It did not even take Severus five minutes of watching Hermione during breakfast to know that something was wrong. Today she sat all by herself, staring down at her book with a look that read unmistakably “Do not talk to me.” And even though Potter looked at her several times, his face full of guilt, nobody else did. Whatever the idiot had done, Hermione seemed thoroughly pissed at him. Not that Severus was surprised, as Potter and Weasley had repeatedly treated her like idiots. It appeared Hermione was no longer taking all their shit, maybe because she suddenly had a real friend instead of a bunch of immature, egomaniac al teenaged-idiots.
But as soon as he entered the girl’s dorm that evening and took a look at her face he knew that something was indeed wrong. Therefore he lost no time in landing on her pillow, fixing her with a questioning gaze, while she thoroughly closed the curtains and warded them. It hadn’t taken long for her to learn the necessary spells for it, as Hermione Granger soaked up knowledge like a sponge.
“ We have a problem ,” she told him mentally, as soon as she was sure they would not be disturbed. “Yesterday… Harry saw us in your private chambers.”
His raven face probably did not transport the confusion he felt. “That is impossible, Hermione. My rooms are very well warded. No one could enter without my invitation, not even the Headmaster… or you.”
The girl just shook her head. “No, he did not need to enter your chambers. He has a map that shows the castle and the position of all its inhabitants. It was made by Remus Lupin and his friends back when they were students. I believe the y somehow tied it to the wards of the castle but I am not sure.”
That was a lot to take in, Severus found. Those bullies had been in possession of a map? No wonder they had always found him seemingly without effort. He’d never even had a chance to hide, Severus thought in frustration.
But that wasn’t the problem Hermione had hinted at. She had said Potter had the goddamn map now. And he had seen them, in his quarters. Ah.
“So Potter saw your and my marker in my rooms, ” he repeated calmly in her mind. “What did he make of that?”
Hermione stared at her folded legs, her cheeks slowly turning pink with embarrassment. “He also saw us together at the hospital wing after you… after he woke up. He asked if we were having an affair,” she admitted through their mental connection. And once more he was glad that his raven form was helping him to hide his emotions. Because ever since he and Hermione had gotten closer, he tried not to occlude his mind when he was with her. He wanted to show her his real self, to give her a chance to get to know him better.
“Ah, ” he replied as neutrally as possible. “ What did you say in return?”
Her eyes slowly trailed towards him, until they looked at him. “I… asked him if he was assuming I was trying to better my grades through sleeping with you as soon as I was old enough to do so, or if he thought this has already been going on as I wasn’t even of age.”
Severus gave a mental snort. He could see the whole scene playing out in his mind now. Of course, the boy would have received a dressing down for accusing them of such a thing. Hermione was usually a stickler for rules and she would have hated to be unrightfully told that she had broken them.
“I imagine he realized how ridiculous that accusation of his was?” Severus found himself asking, his voice not giving any of his feelings away.
At that Hermione started chewing on her bottom lip. “I kind of stormed off after that. I do have a temper sometimes, especially when those boys are just so damned thick.”
He looked at her with an inclined head. “Understandable. But we do have to talk to him again because I assume it will be only a matter of time until he cannot keep his mouth shut. And we do not want him ruining your reputation.”
“And yours,” she added. “I do not want you getting in trouble, Severus.”
Severus did not say anything to that. He was glad that Hermione was so considerate of his situation, but her words also made pretty clear that she would not risk their reputations for something more than friendship. It totally made sense, but he still felt … disappointed somehow. Still, her birthday was just yesterday and only a few days ago she had been too young to even consider starting a relationship with her. She was only days older now… but did that really make a difference? Hermione was still incredibly young and had barely had the chance to make her own experience with romance. On the other hand, he did not think he could stand watching her make some, especially considering that their bond would probably not allow her to do so. So where did that leave them? He could not ask her to sa v e herself until he deemed her old and experienced enough… that was, if she would ever want him in that way.
