"I take it your trip to London was a success?" Albus asked while studying his stubborn Professor's expression. The man and Ms Granger had returned rather late from their trip yesterday, but considering that the girl had been in a cheerful mood over dinner he surmised, that Severus had behaved and not driven her away, again. Merlin. Making Severus Snape see reason and accept his feelings was more difficult than taming a Hungarian Horntail, or cheering up the Grey Lady. But Albus would not give up, even if it took him months to make his stubborn friend admit his feelings for the girl. Because Albus could feel them simmering deep inside him, burrowed by the man's iron will and determination to feel nothing for the girl, that was, in fact, his soulmate. It was ridiculous, of course, as the girl was biologically speaking already of age, thanks to her extensive use of the time-turner. But maybe it wasn't just the girl's age but also Severus clinging to his childhood friend Lily Evans, that made him reluctant to let himself feel again and that Albus could understand. He had loved once, too, and the pain of his broken heart was memorable enough for him to never love again. But he would have if he had been presented with a kindred spirit like Severus had, as there could be nothing more fulfilling and healing than the unconditional love of one's soulmate and the powers that came with it.
"We got everything we were looking for," Severus replied vaguely to his question and Albus could tell that he tried sounding as neutral as possible. Still, there were some telltale signs of the man's improved mental state, signs like his hair, that was frequently washed now, or the fact, that Severus actually drunk his tea instead of scowling at his cup until it was time for him to leave his office again. He had also noticed the man was eating more during mealtimes and it was hopefully only a matter of time, until the man started gaining a bit of weight. It certainly wouldn't hurt, once the stubborn idiot decided finally romancing the Granger-girl.
“Good,” Albus commented, a small smile on his face. “I take it there haven’t been any problems as you two went in disguise and were surely careful about revealing your identities.”
Again, the man nodded, grunting as a reply.
“Good,” Albus said, focussing his staff member with an intensive gaze. “Now, there is something else I’d like to talk to you about. You might remember the little side-project I mentioned a few weeks ago. Yesterday, I could convince Horace to join us for the next school year and to overtake most of your duties. This will hopefully free enough of your time to help me with the task I have for you.”
Convincing Horace to return to Hogwarts had not been easy. Even with young Harry in tow, the former Slytherin had been very hesitant, for good reasons. Horace Slughorn had always strongly opposed Tom Riddle, ever since the boy had taken a turn to the Dark Side and proclaimed himself a Dark Lord. Horace could not have been more disappointed and disapproving of his formerly favourite student. But his strong refusal to support Lord Voldemort brought many enemies for his former Professor, making him constantly run and hide as he feared for his security. Because first and foremost Horace Slughorn was a Slytherin and self-preservation was one of his most pronounced character traits. Luckily, Dumbledore had another ace upon his sleeve, as the prospect of witnessing Kindred Magic unfold for once in his life, had been too tempting to resist for the former Potions Professor. He hadn't even needed to tell the man who the affected persons were, as the man was only too excited to find out himself and invite them into his Slug Club as soon as possible, together with the boy who lived. He said it would be a nice little side-project for him apart from brewing, something to pass his time and Albus, who had a fondness for gossip and teenage drama could totally understand.
Albus could tell that Severus was wary about what came next and he could not blame him. What he wanted him to do wasn’t only difficult, but probably as dangerous as the work, Severus had done for the order. Still, there was no better man to help him with this.
“Help you with what?” he heard the man ask wearily.
Albus smiled. “To kill Tom, of course. Unfortunately doing so will require us destroying several Horcruxes at first. I assume I don’t have to explain that particular piece of Dark Magic to you.”
Severus looked at him with a watchful gaze. “Horcruxes you say? Are you sure?”
“Unfortunately so. Two of them have already been disposed of, but I do have the unfortunate feeling that there are more…” Albus said with a tired sigh.
“How many?” his young friend shot back, his eyes dark from the attempt to hide his emotions from him. It would have worked, if Albus hadn’t known the boy for years, seeing him at his lowest and learning how to detect the signs of Occlumency.
“That will be your first task to find out. I believe Horace to be in the possession of a certain memory, one that he is too ashamed of sharing with us. I asked him for it once, but all I got was a tampered version of it. I hope you’ll have more luck in finding out that particular piece of information from Horace,” Albus said, a hopeful smile in place.
Severus was a master Legilimens and a Slytherin at that. If there was someone as determined as him to see Tom gone, then it was Severus Snape.
“And how do you expect me to do that, Albus?” Severus Snape asked him, his eyebrow raised challengingly at him.
Albus smiled. “That is entirely up to you, my boy.”
