sure the house-elves will be pleased to receive and accept your apology. Elves are very forgiving by nature, you know?"
Hermione nodded awkwardly, before sitting down again. She'd rather not discuss this embarrassing incident any longer and therefore she was only too eager to start lunch. Luckily, Professor Dumbledore did not say anything else on the matter and a moment later their meal appeared in front of her on the table. And there it was. Right in front of her was a small vase, containing a single, yellow tulip. For a moment Hermione looked at it with a stunned expression, before she decided to look up its meaning later, when she had time. For now, she carefully put the vase aside, before silently starting to eat her lunch. While she did, she carefully avoided looking in Professor Snape's direction, even when she clearly felt his eyes resting on her more than once.
Time of exposure: 1 hour, 8 minutes, 32 seconds
Physical interaction : none
The girl's meetings with me get shorter and shorter, with her skills in the lab and her efficiency improving day by day. She is still hesitant to talk to me, even after a week of me walking on eggshells around her. It is most annoying. She never refuses to answer the questions I am asking her, but her answers are always short and precise, never the wordy monologues they used to be in the past. I find myself pleased at her gain of self-control, but at the same time, it is more and more evident that meeting her on a regular basis will be most difficult after the potion is finished. Only three more days and I will only be able to see her during mealtimes, or when I decide to stalk her in secret, a thing I find myself more and more reluctant to do. My Animagus form is currently not very helpful in doing so, as it is short of a wing right now. Of course, I can always approach her while being disillusioned or even levitate myself up a tree, before transforming, but doing so is very risky and more than a little cumbersome.
But what other options do I have, without having to spill the whole, embarrassing truth? I should have listened to the Headmaster for once and told her right in the beginning, because now telling her without driving her away is absolutely impossible.
The potion was finished. Hermione could not believe her luck. It had almost taken three weeks until the potion's colour shifted one last time and Professor Snape carefully bottled two phials of a thick sky blue potion with a blank look on his face.
"It's done," she murmured, unable to hide the relief and pride reflecting in her voice. Relief that this was the last private brewing session with Professor Snape and pride that she had really done it. She had brewed a potion that wasn't even in the Curriculum or available at St Mungo's. As far as she knew, Snape had invented the recipe himself and given his high standards, it was a miracle she had not been told to start over. She hoped that meant the potion would work for him and Professor Dumbledore.
“It is,” he replied neutrally before pocketing both phials in his robe. She never caught his grimace at her obvious relief to be done with their work.
Hermione asked herself if he would take the potion right away after she was gone. Probably. And for a small moment, she wished she'd be able to see it when he regrew his arm. But then she remembered how inappropriate that would be and hastily pushed the thought away. "I will go now, Sir." Hermione said, after she made sure that all tools and surfaces were clean. "I really hope the potion works because no matter what you might think, I do prefer you with two arms, Sir."
It was her attempt to say something lighthearted as her heart suddenly clenched at the realization that from now on she would spend her evenings in the library again - alone. No matter how unpleasant the start of her potions work had been, during the last two weeks, Professor Snape had taught her a lot, as he had never been too proud to explain the different steps to her. By that, Hermione did not only improve her brewing skills, but she had also a growing understanding of potion development and what different factors needed to be taken into concern. It was a completely different thing than following a recipe and she was pretty sure that she'd never been able to learn those things during a regular potions lesson. It also pained her to lose this chance for private tutoring now but more than anything, she felt relieved - relieved that she would finally get a chance to get a grip on herself and her hormonal feelings again.
Professor Snape looked at her with a crooked smile on his lips. The sight was so unusual but the amused undertone in his voice even more so. "Oh? I will consider myself lucky then, as any other student of mine would not have expressed that sentiment. I would not have been able to do this on my own Miss Granger."
Hermione blinked a hesitant smile creeping on her lips. “I’m glad I was able to help, Professor. I did learn a lot, both from you and the book you gave me,” she said while pulling Professor Snape's old potions book out of her robe. She had kept it way longer than she had planned to and by now, she knew all of the notes he had taken by heart. It was time for her to give it back and start distancing herself from the man whose written words she had secretly re a d on an almost daily basis. “I am thankful too,” she admitted, handing him the book as carefully as possible.
Professor Snape took it from her with an unreadable expression on his face. “Consider your debt with me as paid, Miss Granger,” he said, after putting his book down on the table at his left side, “I know working with me isn’t always easy, but you did remarkably well.”
For a moment she was stunned by his words. It was the biggest and probably only praise she had ever received from him. “Thank you, Sir,” she said, unable to suppress the smile that broke out on her face.
They stared at each other for several seconds and Hermione could have sworn that Professor Snape wanted to say something else to her. But when he remained silent, she nodded towards him with a smile and said: "With your permission, I will go now. Good night, Sir."
"Good night, Miss Granger," he replied, while his dark eyes stared at her almost contemplatively. But she forced herself not to think about it too much. Her mum was right. The man was her Professor, for god's sake, and nothing could come out of this stupid crush of her's. Therefore it was totally useless to mull over the fact, that his voice had sounded somewhat hoarse and what that could possibly mean.