He sighed internally, before he remembered, that he should probably say something to her. “ Do not worry, Hermione. There is no proof to Mr Potter’s words and if necessary we could both swear under Veritaserum, that we are not sexually involved. Still, we should talk to Mr Potter and maybe give him some basic information. But we can not tell him much; not because I do not trust him to keep his mouth shut for your sake, but because he is still mentally connected to the Dark...ah...Voldemort. And as my attempt to teach him Occlumency was not very successful… ”
“Yeah, we should talk to him, even though I have no idea what we should tell him. If we cannot tell him of the bond, then what is there even left to say?” Hermione said, the nervousness obvious from the tone of her voice in his head.
“I will think of something, Hermione. Do not worry about it,” Severus promised confidently. He saw her nod, her posture slowly relaxing.
“I don’t. I trust you, Severus,” she said and the small smile she bestowed on him was enough to make his heart jump with pride.
Hermione could not help but feel nervous throughout the next day. She knew that she and Severus would talk to Harry in the evening, Severus had promised her they would, but she had no idea what he would tell her friend, or how Harry would take whatever facts Severus would be throwing at him. Harry hated her bond mate and no matter how often Hermione tried to imagine the conversation in her head, it always ended in disaster. That, of course, did not help to make her feel any better or less nervous about the meeting that was fast approaching.
Lessons and mealtimes had never gone by so fast, even though Hermione was mostly just picking at her food. Then dinner was finally over and Hermione was hastily walk ing back to her dorm, where a house-elf would come to collect her to transport her into Severus’ office without being seen. Last year she would have been hesitant to accept such a service from the elves, but now she knew that they had been proud to be asked and trusted with their secret. Severus had promised her that the house-elves would never tell, and Hermione trusted his judgement.
“There you are,” Severus greeted her, as soon as Worry, the elf, had apparated her into his office. Her Professor was calmly seated behind his desk, his fingers steepled in front of his chin. And even though he greeted her with a small, friendly smile, he wore the facial expression that she now called his “public mask”. “Potter will be here in about two minutes, I believe. Sit down.”
He pointed at one of the chairs in front of his desk and suddenly Hermione felt like his student again, not like his friend. But it was fine, Professor Snap e was still her teacher, after all, and he would be for almost two more years. And even though they had formed a friendship, she had no problem accepting his authority over her.
Hermione sat down and tried not to fidget in her seat. She did not have to wait long, as there was a knock at Severus’ door just a few moments later. Severus calmly rose from his seat and walked over to the door, his face now devoid of all emotions.
“Potter,” he said in an almost bored tone, after opening the door.
“Sir,” Harry greeted back and a moment later Hermione could hear him stepping in. “Hermione?”
Ah, he hadn’t expected her here, then. “Hello Harry,” she said, looking at him over her shoulder.
“Sit down, Potter,” Professor Snape’s voice instructed him from the door. Then he brushed past her with billowing robes, to sit down behind his own desk. Harry followed his command without saying anything, but Hermione could tell how tense he was. What would he expect to be said here?
“You have questions,” their Professor said, his dark eyes focussed on Harry, for now. “Before Miss Granger and I agree to give you some answers, though, I do have some questions on my own. You will answer them, truthfully, or you will not get any answers at all. Is that understood?”
“Yeah,” Harry mumbled and Hermione could not help but be embarrassed by her teenaged friend’s bad manners. She glared at him and Harry, who saw it, hastily corrected: “I mean, yes, Sir.” Severus did not comment on it. Instead he said:
“Has your scar hurt since you returned from the Department of Mysteries, or have you experienced any strange dreams lately?”
“No,” Harry replied irritatably. “My scar has not hurt since I last encountered Voldemort, not even before or after I was attacked at Hogsmeade, if that's what you’re referring to. The dreams have also stopped, as far as I can tell.”
Severus nodded. “Good. Do you experience unexplainable bouts of anger or do you feel compelled to do things you normally would not do? You did break Mr Weasley’s nose, after all.”
Harry stared back at his Professor and shook his head. “Yeah, but he deserved it for being a prick.”
“He did,” the older man replied and suddenly Hermione saw the small smile that tugged at the corner of his mouth. “Well then, it appears we can at least give you some basic information. If that is not enough for you, you will need to improve your Occlumency skills - noticeably.” Professor Snape paused, probably to give Harry the chance to reply to his words. He didn’t though, therefore the Professor continued:
“You have been made aware of Miss Granger and I saving your life. We did not do it by brewing some mysterious potions, though. There is no potion to cure the Killing Curse, Potter, because usually there’s no one left to take it.”
