The Dark Encounter by Justice180482
Summary: A chance encounter in the dungeons results in Hermione finding herself feeling sorry for Snape, who has become an outcast since the events at the end of HBP. She is now of age and a full member of the Order. The encounter causes Hermione to want to help Snape with his spying duties. But Snape won't accept Hermione's help or friendship. But their paths keep crossing. AU in the sense that it ignores DH.
Categories: Hermione/Snape Characters: None
Warnings: Alternate Universe, Book 7 Disregarded, Student/Teacher Romance
Series: None
Chapters: 9 Completed: No Word count: 22056 Read: 38549 Published: 05/26/10 Updated: 06/07/15

1. Chapter 1 by Justice180482

2. Chapter 2 by Justice180482

3. Chapter 3 by Justice180482

4. Chapter 4 by Justice180482

5. Chapter 5 by Justice180482

6. Chapter 6 by Justice180482

7. Chapter 7 by Justice180482

8. Chapter 8 by Justice180482

9. Chapter 9 by Justice180482

Chapter 1 by Justice180482
Author's Notes:
Special thanks to my beta u-no-poo & Stephanie (aka VIVAvivacious). All reviews, comments, criticisms are greatly appreciated!
I can't believe it happened again! thought a frightened Hermione as she arrived breathless at the Gryffindor common room, her heart pounding. This… feeling… towards him… it’s just not normal. It had first happened when she was a third year, and now it had happened again, this time when she was Head Girl in her seventh year. Hermione let herself into the quiet common room and crept up to her bed, memories flooding to the front of her brain.

She was a third year in the Shrieking Shack. Harry had just disarmed him. She had felt fine. They’d had to do it. They’d had to hear the rest of the story from Sirius and Lupin. The feeling that terrified her hadn't started until they had been on their way out of the tunnel. Sirius had been guiding an unconscious Snape down the tunnel, bumping his head on the ceiling. Hermione hadn't been able to take her eyes off his lolling head, scraping across the jagged rocks. That was when she had felt it.

But, it hadn't been until tonight, four years later, that she had realized exactly what she felt, both then and now. It was pity. She felt sorry for the greasy git. She couldn't believe it. She had never seen him as anything but the professor she loathed, but tonight was different. Tonight, she saw him as a man.

How was this possible after what he had done to Professor Dumbledore? Hermione didn't know the details of that night on the Astronomy tower, and neither did the rest of the student body, but Professor Snape had returned the next term like nothing had happened. Hermione suspected there was more to the story because none of the staff seemed to question his loyalties. Harry had raged after Snape returned. He had been furious that Snape was allowed to teach, and he had sworn revenge; his hatred for Snape had surged to a new height. And now, here she was, feeling sorry for her best friend's enemy. But after tonight, how could she not?

As a result of the raging war and increased threats, the Hogwarts staff was stretched thin. Therefore, the Head Girl and Boy had taken to assisting the professors with their nightly rounds in an attempt to relieve the professors of the burden of enforcing simple school rules. Hermione had been assigned to the dungeons. Without Professor Dumbledore, and with Professor Snape gone for large periods of time, apparently spying on Voldemort- although Harry had his doubts about Snape’s true whereabouts- patrolling the whole castle became difficult.

Hermione had started her final rounds for the night at ten. The few torches in the dungeons had cast eerie shadows across the moss-covered walls. She had shivered from the cold as she had walked down the narrow corridor. She had circled through the dungeons once and had been on her second pass when she’d seen him. At first, she’d thought it had been the light playing tricks on her, but as she had neared, it had become clear that the large dark shadow had not been a projection from a dark corner, but Professor Snape.

His back had been turned to her, but he had spun around when he had heard her footsteps echo on the stone floor. As she had neared him, Hermione had seen that his face was red with blood. It had looked like someone had used the Sectumsempra curse on him, and that he had just recently stopped the bleeding. His cheeks had had large, deep gashes cut into them, and traces of bright red blood had been visible deep inside the gouges. His nose and chin had been caked in dried blood, and he had appeared utterly exhausted. Blood and sweat had drenched his black hair, causing it to cling to the sides of his forehead.

Hermione had been shocked at his mangled appearance. This had been the last situation she had expected to find herself in tonight. Her first instinct had been to run. The shock of his appearance had activated her flight response. Although she was supposed to hate him, and she was not supposed to care if he suffered, she couldn’t have left him there; he was a member of the Order.

"Professor?" she’d asked tentatively as she approached him. "A…are you okay?"

Snape had stared at her, silently. He’d appeared stunned and bewildered to see her.

"Do you need anything?" Hermione had asked cautiously.

Snape had seemed to have come to his senses. "What I need is for you to, just once, stop being the annoying Gryffindor do-gooder and return to your common room," he had said in a strained voice.

He had then turned his back to Hermione, appearing to stare at the wall of the dungeon. Hermione had taken a tentative step forward and had noticed him prodding, with his wand, a stone carving of an Ashwinder embedded in the wall. There had been large chunks of wood missing from his wand, and the tip had appeared to be snapped off. Hermione saw the wand’s core protruding from the destroyed sections. She couldn't have imagined what had happened to it.

Whatever had happened, the wand had apparently not been working because nothing happened as Snape poked at the snake. Hermione had guessed that the carving was the entrance to his personal chambers, because they had been almost directly across from the Potions classroom. "Professor, let me help you with that," Hermione had said.

Snape had turned and glared at her. Hermione had taken her own wand and had pressed the faded red eggs that lay in the middle of the coiled Ashwinder. The eggs had sunk back into the stone, revealing the hinges of a door. Hermione had pressed on the thick stone door. It had swung inward, revealing the passage into his chambers.

"You've done quite enough, Miss Granger. Now please, just leave."

Snape had looked down at Hermione, and for the first time she had realized how close they were standing to one another. She had looked up into his normally cold, empty black eyes and noticed something different. However slight the difference, his eyes had shown a hint of pain; almost as if he had been pleading with her to just leave.

"Professor, are you sure you don't need any-"

"Miss Granger, just go away," Snape had interrupted.

Hermione had jumped at his rebuke; she had not wanted to push him any further. Obviously, his night had been rough. She had brushed past Snape and had continued back to the Gryffindor tower. She had paused at the end of the dungeon and had looked back just in time to see him disappearing into his room.

The whole way back to her dorm, Hermione had not been able to get the look he had given her out of her head. His eyes had had emotion in them. Snape was in pain, yet he would not accept help. This had eluded Hermione, especially since she had been fully inducted into the Order. Why wouldn't he let her help him?

By the time she had arrived back at her common room, she had become breathless from the intensity of the situation. Hermione had let herself through the portrait hole and had climbed the stairs up to her dormitory. Once in her four-poster, she lay awake staring up as the ceiling, remembering the night’s events, which had caused her to feel unnerved. She lay awake for hours thinking about what had just happened and why she was feeling sorry for a sworn enemy. Her body ached with anger, but it was more of an anger directed toward herself, because she felt sorry for her best friend's worst enemy, than an anger toward Snape. Why do I care? she thought. She couldn’t answer that question, but there was one thing she swore to herself; she would get to the bottom of what was going on with Snape.


Now what? thought Snape as he heard footsteps echoing on the stone floor. He turned to see Granger, the Gryffindor know-it-all who was now Head Girl. God, he wished she would just disappear. Shit, my face, he thought. Well, too late to do anything about it now, she’s already seen me. Maybe if I just ignore her, or at least scare her, she will continue on her way.

Hermione approached Snape. At first he thought she was going to run away from him, but instead she walked up to him and asked if he was all right. Snape didn't know what to do, so he stood there in a daze. Her next words snapped him out of his reverie.

"Do you need anything?" she asked.

He looked at her. Of course he needed something. He needed dittany to hopefully stop some of the inevitable scarring. He needed the pain to stop, he needed sleep, and some part of him needed his friend, Dumbledore, back to talk to and to support him. No! he told himself, he didn't need anything. It was just the stress of the Death Eater meeting and the curse that cause him to feel this way. I don’t need anything or anyone, he reassured himself as he fought his subconscious. He told Granger to leave him alone.

She wouldn't leave. Even when he turned his back and tried to get into his room, she stood there. He cursed his broken wand, and his ill-fated attempt to fly in his state. He cursed Macnair for using his own spell against him, and he cursed himself for not blocking the spell. But, he knew what the Dark Lord wanted to see during the Death Eater's duelling sessions. He wanted blood and perhaps even favoured the one who gave it to him. Although the incident might give him favour with the Dark Lord, it had now put him in a rather awkward situation with Gryffindor’s resident know-it-all. Now, here he was, unable to enter his room or escape the irritating Head Girl.

She stepped forward and opened the door for him. Please let that be all she does, he thought. He turned, told her she had done enough, and gave her the most menacing stare he could muster. It didn't work. As she returned the stare, Snape noticed her expression soften slightly. Damn, he thought, I must look as bad as I feel. Please just let her leave.

Hermione did leave, and a relieved Snape entered his room, but not before stealing a glance at the Head Girl, turning the corner leading out of the dungeons.
Chapter 2 by Justice180482
Hermione spent the whole night thinking about what had happened. She tossed and turned in her four-poster, replaying the scene in dungeons over and over again in her mind. So, of course, she got no sleep that night. By the time double Potions came around the next day, she could hardly keep her eyes open. Sleep wasn’t an option, since she fully expected Snape to be in a foul mood, and she did not want to discover the consequences of dozing off in his class.

On autopilot, Hermione trekked down to the dungeons and arrived at the Potions classroom just in time. She yawned as she slumped in her seat between Harry and Ron. Both gave her a curious look.

"I couldn't sleep last night. I’m exhausted," she whispered in response to their looks.

Snape burst through the door, causing it to slam back against the wall. Hermione's suspicions were confirmed; he was in a fouler mood than usual. He glided to the front of the classroom, his black robes billowing out behind him, giving him the appearance of a large bat.

"Today we will be brewing the Blood-Replenishing potion. You will find the ingredients on page 789," Snape growled. “Begin.”

There was a flurry of flipping pages before the whole class settled into silent concentration. Hermione couldn't keep her eyes open and dropped belladonna in her cauldron before the doxy eggs. Her potion instantly turned neon yellow. Quickly realizing her mistake, she compensated and got her potion back to the correct deep purple colour, but not before Snape had seen.

Snape floated around the room, looking down into various cauldrons, grunting and taking away House points here and there. Hermione thought his face looked much better. There were still lines from where the curse had slashed his skin, but the bleeding had stopped and most of the wounds were closed. Hermione doubted anyone would notice anything different about his face.

Snape approached Hermione and loomed over her, peering down into her cauldron. She looked up at him, and for a brief moment their eyes met before contact was broken. Snape snarled, "Yellow, Miss Granger? Ten points from Gryffindor."

Ron and Harry looked at Hermione, bewildered. It was not like her to be so off with her potions-making; they knew something was up. The eye contact left Hermione unhinged, and she spent the rest of class trying to correct her potion without drawing attention to herself. Finally, when she thought she would not be able to keep her eyes open one moment longer, Snape said, "Stop working. Put a vial of your potion on my desk, clean up, and get out of here."

There was a whirl of movement as the class bottled their potions and set them on Snape's desk. Hermione walked her bottle to the front of the room and set it down. As she turned to walk back to her cauldron, Snape appeared at her side, out of nowhere. Startled, Hermione gave a slight jump, but quickly recovered. "Miss Granger, a word after class," Snape breathed so only she could hear him.

Hermione returned to her desk and slowly began packing up her belongings. "Are you coming, 'Mione?" asked Ron, noticing she was dawdling.

"Yeah, yeah," she replied. "I'm coming, just go on ahead and I’ll catch up." She didn't want them to know that Snape wanted to speak with her. It would raise too many questions she just did not feel like dealing with.

Hermione continued to slowly pack up her things, postponing the inevitable conversation. Although she didn't have a clue what he wanted to talk to her about, she was confident it had something to do with the previous night.

After Ron and Harry left, Hermione was the last one in the classroom. Snape drifted over to her, staring down at her menacingly. Hermione tentatively looked up at her Potions professor.

"Miss Granger," Snape said in a low, silky voice, "as a member of the Order of the Phoenix, I expect nothing less than complete discretion about last night's…" he paused, "…incident," Snape finished in a strained voice. He turned, brushed past her and left the classroom, leaving Hermione alone and completely unnerved. Although she hadn’t decided whom, if anyone, she should tell about the previous night, she now knew for sure she would never mention it to anyone.

The day after the dungeon encounter, Snape was furious. How could I let that know-it-all see me in that vulnerable position? he thought. He was sure it would end up causing problems for him, and that was the last thing he needed.

Thankfully, sleep had come easily to him the previous night, so he had not dwelt on his dilemma with Hermione; but now awake, he was forced to face it head on. I have to stop this from spiralling out of control, thought Snape. If I am lucky maybe the only people she told were Potter and Weasley. Maybe the whole Gryffindor House doesn’t know yet. Snape made up his mind to speak to Hermione as soon as possible, which turned out not to be until after lunch when he had the Gryffindors for Potions.

