Hermione was torn between uncertainty and curiosity when she followed Professor Snape through the narrow gap in the rock. Behind, there was a tunnel, illuminated by a strange, bluish light that probably came from the light crystals the Professor was looking for, even though she could spot none of them.
Professor Snape swam ahead of her without hesitation, his black hair reflecting the bluish light and trailing behind him like a curtain. It was strange seeing him like that, in a surrounding that was as far from a Hogwarts classroom as it could get. And strangely, the pale man in front of her looked almost content, the tell-tale scowl on his face substituted by a curious smile that made him seem years younger.
“ It cannot be much farther ,” she heard him whisper in her head, the tone of his voice strangely reassuring for her. And indeed, he was right. The tunnel widened into a big cave after only a few metres; a cave that was illuminated by hundreds of blue lights, some coming from the walls, some tiny ones floating around them in the air like dust. Hermione gasped in surprise and awe. She wished she could show this place to her parents, share the moment with them, but she supposed it would have to be enough to tell them everything later.
“ This place is truly magical ,” she thought, realizing only shortly after that she had shared the words with him. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw him smile.
“ It is ,” he answered, turning his head in all directions.
They did not speak and Hermione used the time to take everything in. They were in a cavern-like room, which was mostly filled with water. Only in the very back of it, there seemed to be a small area that was not flooded and she could see the Professor aim towards it with slow swimming strokes. For a moment she just watched him before she remembered that he had probably taken her along so she could assist him. As she started to swim towards him, she could see him climb out of the water, his eyes roaming over the wall in front of him with a calculating expression. Most of the crystals here were far up, Hermione realized, which meant that they would probably have to climb or find another way to get up there to collect some of them.
“I will take a look at those different crystals first,” the Professor said, and a moment later Hermione realized that he had cancelled their Bubble-Head charms and truly spoken out loud. “Climb out of the water and rest for a bit. I will be back with you in a moment.”
For a moment she thought he planned to climb up the wall, but then she saw his form blur and shrink, morphing into the raven that had visited her at home some weeks ago. She had known he was an animagus from his journal, and seen his raven-form, of course, but ever since she had read it, she had been distracted by all the other things she had learned, forgetting about this little detail altogether. Now Hermione could not help but stare at him, taking in his glistening black feathers with curious eyes before the Animagus took off from the ground with a raven cry. He circled the room a few times, the flapping of his wings echoing loudly in the cavernous room before she saw him land on the wall, his wings stabilizing him while his beak was testing the stone around one of the crystals.
“I will need your assistance to remove one of those crystals,” he said after he had landed in front of her, transforming back into his human form as if nothing of significance had happened. But it had. Hermione was pretty sure that no Hogwarts student was aware of the fact that Professor Snape was an Animagus, and considering what a private person he was, she was aware of the significance of him transforming in front of her. She wasn't sure if this was him acknowledging the fact that she had read his diary, but she strongly suspected it was. But was it also meant as an invitation to talk about those things? Because she wasn't even sure if she was ready to hear those hurtful words being repeated directly by him.
“What do you want me to do, Sir?” she asked, pushing those thoughts away. Right now wasn’t the time to talk anyway.
Professor Snape looked at her with dark, serious eyes. “I think the best approach would be if you levitated me up there, stabilizing me enough to remove the light crystal with my wand. Do you think you can do that, Miss Granger?”
Hermione felt his eyes on her and involuntarily her eyes were pulled towards his face. “What if I let you fall, Sir?” she asked, her voice quivering ever so slightly.
At that, his lips twitched in amusement. “Then, I guess, I’ll be the shortest DADA teacher in the history of Hogwarts.”
She stared at him in disbelief. Had he just made a joke?
