“You did it, Mione!” Ron said, bouncing excitedly as they made their way back to the Gryffindor tower. “I mean, we always knew you’re brilliant, but even Professor Slughorn seemed to be impressed with you.”
Hermione nodded and said: “I think he’s a very good teacher, don’t you think? Many of you did pretty well and Malfoy’s potion was almost as good as mine.”
“But yours was better,” Ron said, a happy grin on her face. “What are you gonna do with the Felix Felices now?”
“I’m going to save it. With You-Know-Who being around, one of us will probably be in dire need of a perfect day, don't you think?"
“Yeah,” Harry murmured to her right, his eyes focussed on Malfoy, who was walking some metres ahead of them. "We really might. Pity we can't make more. Or can we? Do you have any idea how to brew that stuff?"
“No, Felix Felices is a really advanced potion, Harry. It’s definitely not on the curriculum. It probably needs an experienced potion master to brew it,” she said and involuntarily her thoughts drifted back to Professor Snape. Had he ever brewed it, or even used it? It was possible of course, as Professor Snape definitely had the skill to brew such a complicated potion. Would it be possible for him to brew some of it for the Order? It surely wouldn't hurt to have it in the next fight.
As the day progressed, Hermione could feel herself get more and more tired, while she also seemed to be more and more on edge. The reason, of course, was not hard to guess, as Professor Snape now took his meals at the teacher’s table and the increased physical distance to him was probably no longer enough to satisfy what remained of their connection. But it wasn’t of any consequence, she would not seek Professor Snape out, being forced to admit, that she could not stand to stay away from him. It wasn't like he had sought her out, or would, because he had only done so because he had had had no other choice. But now, with their connection weakening, it probably wouldn't be much longer until they would not have to see each other at all. And honestly, it was for the best. Professor Snape would probably never see more in her than the student that had annoyed him for years, and she would not beat herself up over something that she could not have - what exactly that was, she did not dare to formulate.
“Hermione? Are you alright?” Harry’s voice suddenly pulled her out of her musings and when she lifted her eyes from her still untouched plate, she could see him looking at her with concern. "You look kind of peakchy."
“I…” she did not even know what to say, as her head was simply buzzing painfully, her thoughts a jumbled mess. “I don’t feel very well,” she mumbled, pushing her plate away. “I think I’ll just go to bed, ‘m not hungry anyway.”
“You sure?” Ron asked next to her and she just nodded and rose from her seat.
“Yeah. I probably just need a good sleep and I’ll be better in the morning.” Without another word she turned around and walked out of the Great Hall, unaware of the pair of black eyes, that watched her intensely. She could only hope that sleep indeed would help her recover, even though she started to doubt it. Maybe it was finally time to use that bottle of Dreamless Sleep that Professor Snape had given her. They had DADA first thing in the morning anyway. She just had to make it until then, but going by the ache in her chest, she would unintentionally seek him out before the night was over. It was, like she did not even have a choice. But she had. She would not embarrass herself in front of Professor Snape again by seeking out his door like a stray cat. No, she had a bottle of Dreamless Sleep and she was going to use it. Mabe a night without a dream of him was all she needed.
“What do you make of young Mister Malfoy’s behaviour, Severus?” Albus asked his new DADA Professor while patiently stirring his cup of tea. “Do you think he still has the task to kill me?”
The younger man looked at him with a thoughtful expression in his tired face. “I doubt the Dark Lord has suddenly cancelled the boy’s task, even though he can not hope for him to be successful. I am sure by now he knows, that I have been told of Draco's assignment and therefore will try to stop him. But even if he still thought me on his side, young mister Malfoy never had a very good chance of succeeding. Therefore, I can only conclude that this task is meant as a punishment for the Malfoy family.”
“You think Tom set the boy up for failure?” Albus asked while thoughtfully stroking his beard. “He must know, that I would never kill a student .”
Severus shrugged silently and once more Albus realized how drawn and spent he looked. A few days ago he had hoped, that his boy, because that’s how he saw him, had finally found his Gryffindor courage again. His and Miss Granger’s trip to Diagon Alley let him hope, that they had finally found some common ground, where their happiness could be sown out. But during the last days, he had seen Miss Granger more and more distance herself from Severus, which could only lead to the conclusion, that Severus had once more taken the wrong path.
“Others might,” the young man finally said, before rubbing his temples with a sigh.
Albus nodded. “What do you suggest we do with the boy then? Should we offer him an alternative?”
Severus looked at him with a dark expression. "Are you suggesting to make him the new spy of the Order, Albus? To make him my successor in the Dark Lord’s ranks?” the man sneered in evident disapproval.
He looked back at his young Professor with a small smile. "Don't you think the boy is worth being offered a way out? He is even younger than you were, before Tom lured you in."
