When Severus’ animagus form landed at the windowsill to Hermione’s dorm at the appointed time, the girl was not waiting for him, like she usually did. At first, he thought she was late, but after a moment he could see her through the window, lying on her bed in a position that did not leave any doubt that she was crying.
For a moment Severus felt a twinge of guilt for provoking Mr Weasley the way he did during DADA. But then again he had not been the one directing all his anger on the least deserving person in the room, which was Hermione. He had done so once, with Lily, but Severus had learned his lesson well and found a way to control his anger and all his other feelings through Occlumency. Yes, he still had a terrible temper, sometimes; he had probably gotten that from his father. But never again he would focus it on his friend, because there was no saying if one would be able to fix such a stupid mistake.
Severus patiently waited on the windowsill for a while, but when Hermione did not make any move to get up from the bed, he knocked at the window with his beak. Immediately, the girl scrambled from her bed and hastened to the window to open it for him.
“Sorry, I wasn’t aware of the time,” she mumbled, her eyes red and swollen from crying over that idiot.
He did not reply, as Hermione wasn’t wearing the bracelet anyway, and just flew over to her bed, staring at her with an inclined head. She slowly sat down next to him and pulled her curtains shut, before propping up her feet in front of her, hugging her knees with her arms. But she did not speak, did not even look at him, and stared unseeingly at the closed curtains instead. And she did not make any move to slip on that damned bracelet. How the fuck was he supposed to talk to her like that? And how in Salazar’s name was he supposed to comfort her?
For a while, he just sat there, staring at her patiently while waiting for her to do something. But the only thing that happened was that the girl started crying again. And even though he thought being rid of Weasley was the best thing that could have happened to her, he did feel pity for the girl’s wounded feelings. Because obviously she had gotten more attached to the moron than he had deemed possible.
Finally, Severus could not take it any longer and making a quick decision, he silently transformed back into his human form, before hastily warding her bed against intrusions. Several layers of silencing and notice-me-not charms would make sure that they would be undisturbed and - more importantly - undiscovered.
“Weasley is an idiot,” he said, carefully sitting down next to her, his long legs stretched out in front of him. “Nevertheless I am sorry if I provoked him into lashing out at you. I should have considered that was a possibility.”
Hermione sniffed pitifully, but then she wiped her eyes with her sleeve, saying: “I don’t think this was your fault. I know you only tried to teach him something. But Ron doesn't do well with pressure," the girl tried defending her arsehole of an ex-boyfriend. "But I don't even think it was that. He kind of got jealous of Harry, I think. He always was, you know?"
Severus had figured as much. "That is still no reason to lash out at you like that. I… heard him."
His friend nodded, but somehow his words did not seem to comfort her, as she kept staring at her knees sullenly. "I know," she mumbled, her teeth chewing at her bottom lip.
"I really tried to improve my hair, you know?" Hermione mumbled, just loud enough to hear her. And suddenly Severus knew what was wrong.
"Don't tell me you believe a word of what that moron said," he sighed, looking at her with a disbelieving expression. "There is nothing wrong with your hair, Hermione. Just because his words were meant to hurt you, doesn't mean they're true."
His friend was silent for a moment. Then, almost inaudibly, she said: "Well, you wouldn't know about the other thing he was complaining about."
It took a moment for him to catch the meaning of her words. When he finally did, it took all his willpower to not roll his eyes about the ridiculousness of it. Because from all he had seen, she hadn't been the one slobbering through their kisses. But saying such would give away that he had been watching them.
“And you think Mr Weasley is an expert on that matter?”
Hermione shrugged helplessly and for a moment he considered telling her that her kisses in their shared dreams felt just fine , but that, too, probably wasn’t something she’d appreciate hearing.
“I don’t know . But I can’t deny that kissing him felt kind of wrong, even when our bond was still much weaker. Afterwards… things were even more difficult.”
“And now you’re assuming it was your fault,” Severus concluded dryly. “Why?”
She shook her head, signalling that this wasn’t a question she wanted to answer. But she didn’t have to, as he could see it clear as day. She didn’t have much to compare this experience to, which probably made her feel like she was lacking the necessary skillset. He sighed tiredly. How he wished he could just pull her into his arms and show her how wrong she was. He couldn’t, at least not now, but oh, how he wanted to.
“How can I make you feel better?” Severus found himself asking, after they had been silent again for a while. “I am not really an expert on human interaction, so just tell me what to do. Because I would like to comfort you, if this is even possible right now.”
The bottom lip was back between her teeth again, Severus observed.
“Could you just distract me for a bit? You could tell me about warding or… maybe you could just read to me for a bit?”