‘What an idiotic plan,’ Severus thought as he felt the girl’s magic wash over him, levitating him into the air. There were so many different solutions for this problem that would not risk him falling to his death - conjuring a platform for him to land on, for example. But then again, his animagus form would save him if Miss Granger lost her nerve, which made the whole endeavour safe enough. Letting her levitate him required a certain amount of trust from him, trust that he would not have had in any other student and only a handful of people. But he trusted Hermione Granger - at least to a certain extent, and he thought it important for their relationship to show her just that. And he thought he was doing a decent job at it.
Miss Granger’s precision with magic was remarkable. He softly floated through the air like he was carried on an invisible pillow, her magic humming reassuringly around him, lulling his nervous mind into security. Then he was there, right in front of the light crystal he had picked for their little project, because he refused to work on the microscope without her. This was their project, he thought, realizing how sentimental that sounded.
“ Good, ” he praised her through the mental connection he had established. “ Now hold me steady. I will start loosening the light crystal now. ”
“ Yes, Professor ,” the girl answered in evident concentration.
Everything went well until the crystal broke free from the stone, landing in his hand with a soft thud. He felt a soft wave of magic rush over him before suddenly thousands of blue glowing particles from the air came rushing towards him, connecting with his skin a moment later. From below he heard a surprised squeak from Hermione, her magic around him disappearing a moment later, making him rush towards the ground with breakneck speed. He reacted without thinking, his body transforming into its animal form and catching him on its own accord. The crystal meanwhile fell down into the lake below, its blue light slowly sinking towards the bottom. He landed on the ground with a silent curse, Miss Granger staring down at his raven form with wide, frightened eyes.
“Professor, I…” she mumbled, her body shining blindingly from the glowing dust, which must have sought her out, too.
“Are you hurt?” he found himself asking after he had hastily transformed back into his human form, his annoyance replaced by worry for her. “What happened?”
She looked at him helplessly, the lights on her skin dancing around like little glowing stars. “I don’t know, Sir. Those lights came suddenly rushing towards me and I just sort of… panicked.”
He did not speak right away, as his eyes just took her in, trying to assess what had happened to her, no to them , because he, too, was glowing like a fucking Christmas tree. “Things coming rushing towards you are usually not a good sign,” he said calmly, before raising his wand and casting some diagnostic spells. There was nothing wrong with her, he realized with a sigh of relief, also noting the fact that he wasn’t in any form of pain. “I do not hold your wish to protect yourself against you.”
Miss Granger nodded, averting her eyes. But he could see the look of insecurity and wariness on her features. Even though he had shown his trust in her, she was far from trusting him, he realized. Did she expect him to sneer at her? To mock her that she had failed and let him fall? If so, she would be disappointed.
“Let us dive for the light crystal and get out of here,” he said, watching her calmly. “If we are lucky this glowing dust - or whatever this is - will wash off. If it is still there when we reach the shore, we can look for a solution at Hogwarts.”
“Yes, Professor,” she said shakily, before squaring her shoulders.
Severus nodded in satisfaction before he recast their Bubble-Head charms. She did not even wait for him to enter the water before she dove down with a closed-off expression. It almost seemed like she could not wait to get out of here, he thought with a sting in his heart. But then again he could not blame her, after the unfortunate incident with his research journal.
When Hermione’s feet connected with the solid ground again, she could barely keep herself upright any longer. All in all, they must have spent about two hours in the lake and even though their magic had provided them with oxygen and warmth, she felt tired to her bones. Playing and splashing in the water was one thing, but swimming such a distance quite another. Not to mention the strain that the whole endeavour had put on her nerves and magic.
They had barely left the cave when she had felt her muscles getting tired, but she had soldiered on in the hope of not embarrassing herself even more in front of the Professor. Losing control over her levitation spell had probably been enough for him to see his opinion, that she was a useless schoolgirl, confirmed. Would he write about today's encounter in his research journal? Would he mock her naïveté or incapability, maybe even in front of his colleagues?
No, she would not embarrass herself any further, by asking him to slow down or let her take a break. She could rest as soon as they were out of the water, Hermione thought. But it hadn’t been long until the cramps in her legs started.
