“Well Severus, I must say that I have rarely seen a student more talented in potions than Miss Granger - well maybe apart from you, of course,” Slughorn bragged, stuffing his mouth with mashed potatoes from the table. The day had dragged on painfully, the students getting on his strained nerves more than ever. He simply did not have the patience for old Slughorn dumping his new discoveries and potential Slug Club members on him now. “She is a muggle-born witch, did you know? But very bright and very talented.”
Severus looked at the old fart with a disdainful sneer. It was typical for him to emphasize the girl’s heritage, even though he widely advertised that he did not care about a student’s blood status. But why did he feel the need to talk about such things at every occurring chance then? It was the same scheme over and over again. He took them in, made them members of his little club only to brag about how successful they were, despite being brought up by muggles. It was truly sickening.
“She does have a certain amount of talent,” Severus said while forcing himself to take a bite of his steak. He wasn’t particularly hungry today, but he still wanted to be well nourished for the evening laying ahead of him. “But she tends to get distracted by those idiots she’s frequently trying to save from blowing themselves up.”
“I imagine you are referring to Harry Potter and his red-haired friend,” Slughorn said in a patronizing tone. “Well, I have to admit, that the boy’s strengths must lay elsewhere. But they can’t all be potioneers, can they?”
Under other circumstances that comment would have made his day, but as it was Severus could not find himself to enjoy Horace’s disappointment with the famous Harry Potter. The man would still invite him into his little club, of course, as Slughorn would not risk missing such a celebrity as him from his collection.
“Indeed, they can not,” Severus commented, the meat in his mouth tasting like rubber. How much longer would he have to sit through this, Slughorn boasting about this and that while he had to watch Miss Granger and Weasley holding hands below the table. How much longer until he could escape this personal hell and Albus’ knowing eyes, that seemed to haunt him ever since he had spoken to him the day before?
"But Miss Granger is a true gem, I can tell you," Slughorn went on, totally oblivious to Severus' mood. "She reminds me of Lily, Lily Evans that is. I take it you still remember her, don't you?"
Severus closed his eyes, taking a deep, calming breath through his nose. Slughorn did not even wait for him to answer, but took a generous sip from his wine saying: "She was a Muggle-born witch, too, you know?"
In his head Severus started listing all the ingredients of Painful Death, a potion he'd love to test on old Horace right now. But there was nothing for it. The old walrus went on and on , totally oblivious to the fact, that Severus was ready to choke him in front of Dumbledore and the rest of the fucking Great Hall. He was beyond caring, because in Azkaban it would at least be quiet and he would not have to see Miss Granger batting her eyelashes at a fucking Weasley . Merlin, those were really desperate times and they called for desperate measures.
“I can’t believe they changed the schedule for the Prefect patrols,” Ron mumbled, staring sullenly on the plan Professor McGonagall had just handed out. She had explained that Hogwarts was now trying to advertise inter-house-friendships and therefore Prefect patrols would, from now on, consist of two persons originating from different houses. Hermione did not mind so much, even though she had looked forward to patrolling the castle hand in hand with Ron, but she had also gotten Hannah Abbot, who was a kind Hufflepuff girl, who had always been nice towards her. Ron on the other hand…
“I can’t believe I’m going to patrol the castle with the ferret twice a week,” her redheaded friend (or was he already her boyfriend?) moaned and she did not really know how to console him. This really was bad luck.
“Well, at least you’ll be able to keep an eye on him now,” Harry murmured at Ron’s other side. “I’m still sure he’s up to something. Maybe you could slip him some Veritasserum one evening or you get a chance to look at his left arm. I tell you he took the Dark Mark.”
Hermione looked at the boys with a sigh. She did not think Malfoy would try something while being on patrols, but Harry had at least found one positive aspect to this whole situation. And indeed it seemed to cheer Ron somewhat up.
“You’re right mate,” he said, clapping Harry’s shoulder. “I’ll keep an eye on him. And who knows? Maybe I’ll find out something. Everything could be important, right?”
“Absolutely,” Hermione agreed with an encouraging smile. But her thoughts had already started to drift to the detention, that was about to start soon.
Hermione waited until the last possible moment to knock at Professor Snape’s door. Only two more days of detention, until she would not have to see him again, at least not if they finally found a way to undo the bond connecting them.
“Come in,” Professor Snape said, this time refraining from commenting on her late arrival. Still, he looked at her with a weird expression on his face, not the blank mask he usually wore.
He led her into his office and then to a wooden door leading into another room. When Hermione stared at it undecidedly for a moment he said: “We’ll be in my private quarters today, Miss Granger. What I have to discuss as better done while seated comfortably.”