He shrugged. “Whichever you prefer. I am fine with both.”
“Tell me about erecting some useful wards then? Which ones did you use for warding my bed?” Hermione asked, her voice starting to sound more like hers again.
Severus found himself smiling with fondness. They really were alike, he thought before he launched into a lengthy explanation. And after only a few sentences, he could feel the girl next to him relax.
When Hermione awoke the next morning, Severus was gone from her bed. She could not remember seeing him off, but he must have snuck away after she had fallen asleep, listening to his deep, soothing voice. Hopefully, he would not be offended that she hadn’t been able to stay awake until the end of his explanations, but crying over Ron had tired her out more than she had realized.
Breakfast was a silent affair, as Ron didn’t talk to her or Harry and instead sat with Dean and Seamus, leaving enough distance from them to make it obvious they weren’t talking. And even though Hermione had expected it, his behaviour still hurt .
“He’ll come around,” Harry mumbled, eying his redheaded friend with a doubtful look on his face. “Maybe after the Quidditch match…”
She’d totally forgotten about that . Now, with Ron not even talking to her any longer, she did not really feel like going, but moping around the castle when everybody else was at the Quidditch match probably wouldn’t make her feel better either. And so she went and got to witness what must have been Gryffindor’s worst Quidditch match of the century. It started with Ron sitting on his broom, a big scowl on his face, that only got worse with every Quaffle he let through. Things got even worse, when the boy outwardly refused to listen to Harry’s commands, stubbornly crossing his arms in front of his chest while ignoring every word his former friend and team captain said. Finally, after only 45 minutes, the game ended with Slytherin winning and Harry bestowing upon Ron a broken nose, after the redhead had arrogantly declared that the result had been somehow Harry’s fault. It was probably the first time Harry earned himself cheers and whistles from the Slytherin ranks, in addition to the detention he would serve with Professor McGonagall in the evening. Their Head of House was in a visibly bad mood and Hermione was pretty sure that only part of it could be related to the fact that Harry’s team was already 340 points behind. Hermione couldn’t blame her. Ron’s behaviour had been abysmal and she would not be surprised if this had been his first and last game as a Gryffindor keeper. Because by the look of it, not only Harry and Ginny could not wait to have words with him before throwing him out of the Quidditch team.
It was all Hermione’s and Harry’s fault, Ron thought sullenly, while waiting for Madam Pomfrey to patch him up. A broken nose wasn’t a big deal and could probably have been fixed right away, but somehow no one did and he was instead directed towards the Hospital Wing. Whatever. He didn’t want to be in Gryffindor Tower anyway, because he could already see Ginny and the rest of the team waiting for him, claiming that it had been his fault. But it had been Harry who had ended the match, even though he must have known that they did not have enough points to win it. Wasn’t a team captain at least supposed to be able to count the fucking points?
But no, Harry was the Chosen One , and no one would see fault with him. They never did, not even after all that shit he’d gotten his friends into. Well, Harry had always been special and it was no surprise that Hermione still prioritized Harry over him. Who was she kidding? Snape could have brewed those fucking potions alone, without her help. Or he could have asked Slughorn, if things had really been that difficult, right? If Hermione had just wanted to, she could have stayed easily at his side, but she didn’t. And that was only the tip of the iceberg. Ever since Harry returned from the hospital wing, Hermione had been different. He could tell that she had been avoiding his touch, sticking closer to Harry’s side instead. She probably thought he wouldn’t notice, but Ron was much more observant than people expected. He had grown up with two of his brothers being notorious pranksters, after all, and he seemed to have been their preferred test subject. Therefore it had been essential for him to pay attention to certain things and Hermione had not been very good in hiding her… shift of attentions.
Well, for all he cared, she could have Harry and bore him with her talk of books. It wasn’t like he needed any more of that or going into bookshops. He had endured it, for her, but as Hermione obviously did not even appreciate his efforts she could go to hell, for all he cared. Because he would be just fine without her.
“Hello Ron,” a female voice greeted him and when he looked up he saw the pretty face of Lavender Brown grinning down at him. What was she doing here? “I think I sprained my ankle,” the girl explained a few seconds later, helpfully. “I don’t think it’s too bad. How are you, Ron?”
“What do you think?” he asked gloomily. “My nose hurts and the only thing my two best friends care about is how to go behind my back. I’m just so sick of it!”
He hadn’t planned on saying this, Ron thought, but Lavender did not seem to be put out in the slightest.
“Harry and Hermione? Really? That is awful , Ron!” she sympathised, taking his large hand into hers. “How could they do this to you, to a friend ? But I always knew that Hermione was an awful person. She’s not worth mooning over her, you know?”