Severus poured himself a firewhiskey, before tiredly sinking back on his sofa. It had been a long day for him. Not only were the meetings with Albus always taking a toll on him, but he had also travelled to Germany, delivering one of Miss Granger's two-way-mirrors to her parents. The Granger's had been most delighted to see him and had invited him to stay for lunch, even before they had known about the new means of communication with their daughter. And somehow eating with the two dentists had been agreeable, as both Granger's were intelligent and well-read, making excellent conversation partners. They treated him most friendly, which was strange considering they only met each other a few weeks ago. But Severus did not let it phase him and instead patiently chatted with them, until he could bid his farewell, without insulting them by going too soon.
Now he was happy to finally sit down and enjoy the peace and quiet of his quarters, getting the chance to digest the information Albus had given him. If Voldemort had indeed created an unknown number of Horcruxes, killing him would be almost impossible. Still, they had to try if they hoped to finally have peace and equality in the wizarding world. No matter how much he had supported the man’s ideals in the past, through the Grangers Severus had learned, that there were indeed decent Muggled out there, people that were nothing like his father. And even though he had always known theoretically, that there had to be decent muggles out there, he now finally had proof. He could not let Voldemort rule Britain, suppressing muggles and muggle-born alike. But to prevent that, one would have to kill the Dark Lord, once killing him was even possible.
With a deep sigh, Severus took a sip from his glass, before swirling the amber coloured liquid while contemplating his options. Regaining that memory from old Slughorn would be … difficult. It was years since he last saw the man and even though Severus had once been a member of the man’s Slug Club, he could not imagine still being overly popular with him. He was neither rich nor famous and to make things worse he had also joined the Death Eaters in his youth. Slughorn would not appreciate this and therefore he would probably keep his distance from him. But for handing over that memory to him, Severus would need the man to trust him. Or wouldn’t he?
A knock at his office door pulled him out of his thoughts. Who had the audacity to disturb him at such an hour? It wasn't like there were too many people at the castle, to begin with, so Miss Granger was possibly the most likely visitor. But what did she want?
Severus hastily put his glass of firewhiskey aside and hurried into his office. Only that it had not been Miss Granger, knocking at his office door, but Fred and George Weasley, standing in front of his office door with an apologetic smile on their face. He stared at them with a dark expression.
“What do you want?” he asked, not in the mood to deal with the annoying pranksters right now.
“We’d like to apologize to you, Sir,” one of them said, a friendly smile plastered on his face.
“...and to ask you if you could possibly undo the curse on our arms. It was fun at the beginning, but slowly it starts getting annoying,” the other one said, a crooked smile on his lips. Severus looked at them with a sneer.
“Is that so?” he replied, his voice giving none of his emotions away.
The tentacled twin nodded. “I swear we’ve learned our lesson. No Limb Limbos and no more making fun of you, Sir,” he swore, making the matching gesture with his hand. Severus looked at him with a measuring gaze. He’d love to let them stew a bit longer, but the both of them would probably go whining to one of their siblings and then Miss Granger would know. And he could not afford to drive the girl away from him again, not after it had taken all his finesse and patience to win her back.
“Let me be clear with you Messer's Weasley. If you ever go against my wishes again, I will ensure that you can hear your parents shagging whenever it happens. No matter if it’s day, or night, you’ll have those images in your head and nothing will make them go away,” he growled and saw their eyes go wide. But he wasn’t finished. “Nothing will help, not even Dreamless Sleep. And next time I won’t that easily lift the curse. Therefore, I recommend thinking before doing anything stupid in my presence again."
The red-headed idiots nodded vehemently , the horror and nausea evident on their faces. “Don’t worry Sir, we learnt our lesson,” they swore in unison, their faces serious for once. Good. They would not cross him again, Severus thought, pulling out his wand and silently undoing the curse on their arms. He almost hoped they would be stupid enough to mess with him again, because trying out that particular curse, which he had designed as a desperate teenager with Sirius Black in mind, would surely be a most interesting experience.
Hermione had thought that her days of privately working with Professor Snape were over and here she was, back in his private lab, a microscope resting in front of her on the table. The man had outdone himself and bought an expensive one, with many and high amplifications and he had not hesitated to add a generous amount of equipment. Now they only had to get the thing to work.
“We’ll need to find a way to add a magical light source into the microscope,” Hermione mumbled, staring at the device in concentration. “I don’t think casting bluebell flames would work. We need a light that can be dimmed and that gives a constant amount of light.”
The Professor nodded with furrowed brows. “Maybe if we find a way to infuse the light bulb with magical energy? But I guess the Muggle technology would not be able to transfer and use it.” He rubbed his chin. “But as far as I know there are some magical crystals that show the ability to emanate light. If one could infuse those with magical energy… and then charm them accordingly…”
“That could work!” Hermione exclaimed excitedly. “What a brilliant idea!”