“Gah, I'm too tired for this conversation," Severus groaned, rubbing his temples. But his black eyes stayed focussed on him, while he continued: "Draco will never leave his parents behind. Unlike me, he is very focussed on his family, even though his regard for his father might have taken a vast blow during these last months. But it does not matter."
Albus nodded. He had expected as much. "We could offer his parents protection if that's what the boy wishes."
Severus looked at him with a raised brow. “Could we? Where? Do you want to invite them to Hogwarts as well? Because I can tell you, that you can never be sure if they would not simply try to assassinate you in the attempt to rise in the Dark Lord's graces again." His younger friend sighed tiredly, rubbing his forehead again. "Albus, the whole Malfoy clan has the first and foremost goal to survive. They will not join you, as long as they are not convinced, that we will be on the winning side of this war. If they are, then you might even convince them to join the fight. But their support will not come without making them a good offer, this much I can tell you."
Albus smiled at the other man, thankful for his insight. “I see. Well, not everyone is as selfless and dedicated as you, my boy,” he said, his eyes twinkling. “What is your suggestion concerning young Draco then?”
“We watch him, closely ,” Severus replied, steepling his fingers in front of his chin. “Time will tell us about the boy’s intentions. We can still approach him later on. I also suggest staying on our watch around the castle. The Dark Lord obviously wants you gone and it is possible, Draco is not the only one tasked to assure that you don’t see the end of the year.”
“Then we will be on our watch,” Albus answered with a reassuring nod.
“Is there anything else you wanted?” his favourite Slytherin asked in a tired voice.
For a moment Albus considered asking him after his problems concerning Miss Granger and the bond, but then he could not see this conversation end well right now. No, he would let Severus be for now and start making his own plans.
“No, this would be all for tonight, my boy,” he replied kindly and it was only a moment until Severus Snape stormed out of his office, his robe billowing behind him. Albus followed his retreating figure with his eyes. It was obvious that the man needed help, as he himself seemed either too hesitant or too proud to set things right himself. Therefore it was almost his duty to help his friend out. Luckily he got the feeling that Miss Granger would be far more approachable than the grumpy potions master himself.
Severus did almost not find the energy to drag his sorry arse out of bed in the morning. More than once he had considered storming into the Gryffindor tower at night, demanding that Miss Granger come with him. But it didn’t take a genius to realize that this was a shitty idea and would end with his arse getting grilled by an angry Minerva. And that was nothing he ever wanted to experience again - once had been enough.
Therefore he stayed in his rooms and after many restless hours of pacing and shifting around in bed, he must have fallen asleep. Not that he felt rested in the morning.
Luckily his first lesson was DADA with the stubborn Gryffindor girl and he planned on making good use of that time.
Severus swept into the classroom and let his eyes travel over the students. Miss Granger was there, sitting in the first row as she usually did. But her eyes were firmly fixed on the table in front of her, avoiding to even look at him. Still, it was not difficult to see how tired she was. There were dark shadows under her eyes and her skin looked pale and waxy, which made her look like she should have been at the hospital wing and not in a classroom. But Severus knew better, as already her physical presence in the room made him feel like he was finally able to breathe again.
“You’ll be learning some proper defence this year,” he stated, giving his voice its typical emotionless tone. “The last years you’ve had the misfortune to be mostly taught by idiots and imposters, resulting in many of you being next to helpless.”
There were many murmurs throughout the classroom and a snort, coming out of Potter's direction. Of course, the brat felt the need to question him again. "Is there anything you wanted, Potter?" Severus asked in a bored tone.
"Nothing, Sir," the boy replied, even though his resentful, green eyes spoke an entirely different story. But Severus did not care for his input or the fact, that Potter found himself superior in defence. He’d teach him otherwise.
“This year you will learn to cast silently. Does anyone have an idea why doing so would be desirable for a witch or wizard?”
Several hands raised, but Miss Granger felt the need to continue ignoring him. He sighed. “Potter?”
“It gives the advantage of your opponent not knowing in advance, what spell you’re casting,” the Gryffindor replied proudly.
Severus nodded. “Correct. What else?”
The first students started to look at him helplessly, but not all of them. “Mr Malfoy?”
“It assures that self-invented spells can not easily be copied by others,” his godson replied in a proud, nasal tone.
"Indeed," he confirmed, his eyes scanning the classroom. Miss Granger still was not looking at him, but slowly he could feel the energy flowing back into his body, indicating that her physical presence was enough - for now. Still, this lesson was his chance to assure that both of them would make it through this week. But he sensed that the headstrong Gryffindor attempted to be less than helpful with that. “Any other ideas why casting non-verbally might be beneficial?” He waited for a moment and as no hands raised, he fixed the bushy-haired girl with his dark eyes. “Miss Granger? Any insights on that matter?”
Her eyes snapped up and fixed him with a stubborn glare that made his heart jump for a moment. “It enables you to cast, even after you’ve been silenced in a duel,” she said, without breaking out in her typical long explanations. He nodded with a small, satisfied smile.