The thing Snape liked best about Gryffindor Potions was he didn’t have to pretend to like the students; he could take his miserable mood out on them. And today his mood was exceptionally foul, resulting in a larger than normal number of House points being deducted, but it didn’t matter how many points he deducted: his mood did not improve. Normally, the look of horror on the Gryffindors’ faces from losing points was enough to lift his sprits, but not today. Even deducting points from Gryffindor’s infamous know-it-all wasn’t enough to soothe his anger.

He had to make his move. As the students packed up, Snape glided by Hermione and made his demand that she stay after class. He knew his nearly silent request would guarantee he’d have a private audience. Granger wouldn’t dare announce she had to stay after, Snape thought.

He was right; Hermione made excuses to her friends, who left her alone with Snape. After everyone had left the classroom, Snape descended on Hermione. She looked up at him with nervous brown eyes. "Miss Granger, since you are a member of the Order of the Phoenix, I expect nothing less than complete discretion about last night's…" Snape paused, "…incident." Snape watched as her face fell.

“Professor,” she began, “I didn’t tell any…” Snape didn’t give her a chance to finish. He brushed past her and walked out of the classroom.

Did she just say she didn’t tell anyone? That can’t be, she must have told at least Potter and Weasley. But even as Snape thought it, he knew it wasn’t true. The way her face had fallen told him she hadn’t told a soul. As Snape walked down the dungeon corridor, he found himself feeling bad about doubting Hermione’s loyalties. The sad look on her young face had told him she had just wanted to help. She hadn’t wanted to gain any leverage over him, she hadn’t wanted to spread any rumours, and she certainly hadn’t wanted to make his life harder. She had wanted to fulfil an Order duty.

Although Snape’s anger had dissipated somewhat after his conversation with Hermione, he still found himself tense at the thought of her seeing him in a weakened position. I’ll just have to be more careful, he thought. He wouldn’t let her, or anyone else for that matter, see him like that again.
Chapter 3 by Justice180482
Author's Notes:
Thanks for reading, reviews are love. Show me some love, it keeps me going :-)

For the rest of the day, Hermione’s thoughts lingered on her encounter with Snape. Her classes and duties as Head Girl kept her busy, but not busy enough to keep her mind from wandering back to Snape. So, Hermione tried to force her thoughts to the Hogsmeade trip scheduled for the coming weekend. She had been looking forward to a relaxing day away from the castle for weeks, and she hoped she could stop her wandering mind long enough to enjoy the day.

Everyone was awake early the day of the Hogsmeade trip, eager to get to the village. In addition to a respite from thoughts of Snape, Hermione was hoping the trip would help her escape the everyday reminders of the war; each passing day she, and all the students of Hogwarts, faced more disappearances. Many of the missing people were prominent witches and wizards. Although the stress was starting to take its toll on her, she tried to remain strong for the younger students, and for Harry and Ron, but it was often hard to stay positive.

Hermione set out with Harry and Ron to the village on Saturday morning. As they strolled along the dirt path to Hogsmeade, the boys tried to keep the conversation light with discussions about sweets and jokes, but Hermione knew their thoughts were far from those childhood pleasures. As hard as she tried to focus on the superficial conversation, she couldn’t; her thoughts continued to wander. But while Harry’s thoughts lingered on Voldemort and the war, Hermione couldn't tear hers away from Snape. As hard as she tried to force her mind onto other topics she considered to be substantially more important, her head somehow always seemed to return to Snape.

Why can’t I stop thinking about him, and why do I feel sorry for him? Hermione thought as she walked alongside Harry and Ron. She stared at the ground, dragging her feet and watching the gold-coloured dust swirl around her ankles. Ron and Harry attempted to talk, laugh, and plan their day in the village during the short walk, but Hermione was deep in thought. I wish I could just pretend everything was right with the world, just for today and not think about him or the war, she thought. With no luck at getting him or the war out of her mind, Hermione trudged along the path, contemplating her mysterious Potions master.

"What do you think, Hermione?" Ron asked.

"Huh, what?" replied Hermione, shaking herself out of her thoughts. Ron and Harry both gave her a puzzled look.

"Honeydukes first, then Zonko's, before making our way to the Three Broomsticks?" Ron repeated.

"Yeah, sure," replied Hermione, putting her head back down and returning to her contemplations.

The three walked the rest of the way to Hogsmeade in silence. Hermione continued her internal fight to keep her thoughts from wandering back to the events with Snape and cursed herself when she couldn't stop them. She was relieved when they arrived at Honeydukes.

Hermione wandered around Honeydukes and made a few purchases before following the boys to Zonko’s. She spent ten minutes there, watching all the customers act immaturely, before she couldn't take it any longer and headed outside to munch on her sweets and wait for Harry and Ron.

As Hermione stood outside Zonko’s, something dark and familiar caught her eye. She watched the silhouette duck into Dervish and Banges, a few stores down on High Street. She was sure it was Snape. She didn’t stop to think; she just reacted to the sight of him. Hermione quickly scooted up the street and quietly ducked into Dervish and Banges, behind Snape.

There were enough people browsing that she remained unnoticed. Hermione watched Snape briefly scan the shelves, select a high-end Secrecy Sensor and head to the counter. As witches and wizards noticed that it was Snape behind the dark hood and robe, they moved away and whispered frantically behind his back. Snape approached the counter and placed the Secrecy Sensor down. The witch behind the counter glared at him and didn't move. Snape was reaching for his money to pay the bill when the witch spoke.

"You aren’t welcome here, Severus," the witch growled.

"My money is as good as any other wizard’s," Snape retorted.

The witch grabbed the Secrecy Sensor off the counter and said, "Get out, Severus."

Snape did not move. The patrons of the store had now turned to watch the scene at the counter. "You are not welcome here, Death Eater. We don't want your money. Now get out!" the witch snarled, losing her patience.

Hermione quickly ducked behind a large shelf as Snape turned and stormed out of the store. He appeared angry and outraged, but Hermione could see something else. One look at Snape's eyes, as he left the store, showed her a lost and broken man, one in considerable pain. Pity once again washed over Hermione for a man she was supposed to intensely hate.

Once the door had slammed behind Snape, Hermione grabbed one of the Secrecy Sensors Snape had been looking at and headed toward the counter. She handed over fifty gold galleons and nervously waited while the witch wrapped her purchase. The whole time the witch was packaging the Sensor, she gave Hermione suspicious looks. Please don’t say anything; please don’t say anything, Hermione thought over and over.

To Hermione’s relief, the witch didn’t make any comments. Once the parcel was wrapped, Hermione grabbed it, stuffed it in her robes, and got out of the store as quickly as she could.

Once outside, she slipped around the side of the building and leaned up against it, letting out a sigh of relief. Thank Merlin that witch didn’t question my purchase, thought Hermione. I don’t know how I would have explained that one. Oh, God! I just spent a fifty gold galleons on that greasy git! What was I thinking? I guess it would look even stranger if I were to return it right now. Hermione’s mind reeled. She put her head back against the dark brown wooden shingles of the building, closed her eyes, and took a deep breath. But she couldn’t stop her thoughts.

I can’t believe that witch’s reaction toward Snape. I didn’t realize people loathed him that much. Hermione had heard rumblings from the students that their parents did not trust Snape and thought he should be in Azkaban, but Hermione hadn’t realized how widespread it was.

The night of Dumbledore’s death, Harry had been outraged and said he would tell his story that Snape had killed Dumbledore to anyone who would listen, but really, it had been only professors and members of the Order who had heard it. Within the hour, most of the Order had known the story; Hermione and Ron had been among them. But shortly after Dumbledore’s funeral, all the talk of Snape had stopped. Harry had spent hours in a meeting with the leaders of the Order. When the door to the meeting room had finally opened, Hermione and Ron had been called in. They had been told the real story of what had happened on the Astronomy tower was to not go beyond that room.

The Daily Prophet had printed rumours about Snape being involved with Dumbledore’s death above all other possible suspects. Hermione was still unsure why the Prophet targeted Snape so harshly; she knew Harry had not spoken to any reporters. Although, there were still the outlandish rumours that ranged from Dumbledore committing suicide by jumping from the tower, to a flying accident, to Dumbledore being alive and living on a tropical island. But, the rumour that appeared most was that Snape had killed Dumbledore on the Dark Lord’s orders. Whatever was written, it seemed everyone wanted to believe that Snape was evil.

Hermione and Ron had never been given a reason as to why they were not supposed to reveal the story Harry had told them. However, it had been pretty clear to Hermione that a reason had been given to Harry as to why the story must not be revealed. A good reason would have been the only way Harry would have kept his mouth shut about Snape. But, whatever the reason was, he had never shared it with Hermione or Ron.

Now, Hermione found herself leaning outside against Dervish and Banges, thinking back to the events at the end of last term. She again began wondering what Harry had been told that made him keep his mouth shut about Snape. And why did everyone inside the store seem to hate Snape so much? Could it really be as simple as most witches and wizards believing what had been written about Snape? She hoped people would think for themselves instead of blindly following, but somehow, she doubted they would.

Snape was as satisfied as could be expected with the results of his confrontation with Hermione that afternoon. Although he was still angry that she had seen him in a vulnerable position, the outcome had dispelled his anger enough to allow him to forget all about the encounter by the end of the day.

Snape’s thoughts then turned to protecting himself. As a spy, he could never tell friends from enemies, honest men from liars. Therefore, he had decided to get a Secrecy Sensor. One particular high-end one had caught his attention. He figured he couldn’t be too careful, especially with his double life. The model he had been looking at was pocket-sized; he would be able to use it without anyone knowing. It was expensive, but well worth the price.

The problem was, between Death Eater meetings and teaching classes, Snape never had any free time. The only time he would have to stop in Dervish and Banges was this Hogsmeade weekend. Although he hated to go to the village with all the students there, he didn’t have much of a choice.

On Saturday morning, Snape left the castle early and headed to the village. He didn’t run into any students, as it was a little early for them to have set out. He concealed himself in a dark robe and made sure the hood was pulled up over his head. He knew what his reputation was and couldn’t be certain how people would react to his presence. In fact, since the incident in the Astronomy tower, he had hardly been out in public.

He reached Dervish and Banges after a quick stop at Ollivanders. Thankfully, the eccentric wand maker didn’t discriminate against anyone. He sold Snape a new wand. Snape then ducked inside Dervish and Banges, quickly found the Secrecy Sensor he wanted and headed toward the counter. That was where his troubles began. As soon as he approached the witch at the counter, he knew things were going to go poorly. She refused to serve him and told him to leave. Snape attempted to protest, but he knew it wouldn’t do any good.

His greatest fears were realized. All the respect he had gained because of his potions abilities were lost. No one cared that he was the best Potions master around; all they saw was a Death Eater. Although Snape had never had a lot of friends, his reputation as a Potions maker, and the power that came with it, resulted in witches and wizards treating him with friendly respect. All of that was gone now. Judging by the patrons’ looks as Snape stormed out, the shopkeeper wasn’t the only one who hated him. He had lost the respect he had worked so hard for, but he had known it would happen.

It doesn’t matter, none of them are worth my time, he told himself as he walked back to the castle. Who was he kidding? It did matter; he loved being respected because with respect came power. Power had always been a constant companion for him.

He had never been particularly social therefore he had never accumulated a group of close friends. He had never really seen the need for friends, with the exception of Dumbledore, who had been the only one who understood him. All he ever had was his potions ability. The ability to command respect and gain power from that ability was the only important thing. After all, if he no longer had the Dark Arts, he needed something else to keep his mind sharp.

Snape couldn’t lie to himself. The reaction the wizarding public had toward him hurt, and he didn’t like it. He always used to have Albus as a friend and someone to talk to. He hadn’t needed anything else. Snape had leaned on Albus more than he ever knew, until now. With Albus gone, he felt more alone than ever before.
Chapter 4 by Justice180482

A/N: Thanks for reading. Please review.

Hermione sat on her four-poster, turning over in her hand the Secrecy Sensor she had bought that day in Hogsmeade. Why did I buy this? she wondered. No answer came to her; she guessed it was one of those so-called impulse buys, but whatever her reasoning had been at the time, she now didn't know what to do. Hermione shoved the Secrecy Sensor in her book bag and decided to deal with it tomorrow.

The next day at breakfast, Hermione made up her mind. She was giving it to Snape. She didn't know why, but she knew she had to give it to him in order to divert her mind. Hermione quickly ate her breakfast and headed down to the dungeons before double Potions.

She quietly walked through the dungeon passage, peering around corners to make sure she was not seen. Thankfully, the hall was deserted and silent. The morning light shone through the great lake and into the tiny dungeon windows, but Hermione didn't stop to enjoy the beauty of the green glow. She quickly glanced through the doorway to the Potions classroom. When she saw it was vacant, she slipped in, placed the Secrecy Sensor on Snape’s desk, and returned to the Great Hall to join the masses of students headed off to their first class of the day.