Harry nodded in understanding. “How did you cure me, then?”
Severus stared at him calmly. “Miss Granger and I used very old magic and could only succeed in saving you by combining our powers.”
“How?” the young man shot back, his green eyes staring at his Professor doubtfully.
“This I can tell you, after you have learned to protect your mind,” Severus replied and slowly Hermione felt herself relaxing. Her bond-mate would know how much he could safely disclose.
Severus used all his strength to be as sociable as possible with Lily’s son. He was Hermione’s friend, after all, but the boy’s lack of… manners was somewhat infuriating. Severus could tell that Hermione was somewhat embarrassed for her friend too, but he would not hold Potter’s lack of respect against her.
“How can I learn Occlumency? You tried teaching me once and I wasn’t able to learn,” the boy pouted and Severus had to restrain himself from rolling his eyes.
“You could apply yourself for once, Potter,” he said, matter of factly. “You know the basics, I repeated them over and over again. All that you’re lacking is discipline and the right motives to do it.”
Pother sighed. “I will try, Sir,” he promised, staring at him with his arms crossed in front of his chest. “Is there anything else you can tell me? For example, why Hermione was spending the evening of her birthday in your quarters?”
Now came the difficult part, Severus thought while grinding his teeth. But before he could even say something, Hermione replied:
“Professor Snape and I are friends, Harry. I was allowed to browse some of his books, as a birthday present, so to speak,” the girl said, the lie undetectable from her tone. If he had not known better, he would have fallen for it himself. Still, her words were totally unexpected in the given situation, as he had assumed the girl wanted to keep their friendship a secret. Obviously, he had been wrong.
Potter looked like he had just been confunded, looking back and forth between them like he was expecting one of them to erupt in giggles, telling him that it had been a joke. But no one did. “Wait, you’re serious, Hermione? Snape’s your… friend ?”
“ Professor Snape, Harry. And yes, he is,” Hermione answered, her voice brisk. If she had been a cat, she would have put up her fur, Severus thought, but Potter, ever the idiot, did not seem to see the warning signs.
“Why?” he asked, staring at her like she had suddenly gone insane. One look at his friend was enough to realize, that the boy was about to receive one of Miss Granger’s famous dressing downs.
“ Why ? Because apparently Professor Snape finds me interesting and intelligent enough to be worth his while, Harry,” she said, raising her chin proudly. “He has been very kind and patient with me, Harry, and I am most grateful for it, as you should be . Because without his kindness and selflessness you’d be dead , Harry.”
The boy nodded, staring at him with a dumbfounded expression. “Yeah,” he mumbled, his whole posture somewhat deflating. Hermione looked at him for a long moment, her eyes glinting with disappointment and fire.
“Is there anything else you wanted? Because some of us still have homework to do,” she snapped, before getting up from her chair. “Merlin Harry, I thought it was enough that one of my friends behaved like an idiot, but apparently I was wrong.”
Potter was silent. He looked like he was still in shock and Severus found himself enjoying the scene in front of him. The idiot had made his own bed, he thought, looking at Hermione calmly.
“I think I am finished here, Severus,” she told him and he could have bet that she was using his given name to make a point. The effect it had on Potter was not lost on him.
“It appears that way,” he said, inclining his head. “Good night, Hermione,” he said, causing Potter to stare at him, like he had just grown a second head. Hermione did not pay the boy any mind though and instead turned around, before storming out of his office. Severus let her go, knowing he would see her later, when he visited her in his Animagus form.
Instead his whole attention was on Potter, who looked even more uncomfortable now that his Gryffindor friend was gone. Severus looked at the boy with a cool expression in his black eyes, his fingers steepled in front of his chin.
“Well Potter, you’d better get used to Miss Granger having chosen me as her friend, because I am not planning on going anywhere,” he said, causing the boy to shift uncomfortably on his chair.
“Yes, Sir,” Potter croaked and for once he remembered how to correctly address him. Good. He’d endure the idiot’s presence for Hermione’s sake, but only after having taught him some manners.