"It does," he said, before focussing the rest of the students again. Now that he had driven home the importance of non-verbal casting, he went on to explain the process itself. To his satisfaction, he saw many students listen attentively, even Potter who seemed eager to improve his duelling skills. Good. It appeared the brat wasn't as lazy in defence, as he had been in potions.
“Split up in pairs and start practising”, he instructed, knowing that there was an uneven number of students. It was the chance he had been waiting for. “Miss Granger, you’ll be practising with me.”
It was the second time her eyes focussed on him and this time he could read not only fierceness but also surprise in them. He half expected her to resist, but she did not say a word and just rose from her seat to walk towards him, with her head raised proudly.
Severus waited until all the students had started practising before he led her to the back of the room. "Take your position, Miss Granger," he said calmly. "Start casting as soon as you feel ready to do so."
Only a small nod indicated, that she had heard him. But it was enough for him right now. As long as she did not outwardly refuse to work with him, he would still count it as progress.
He felt her eyes fixing him in concentration and for about a minute nothing happened. Then, suddenly he felt her magic lick over him and he felt her curse building before she managed to cast it. Be blocked her stunner non-verbally, without even making use of his wand.
"Good," he commented calmly. Of course, she was the first student to manage a non-verbal spell. No surprise here. "Again.”
The girl glared at him. This time she managed the spell faster, but he blocked it effortlessly nonetheless. "Good. Now try defending yourself," he said and pulled out his wand. For a moment she saw her flinch, but she hastily composed herself and stared at him defiantly. He gave her a moment to concentrate before he disarmed non-verbally and caught her wand with an experienced motion. He did not comment on her failure, just offered her the wand in his hand. She'd have to collect it from him, when she wanted it back, but he could tell that coming close enough to do so was not what she wanted to do.
"Try again," Severus said, in an almost bored tone and waited for her to approach. For a moment Miss Granger just stared at him, before her eyes hardened and she walked towards him with her chin raised proudly. She plucked her wand out of his hands, turned and walked back to her position, her back ramrod straight. He waited for her to collect herself, as her agitation was clearly visible on his face. It was only a moment before she was forced to collect her wand from him again. Severus smiled.
“Looks like there is still some room for improvement here, Miss Granger. Let's swap roles for now. Obviously, you are more comfortable attacking, right now," he stated, a small smile on his face. He did not have to wait long for her first spell to connect with his shield. When he blocked it again, he saw something in her expression shift and a moment later he could feel her ire turn on him. What followed was a rapid succession of stunners, aimed at him with growing vigour and speed. He blocked them, one by one without comment, but he could tell that something had snapped within her and her anger had finally found a way out. Miss Granger did not even seem aware of her surroundings any longer, as her caramel brown eyes were now trained at him, as her wand spit out spell after spell, no word leaving her mouth but her eyes aflame with fire. Severus could tell, that the class had gotten aware of the little show her classmate so willingly displayed and when he saw them grouping behind her with stunned expressions on their faces, he raised his hand and told her: "Enough."
It was, like she had not even heard him. The next stunner left her wand only seconds later, the class gasping at her blatant ignorance of his command. He blocked her spell without much effort. That's enough," he repeated himself, only to earn himself another curse. He could not let this go on, he realized, while blocking the spell. "Miss Granger! Enough!", he shouted, his voice hard as steel.
The effect was immediate. It was like the girl awoke from some kind of trance, as her eyes suddenly snapped away from him, widening in horror at the realization of what she had done a moment later. It was probably the first time she had outwardly defied a teacher, he realized as his black eyes settled on her.
"I expect you to obey, when I tell you to cease the fight," he stated, his eyes focussing on her a moment, before they moved on to the other students. "That goes for all of you. We would not want any unfortunate accidents, at least not more than strictly necessary."
“Yes, Sir,” the class chorussed. A grim smile formed on his face and he turned towards his stubborn bond-mate. “Miss Granger, obviously you still need to learn the importance of following orders as soon as they are given ,” he stated and he saw her cheeks pinken with embarrassment. “You’ll be in detention with me for the rest of the week and hopefully you will remember to do better, next time.”
He saw her eyes widen at the realization that she would spend the evening with him but at the same time, he could feel their bond tingle with satisfaction.
“Yes, Sir,” she mumbled as a reply, her caramel brown eyes avoiding to make contact with him.
"Good. For the next lesson, I expect ten inches on the advantages and disadvantages of non-verbal casting," he said dismissing the class. One by one the students trudged out of the room, Miss Granger flanked by her two Gryffindor heroes. He watched her go, knowing, that she would be back in his study in the evening. Now he just needed a good way to explain things to her, or to win back her trust, without imitating his recurring dreams and crossing the fine line between teacher and student. It was easier said than done.