Minutes later, Hermione was walking back to Potions with Harry and Ron. She expected Snape to be in a good mood, but instead he was in the foulest state of mind Hermione had ever seen. Snape stormed around the room, docking house points and giving detentions for the slightest infractions. Everyone was relieved when class finally ended.

"Miss Granger, a word please," snarled Snape, not caring who heard him. Hermione gave Harry and Ron a look as they left the classroom and hesitantly approached Snape's desk. "What is this, Miss Granger?" Snape barked, holding up the Secrecy Sensor.

"It looks like a Secrecy Sensor," Hermione stammered.

"Obviously, Miss Granger. My question is… why is it here?"


"Why did you leave it on my desk?"

"I…I… didn't," stammered Hermione.

"Then why, might I ask, did I find this on the floor?" Snape growled through gritted teeth. He held up a Transfiguration paper with an O on it, bearing the name Hermione Granger.

Hermione was speechless. Her earlier haste to remain unseen must have caused her to not notice the paper falling out of her bag as she pulled the Secrecy Sensor out. Crap, she thought, now what? How do I get out of this? She stood dumbfounded for what seemed like hours before babbling, "Sir, I don't know what you’re… I don't know how that paper… It's not…" Hermione was relieved when Snape interrupted her.

"This is what I think, Miss Granger. You witnessed my trip to Hogsmeade, you followed me into Dervish and Banges, and after our encounter in the dungeons, you were curious. Naturally. It’s a Gryffindor fault," Snape began. "But what I cannot conceive is why you pity me!" His voice rose at the end of the sentence as he slammed the Secrecy Sensor down on his desk with considerable force. There was a loud crack. Both Hermione and Snape looked down. The golden metal of the delicate little sensor was cracked almost in half. The instrument vibrated for a second before lying limp and broken on Snape’s desk.

Hermione and Snape both looked up, their eyes meeting. "I'm…" is all Hermione could get out before she turned and fled the room, tears welling up in her eyes.

Snape didn't know how to react. He knew the girl was just trying to be nice to him. He also hadn't meant to break the Secrecy Sensor, which he had indeed really wanted. He was just angry because her actions were done out of pity. But, what it actually came down to, he begrudgingly admitted to himself while standing alone in his classroom, was that he was embarrassed she had seen him so vulnerable. First, that night in the dungeons, then second, in Dervish and Banges, being ridiculed; a student was not supposed to see him in those positions.

He had been furious when he found her paper on the floor before class, he didn’t even think about what he was going to do. His survival instincts took over, and all he had wanted to do was bring the full force of his fury down on Hermione Granger. He should have considered the ramifications of his actions before acting on them, but he had been so angry.

He was supposed to be an authority figure and level-headed, and she was supposed to respect him. How could he command her respect when she saw him as weak? But then again, she was the first person outside the faculty to show him anything other then hatred since Dumbledore’s death.

Snape looked down at the broken Secrecy Sensor, and he felt his heart wrenching. He didn’t know whether he felt horrible because of Granger, or because he was disappointed he wouldn’t get a working sensor. Whatever prompted his guilt, the one thought at the forefront of his mind was that maybe he could make Granger leave him alone from now on. He gently scooped the little device into his hands, tucked it safely into the pocket of his robes, and headed into the dungeon corridor.

As Snape was standing in the Potions classroom trying to decide how to respond, Hermione fled to her room, barely having time to slam the door behind her before the tears started rolling down her cheeks. Once in her room, Hermione leaned her back against the closed door and was happier than she had ever been to have the private Head Girl’s room. Although her room was attached to the Gryffindor common room, it was private enough that she could cry in peace. Better yet, she had her own entrance separate from the Fat Lady.

How could he be so completely cruel? she thought. She was just being nice and trying to help him, but he was being his horrible self. That’s it! thought Hermione. I am not going to let him bother me any more. For all I care, he can suffer alone. I don't care what happens to him, even if he is a member of the Order.

Hermione made it back to her room just as Snape had decided he should probably talk to the girl; after all, she was a member of the Order. He headed toward the dungeon exit. Although he had never been sensitive to the feelings of other Order members, none of them were as delicate or histrionic as the insufferable-know-it-all. And besides, he thought, she could jeopardize everything. He couldn't have her becoming irrational; she could end up compromising his cover as a spy, and that would be dangerous for both of them.

Snape reluctantly headed toward Hermione's room. He emerged from the dungeons into the main Entrance Hall, squinting against the sun that streamed in from the large front entrance. The sound of his quick step on the stone floor echoed off the high ceiling as he ascended the stairs toward the Gryffindor dormitory. He passed the painting of the Fat Lady and continued to the entrance of Hermione's private room. As a professor, he knew the locations of every house’s entrance. Snape took a deep breath and knocked on the painting frame covering her doorway.

Inside her room, Hermione jumped when she heard the knock. Great, thought Hermione, who could that be? Surely no one she wanted to talk to right now. She wiped her eyes, took a deep breath, and opened the door.

When Hermione saw Snape standing outside her door, her heart dropped into her stomach. She stood there wide-eyed and staring, not knowing whether to be happy or angry. Snape stared back.

Wonderful, he thought, she was crying. He did not want to deal with an emotional girl. Luckily for Snape, Hermione kept her composure. Finally he spoke. “Miss Granger, I apologize for my outburst. I did not mean offence, but as well intentioned as you may believe your actions to have been, your energies would be better focused on your schoolwork. Any charity you feel the need to bestow upon me would be better directed toward other endeavours. I will agree to overlook your wrongdoing in this matter if you will overlook mine.” Snape paused. “Therefore, I expect my position in the Order to remain secret and my cover not be compromised.”

With that, he turned and withdrew from her doorway. A stunned Hermione was left standing alone on the threshold.

Perfect, Snape thought. Mission accomplished, I apologized while getting my point across. That should take care of the annoying Gryffindor.

Hermione was furious. I try to be nice and make peace with the man my friends and I have loathed for years, but he can’t even accept a friend! I try to be the bigger person, and he treats me like a child. He is as horrible as I have always thought. He is incapable of being a nice person. He is nothing more then a pompous arse! Well, I’m done trying, if he wants to suffer alone, I am going to let him. He can die alone at the hands of Voldemort, and I don’t care.

His cold, callous manner toward her and his flat-out rejection had done the trick; she no longer had thoughts for the man. She went from feeling friendly helpfulness, to just feeling hatred, and then to pity for how pathetic he was. She had no intention of sharing their encounters or ruining his cover. As much as she hated him, his work was too important, and he must remain protected. But one thing was for sure. She was done bothering with Severus Snape.
Chapter 5 by Justice180482
Author's Notes:
A/N: More thanks to my awesome beta Stephanie (aka VIVAvivacious) for her hard work and patience with this chapter and for putting up with multiple versions. Thanks for reading and please review it keeps me going!

After her encounter with Snape, Hermione went back to her regular routine. She fumed at him for a few days, but she soon returned to her classes, homework, and duties as Head Girl. The only time Hermione interacted with Snape was during class and Order meetings, but the interactions were kept to an almost non-existent level. Snape refused to make eye contact with her at Order meetings, despite Hermione’s vocal participation in the planning sessions, and he avoided her as much as possible in class.

During class, he would occasionally look down at the potion in Hermione’s caldron, but he never acknowledged it. He never deducted House points from her. In fact, he never said anything to her at all. This, however, did not stop him from deducting large numbers of points from her classmates. Although House points did not hold the power they once did, the Gryffindor seventh years still got angry at the principle of Snape taking away points for no real reason.

Two months slowly rolled by, and the war raged on. Disappearances were such a normal occurrence that the Daily Prophet stopped printing them. Hermione’s preoccupation with worry and the sense of impending danger, coupled with Snape shunning her, distracted her from her feelings for him. Although, because she couldn’t help herself, she still kept an eye on his appearance and tried to guess how his spying was going.

One morning, the silence between Snape and Hermione came to an end while Hermione was on her way to Potions. During her walk to class, Hermione’s mind wandered. She realized Snape hadn’t admonished her at all in the past two months. The lack of criticism seemed to have eased her stress level.

Hermione had just rounded the corner to the dungeons and was smiling inwardly, her eyes on the ground, when she walked smack into Snape. He was carrying an armful of gold cauldrons, which were blocking his view, and was heading toward the Potions classroom from the opposite direction. Snape, noticing Hermione at the last moment, attempted to avoid the collision and jumped to the side, but he lost his balance in the process, sending gold cauldrons clamouring to the floor.

“Miss Granger, you would do well to pay attention,” Snape told her angrily.

“So…r...r…y sir,” Hermione nervously stammered as she looked up from the floor. She met Snape’s eyes and was surprised to see he didn’t look nearly as angry as she thought he would. Instead of his normal fury, she saw only annoyance. The annoyance lasted only a split second before the fury Hermione was expecting appeared.

“Granger, detention! Tonight, eight o’clock,” Snape growled. “Oh, and one hundred points from Gryffindor.”

With a wave of his wand, Snape swept the fallen cauldrons back into his arms and stalked away. Hermione rushed into the classroom and slumped in the seat between Harry and Ron. She put her face in her hands and tried to regain the composure Snape had taken from her. It wasn’t even that she was upset about the detention, although she thought one hundred House points was beyond excessive. It was the closeness to him that caused her to become unnerved.

During class, Hermione cautiously brewed her potion and was careful not to cause any more trouble for herself. Thankfully, she made it through class without drawing any more attention.

At dinner, Hermione ate as fast as she could in order to have a little time for homework before she had to report to detention. It’s weird, thought Hermione as she sat alone in her room after dinner. I should be upset about this detention, but I’m not. I’m kind of excited to see him one on one. It was then that Hermione realized she had somewhat of a schoolgirl crush on her Potions professor. What is wrong with me? Why do I want to be near him? Hermione didn’t have much time to continue her line of thinking because she had to leave for detention.

She arrived at the Potions classroom slightly breathless from the anticipation of seeing Snape again. As she was about to walk into the classroom, she found herself wondering if she would be close to him during the evening. Hermione took a deep breath and pushed open the door leading to the Potions classroom where Snape was waiting.

He didn’t look up when she walked in, but she noticed he looked paler than usual. Hermione stood in the doorway for a moment, but Snape still didn’t look up. She tentatively approached his desk. He still didn’t acknowledge her, continuing to lean over his parchment. Hermione stood at the front of his desk, waiting for him to speak to her.

As Hermione stood a desk’s length away from her Potions master, she noticed his cheeks were shallower than normal and he looked almost frail. Hermione watched his long, thin fingers pass across the parchment he was leaning over. She had never noticed how strong his hands were before today. Her eyes drifted up to his face. A strand of black hair lay across his forehead and hung over his left eye. The strand of hair caught Hermione’s attention; she always thought his hair was greasy and unclean, but up close, she noticed his hair wasn’t at all greasy. It looked soft and sleek. Hermione realized the dirty look had only been the potion fumes that always hung around him in class. Hermione’s eyes travelled down to his long, angular chin then up past soft, thin lips. She paused at his nose, which was as hooked as it looked from a distance, and then drifted to his soft black eyes. Wow, thought Hermione, at this distance he is sort of handsome and much younger than I thought. Okay Hermione, get a grip; don’t act mental!

Hermione’s thoughts were interrupted when Snape finally looked up. His eyes met hers for a split second. In that brief moment, Hermione saw what she noticed those months ago in the dungeon corridors: emotion. In that split second, she saw pain, strength, and hope in his eyes. He quickly looked away.

“You will be cleaning cauldrons tonight, Miss Granger,” he said, indicating a pile of foul-smelling cauldrons with all sorts of potion ingredients caked onto their bottoms. “Get to work. Oh, and no magic,” Snape said, smirking.

Hermione went over to the pile and surveyed the scene. The rancid smell, which could only have come from first year disasters, made her wrinkle her nose up in disgust. She swore some of the substances clinging to the cauldrons were living. Oh well, she thought, there’s no avoiding it.

Hermione grabbed a scrub brush, dipped it in a bucket of soapy water that had been laid out, and began to scrub the nearest cauldron. She laboured in silence for what felt like hours, but when she looked up at the clock it read nine, a mere hour after her detention had started. Ugh, I am going to be here all night if I have to clean this whole pile. She set aside the first clean cauldron and picked up her second one. She had only just scraped off two patches of a fuzzy orange substance when she heard a gasp from Snape’s desk. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw him grab his forearm and watched the little colour he had drain from his face. Snape sucked in a gulp of air, and the whooshing sound it made across his lips sounded deafening in the silent room.

Hermione wanted to say something, but the look of nervousness on Snape’s face made her think better of it, and she kept her mouth shut. Instead, she just watched him. Snape gained control of the situation and said, “Detention is over, Miss Granger. You may return to your common room.” Snape stood up and headed for the door.