Ron nodded, even though for a second he thought that those words sounded a bit harsh. But then again Hermione had discarded him for Harry… “Yeah. It’s just that I thought she liked me.”
“I like you,” Lavender said, staring at him with a smile and those pretty, blue eyes. She really wasn’t bad to look at, he realized. “I know your heart is still hurt, but… I could help you to make it heal.”
For a moment Ron just stared at her, his head contemplating what Lavender had said. When he did and saw the hopeful expression on her face, he could not help it. He kissed her, his hands grabbing her face and pulling her down towards him in a bout of desire. She came to him willingly, her mouth opening up for him just nicely, while she came closer, closing her arms eagerly around his neck. It was hot, it was messy and it was brilliant, Ron thought, when the girl pulled away from him with a wide, happy smile on her lips. And suddenly his broken nose was almost forgotten.
“Oh Ron,” she whispered, her breath ghosting over his lips, before she kissed him again, just as eagerly as she had the first time. Ron did not mind, not at all, but before he could get overly excited, they were interrupted, by someone clearing their throat.
“This is the Hospital Wing, children, and I expect you to behave accordingly,” Madam Pomfrey’s voice scolded them a moment later and Ron felt Lavender pull away hastily, even though she did not look like she was sorry at all.
“Sorry, Madam Pomfrey,” Rom mumbled, grinning at the girl in front of him. Her lips were still swollen from his kisses, he realized, and found himself liking the sight of it. He thought he would kiss her again, later, when the medi-witch had taken care of his nose. Maybe Lavender would even be willing to snog him in the Common Room, where Harry and Hermione would be able to see it. Ron grinned. The more he thought about it, the more he found himself liking the idea. Hermione had been the one hurting him, after all. Therefore she could not blame him, if he sought comfort somewhere else.
Severus had been sure he would find Hermione in a better mood, when he arrived on her window sill, but if anything things seemed to be even worse today. The girl was crying again, sobbing, if he wasn’t mistaken, and it took him several minutes of knocking his beak against the window to get her attention. Shortly after he found himself in her bed again, the curtains warded in a way which would not even make it possible for a horde of agitated centaurs to disturb them.
“What has that idiot done now?“ he asked softly, staring at her with a worried expression.
For a while she could not answer him though, her body being wracked by horrible sobs. He watched her crying helplessly until his body seemed to react on its own, pulling the girl against his chest without even thinking about it. There was no resistance from her; on the contrary, her body seemed to meld against him, her face burying itself against his chest. And even though he felt sorry for her - pitied her - he could not help but feel elated at her touch and the show of trust.
Severus held her silently for a while, his eyes closed to be able to enjoy the feeling of her body against him to its fullest. She was small, much smaller than him, but her womanly curves were still pronounced enough to make him realize that it was definitely a woman lying in his arms, not a girl.
Finally her sobs died down, until there were mere sniffles, but as Hermione made no move to disentangle herself from him, he kept holding her, soaking in the smell of her hair. He would never get tired of it, Severus realized, a content smile forming on his lips.
“Ron’s gotten himself a new girlfriend,” Hermione mumbled, after her breathing had started to normalise and she had found the strength for talking about what had happened. “When he came back from the Hospital Wing he walked in, arm in arm with Lavender. I spent ten minutes watching him bury his tongue inside her mouth, then I couldn't take it any longer.”
Severus stared at the bed curtains in stunned silence. The boy was even more of an idiot than he had thought possible. He should have been begging the girl for forgiveness, to at least try to fix their friendship , but even that seemed of no interest to him. He wouldn’t be surprised if such hurtful behaviour was too much for even Hermione to forgive.
“Do you want me to put something into his pumpkin juice?” he asked, making his voice sound casual. “I could make him taste like rotten eggs for weeks, or vomit green slime, if that is something you prefer.”
For a moment she was silent, until he finally heard her chuckle against his chest. “You wouldn’t,” she said, her voice almost sounding breathless with amusement.
At that, he snorted. “I am a Slytherin, Hermione. I do understand the desire to get revenge, after one was hurt. And that idiot did hurt you, badly. So yes, I would.”
Again, she was silent but after a while he could feel her shake his head against his chest. “But you shouldn’t. I don’t want you to get into trouble because of this. I appreciate the idea though. I’ll just have to let it play out in my mind the next time I see them together.”
Severus did not reply. Hermione had not told him no, not directly , and there was no chance he would get caught on this. He’d been a spy for years after all and the look on Hermione’s face when she saw that idiot vomiting green slime all over Miss Brown would be worth every bit of careful planning. He might not do it right away, or at all , but Severus would keep it an option, if that idiot kept hurting Hermione, because that was something he could not allow.