Hermione’s heart heavily throbbed in her chest, while her right hand slowly moved towards Professor Snape’s left arm - or what remained from it. She could not deny that she was scared of touching it, because being in contact with such a vulnerable part of the Professor’s body felt intimate and almost forbidden. She could see him watching her with dark clouded eyes - probably from the pain, she thought - but Hermione’s focus was on his arm, as the last thing she wanted to do was to hurt him.
When their skin finally came in contact, a small bout of electricity seemed to rush through her. A moment later it was gone, substituted by a prickling on her skin and a comfortable warmth, that seemed to radiate from his hurt limb.
Hermione’s concentration was broken when she heard a moan from Professor Snape. “Professor? Did I hurt you?” she asked, scanning his face in concern. She hoped not, because she had been as gentle as possible and if she was honest with herself, touching him felt… good in a way she was unable to explain.
“No,” the Professor replied, his brows knitted together while his eyes travelled to the spot of his arm that was touched by her. They were black and unreadable, Hermione thought, wishing to be able to look into his head for once.
“Is it helping?” she therefore asked, her voice hopeful.
“Indeed,” the man replied after a moment of consideration. “There is no logical explanation for it, but the pain has lessened, considerably so.”
Hermione sighed in relief. “I’m glad, Sir, glad that I can do something to make this better for you,” she murmured, feeling her magic humming beneath her fingertips.
“I will consider myself lucky then,” he said, his head lolling back on the backrest while a tired smile appeared on his face.
Hermione stared at him uncertainly. Was this a permission for her to touch him or even a plea to do so? With a man like Severus Snape, it was impossible to tell. “Sir? Do you want me to… I could simply hold you arm, for a while, if you wish as long as it takes for it to regrow. Would you… would you like me to do that?”
The Professor’s eyes snapped open and he raised his head with a sigh. “I will not tell you what to do girl… not in this case. What you’re suggesting is highly inappropriate for a Professor and his student, do you understand?”
Hermione nodded, but at the same time, she looked at him with furrowed brows. "I'd do it to help you, to heal you, for nothing else," she said, determination creeping in her voice. Professor Snape must have heard it as his eyes grew hard a moment later.
“If you decide to do so… to touch me … we need to be clear that I did not ask this of you and that it means nothing except you attempting to help me with my arm. Are we understood?” he said with steel in his voice.
"Of course, Sir," Hermione mumbled, hoping that she would not blush now. Of course, Professor Snape had no other interest in her touch, except for it to help him improve, which made her stupid crush on him even more annoying. But she could not let it get in the way, not when the man needed her help. "It doesn't mean anything, I know that," she murmured, burying the odd pain in her chest she felt at those words.
Professor Snape nodded sharply, seemingly satisfied by her words. “Very well. You better sit down then. Or do you prefer to stand in front of me for the next several hours?”
“No, Sir,” Hermione replied, pulling her hand away from his arm before carefully sitting down next to him. Only then she moved her right hand towards him again, putting it around his slowly growing arm. For a moment she felt the man next to her stiffen but he did not say a word. Instead, he stared straight ahead into the room, his expression in an unreadable mask. She could not blame him, as this was a strange situation, especially with him being well… him. Professor Snape wasn’t known for his sociability, after all. Sitting next to him on the sofa, almost holding ' hands ' felt totally surreal. But it was real, this was really happening, with all the awkwardness one would expect with such a situation. They would probably sit like this for several hours, Hermione thought, desperately searching for something to talk about. She really did not want to spend the next hours in awkward silence. Finally, she chose the next best thing that she thought they could safely talk about.
“Sir? Would you mind telling me about what you’re going to teach us next year? I did not have time to buy any new books and…”
“Already considering to work ahead, Miss Granger?” Professor Snape interrupted her, amusement reflecting in his voice. Amusement was good, Hermione thought. Amusement was way better than awkwardness.
“You know me, Sir,” she replied, looking at him with an almost teasing smile. “I love to be well prepared.”
Severus glanced at the girl that had fallen asleep next to him on the sofa not long ago. She had questioned him about school and kept the conversation going with several questions on defence, and he (glad for distraction) had answered them all patiently and as detailed as he could. Most of the time he had looked straight ahead but the few times he dared to look at her, a happy smile played on her lips. No sign of discomfort was visible on her features. And slowly he had started to relax next to her.
They were not doing something untoward, merely sitting next to each other, like friends . There was nothing wrong with that, he decided, as long as he would not favour her in class due to their growing familiarity with each other. Not, that she would not get top marks anyway…
Hermione Granger, the girl was a miracle to him. How could she sit there, touching him, healing him and chatting about school like nothing of significance was happening right at this moment? There was not an ounce of discomfort to feel from her, no hesitation to touch him and that even though she had barely been willing to look at him during the last days. Severus did not know what had changed, but he was secretly thankful for it - thankful for her and her ability to make him feel better. The pain was almost gone. What was left was the feeling of his stretching muscles and bones and a slight buzz in his arms, that could or could not have come from her. It seemed to negate the pain, while the warmth radiating from the girl’s small body lulled him into security, that finally made him let go of the worry that had been nagging on him all evening long.
The girl gave a small whimper in her sleep, before her body shifted against him, her head falling on his shoulder. He should probably wake her, but it was already past three in the morning and he guessed she wasn’t used to a bare minimum of sleep, like he was. And there was no harm in letting her sleep. He still needed her with him, as his hand still needed to regrow and judging by the amount of pain the development of his elbow had caused, he very much wanted his kindred spirit by his side.