Hermione didn’t know what overcame her; she jumped up and called after him. “Professor!” Snape stopped, let out a sigh, and then turned around. Hermione walked toward him, closing the distance in a few long strides. She stood in front of Snape and looked up into his eyes. He looked terrified. “I am scheduled for the last patrol in the dungeons tonight,” Hermione told him with a sheepish grin. She hoped it came across as friendly and supportive rather than how it felt, which was mental.

Snape didn’t look away. He held her gaze for a few moments before quietly replying, “Thank you,” in a cracked, nervous voice.

It was clear he was scared, but he tried hard to hide it. Hermione swore she saw him tremble slightly. She slowly and tentatively reached up and placed her hand on his bicep. Hermione’s first thought was, Wow, his biceps are stronger than I would have ever imagined. “It will be fine,” she told him, their gazes still locked.

Snape grunted an acknowledgement, which suggested he wasn’t convinced.

“Be careful,” Hermione told him, giving his arm a gentle squeeze before letting go. The corner of Snape’s mouth twitched upward in an attempted half grin, and then he turned and swept out the door, his black robes billowing out behind him like the wings of a large bat.

Hermione stood alone in the dungeon room, hoping he would return unharmed.

Snape didn’t know why he gave Granger detention. It wasn’t entirely her fault he had dropped his armful of cauldrons. His mind was wandering as he rounded the corner, and he wasn’t paying attention to what was in front of him. When he looked up, she was inches from him, and he had gotten startled, resulting in him dropping the cauldrons. He spent a split second flustered, and then he just reacted, giving her detention and taking away House points.

After the words were out, Snape couldn’t take them back. Now he would have to deal with the Gryffindor for an entire night. Hopefully he could just get through the detention without another incident between the two of them. It would be best if they could just keep their distance from each other, but somehow their paths always seemed to cross, even when Granger wasn’t trying to meddle.

As was her studious nature, Hermione arrived at detention right on time. Snape heard her come in but didn’t look up. He kept his eyes down on the parchment he was working on, hoping she would just disappear. Why did I give her a detention? Now I have to deal with her, he thought.

Earlier, in preparation for Granger’s detention, Snape had set out a towering stack of the foulest cauldrons he could find. He planned on having her clean them without magic. When she saw the pile, he wanted her to think she would be there all night. But, there was no way he was going to have her clean the whole pile: for one thing, he didn’t want to be stuck with her that long, and for another, it was just mean, even for him. He couldn’t be that mean to Granger, especially after everything that had happened with them. He had become somewhat fond of their moments together; it made him feel like less of an outcast.

Hermione entered the room, and when he didn’t look up, she walked up to his desk. Snape still didn’t look up. She continued to stand there. I guess she isn’t going away, thought Snape as he felt the girl’s presence standing over him. Time to suck it up and face her, he thought. He looked up, her soft brown doe eyes meeting his, and held her gaze. Her eyes looked so gentle and inviting; he tried to look intimidating, but he knew he failed miserably. Snape came to his senses and looked away, but he wondered if it was really friendship he had seen in her eyes. He quickly dismissed that notion. There is no way she is still interested in civility after what I have done to her, he thought. Although, the notion of a relationship with Granger was beginning to appeal to him.

Snape mentally reprimanded himself for such a foolish idea and told her to get to work cleaning the cauldrons so he didn’t have to look at her. As Hermione began her daunting task, Snape stole a glance at her. He saw the girl survey the pile, a look of defeat on her face. As she reached for a cauldron, he saw the smell hit her and her nose wrinkle with disgust. He chuckled to himself at her reaction. Poor girl; the smell is pretty bad, he thought. He quickly put a stop to his wandering mind and went back to his work.

Everything was going well until he felt the familiar burning sensation on his forearm. This is not happening, he thought. He knew a meeting would be coming, but it hadn’t even crossed his mind that it might be tonight. He had been dreading the meeting for weeks, and now that it was here he felt like a dragon was sitting on his chest. He knew this was not going to be a short meeting, nor was it going to be a painless one. Every day the Order grew more powerful, the angrier the Dark Lord got, and the more he took his anger out on his followers. It seemed each meeting was more painful for Snape than the previous one, both mentally and physically.

When he felt the burning on his forearm, Snape gave an involuntary gasp as the dread of what he had to do washed over him. He knew Granger heard him because he saw her head twitch, stealing a glance in his direction. No matter, he thought, pointless to try and hide it. He stood, told her detention was over, and headed for the door.

He was a few paces from the door when he heard her voice. He stopped, and when she didn’t continue, he turned around. Granger was walking toward him, and before he had time to think, she was standing inches from him. She told him she would be around later; he didn’t know how to react, so he thanked her. However, it came out sounding weak and terrified.

Was that an offer of help? he wondered when Hermione told him she had the last dungeon patrol. He stared at her. Then he saw her attempt at a grin. The side of her mouth curled up, causing her lips to form a lopsided line across her face. Snape smiled to himself. He thought she looked mentally challenged, which was amusing for the girl at the top of her class. He noticed the soft, smooth skin around her eyes. She hasn’t seen the physical effects of age or war yet, he thought. She’s pretty.

Adulthood had been kind to Hermione. Her hair was no longer quite as frizzy as it had been in her youth, and her robes hung nicely over her slender, womanly frame. Snape enjoyed looking at his young student. But then again, he appreciated the beauty of many of his adult students, but they had all been too stupid for his tastes. He needed a mind to match his own, so he had never felt anything beyond physical admiration for any of them, until now. Granger does have a great mind, he admitted to himself.

After Snape thanked her, he began to regret it. His reply hadn’t taken any thought, and for once it was civil instead of harsh. Why is that? he thought. I don’t want to encourage her. I should be able to do this on my own. I don’t need her to care about me. Although, it had always been nice when Albus had cared about him, he had never thought about the friendship much, until recently when he no longer had it. Somehow I always felt better after I had talked to Albus. I wonder if it could be that way with Granger, because as much as I want to handle everything myself, I’m not sure I can. At the very least, maybe I wouldn’t have to divulge personal details about Death Eater meetings to the infernal werewolf. Granger has already proven she won’t betray everything she ascertains. Maybe she could be useful for reporting back to the Order.

It had been getting harder and harder for Snape to continue with his work since Albus died. In addition to not having a friend to talk to, he also had to report directly to Lupin about his spying, and the werewolf asked a lot of questions Snape preferred left unanswered. If he let Granger in he could possibly avoid Lupin and his annoying questions. But if he pursued that course, their friendship would be open to the Dark Lord. It had been getting more difficult with each meeting to keep the Dark Lord convinced of his loyalties, and Snape knew some time soon he would have to open his mind to him. He wasn’t sure he would be able to keep an invasion under his control.

As Snape continued to gaze at his student, he noticed her hand rise and then felt it come to rest on his shoulder. It felt nice, reassuring, something he hadn’t felt in a long time. Her touch and words relaxed him some, but he didn’t believe them because he had a premonition of impending pain and disaster. Time seemed to stand still for Snape; the only thing he could think about was her touch. She was telling him to be careful. She’s concerned about me, he thought. She was squeezing his arm; he hoped he would be able to block this memory from the Dark Lord tonight. She was letting go. Time seemed to be moving in slow motion; he couldn’t think about anything. Her hand was gone; he had to go. He whispered something to her but was not completely aware of what he was saying. He was in a daze. He turned and departed the room.

Snape headed outside. The cold air did him good, jolting him back to his senses; he was able to get a hold of himself before reaching the edge of school grounds. He reached the school’s border, stepped through the wards, took a deep breath, and Apparated to the Death Eaters’ meeting point.
End Notes:
Thanks for reading. More to come, please review.
Chapter 6 by Justice180482
Author's Notes:
Thanks to Stephanie (aka VIVAvivacious) for her beta work. Please review. Any and all reviews are appreciated. Thanks for reading. : >)

Hermione stacked the two cauldrons she had cleaned by hand on top of one another and cast a scouring charm on the rest of the dirty ones. At least they will be clean for him when he gets back, thought Hermione, but she wasn’t about to finish them by hand.

Hermione headed back to her common room, bathed, changed into clean robes, and did a little homework before beginning her nightly rounds. As she made her first pass through the dungeons, she half-hoped to see Snape waiting for her. But, there was no one. By the time Hermione finished the rest of her patrol and was headed back to the dungeons for a second time, about forty-five minutes had passed. Her second patrol through the dungeons was as uneventful as the first. There was no Snape. In fact, the castle was so quiet the ghosts weren’t even floating down the corridors.

The Head Girl and Boy were required to make two passes a night after curfew through their designated area to make sure there were no students out of bed. Even with her patrols, Hermione was still usually in bed by 11:30. But tonight after her rounds, she wasn’t ready to head to bed, so she stopped by the Transfiguration classroom where Professor McGonagall was up late grading papers.

Hermione strolled into the classroom in an effort to waste time. “To what do I owe this pleasure?” Professor McGonagall asked as Hermione walked in.

“Oh, no special reason. I was just doing my rounds and saw your light on,” replied Hermione. “I thought I would stop in and say hello.” Hermione had become close with her Head of House since taking the post of Head Girl. They would often spend hours chatting over tea.

“Well, as long as you are here, you might as well make yourself useful,” Professor McGonagall told Hermione. “As my best student, you are more than qualified to grade first year papers, and your help would save me a lot of time.”

“Sure, I’d be glad to help,” replied Hermione.

Professor McGonagall handed her a stack of papers, and Hermione settled down to help grade the work. They worked in silence for twenty minutes, and Hermione rather enjoyed helping grade the simple first year work. As the silence between them wore on, Hermione desperately wanted to ask Professor McGonagall about Snape.

McGonagall had strongly supported keeping Snape on staff after the incidents of the previous year. Because of her decision to keep him at his post, she had to fight off a lot of angry parents after rumours appeared in the Daily Prophet about Snape’s role in Dumbledore’s death. She had refused to take the easy way out and dismiss Snape.

Sitting in the Transfiguration classroom, Hermione was desperate to pick her professor’s brain for answers, but she was unsure how to broach the subject. Nor did she know how McGonagall would react to the questions. But one thing was for sure: Hermione was driving herself crazy wondering about Snape and knew she had to try to get answers.

“Professor, I had detention with Professor Snape tonight. He got called away in the middle of it,” Hermione began delicately.

“Oh?” McGonagall responded.

“Yes, he grabbed his forearm and said detention was over. He looked really worried.” Hermione eased into the subject of Snape. “Teaching and working for the Order seems to be taking a toll on him.”

McGonagall raised her eyebrows but didn’t say anything.

“It seems like a lot of pressure for him to be working for the Order and teaching,” continued Hermione.

“What exactly are you getting at, Miss Granger?” McGonagall asked as she stopped her grading and faced Hermione.

“Why did you allow Professor Snape to continue teaching here even though parents were against it? And why are some Order members so certain he is on our side, while others, like the rest of the Wizarding world, wonder where his loyalties lie?” Hermione spat out.

Professor McGonagall gave a short chuckle. “Feel better getting that off your chest?” she asked.

Hermione didn’t say anything.

“Professor Snape is teaching here because he is the best person for the job. My first priority is the students at this school and making sure they have the best education possible. They will get that with Professor Snape teaching them. As for his loyalties, I have every confidence in the work Professor Snape is doing for the Order. And I assume the Order members who wonder where Professor Snape’s loyalties lie are yourself and Mr. Ron Weasley. Let me assure you the two of you need not worry. Professor Snape’s motives have been made clear to all necessary parties, and those people are more than enough. Anyone else who has heard Snape’s explanations has heard them because of his own choosing,” McGonagall finished cryptically.

“But, I’m a member of the Order, and I’m not even sure where his loyalties lie. And why put all the effort into allowing Professor Snape to keep his job when parents are so against him? It just seems like there are many more important battles to fight,” Hermione replied.

“I told you, Professor Snape is the best man for the Potions post, and if he chooses to explain himself to you, that is his choice, but it is not my story to tell. These questions would be better posed to Professor Snape. But just know this, Miss Granger, Snape’s loyalties are, and will always be, with the Order,” McGonagall explained.

Hermione’s face fell; she had not gotten the answers she was hoping for. McGonagall noticed Hermione’s expression, and her stern countenance softened. “Hermione,” she said kindly, “I know you are a member of the Order, and your help is very valuable, but Professor Snape has a right to his privacy. He has told his story a sufficient number of times, so many others and I will personally vouch for him. He has explained himself to the necessary people; he can’t be expected to make his affairs known to anyone who questions him.” She smiled. “But, Hermione, ask him. You are an important member of the Order, and he might surprise you and answer your questions.”

McGonagall was calm and friendly, but Hermione knew she wouldn’t get any more information. “I doubt it. He thinks he is above me,” Hermione mumbled in a whisper. McGonagall gave her sympathetic smile, and they settled back into grading papers in a comfortable silence.