His private quarters? Hermione stared at the rooms with wide eyes, but then she started walking towards the sofa that had featured in more than one of her dreams by now - and in his too - she remembered. Merlin, how was she even going to look at him now, knowing that last night he had dreamt kissing her senseless just there, his arms cradling her against his chest while his mouth mumbled words of adoration and love into her ears. But it was not real, none of those dreams were. The words Professor Snape said to her there, were probably only a result of her subconsciousness wishing for just that to happen. She closed her eyes in the hope to compose herself again, hastily reciting everything she had read about Occlumency and trying to make use of it. But it was of no use. As soon as she saw the sofa, her heartbeat stuttered and her thoughts were back in the gutter. Hermione could only pray that Professor Snape did not perform Legilimency on her just now.
“Don’t you want to sit down?” she finally heard him ask, aware of his eyes that seemed to study her with great intensity. It was better to avoid eye-contact just now, otherwise, he would surely know how she replayed the scenes from their shared dream, last night. And that would be more embarrassment than she could take.
“I think I prefer to stand,” Hermione finally stated, staring at her shoes.
“As you wish,” the Professor replied with an audible sigh. For a moment she hoped he would still sit down, but then she heard him shuffle around in the back of the room until he was suddenly standing in front of her.
“Here are the books I took from the library. It was wrong of me to take them in the first place and I want to give them to you now. I realize that I should have told you about our condition right in the beginning, as I now see that you would have reacted much more maturely than I had expected you to.”
Hermione glanced at his hands and after a slow blink, she started scanning the book titles. “This is not necessary, Professor. I have read all those books already. You can keep them here for all I care.” For a moment Hermione asked herself if she had gone too far, but then she realized, that she did not care.
“I see,” Professor Snape said, his figure retreating to put the books back on the table by the window. “I would have offered you the knowledge I have gained during the last weeks, but as you have read my notes, I don’t have that to offer either.”
Hermione raised her eyes a bit so that she was now staring at the man’s chest. “You don’t have to offer me anything, Sir.”
“Nothing but an apology, you mean,” he said and again he was in front of her. “Because that you deserve, for everything that I did to you and your parents.”
Suddenly she could feel his hand below her chin, raising it gently so that she was soon forced to look at him. He looked somehow different, he realized, his dark eyes full of emotions instead of the dark, expressionless orbs they used to be. Somehow, they were pulling her in, the intensity of them taking her breath away for a few seconds. “I was a coward to not talk to you right away, a coward and a fool. But I was afraid, afraid of your reaction to the news of being connected to me.”
Hermione swallowed heavily. “I understand, Sir. You operated under the assumption that the bond is permanent and wanted to save yourself the humiliation of being connected to an awkward teenager. But you are not. As I said, the bond can be undone, if that is our wish.” She did not understand, why her chest finally felt so heavy at those words. It had never been an option for them to act on the bond and be more than just student and teacher, not with him looking down at her like that.
“No, you do not understand,” he said, his eyes never leaving hers. “I do not have the wish to undo the bond between us, Miss Granger, not any longer.”
“You don’t?” Hermione asked, her eyes staring at him in disbelief. Was that another attempt to manipulate her? “Why? I refuse to play your test subject any longer, Sir.”
At that, a pained expression flickered across his face. “I want to keep the bond, because I am a very selfish man. Your observations yesterday were correct, Miss Granger. I am indeed a lonely man and have been for many years now.” Slowly the grip on her chin loosened and his hand let go of her. Hermione did not move though, as his eyes had somehow paralysed her and she did not mean in a physical sense. But she found, she did not know what to say and more importantly, did not want to move herself or even her eyes away from him.
“Those last weeks have been some of the least agonizing in my life and that is due to your presence. I have come to appreciate it and I would hate to lose it now.”
For a moment Hermione thought she was back in one of her dreams, as this man in front of her simply could not be the same man who had written all those hurtful words. Was her subconsciousness playing tricks on her again?
“I don’t think I know what you’re saying, Sir,” she whispered, her voice sounding small.
But the Professor did not mock her for it. His face took on a kind expression as he said: “I like spending time with you, Miss Granger. I like discussing magical theories with you or brewing together in the lab. This bond exists for a reason, but I am sure you are aware of that. You and I are alike, Hermione, in many ways. Only that I took a different turn in life, which I have come to regret dearly. Still, I think we could make good friends, or research partners if that is what you prefer.”
Hermione could just stare at him, her mind still contemplating his words and the fact, that he had just addressed her by her given name. He wanted to be her friend? But that would mean he cared for her in some way, liked her even. But why did he write those hurtful things about her then?
“Do you mean it, Sir? Because I remember you saying in your diary, that you found it tedious to spend time with me. Or are you just saying this, so I will agree to meet you from time to time to stabilize the bond?”
For a moment Professor Snape looked frustrated with her. She could see him pull his hair with a pained expression on his face. “As I said, I’ve been an idiot . This diary has been my pitiful attempt to distance myself from you, not because I disliked you, but because I wanted to convince myself that I did not need this, that I don’t need anyone .”