She hadn’t even needed to say a word, as Professor Snape was instantly at her side, gripping her arm forcefully. “ Stop moving ,” he instructed her, his teeth gritted in discomfort. That’s when she realized that he was feeling the pain, too. “It will only make it worse.”
Hermione knew that, of course. “ But we need to get to the shore. We’ll drown if we don’t, ” she sent her thoughts towards him mentally, unable to suppress the panic she was feeling. She did not want to spend a minute longer in the lake than she absolutely needed to.
“ You are under my watch, Miss Granger ,” the man in front of her replied calmly, while his other arm gripped her waist to steady her. “ I will make sure to return you to the castle unharmed. I give you my word ,” he swore and sought out her eyes. “ Now stop moving so we can get this cramp under control .”
Hermione stilled immediately, the Professor's words about following his instructions still ringing in her ears. He was right, every movement of her leg just made the pain worse, their pain, which really was not helping.
" Good ," Professor Snape praised her and indeed she could feel the pain lessen shortly after. " Now let's see that we get you to the shore. Try moving your leg again very carefully, toes first.”
She followed his command, only to flinch from another cramp. It was of no use. She would not be able to move that leg anytime soon.
“ This will not do,” Professor Snape said with a shake of his head. “ You’ll have to hold onto me then, so I can pull you to the shore.”
Hermione looked at her Professor in discomfort, but he was right. There was no way she could reach the land herself.
“ I’ll need my wand-arm to transfigure my legs ,” he said, matter-of-factly. “ You can grip my left shoulder and arm to stabilize yourself until I am finished .”
She did not want to, did not want to touch him, cling to him , knowing that he detested her touch. But it wasn’t like she had much of a choice. The hand from her shoulder disappeared and as instructed she gripped his arm to hold onto him. From the corner of her eye, she saw him pulling out his wand and a moment later his legs started to morph into what looked like a merman’s tail. She stared at him in wonder. Who would have guessed that he was this well-versed in transfiguration, too?
“ Good enough ,” she heard him exclaim in her head and a moment later he pulled her in front of him, his arms closing around her waist. It was a strangely intimate gesture, very much like a hug, and for a moment she felt safe and protected in his arms. Then she remembered that he would have never touched her in such a way by choice and stiffened.
“ Hold on tight ,” he instructed her and even though she did not want to, her arms closed around his chest. She had barely found a comfortable position to anchor herself, when she felt his muscles flex, propelling them forward a moment later. She found herself clinging to his chest even tighter, burying her head against the thin fabric of his swimming suit. Only then she realized that their bodies had indeed stopped glowing, as the strange dust must have washed off by now, like he had suspected it would. Thank Merlin! Now she could hopefully head back to Gryffindor Tower as soon as they were out of the lake. Because no matter how exciting and interesting their little expedition had been, it did not change the things she had learned through reading his journal. And some of them she would not easily forgive or ever forget, no matter how comforting his arms around her body felt.
Time of exposure : 2 hours, 54 minutes,3 seconds
Physical contact : 12 minutes, 24 seconds of full body-contact which was required to help the girl to get back to the shore
Miss Granger’s ‘detention’ turned out to be even more successful than I had anticipated. Even though the girl had clearly emotionally distanced herself from me, she was still willing to follow my commands and touch me, as it became necessary. I find myself highly content after the time spent in her presence, the tiredness and physical discomfort that I felt the last days completely wiped away from my body. I am aware that this is the effect of the Kindred Magic, but on the other hand, I also find myself seeking out the memory of the feeling of her soft skin below my fingers. I have to admit that holding her like this had felt right, in a way that I find myself unable to describe. Even now my fingers tingle in the hope of touching her again, which of course I can and will not do, as it would be most improper given the girl’s age. Still, I cannot help thinking about the fact that it will be the girl’s birthday soon. With the Headmaster supporting the idea, I could start considering a relationship with her. But is that truly advisable given our different stances in life? She would still be my student, after all.