After another forty minutes of grading passed, McGonagall looked up and was shocked at how late it had gotten.

“Miss Granger, it’s past midnight. We both should be off to bed. Thank you for all your help with the papers tonight.”

“No problem, Professor. I will see you tomorrow. Goodnight,” Hermione replied as she stood and headed for the door.

As Hermione headed back to the Gryffindor common room, her mind drifted toward Snape. She wondered if he had made it back to the castle. Although she knew he didn’t want her help and would probably be mad at her for meddling, she knew she wouldn’t be able to sleep unless she made one more quick pass through the dungeons.
Chapter 7 by Justice180482
Author's Notes:
Sorry for the delay in uploading. It won’t happen again. Thanks for sticking with the story. I apprecaite everyone who reads. I love reviews.

Snape had been right; the Death Eater meetings kept getting more dreadful. Tonight he had been tortured worse than ever before. The Dark Lord was furious; the Order was growing stronger and his plans for eliminating his opposition were not going as arranged. Tonight, Snape had personally felt the Dark Lord’s wrath. At least I survived, he thought as he struggled for his breath outside of Hogwarts.

Snape knew neither where the energy to Apparate back to the entrance of the grounds to Hogwarts had come from, nor how he did it without splinching himself. It was amazing he had successfully travelled to where he was now, outside the castle, crawling toward a secret passage that led to the dungeons on his hands and knees. Each breath he drew caused searing pain to race through his body, but he continued to drag himself. He was only yards away from the towering stone wall of the castle and the entrance to the hidden tunnel. If I can just make it into the tunnel, then everything will be all right, thought Snape.

With every ounce of strength in his being, he crawled the final distance to the entryway. He pushed aside the ivy and creeping vines covering the opening and wrenched the door open, falling inside the tunnel. Once he was safely concealed within the tunnel’s walls, he collapsed on his stomach from pain and exhaustion.

Snape’s belief that his agony would be tolerable once he reached the tunnel was an illusion. He was no better; the only difference was he was now hidden by rock and dirt instead of being out in the open. Snape lay in the tunnel for a few minutes, breathing hard. He tried to work out a plan in his head. Granger, he thought. As much as he didn’t want to accept her friendship, he needed a friend, and it now appeared that necessity mandated it be her. There could be worse people to rely on.

Maybe, just maybe, she’ll be doing rounds and could hide me on the way to my chambers, he thought, deciding Granger was his only option. Now, all he needed to do was to get to the end of the tunnel, and then his timing would need to be right. It was a long shot, but it was the only shot he had.

He pushed himself up onto his hands and knees. The searing pain in his chest flared to almost unbearable levels, but he had to make it to the end of the tunnel. He took a deep, pain-laced breath and crawled. He placed one hand in front of the other, dragging legs that felt like jelly. The sharp rocks on the floor of the passage dug into his hands. It didn’t matter, though; the pain in his hands was nothing compared to the pain throughout the rest of his body.

The Dark Lord had taken it up a notch tonight; not only had he physically tortured Snape, but he had mentally tortured him, as well. The pretext for the torture had been Snape’s loyalty, but everyone knew it was only an excuse. The Dark Lord was angry, and Snape was pretty sure he had been singled out as the Dark Lord’s punching bag because the Dark Lord, like everyone else, was unsure about him. He had been trying to figure out where Snape’s loyalties lie. Tonight, his anger with the war bubbled over and mixed with his frustration in not being able to read Snape, resulting in an excruciating night.

In the past, the Dark Lord had tried to invade Snape’s mind, but Snape had been able to protect himself with his skills in Occlumency. However, tonight his ability, instead of protecting him, had caused the evening to go downhill. In the past, the Dark Lord accepted Snape dodging his intrusions, but tonight he would not stand for Snape blocking his attempted invasions. Despite the Dark Lord’s backlash, blocking the encroachment had been necessary to protect the Order and to keep his true loyalties hidden. Nevertheless, Snape had been forced to partially capitulate to the Dark Lord’s attacks, in order to prevent suspicion from destroying his cover.

Inside the tunnel, Snape inched his way along the sixty-five meters to the end, which would drop him off in the dungeons, about twenty meters from his chambers; he did the math for the distance in his head.

It was slow going, but after what seemed like an endless crawl, a flat, stone wall emerged in front of him. He had reached the end of the tunnel. Snape slumped against the sloped wall of the tunnel and rested. He had made it to the end; now he just needed to get to his room.

Snape waved his wand at the stone egress, and it turned it transparent. He needed to make sure no one was in the dungeon corridor before he ventured out of the tunnel. Through the clear door, he could see the corridor appeared to be deserted. He hadn’t really expected Granger to be waiting, but part of him had hoped she would be.

He reached his hand above his head and grasped a handhold embedded in the wall. He pulled, and with a pop and a rush of air, the stone door released. Snape peered around the three-inch crack in the door, making sure no one was farther down the hall where he had been unable to see through the transparency. It was empty; he leaned back in the tunnel and breathed a sign of relief. I think it might be safe to try to make it to my room, he thought. He decided to have a go at getting to his chambers. He looked to his left once more before initiating his move down the hallway to the right. When he looked left, he saw her. Granger.

After leaving Professor McGonagall, Hermione had headed back to the dungeons for one more pass. When she arrived, the corridor appeared to be empty, and she began to traverse the passage before deciding to head back to her room for the night. There is nothing I can do for him, she thought with a pang of disappointment. She had hoped she would be able to see him when he got back.

Hermione, slowly and alertly, walked through the dungeons. She had never been in the dungeons at such a late hour, and she found the area creepier than normal. She was tense and strained her eyes to see in every dark corner: she had an overwhelming sensation of being watched.

She was three quarters of the way down the passage when she swore she felt a gust of air on her back. Her heart rate skyrocketed, and adrenaline coursed through her body. She was scared, but fought her flight response; instead, she stopped walking, and when she felt nothing decided the breeze was her imagination playing tricks on her.

Hermione didn’t know why she was so jumpy. She had hoped to meet Snape, and now she just wanted to get out of the dungeons as quickly as she could. After dismissing the breeze, she began walking toward the staircase leading up to the main entrance hall. She had gone by the passage in which Snape was hidden, and her back was to him.

“Granger,” Snape breathed, sticking his head outside the tunnel, trying to get her attention. His efforts were useless; she didn’t hear him. “Granger,” he strained to speak louder, but it hadn’t been loud enough.

She moved away from him. He didn’t have the energy to call out any louder; instead, he flicked his wand, sending red sparks flying from the end. The sparks hit the partially closed, stone door of the tunnel and made a whizzing sound.

The sound startled Hermione: she gasped, jumped, and spun around all in one motion. Her wand was drawn, ready to fight whatever had disturbed the peace of the quiet passage.

“Granger,” Snape whispered a third time. Hermione did not register the voice was Snape’s.

After regaining her composure, Hermione looked around, not knowing where the voice had come from. As she looked closer, she saw the stone wall protruding slightly. It was a door. Hermione approached, realizing it was a passage. She never knew there was a passage there and was fairly certain it was not on the Marauders’ Map. Damn, the boys will be disappointed there is a passage they don’t know about, she thought, her nerves calming and her bravery returning.

She arrived at the opening to the passage and peered into the darkness. The door was only open about three inches, and she was reluctant to open it further. Therefore, she peered into the crack and saw black eyes staring back at her. She gave a slight gasp.

“Professor, is that you?” she asked, lowering her wand.

“Granger,” he breathed.

She pulled the door open the rest of the way and was shocked at his mangled appearance. The first thing she noticed was his broken nose. His hooked nose was now crooked, with a small trace of blood on the bridge where the bone had pushed through the skin. His right eye had begun to turn black and blue, and he had an open cut above his left eye. His entire face was smeared with sweat and dirt, and it was contorted with pain. Hermione had never seen her professor look so defeated. His normal expressions of anger and aggression were gone and were replaced with agony.

Hermione’s eyes drifted downward toward his chest; she could tell his breathing was laboured. His robes were ripped opened, and she could see the black shirt he was wearing underneath. He was caked with mud and sweat. Is that a footprint? Hermione thought as her eyes surveyed his chest. His hands rested on his stomach, and she scanned his arms, but they looked relatively unscathed.

Her gaze then drifted down to his legs. The lower half of his robes were torn, and Hermione could see the beginnings of holes on the knees of his black pants. But, it wasn’t his clothes that drew the majority of her attention. It was his foot, dangling uselessly from his leg that captivated her gaze. His left ankle seemed to be shattered.

“Oh, God!” Hermione breathed when she saw his ankle. “Hang tight, Professor. I’ll get Madam Pomfrey.”

“No,” Snape whispered urgently. “No, she’s not an Order member. Only Order…”

“But Professor, you’re hurt,” Hermione protested cutting him off. “You need help.”

“Then you do it, Miss Granger.”

“I… I can’t.”

“Of course you can, but if you don’t want to, please leave so I can rest a while before heading toward my chambers.”

“Professor, you’ll never make it to your room. Please, let me get Madam…”

“That may be Granger, but I do not trust anyone outside the Order to keep my double agent status a secret.” At that moment, Hermione realized Snape’s true loyalties lay with the Order. No matter what had happened the previous year on top of the Astronomy tower, Hermione understood Snape was not responsible for Dumbledore’s death.

“I’ll get Professor McGonagall, then. She is a member of the Order, and I know she can be trusted to…”

“No.” Snape didn’t want more people than necessary to see him in his current state. “Either you will help me, or you won’t. But, you will not go waking up half the castle, because I don’t believe you can’t help,” Snape told her.

Snape’s confidence in Hermione made her sense of intellectual achievement surge. She never would have guessed that Snape somewhat respected her abilities. But, her skills as a Healer were not great, and she had never mended a broken bone before.

“Professor, I want to help you, but your nose and ankle are broken. I’ve never healed a broken bone before.”

“Nose, ankle, and a few ribs,” Snape corrected, “don’t forget the ribs.” His mouth turned up slightly in an unsuccessful attempt at a smile. “You know the incantation, don’t you?”

“Yes,” Hermione responded tentatively.

“Then you can mend bones. But if it makes you feel better, I will talk you through it.”

“Okay,” whispered Hermione.

“Start with my nose, as it will be the easiest. There is no need for wand waving. Place your wand tip on the broken bone, the closer to the actual break the better. Speak the incantation and concentrate on a smooth, continuous bone. No need to think of the specific bone being mended, although if you know what the bone looks like, it will heal better. When you speak the incantation, concentrate on an unbroken bone, smooth, hard, and strong.”

“That’s it?”

“That’s it. Ready?”

Hermione swallowed hard. “As ready as I’ll ever be, I guess.”

“Place you wand on the bridge of my nose.”

Hermione gently brushed the hair lying across Snape’s forehead out of his face. She wanted to have nothing in her way that could cause her to hurt him even more. The tips of her fingers tingled where she had touched Snape’s skin. She placed her wand as instructed.

Hermione’s cool touch on his forehead sent a calming chill through Snape. He felt an unusual, although not unwelcome, dropping in his stomach. He closed his eyes and breathed in, his battered body relaxing slightly. “Now speak the incantation. Do it with a little force, if you are nervous,” Snape told her, opening his eyes.

“Episkey,” Hermione said forcefully. Her wand glowed for a moment, and when she removed it, Snape’s nose was back to its straight, hooked self.

Snape reached up and touched his newly healed nose. “Nicely done, Miss Granger. The rest will be harder. You will need to use the incantation Brackium Emendo. Episkey is only useful for simple breaks.”

He must be really out of it, thought Hermione. He would never normally compliment anything I’ve done. She responded, “That’s a real spell? I always thought Lockhart had made it up.”

The corner of Snape’s mouth turned up slightly. “It’s a real spell, only more powerful than Episkey. You will use it on my ribs and ankle. The principal is the same- concentrate on a healed bone. But first, you will need to find the ribs that are broken so you can accurately place your wand.”

“How do I tell which ones are broken?”

“Pain, Miss Granger, pain. Run your hand across my ribs. When it hurts, you will know which one is broken and where it is broken.”

Hermione gulped. “Is that really the best…”

“Just do it,” barked Snape. Hermione jumped at how quickly his tone changed from civil to callous, the demeanour she was use to from her professor. Snape, sensing her duress, continued more calmly. “The time finding the broken ribs will be shorter doing it this way, and the quicker they are found, the quicker you can fix them and end my pain.”

Hermione took a deep breath and placed her hand on Snape’s chest. He was a lot more muscular than she thought he would be, and he was warm, despite the cold of the tunnel. Slowly, she began to slide her hand down the left side of his chest, applying gentle pressure with her fingertips. When she reached the bottom of his rib cage, she moved her hand around to his side and began sliding it up.