Suddenly Hermione could see it all, the sadness in the man’s face speaking volumes. She could see his loneliness, the fear of being alone again after finally having found someone and the need to convince himself that he would be fine, if she turned him down. And suddenly she understood .
“But you do,” Hermione continued for him, before breaking out in a hesitant smile. “And that is alright, Professor. There is no shame in wanting the companionship of another human being.”
Professor Snape stared back at her in silence, his eyes ghosting over her face, taking in her features as to judge what she would say next. Somehow this man was not her Professor right now, but a man who was hoping to have found someone who finally understood.
Hermione sighed. To this, she could relate, as she too had lived twelve years of her life without gaining a single friend.
She sighed. “I think you are right, Sir. We do have many things in common and we could make good partners or even friends one day. But for that, I first need to learn to trust you again. Because right now I cannot but fear that you are just trying to manipulate me again.”
“Understandable. Trust, once lost, is hard to gain back. I have made this experience myself. I will do my best to not disappoint you,” he swore with a serious expression on his face. “How about we continue testing the light crystal we have brought back from the cave? I suggest we switch roles today, meaning I’ll be the one taking notes. Maybe this way we’ll discover something the other one of us overlooked.”
Hermione nodded. It was a good idea, also because it made her feel equal in this newly established research-partnership. “I’d like that, Sir,” she said, a hesitant smile on her face.
“You have the permission to call me by my given name, Severus, as long as it is only the two of us. Would you feel comfortable enough doing so?” her Professor asked, a hopeful glimmer in his eyes.
She considered his offer for a moment. “I could try, Sir. But I might slip from time to time, as I am not used to calling you anything else than Professor Snape. And you should probably call me Hermione, too.”
At that, his face broke out into a happy smile, which suddenly made him look years younger. Also, his teeth looked much better, now that she thought about it.
“It would be my pleasure, Hermione,” he said, the sound of his name mouthed by his deep baritone making her shiver for a moment. Somehow it reminded her of those dreams that revisited her night after night, dreams that were shared among the both of them – a fact he was currently unaware of. Should she tell him?
Hermione considered the thought for a moment, but the thought of confessing this embarrassing detail seemed too much for at the moment. Still, she guessed he would need to know sooner or later. After all, she hated it when he had kept their condition a secret. Hermione was pretty sure that he, too, would dislike not having all the facts and she was not going to make the same mistakes that he had. She was better than that, even though letting him know would require all her Gryffindor courage. Luckily she did not have to tell him herself.
“Sir?” she asked, looking at him with a questioning expression. “Maybe we could postpone our research to a later date. I think I would like to show you something, instead.”
“Show me what?” Professor Snape asked, his eyebrow raised in curiosity.
Hermione smiled. “The Room I used to research Kindred Magic.”
Severus stared at the girl in front of him in amazement, his eyes taking in the room, that had just appeared out of thin air. It was a small, comfortable sitting room with two cosy armchairs and a little shelf, which was nothing special per se , if there wasn’t the little fact that the room should not have been there . Severus knew the castle by heart, he had wandered its halls for over twenty years now but he had never come across this particular room.
“This room is called the Room of Requirements,” Miss Granger explained, her voice almost shy. “It can morph into whatever shape is required by the one seeking it out. Last year Harry, I and a few others used it to train defence, for example.”
It was proof of the girls' growing trust in him that she told him those things and Severus would be damned if he would not honour this second chance to be freely given to him. The girl was truly a miracle and more forgiving than he could ever deserve.
“How peculiar,” he said, carefully walking towards the shelf, scanning the books resting inside. Some of them he knew, but some of them were titles he had not heard about before. “So this is how you found all those books...” he said, carefully taking out one of the unknown volumes.
“Yeah. I asked the room to provide me with a place, where I could find out everything about Kindred Magic, Sir,” she admitted, staring at her shoes with pink cheeks. Why did he have the feeling that she was suddenly embarrassed? There was no reason for her to be.
“Thank you for showing me this place, Hermione,” he said in a friendly voice, using her given name on purpose. It would probably take a while for her to feel comfortable in his presence again, but hopefully, she would, with time. “Shall we sit down and read for a bit? Or do you prefer going back to my office to continue with your detention?”
At that, her cheeks reddened even more. “I think we should go back to your office, Sir,” she said, ignoring his invitation to use his given name. He did not mind... much. “I did not attempt to find a way around my detention by showing you this. And I have read all those books, by now.”
He sighed. “Very well. Let’s head back then. I can always come back later on.”
Miss Granger nodded with a smile and for a moment Severus thought that she looked relieved at the prospect of leaving the room behind. Somehow he got the impression that there was more to it then her wanting to rightfully serve her detention with him, but he guessed he would find out, with time.