The Professor looked at her with a small smile. "Why, thank you, Miss Granger. It could be a problem procuring such a crystal, as they seem to be quite rare. We should also try to get one that is still in its original state. We best avoid using one, that has already been tampered with.”
Hermione nodded with a hum. “Right. But there are surely places where those crystals are still growing, right? Could those places be noted in a book? If so, I could go through the library if that would help.”
“I will join you,” her Professor replied calmly. “This way we’ll be faster and there are some dangerous books in there, that I don’t want you to touch, even though you’re allowed to do so by now. And as Madame Pince is not at the castle right now...”
"Of course, Sir," Hermione replied in a serious tone. "We could start right now, if you like." But then she got aware that this was not for her to decide and she hastily added: "Or any other day. You're deciding whatever is best for you, Sir."
At that she found Professor Snape smiling at her. “Today fits my plans rather nicely, I think. We could head there right away, if you like.”
Hermione nodded with an excited smile. “I’d love to.”
Severus looked at the sleeping girl with a smile. It was the second time she had fallen asleep in his presence within days, he thought with a headshake. But somehow he also found that he did not mind.
They had stayed at the library until it was rather late, Miss Granger totally engrossed in their research, tirelessly skimming book after book. He had known she was a bookworm, much like himself, and therefore he wasn’t surprised how enjoyable he found her silent presence while researching their shared project. It was almost like combing through the library with Lily as a teenager. Before their fallout, this was where they met most frequently, doing homework together or simply studying. He had loved those hours full of creativity and concentration, enjoyed having someone to share his passion for books. Only that Lily had one day no longer been there, the place at his side empty for many years.
Now, there was suddenly her. Hermione Granger had somehow started to fill the emptiness that Lily had left in his heart, not romantically of course, but as a silent companion and an intellectual equal. Over the course of the last weeks, he had seen her maturing and by now he realized that she truly started to become a woman, instead of a girl.
He should probably wake her, he thought but on the other hand, this was his chance to enjoy her presence a little bit longer, satisfying the strange urge to be in her presence that he felt ever since the link between them had been established. And who knew? Maybe he would find something in the next book, if he stayed a little while longer?
With a smile he got up from his seat and unbuttoned his robe, carefully covering the sleeping girl with it a moment later. As the library currently wasn't officially open, it was not heated and could get terribly cold during the nights, even in summer. But his robe would keep the girl warm and comfortable, while he went through some more books on magical minerals and geography. He had the feeling they were close to finding the answer, the answer that would bring them one step further to finishing the first magical microscope, a discovery that could potentially reform pioneering. And they would have discovered it together , he and Miss Granger. If that wouldn’t bring them closer together he didn’t know what else would.
When Hermione awoke two hours later in an armchair, she was disoriented and confused. The room was dark, apart from a little bluebell flame that was glowing in a glass to her right side. Its light was illuminating several bookshelves, painting them in a ghostly, bluish light. And suddenly she remembered that she was in the library, where she had fallen asleep over a book. Professor Snape was probably long gone, the only thing remaining from him was his black robe. He must have thrown it over her sleeping body, in the attempt to warm her and indeed it had. Professor Snape's heavy woollen robe was comfortably warm and big enough to cover her from head to toe. It smelled of him, she realized, a spicy, herbal scent that comforted and at the same time infatuated her. Before she knew it, she found herself burying her nose in the rough material, inhaling deeply before sighing with satisfaction. One deep breath was enough for her, to feel herself relax, a deep boneless satisfaction coming over her, that made her want to roll together, burying herself under those robes and fall back asleep again. It didn't matter that she was still at the library, as she did not want to leave behind the Professor's robes anytime soon. But of course, this wasn't an option. He would want them back, rather sooner than later and burying herself in his robes any longer would not help her to ban those thoughts from her head - thoughts that kept returning whenever she did not pay attention - like now.
With a sigh she pulled herself up from the armchair, carefully putting his robes aside, positioning them over the armrest. Should she just leave them here? Or ask a house-elf to take them to him? Or should she do so herself? Before she could make up her mind, her eyes fell on a little book on the floor, right next to her armchair. Had Professor Snape forgotten to put one of his books back? Or had he found something and left this book for her to read? It didn’t look like a library book though, more like a classic Muggle-notebook with a black cover. Hermione frowned. Did this belong to Professor Snape? It was possible. It was probably best if she checked, because if this was his, she could return it to him together with his robes.
Making a quick decision, Hermione picked the book up from the floor and with a small smile she opened the first page. She immediately recognized his spidery handwriting as her eyes ghosted over the word and she read:
A scientific study on Kindred Magic
By Severus Tobias Snape
Test subject: Hermione Jean Granger