When Hermione climbed through the portrait hole of the Fat Lady and into the Gryffindor common room, it was already past curfew. She felt tired to the bones as swimming through the lake was more physical exercise than she was used to, but she also felt mentally exhausted. This whole detention had not been what she had expected. Professor Snape had been different and once more she felt conflicted by what she had read in that book of his. A few weeks ago she had also thought him almost kind, as he had more than once challenged her intellect or discussed things with her like he was really interested in what she had to say. Today, it had been the same. She was pretty sure taking a student for an excursion to the Black Lake was not what his detentions usually looked like. So why had he taken her along, asked her to levitate him, if he did not value her presence? It did not make sense, this whole diary did not make sense , and the contradictions were mentally ripping her apart.
“Hermione, you’re back!” Ron greeted her and waved her over to the corner of the common room they usually claimed. She walked towards him with a smile, happy that he had obviously waited up for her. Harry, on the other hand, was nowhere to be seen.
“What did the greasy git make you do?” her red-headed friend asked as soon as she sat down next to him, and for a moment Hermione did not know what to answer. But then she decided that there was no reason for her not to tell Ron at least parts of her strange evening, as Professor Snape had not forbidden her to do so. And Hermione felt like she just needed to talk about what happened.
“He took me to the Black Lake,” she murmured while casting a Muffliato around them. “He needed to collect some ingredients from the lake and he took me along.”
Ron stared at her with wide eyes. “He took you into the lake?” he asked in total disbelief. “Don’t tell me he made you wear a bikini!”
“What? No!” Hermione hastily answered while shaking her head in irritation.
Her friend exhaled in obvious relief. “Good. Because the greasy git’s not supposed to see you like that,” he mumbled a moment later, his ears reddening at his words.
Hermione stared at him in confusion. But as her friend did not say anything else she continued: “He cast a Bubble Head-charm on us, so we could dive down to get his stuff. It was actually not so bad, definitely not what I had expected.”
For a moment Ron stared at her in total disbelief, but then he shrugged and shook his head. “Only you can think that collecting potion ingredients with Snape is fun,” he said with a snort. And somehow she felt herself getting affronted by his words.
“Not potion ingredients,” Hermione found herself saying, suddenly feeling the need to explain her excitement. “We’ve been to a cave with hundreds of light crystals. The place was beautiful !”
“Huh. Then you must have been the first student that ever had a nice detention with Snape.” Ron snorted. “And Snape doesn’t do nice.”
Somehow Ron’s words exactly fit with the doubts Hermione had, but that she could not tell him without telling him the rest of this embarrassing story. And how was she supposed to explain that she was somehow bound to Professor Snape by Kindred Magic? She was pretty sure Ron would not understand and neither would Harry. They hated the man with a passion, after all. No, it was better she kept those things to herself.
“I was probably just lucky,” Hermione replied with a shrug, hoping that this would end this part of their discussion. There was no use in mulling over why Professor Snape had taken her along to the cave. He had probably tried to manipulate her again; he had done so before, after all. But she would not fall for it, not this time. Now she knew what he really thought of her and how important it was to keep her emotional distance. And suddenly she had an idea of how to do just that.
“Ron? How do you feel about going to Hogsmeade with me next weekend?” she asked with a shy smile.
Her friend looked at her with furrowed brows. “Sure. ‘s not like we wouldn’t go together anyway, right?”
Hermione shook her head at his obliviousness. “No, I mean just you and me, Ron,” she said, focussing her eyes on his face. She hoped her mum was right and he really liked her, not just as a friend. Otherwise, this conversation would get pretty awkward now.
“Like on a date ?” Ron asked, his blue eyes looking at her in disbelief.
Hermione smiled. “If you like?”
At that, Ron broke out into a wide smile. “I’d love to!”