When Hermione awoke a few hours later, Professor Snape was gone. She must have fallen asleep sometime during his healing process, she realized, but as soon as it was finished, the man must have retreated into bed himself, leaving her to rest on the sofa. He had even provided a thick woollen blanket for her and covered her with it. It had kept her warm throughout the night, as had the fire that he must have left burning in the fireplace in front of her.
What was she supposed to do now? Should she just go? The man was surely still asleep, as it must have taken almost all night to let his arm regrow and she imagined that he would need to rest now. Professor Snape surely would not appreciate her roaming his quarters alone or even reading his books, considering what a private person he was. On the other hand leaving felt wrong. She wanted to talk to him about what happened last night, not them staying on the sofa together, but her feeling this strange pull towards him and being able to help him through the pain. Suddenly she was sure that this connection between them was more than the ability to feel each other’s pain and wasn’t that something worth exploring?
“You’re awake,” his voice suddenly sounded from the door in the back of the room and when Hermione raised her head, she could see Professor Snape standing there. He had put on a white, crisp shirt and black trousers and Hermione could have sworn his hair was still wet, indicating that he’d just taken a shower or a bath. But what was important was, that the stump was gone, substituted by a healthy-looking arm. She felt a jolt of happiness rush through her.
“I am, Sir. Sorry, I must have fallen asleep, some time during the night. Thank you for letting me sleep here.”
Professor Snape nodded, his face back to the unreadable mask she was used from him by now. “It wasn’t a bother as your alertness did not seem to affect the healing process or amount of pain I felt.”
"That's interesting, Sir. In fact, this connection between us is something I wanted to talk about with you. Because after what happened last night, I am sure that it is more than just the ability to feel each other's pain," Hermione found herself saying, while the Professor strode into the room. His feet were still bare, Hermione realized and found herself strangely affected by the sight of it. So this was what Professor Snape looked in the mornings, before he buttoned up his long, black teaching robes. The realization was almost startling and she felt very happy to be seeing him like this.
“We’ll discuss it over breakfast,” the Professor replied, looking her over with a calm expression. “Go and freshen up in the bathroom. I’ll get us something to eat.”
Hermione nodded with a hesitant smile, before she swung her legs down from the sofa and padded towards the direction, the Professor pointed for her. Freshening up in his bathroom before eating breakfast together - how very … domestic. But strangely, the thought of it made her smile with amusement and happiness.
Severus let the elves set up the breakfast table in the other corner of the living room, on a small table by the window he almost never used. Usually, he took his breakfast in the Great Hall, where he could have an eye on his Slytherins while listening in to the gossip Minerva, Pomona and Sybil used to exchange. He wasn’t one to tattle, but he found it useful to keep himself informed about what was going on in the castle and the most useful bits one learned at mealtimes.
Therefore he first had to remove several piles of books from his small table, before the elves could prepare it for them to use.
When Miss Granger emerged from the bathroom, she looked a little more put together. He knew there was only so much one could do with magic and without access to fresh clothing and one's personal toiletries. Not that he cared about the girl’s grooming habits, or anyone’s for that matter.
“Sit,” he instructed her, pointing at the chair across the table.
Miss Granger did not hesitate, just walked towards him and slowly sat down on the appointed seat.
“How are you, Sir? Sorry that I forgot to ask you earlier,” she said silently, while looking at him with a curious expression on her face.
“You tell me,” Severus challenged before looking at her expectantly.
The girl looked at him in concentration, her eyes shifting to his regrown arm, analysing what she saw with furrowed brows. Finally, her eyes returned back to his face, before she said: “Your arm looks fine to me, Sir, and I can no longer feel any pain in mine which leads me to conclude that you aren’t in any pain either. Or are you?”
He shook his head. “The pain is gone and the arm is functioning well enough. But what is more important…” he carefully pushed up his sleeve and showed her the unblemished skin of his arm. “The mark is gone. I am free.”
Miss Granger stared at his arm unblinkingly, her eyes focussing his pale skin until he pulled his sleeve back down. Only then her eyes blinked and her gaze shifted back to his face. “I am glad it worked, Sir, glad that you’re finally free from him.”
He saw her bottom lip disappear between her teeth, a nervous gesture that indicated she was probably attempting to stop herself from saying more. Severus forced himself to wait calmly, until she found the courage to do so, buttering his toast in the meanwhile. Luckily it did not take long for her to find her words.
“Professor Snape?” she asked, her voice quivering ever so slightly. “Yesterday I felt this strange pull, a feeling like I was supposed to be here. Then later, I helped you with the pain. I know it sounds strange, but this connection between us, it does not only seem to be about feeling each other's pain.”
Severus nodded. There was no reason for him to deny it, not when she had already guessed all the facts. "No, it doesn't. Whatever this is… it seems to be much more than we can possibly understand. But maybe we will find out - with time."
This seemed to satisfy the girl, as she nodded with a serious expression on her face. “Do you think we should, Professor… try to find out about the connection I mean? Because I really would like to know more.”
Severus' lips twitched, as this was more than he could have hoped for. From the sound of it, Miss Granger no longer wanted to undo the connection between them, but instead explore it. It seemed like they were more or less on the same page now, except for some minor details he would keep to himself. But what difference did it make that he had been aware of those facts for a few weeks now, or that he had secretly followed her? Miss Granger knew about the other aspects of the bond now, which was all that mattered, was it not?