Snape closed his eyes when Hermione laid her hand on his chest. Her touch felt so soothing, and not just to the physical wounds, but also to the chaos swirling around his mind. Her touch seemed to calm the madness caused by the Cruciatus Curse and the Legilimency that had been performed on him. He hadn’t known the feeling of a compassionate human touch in over a year, since Dumbledore’s death, and hadn’t felt a woman’s touch in even longer. But, he didn’t know if he was enjoying Granger’s touch because of the torture he had undergone or if it was the girl herself. He respected her and her abilities, she was attractive for sure, but he wasn’t one to have tender feelings… the curse was making him question his own thoughts.

Hermione’s fingers hit a broken rib, halfway up his side. Snape gave a little gasp of pain. “There, it’s broken there,” he told her. “Now, place the tip of your wand as close to the broken section as you can.”

Hermione did as she was told, and Snape flinched when her wand touched the exact spot the bone had cracked. With her right hand holding her wand and her left pressed gently below Snape’s broken rib, Hermione spoke the incantation. “Brackium Emendo.” The same yellow glow that came from her wand when she fixed his nose came again, only brighter. It glowed for a moment and then faded.

Snape lay still, his head resting back against the stone wall. “Did it work?” she asked.

“Yes, but there are more broken ribs.”

Hermione put her wand away and returned to feeling Snape’s chest. She gently slid her hand over the rib she had just healed. There was no pain. She continued up his left side but found no broken bones. She slipped her hand around his back and began sliding it down. Since he was still resting against the tunnel wall, she had to lean in close in order to be able to reach behind him. She was acutely aware of their proximity, as was Snape. Their eyes locked for a brief second as her body moved into his, but she broke the contact and continued examining his ribs.

She moved her hand down his back and made it to the bottom of his ribcage without incident. Hermione moved onto the right side of his chest. It didn’t take long for her to find a broken rib there.

She healed it the way she had the previous one and continued sliding her hands over his chest and sides. In total she found four broken ribs.

She found herself rather enjoying the feel of his chest under her hands and longed to curl up against it. Upon having this thought, her mind gave a jolt. Whatever prompted that, she thought. Now is not the time or place. The mental image of being curled up on Snape’s chest didn’t repulse her as much as it shocked her, but she was determined not to have it again. She couldn’t allow schoolgirl nonsense to cause her to lose her composure around him.

With each mended rib, she heard Snape’s breathing ease, until the last rib, when his breathing returned to normal. It no longer felt like he had a dragon sitting on his chest, and he was no longer struggling for breath. Thank God, my laboured breath was caused by the broken ribs and not my messed up mind, he thought.

Hermione could see his breathing ease and she relaxed a bit; for the first time since entering the tunnel, she looked around. It was large enough for an adult to stand upright comfortably, yet it was not well maintained. The walls were made of jagged rock; it looked like someone had blasted through the stone to create it. Whoever had hollowed the tunnel out hadn’t bothered to smooth the sides; the rock walls were coarse and not groomed. The ground was made of packed dirt and was littered with sharp pebbles that appeared to have fallen from the ceiling. A cold, damp mist hung in the air. Hermione suspected they were very close to the great lake, if not under it.

“Professor, what is this place? What happened to you? Who did this to you? Was it Voldemort? Was your cover blown? Is the castle going to be attacked?” Hermione blurted like a frantic child all the questions that had been building but she had suppressed since entering the tunnel.

“Granger, control yourself. Hold that Gryffindor curiosity for one minute so I can rest,” Snape replied calmly. He took a deep breath and re-closed his eyes - he had closed them while Hermione had run her hands over his torso - that he had opened during Hermione’s outburst. “Rest assured the school is not under attack, Miss Granger. Now, can we please continue this conversation after you heal my ankle?”

“Oh, sorry,” replied Hermione. She knelt down next to Snape’s ankle, placed her wand against it, and spoke the incantation. Her wand glowed yellow, and Snape winced in pain. “Oh God! Did I do it wrong?” Hermione asked, looking up into Snape’s eyes.

“No, it was damaged so severely that only an exceptionally skilled Healer could completely mend it. You did fine. It’s patched well enough for me to walk on. The rest of it will heal on its own,” he replied, holding her gaze. “Don’t worry, it didn’t really hurt, but when a bone isn’t completely healed by the spell it twinges for a moment,” Snape continued after seeing the look of dismay on Hermione’s face when she learned she hadn’t done the spell perfectly.

“Oh,” replied Hermione. She turned back to his injured ankle and pointed her wand at it a second time.

“No! The spell can only be used once per broken bone,” Snape told her quickly before she could perform another spell.

Hermione didn’t look up. “Ferula,” she said. A splint and bandage wound itself around Snape’s ankle. “I know it can only be used once,” said Hermione, looking back up to his face. “I just thought this might help give it some support.”

“Thank you,” mumbled Snape, smiling inwardly at being put in his place by a student.

“Now, will you tell me what this place is?” asked Hermione, holding her gaze on his face.

“A tunnel. A private entrance for the professors to use so we may come and go as we please without student interference. None of the students know about it, not even the infamous Weasley twins,” Snape told her as he began to get to his feet.

He winced in pain, and Hermione stood and grabbed his bicep to help him to his feet. He looked down at her, and their eyes met. Hermione’s stomach did a somersault. His arm was much stronger than she imagined, and his eyes shone with feeling. She liked being close to him.

Snape knew he would never be able to make it to his chambers on his own. “Will you help me back to my room, please?” Snape asked in a hushed, rough voice, despite hating having to rely on another person for help. Hermione thought his tone had a slight begging quality to it, but then again, it could just have been her imagination.

“Of course,” she replied. Hermione moved her hand from his bicep to around his waist. He wrapped his arm around her and rested his forearm and body weight on her far shoulder. With her free hand, she pushed open the stone door, and they began to walk out of the tunnel.

Snape’s ankle was weaker than Hermione thought it would be, and he had to lean heavily upon her. She didn’t mind; in some way she felt responsible because she had not been able to successfully perform the spell. Plus, she wanted to be helpful and feeling his weight pressing down on her made her feel like she was making a difference.

They took about two steps when Hermione heard the echo of footsteps and voices drifting down the dungeon corridor. “Someone’s coming,” she gasped.
End Notes:
Please leave me reviews, they keep me going. :>P
Chapter 8 by Justice180482
Author's Notes:
Thanks to my new beta FawkesToTheRescue for keeping the story from getting corny. As always please read and review.

“Back into the tunnel,” Snape ordered, looking down at Hermione. They turned around and took two hobbled steps back into the cold, dark tunnel. Inside, Hermione let go of Snape and pulled the stone door closed, clicking it into place, to make the door look like nothing more than the dungeon wall to whoever was out in the passage.

Snape slumped to the ground, leaning his back against the tunnel wall. He didn’t know how much more he could handle. Although the physical pain of his broken bones was mostly gone, with the exception of his ankle, the emotional toll the night had taken began to creep over him. The Cruciatus Curse had weakened him, and the mental effects caused by constant pain were almost unbearable.

He had been forced to permit the Dark Lord to invade his mind. Luckily, his skills as an Occlumens had been enough to keep the Dark Lord from seeing anything that would have betrayed his true loyalties.

Hermione pressed her ear against the stone door, trying to hear who was coming; her back was to Snape. Snape flicked his wand wrist, and the door turned transparent. Hermione jumped back.

“Now you can see whoever is out there, but they can’t see you,” Snape told her.

“Thanks, that’s a useful charm,” Hermione responded. Snape flicked his wrist again, casting the Muffliato charm to further ensure their privacy.

“Who is it?”

“I can’t see them yet but that voice… it almost sounds like… Malfoy,” Hermione replied. She turned and looked down at Snape; he was shaking slightly, and he looked like he was uncomfortable. “Are you all right?” Hermione asked as she bent down at his side.

“Fine,” he responded emotionlessly.

Hermione placed her hands on his biceps and examined his bloodshot eyes. His shaking stopped when Hermione touched his arms, but he still looked uncomfortable and nervous. He tried to appear strong. Hermione gave his shoulders a little rub and frowned slightly at him.

“Are you in pain?” she asked. Hermione couldn’t figure out what had happened to cause him to suddenly start shaking.

“No.” Snape didn’t elaborate, and the look on his face didn’t change. Hermione gazed deeper. Was it fright she saw there? She couldn’t be sure.

Still in a squatting position, she moved back to the door and peered out. She couldn’t see anyone, but she could hear the voices clearly now. One was definitely Malfoy.

“I was told to check here,” Malfoy said to an unidentified companion. “The Dark Lord indicated he was in pretty bad shape when he left the meeting, he wasn’t strong enough to pass the night’s tests.”

Inside the tunnel, Snape grunted. “It wasn’t a test,” he muttered to himself. “It was torture.” Hermione heard Snape, but she didn’t acknowledge his comment because he sounded upset and was clearly talking only to himself. She didn’t want to overstep her bounds and have him push her away.

Crouching in the tunnel, Hermione realized despite his reputation or what her friends thought, Snape was a good man. Anyone in his condition would never be loyal to the wizard that put him in the position he was in. And here he was, risking his life for the Order, a group of people who were not kind to him. The Marauders had harassed him at school and continued to taunt him in adulthood. He was never invited to stay for dinner at Grimmauld Place after Order meetings; and the one time Mrs. Weasley had invited him to stay, Lupin and Kingsley had given him such dirty looks he would never had dared accept. Hermione had felt bad for him that night. It had been cold and late, and he was practically kicked out of headquarters. But, as unfriendly as the Order was towards him, it was nothing compared to what Voldemort had done to him.

“The Dark Lord summoned me and said I should make sure Snape isn’t seen,” Malfoy continued. “He said it was highly unlikely Snape would make it all the way to his chambers, but seeing as we checked the grounds and castle and didn’t find him, maybe he made it to the dungeons.”

“What are we suppose to do with him if we find him?” asked Malfoy’s companion.

“Hide the body,” Malfoy replied. “The Dark Lord was clear; I am not to help him. If he isn’t strong enough to pass the tests to be a Death Eater, then he deserves to suffer. He shouldn’t be given help to make it through the requirements to be in the Dark Lord’s inner circle. However, the Dark Lord doesn’t want him seen. Therefore, if he has collapsed in a place where someone may happen upon him, I am supposed to move him.”

In the tunnel, Snape sucked in a deep, sad breath. Hermione turned and crawled the two paces back to Snape’s side. She sat down next to him and placed her hand on his shoulder.

Snape relaxed slightly; her touch was somewhat calming. It seemed to immediately sooth the turmoil occurring inside him- effects of the Cruciatus Curse, no doubt. Snape would never normally be this unnerved. He kept his eyes straight ahead.

“Don’t listen to him; he doesn’t know anything about strength. Voldemort is just feeding him lies,” Hermione told him. Snape flinched at the use of Voldemort’s name. He turned his head and looked at her. Their eyes met. Hermione’s stomach somersaulted under his piercing gaze. She was startled by her reaction and diverted her gaze, moving to pull her hand away, but before she could get her hand off his shoulder, Snape stopped her. He covered her hand with his own.

When their eyes locked, Snape noticed Hermione had become slightly flustered and went to remove her hand. His only thought was the sense of comfort that would leave him if she moved it. He didn’t know whether the calm he felt was from her specifically or from just having someone there, but either way, being close to Hermione made him feel better. Snape reached up and covered her hand with his own before she could take hers away.

Snape’s move shocked Hermione, but she couldn’t think about his gesture for long because her mind immediately went to the wet sticky substance on the hand that covered hers.

“Where are we going to dump him if we find him?” the unidentified voice asked Malfoy in a rough voice. Although Hermione couldn’t be sure, she thought it sounded a lot like Crabbe.

“The Forbidden Forest,” Malfoy responded. “But it doesn’t matter; I don’t see him down here, anyway.”

“Let’s get out of here,” the unidentified voice replied.

Hermione heard their footsteps echoing down the dungeon corridor and ascending toward the main level of the castle. At the same time, she became aware of Snape’s hand. A shiver passed through her body at the feel of his hand covering her own. It was wet. With her free hand, she grabbed his wrist and pulled his hand off hers. She flipped his palm upward, shone her wand light over it, and gasped at the blood she saw and the pebbles stuck in the blood.

“What happened to your hand?” she asked.

“I couldn’t walk; I had to drag myself down the tunnel. The floor is rough, it cut my hands.”

“Does it hurt?”

“Not as much as the other things.”

“Your broken bones?”

“No. My mind… the side effects…” Snape whispered. He knew it was the curse making him feel this way; he wasn’t emotional, and he would never normally voice such thoughts, but right then it seemed like the thing to do. Granger wouldn’t ordinarily make him feel better, nor would he typically want her close to him… would he?

Hermione didn’t know what to say, so she said, “I think they’re gone. We should get you back to your room.”

“Agreed,” Snape replied, shaking his head slightly to try and clear his mind.
End Notes:
Thanks for reading please review :>)
Chapter 9 by Justice180482
Author's Notes:
A/N: A huge sorry for the lack of updates to all who have been following this story. When I started writing this I had the whole plot laid out and swore I wouldn’t be one of those authors that had huge posting gaps or failed to finish the story. But, alas, life got in the way and the last chapters have not made it to posting.

I would like to thank everyone who has continued reading and commenting despite the long delay. Especially, the more recent readers who committed to reading despite knowing the large update gap. I give an enormous and humble thank you to everyone for your readership, comments, and encouragement to keep posting. I really wrote this story for myself but everyone’s kind words have pushed me to post the ending.

I promise the story is finished on my computer and it will all make it up… eventually. There are a total of 11 chapters. I don’t have a beta for these last chapters so sorry if there are mistakes. If anyone is interested in being my beta send me a message.

  • Nine

    Hermione helped Snape to his feet so they could head back to his chambers. She reached around his back, wrapping one arm around his waist, and placing her other across his stomach. He, in turn, put his arm around her shoulder.

    “Ready?” Hermione asked.

    “Yes.” Snape struggled to stand up. Hermione tightened her grip around his middle and pulled him to his feet.

    Leaning heavily on Hermione, Snape toiled to put weight on his injured ankle. When he was stable, they moved out of the tunnel and into the dungeon corridor. Hermione took her arm off Snape’s core and closed the tunnel. The stone wall clicked in place with a thud.

    Snape and Hermione moved slowly down the corridor to his chambers. He had to lean on her considerably to keep from falling. “Sorry,” Snape said as he noticed Hermione struggling to remain standing under his weight.

    “I’m fine. We’re almost there.”

    After a few more feet of shuffling along, they reached the entrance to Snape’s chambers. Hermione pulled her out her wand and prodded the carving of the Ashwinder. The door’s hinges appeared, and she pushed it open, sticking her wand back in her robes.

    Hermione’s pulse quickened with the anticipation of seeing the inside of Snape’s private room. They walked through the doorway and down a short, narrow entranceway with a low ceiling, which opened into a large sitting room. Hermione was shocked at the cosiness of the room. A huge fireplace took up the entire right wall. A warm, welcoming fire was burning bright in the hearth.

    The stone wall across from the entrance contained a large rectangular window. The narrow window ran the length of the wall and was treated with deep green window dressings. If it had been daytime, Hermione was sure the bottom of the window would have been flush with the ground outside. Under the window, there was an armchair and table.

    A bookshelf took up the left wall, except for a door at the far end. The bookshelf wrapped around the corner, to where Hermione was standing.

    As much as she wanted to, Hermione didn’t have time to browse the titles on the shelves. Instead, she led Snape over to the couch in front of the fire. He fell heavily onto the cushions and landed in a slouched position, causing his travelling cloak to pull tightly across his neck and his face to contort in an odd way. Hermione remained standing, catching her breath.

    “What can I do, Professor?” Snape didn’t answer. He sat with his head thrown back against the headrest and his face pointed toward the ceiling; his eyes were closed.

    Hermione looked down on him, not quite knowing what to do. Her eyes lingered on his travelling cloak pulled tightly across his neck. I wonder if that’s choking him, she thought. She tentatively took a step closer to him; he didn’t stir. She got down on her knees so she was at a better height to unclasp his cloak. On her knees, she shuffled to the edge of the couch, the sides of her thighs brushing Snape’s legs. He didn’t move. She reached out and unhooked the clasp at the neck of his thick cloak. He gasped, gave a little jump, and lifted his head off the back of the couch, his hand griping his wand.

    “S-s-orry, sir. It looked really uncomfortable, I thought I’d…” Hermione trailed off when she noticed the look on Snape’s face. He had a look mixed with terror and sadness. His whole body was tense, and his hands, which were resting in his lap, were trembling.

    Hermione reached out and placed her hand over his. “Do you want me to go?” she asked. He looked at her for the first time and then down at her hand covering his. Her hair was dishevelled from struggling under his weight on the walk. Her hands were smudged with dirt, and they felt soft on top of his. Her young, attractive face studied his, waiting for a response. He didn’t want her to go, he wanted to be close to her, but he knew that was not a good idea.

    Hermione, feeling self-conscience about Snape’s gaze and their touch, pulled her hand away.

    “Do-n’t g-o,” he choked out, before turning away from her and staring blankly at the fire. He needed time to work things out in his head, like which of his feelings were real and which were side effects of the curse. He knew he should have told her to leave, but he gave into his desire to have her stay.

    Hermione wasn’t sure what else to do, the silence seemed endless. He didn’t want her to leave but didn’t tell her how to help him either.

    She turned her attention back to his hand resting in his lap. She tentatively lifted it up, turning it over to look at his palm. It was caked with dried blood and dirt. She picked up his other hand and examined that, as well. It was identical to the first. Hermione placed his hands back in his lap and walked over to the table by the armchair. She picked up a bowl and cloth and returned to the couch.

    This time, instead of kneeling by Snape, she sat down on the couch next to him. She pointed her wand at the bowl in her lap. Water appeared. By this time, Snape had turned his attention away from the fire and back to her, watching with interest as she dampened the cloth.

    She gently picked up one of his hands and began to clean the dirt from the cuts. Snape gave a short snort, which Hermione ignored as she worked in silence, careful not make eye contact with him. She finished cleaning his first hand and noticed the cuts were nothing more than little scrapes, whose appearance was augmented by dirt.

    She reached for his second hand, and this time Snape let out a full laugh. Hermione jumped slightly, and her eyes sprang up to Snape’s face. He was wearing a twisted smirk across his lips. “What?” she asked.

    “Nothing… only…. you are always the little good-doer, aren’t you? You can’t just sit here and leave me alone, can you?” he asked.

    “Do you want me to leave you alone?” Hermione turned her attention back to cleaning his hand.

    “You’ve fulfilled any obligation you may feel you have to me. You delivered me safely to my chamber. Your duty to the Order has been completed.”

    Hermione looked up from cleaning his hand and gave him a puzzled look.

    “Come now, Miss Granger. You don’t like me. But, you feel that because of our positions in the Order you are obligated to do what you can to keep me alive. However, I assure you that you aren’t required to try and be my friend.”

    “I don’t hate you,” Hermione replied automatically. Snape snorted but didn’t press the matter.

    Hermione finished cleaning his hand and set the cloth and bowl on a nearby coffee table. She sat back down next to Snape but couldn’t bring herself to make eye contact. Her downcast eyes caught sight of the mud print on his chest. In the brighter light of his chamber, she could clearly see the mark she had been unsure about in the tunnel was a footprint. Snape noticed Hermione looking at his chest.

    “Giants,” he whispered.

    “What?” Hermione gasped, finally meeting Snape’s eyes.

    Snape hated opening up, and as much as he didn’t want to tell her what had happened he knew he had to. He didn’t want her to see him as weak, but someone from the Order had to know what they were up against. And, since she had helped him it might as well be her. Plus, telling her would save him from having to report to the either the entire Order or the werewolf later. He knew Granger was on his intellectual level, she would understand, and she wouldn’t criticise him. She was more his equal than any of those other idiots in the Order.

    He found himself calming down now that he was back in his room with her sitting next to him, but he knew talking about the latest Death Eater meeting would shatter his calm. Nevertheless, he pressed on.

    “The footprint. It’s from a giant,” he told her. Hermione’s jaw dropped slightly. “The Dark Lord has gotten many of them to join him. This was the meeting he chose to reveal his newest supporters to the Death Eaters.”

    “A giant stepped on your chest?” Hermione asked childishly.

    The corner of Snape’s mouth turned up ever so slightly. “Yes, Miss Granger, a giant stepped on my chest.” Snape replied, slipping back to the patronizing teacher. “Or rather, a young giant tripped over me. They aren’t the brightest creatures; add youth and they are down right dismal.”

    Hermione gave Snape a look of concern, but it was a look Snape interpreted as pity. She reached out and lightly traced the muddy print on his chest with her index finger. “Why did Voldemort let a giant attack one of his supporters?” she asked gently.

    “He didn’t let a giant attack me. The giant spooked and took off running, I was lying on the ground; it didn’t see me. It tripped over me, crushed my ankle, and broke a few ribs. Luckily, or perhaps unfortunately, most of its weight landed on my ankle, which took the brunt of the damage. My chest received only residual injuries,” Snape told her, trying to be condescending. He hated that she pitied him and wanted to belittle her for it. But he wasn’t sure how successful he had been.

    In recent months, her work for the Order and their encounters had caused him to come to look upon her as a colleague. In a few years he knew her mind would rival his own, if not surpass it. And that wasn’t something he said about very many people. In fact, she was the first student he ever had that showed any real potential.

    If only the giant had landed on his chest, he most certainly would have been put out of his misery. Then he wouldn’t have to deal with these unusually tender feelings he was having for his student. But despite the fact he respected her, he did not want her pity, so he brushed her hand off his chest.

    Then Hermione asked the question Snape had been dreading, but knew was coming. The question whose answer he knew would invoke more of the pity he dreaded. “Why were you lying on the ground?” Hermione asked.

    He took a deep breath. “I fell over when the Dark Lord performed the Cruciatus Curse on me.”

    Hermione gazed at him. She didn’t want to push Snape too hard for information, but his answers were dodgy. He was not giving her any of the important details. She figured at least one Unforgivable had been used on him, that was pretty obvious, but here he was telling her the Cruciatus Curse had been performed on him like he expected the world to stop or for her to be floored with shock. She wasn’t that naive. She just looked at him with the most sympathetic expression she could manage. She hoped her face didn’t convey the annoyance she was feeling.

    Snape was surprised when he didn’t see the expected pity in her face, but something else. Is that a look of vexation? he thought. He didn’t elaborate about the curse. What’s she waiting for? he thought, when Hermione didn’t respond to the fact he’d told her he’d been tortured. She was just looking at him. Does she really want more detail? he thought. He didn’t know if he was ready to tell the story. But she kept staring at him. Really. The idea of torture isn’t enough for her, she wants a visual? He took a deep breath; the whole story would have to be conveyed eventually and she was still staring at him expectantly.

    “And?” Hermione asked in a slightly snippy voice. Snape didn’t like her tone. She was getting braver, not acting like a student around him anymore.

    If she is going to have that attitude why should I tell her? he thought. But then again, at least her reaction wasn’t one of pity, that would have been worse. I guess if I’ve come to see her as an equal she should be able to talk to me the same way I would talk to her.

    Snape continued. “I knew tonight was coming. The Dark Lord had been planning to introduce his newest followers for a while, but…” Snape paused and swallowed hard, “the Dark Lord was angry. I Apparated to the meeting point and took my place in his circle. He was yelling at another Death Eater for some reason when I got there. Something had gone wrong. I don’t know what; I wasn’t able to find out. After the rest of the circle arrived, the Dark Lord went around and invaded everyone’s minds. He was looking for something. When he got to me, I automatically blocked him.” Snape shuddered. Hermione could tell he was struggling reliving the night’s events, and she felt guilty for having been annoyed with him.

    “It’s okay, you don’t have to…”

    “Yes I do,” he responded.

    “It doesn’t have to be me.”

    “I have to,” he repeated more firmly.

    “All right, take your time then,” Hermione whispered. She gave his forearm a tentative squeeze that she hoped would be reassuring. Snape didn’t respond, he just continued his story.

    “The Dark Lord became furious; he called me out for blocking him. He knew I had been keeping him out of my mind for months, and he’d had enough of my continued evasiveness. He asked what I was hiding. But, when I told him nothing, he invaded my mind again. I had to let him in. I showed him what I wanted him to see, my supposed loyalty to him. But he pushed harder, and I showed him more. He didn’t believe what he saw; he is very skilled at Legilimency. He became angry and questioned my loyalties, accusing me of being a spy. Then he called me to the centre of the circle.” Snape’s voice faltered. He was trembling again. He stared down at his hands with his eyes closed.

    After several minutes of silence Hermione said, “Professor.”

    Snape’s head snapped up. She thought he looked ill. Hermione put a reassuring hand on his shoulder. Snape turned his head toward her and met her gaze. His eyes glistened, the pain was clearly overwhelming. Hermione wished there was something she could do. She found herself beginning to feel sorry for Snape. But, at the same time, she found his vulnerability attractive.

    “I was terrified my cover was blown. When he called me into the centre of that circle, I was so sure he had evidence I was a double agent,” Snape emphasised the word, so. “I thought he was going to kill me, right there, in front of everyone, as an example. Instead, he tortured me. Maybe it would have been better if he had killed me.”

    “No! That would never be better, Professor.” Snape turned his head away from Hermione, and she thought she saw him wipe his eye.

    Snape turned back, met her gaze again, and continued in a flat matter-of-fact tone. “He cast the Cruciatus Curse on me, and before I could even get back to my feet he had invaded my mind again. I was able to show him only what I wanted him to see, but he wasn’t satisfied. He cast the Cruciatus Curse again, keeping me under longer. I was still able to guard my mind, but just barely. I thought if I controlled what he saw he’d eventually believe I wasn’t hiding anything. But, he is too skilled to be fooled; my plan didn’t work. He signalled to one of his new supporters being unveiled that night. A group of Dementors have joined his ranks. The Dementor hovered over me, inches from my face.” Snape choked on a lump in his throat. It was clear he was having trouble continuing the story.

    Snape turned away from Hermione, but she wanted him to know it was okay. She shuffled closer to him on the couch, reached out and put her hand on his shoulder. He relaxed a bit.

    “Professor, look at me.” As much as he didn’t want to, Snape turned his face back to Hermione and took a deep breath. A tear rolled down his cheek. It was hard for Snape to be seen like this, and Hermione understood. He was brilliant and proud, two things that made his weakened position even more difficult. But, the side effects of the torture were beyond his control.

    Instead of drawing attention to her professor’s emotional display, she nodded in an understanding show of sympathy. Hermione’s own eyes were filling up with tears as she heard his story, and she had to bite her tongue to keep her emotions under control.

    Hermione dropped her hand from Snape’s shoulder and he continued. “It was horrible. I couldn’t fight the Dementor because the Dark Lord wouldn’t stand for it, so I had to lie still and submit to the attack. I was forced to relive the worst moments of my life, my most painful thoughts, coupled with the agonizing pain of the Cruciatus Curse… it seemed to go on forever.” Snape shivered. His hand was trembling again, and his eyes were swimming with tears.

    “Just when I thought my soul was about to leave my body, it stopped, and the Dementor backed off. As it was backing off, the giants became overly excited and a young one came hurling toward the Dementor. It crashed through the Death Eater’s circle; people scattered as it came running, out fear of being trampled. I saw it heading toward me, but I was in no condition to move. As the giant ran at the Dementor, it hit me shattering my ankle and clipping my chest.” Hermione gave a slight squeak of terror, but Snape didn’t seem to notice. “The Dark Lord chased it off. It all happened so fast.”

    Hermione tried to keep her composure, but it was getting hard. What had happened to Snape was so horrible that she began to feel bad for all the times she, Harry, and Ron had wished they could use the Cruciatus Curse on him.

    “I was right where the Dark Lord wanted me,” Snape continued. “I was mentally weakened by the Dementor and physically weakened by the giant. I swear the Dark Lord was happy with the giant. He had been so angry his plans weren’t going his way, then my misfortune occurred, and his mood seemed to brighten. But he still wanted answers, and he wasn’t giving up. He invaded my mind again, I already felt like I was going mad, I had no energy, I let him in, all the way in.” Snape shook his head sadly. “After the Dark Lord got what he wanted, he stopped torturing me, and the meeting ended,” he finished, studying Hermione’s aghast face.

    “Oh Merlin, Professor, does… does… does he know… everything? Is he… coming… after… m… the Order?” Hermione stammered in a terrified voice.

    Snape smiled inwardly, there was something oddly comfortingly knowing Granger was first and foremost concerned with herself and making sure no Death Eaters were coming to get her. Her selfish reaction was so like his, self preservation first and foremost.

    “Relax, Miss Granger,” Snape said upon seeing her terror. “Although, I couldn’t hold him out any longer, or send him false memories, I do not think he realized my true loyalties were to the Order and not with him. So you can relax. Although I showed him current members of the Order and the location of headquarters, he didn’t really learn anything he hadn’t already figured out on his own, and he still believes I am a loyal Death Eater, spying on the Order. My cover remains intact.” Hermione stared at him, her mouth agape. When he saw the confusion on her face, he said, “Death Eaters aren’t on their way to kill you for your little part in the opposition.” His words finally sank in, and Hermione calmed slightly, embarrassed that she wore her fears so clearly.

    Until tonight, Hermione hadn’t realized exactly how much Snape sacrificed for the Order. He kept its secret even when he was tortured. But, what made Hermione feel worse about his huge sacrifice was the Order-the people who should support him- treated him horribly. Snape never received any respect at Grimmauld Place. And although, Harry, Ron, and even Hermione enjoyed having the majority of the occupants at headquarters be anti-Snape- instead of anti-Harry like in Potions classes- she now regretted feeling glad the Order disliked Snape. He had gone though more than most of the Order put together, and he had no support. She wished she had made more of an attempt to include him at Order meetings. Hermione’s eyes filled with tears. She reached up and put her arms around Snape and pulled him slightly toward her.

    Snape snorted and tensed, “Granger, what are you doing?” Despite his internal conflict, between wanting to be close to her and wanting to handle things on his own, he let his head be pulled down onto her shoulder. He didn’t know if his longing to be near her was the side of effects of the curse or an actual desire to be close to her. But, one thing he knew for sure was it was nice not being alone after a Death Eater meeting; and it sure felt pleasant being held by her. But the nagging in the back of his mind, that she was only being friendly because of guilt, couldn’t be pushed out. His will won the internal battle, and he pushed her away. When he looked at her, he saw tears in her eyes.

    “Professor, I’m sorry… for everything that has happened,” said Hermione, a tear slipping out from the corner of her eye. She now wanted to be with him more than ever. His shoulders felt strong and muscular in her arms; she wished he would have responded to her embrace by holding her back. But he didn’t.

    Hermione’s actions and his own unsettled feelings caused Snape’s demeanour to change from calm back to his usual mean self.

    “For Merlin’s sake, Granger, get it together. You may go,” Snape told her curtly.

    “Huh?” replied Hermione, stunned.

    “I no longer need your help. You may return to your common room.”

    “Professor? You can’t even stand. How are you going to…”

    “That is not your concern, Miss Granger.” Snape cut her off.

    “But sir,” Hermione began tentatively, “it is my concern. Your services to the Order are important.”

    “Don’t worry, Miss Granger, my work for the Order will continue.”

    “But, sir,” began Hermione. “You are in pain. I want to help.” Her face contorted in a sad pained look that Snape interpreted as pity.

    “I don’t want your help or your pity!” Snape yelled. “I can take care of myself,” he added more calmly, the pain returning to his face. He attempted to stand up but was over come with weakness and collapsed back onto the coach.

    Hermione reached over and put her hands on the sides of his shoulders to steady him. She saw his eyes begin to water. He was trembling again. “Please,” Snape begged, “just go. I don’t want pity. I chose my own path; don’t feel sorry for me. I am in my current situation because I choose to be.”

    “Pity!” exclaimed Hermione. "Is that what you’re upset about? Professor, what I’m feeling isn’t pity; it’s compassion. I respect you and what you’re doing for the Order. I respect the choice you’ve made to spy, and I want to help you. I want to make your work easier because if it’s easier it will be more successful. Plus, if your work is successful, I will directly benefit. So, I am actually helping myself,” she finished matter-of-factly with a smug grin on her face. She thought the last part was a very Snape-like attitude to have and might help him relate to her, and maybe, she hoped, to accept her.

    Snape stared at her, surprised at her last remarks. Although that selfish mentality was similar to his own, her last remark still kind of stung. So, she’s just here for herself, thought Snape, believing her comments to be her true feelings. I don’t know if that makes me feel better or worse.

    Hermione’s words had worked. Snape’s face wore an expression of a man who’d just been slapped. “If you’ll let me,” Hermione continued, “I thought you might like a friend. Someone inside the Order for you to talk to, since it seems to me you aren’t on the greatest terms with the other members.”

    Snape didn’t know how to respond. “I don’t want someone to be my friend because they feel sorry for me,” he responded.

    “I told you it’s not pity; it’s compassion. I am here because I want to be,” Hermione told him in a slightly admonishing tone.

    “Not because you want to make sure I don’t sell you out to the Dark Lord?”

    “Well actually…” Hermione smirked, trying to lighten the atmosphere. “No.”

    “Why do you want to be here? Why do you want to help a Slytherin whom your best friends hate?” Snape asked.

    She surveyed the look on Snape’s face. He looked defeated. “I don’t think you’re as tough as you come across. I think a lot of it’s an act,” Hermione boldly told him. “As for my friends, I think for myself and make my own decisions. They will respect my choices, and if they don’t, I will just curse them.” She smiled.

    Snape couldn’t believe she was talking to him without fear, like Albus used to talk to him, and in no way like a student would talk to him. “Rubbish. Your friends will never respect this decision.”

    Half a smile crossed Snape’s face. He shifted his weight and winced in pain. He closed his eyes and when he opened them he seemed to be weighing his options.

    She was acting like his equal. Surprisingly it didn’t bother him, but he had to decide how close to allow her to get. It wasn’t the curse that made him respect Granger, but he didn’t know if his other feelings were a result of the torture. He didn’t know how far he should let her in, given his current state. “What are you going to tell the Order?” he asked.

    “The facts. Only what they need to know.”

    “Thank you,” Snape whispered. It’s what he had hoped for in telling Granger his story. Lupin would have asked a million questions and shared all the painful details with everyone. Hermione wasn’t going to do that. Maybe her friendship could be beneficial, thought Snape. Maybe I should accept it.

    She leaned forward and wrapped her arms around his shoulders a second time. Snape responded and let himself be pulled to her. He slumped forward and buried his face in her shoulder. Snape wrapped his arms loosely around her waist.

    Hermione never thought she would feel the embrace of her professor, and her stomach knotted itself when he wrapped his arms around her.

    After a minute, Snape lifted his head and looked at Hermione. Their faces were inches apart. Hermione struggled with emotions from hearing Snape’s story, but Snape was his composed self. He ignored the look on Hermione’s face; he didn’t want to have to deal with an overly emotional girl. I’m the one who was tortured, after all, he thought. He wished Granger would pull herself together.

    Snape gazed into her soft brown eyes. She was attractive, which made the proximity even nicer. He knew he should shut down this line of thinking; he had enough on his mind. The last thing he needed was to get trapped into having unrequited feelings.

    Snape lifted his head and adjusted his position, his forehead brushed Hermione’s. She didn’t move away. Instead, she bent her head forward, ever so slightly, so her forehead pressed against Snape’s. Snape responded by letting his own forehead come to rest on hers. Their noses brushed lightly against each other. He closed his eyes. He hadn’t been this close to another person in longer than he could remember and was enjoying the feel of her soft skin under his. But, he knew he had to end it before things got out of control.

    Hermione couldn’t believe what was happening. Her lips were inches from those of the man who she had a crush on for months. She felt as giddy as a schoolgirl and a little bit nervous, but she told herself it was a good nervous. She knew she had to keep her cool. Play it cool, Hermione, keep it together, she told herself. This is a bad idea; he isn’t himself. Don’t get sucked in. Nothing’s going to happen anyway. Hermione tried to talk herself down.

    “You should probably get back to your common room. Thanks for your help,” said Snape. But instead of moving completely away, he rested his hands on the tops of Hermione’s thighs, as she sat cross-legged on the coach, unmoving.

    “Yeah,” breathed Hermione. “I should get back. Will you be all right?” She didn’t move. Instead she laid her hands on top of Snape’s, excitement coursing though her. Her eyes kept darting down to his lips then back up to his eyes. She couldn’t keep her eyes from straying to his lips. She hoped he wouldn’t notice. She didn’t want her crush interfering with helping him.

    “I’ll be fine. I am going to take a shower and head to bed.”

    Hermione gazed into his black eyes. She adjusted the position of her head, just as Snape began to pull his forehead from hers. In the process, his lips brushed hers. Both froze.

    “Sorry,” Snape said, quickly pulling completely away from her.

    “No, it’s okay,” Hermione said frantically. She gave his hands a little squeeze and leaned toward him in an attempt to stop him from moving away. Part of her wanted him to touch her lips again. But Snape quickly yanked his hands out from under hers.

    “I’m going to go shower,” said Snape, pain and panic returning to his face.

    He stood and swayed unsteadily. Hermione jumped up and grabbed his shoulders, steadying him to prevent him from falling.

    “Professor, relax, it’s okay. I know it was an accident.” Snape’s eyes snapped up and met hers. They were once again standing close to one another.

    Snape studied her. “An accident… right,” he whispered. “But… what if… Miss Granger… you need to go. I’m not myself. Tonight… it…the curse… the side effects…it… messed up my head. You need to go.”

    “Really, Professor, it’s okay.” And, as if to back up her words with actions, Hermione took a step closer to him. “Let me help you.”

    “I don’t trust myself… the side effects…”

    “I do,” said Hermione, leaning toward him.

    Snape looked down on her. She could feel his breath caressing her lips as her upturned head gazed at him. Hermione gathered her courage, flexed her toes, raising herself to their tips. She leaned forward and gave him a gentle kiss on the cheek.

    “Fine, you win. I’ll let you help me to the bathroom, then please just go,” he begged.

    Hermione smirked and moved her hands from Snape’s shoulders to his waist. He put an arm around her shoulders and they headed toward the bathroom, Snape limping.
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