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Chapter 13 : xiii.
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Hermione was not fancying Severus. There was no way in the name of Merlin that she fancied Severus Snape; no matter how much Amelia had teased her about it, it just wasn't true. At all.
As she walked out of The Great Hall and saw him leaned against the wall, the small smirk that formed on his face at the sight of her caused her heart to stop. Her insides swirled as a wide smile spread across her lips, and her breathing became shallow. She paused and pinched the bridge of her nose. Amelia stopped next to her and snorted
“Still going to deny it?” she whispered with a small laugh.
Hermione was definitely lying to herself, but still narrowed her eyes at her friend.
“Please, Amelia. Give it a rest already,” she snapped.
Foolish! Dangerous! Pointless! Impractical! The words sounded off in her head loudly, trying to keep her grounded.
He strode towards her with his head held high and with an air of even more confidence than what usual surrounded him. It seemed she had quite the impact on him as well. Watching him close the distance between them, then wordlessly gestured for her books caused her mouth to run dry.
How had this happened? How had she allowed herself to succumb to such emotional nonsense? She was Hermione Granger, for goodness sake! She was not one to become distracted by crushes, or whatever this was, when there was a life or death task at hand.
Oh yeah? Lockhart; second year. Ring any bells? popped unwelcomed into her mind.
“All right there, Snape?” Amelia asked cheerfully. Hermione nearly elbowed her.
He nodded curtly at Amelia, but again, kept his eyes locked with Hermione's. She felt her cheeks burn.
“Well I'll just leave you two at it then,” Amelia said in a sing-song voice.
Hermione’s wand hand twitched. She hadn’t wanted to to hex her closest friend, but Amelia was making it awfully difficult.
“I'll see you later, Amelia,” Hermione said through her teeth, causing Amelia to laugh loudly before walking away.
When the two of them were alone, Severus raised an eyebrow. “What was that about?” he asked.
Hermione felt her face flush deeper. “No idea,” she lied. “Ready for class?”
A mischievous look flashed in Severus’ eyes and a genuine smile appeared on his face. Hermione felt the breath leave her body at the site of his expression. He looked so young and carefree! She'd never seen that side of him before, and with another punch to the gut, she found herself really liking it.
“I was thinking, if you were up to it of course, that perhaps we...take the day off?”
He looked so hopeful and so excited in that moment. For as much as Hermione shied away from the idea of skiving class, the anxious look on Severus’ face tugged at her heartstrings, and made it damn near impossible to say no. How could she deny him a bit of happiness when she knew how hard it was for him to come by?
She remained silent for so long while, internally deliberating on what to do, that Severus must have assumed she was about to turn him down. The corners of his lips sank into a frown and sadness slowly clouded his eyes.
“I can understand if you don't want-”
Hermione shushed him. “Don't be silly, Severus.” She looked around to make sure no one was around. “Let's go.”
Once again his face lit up. It was so out of the norm of what she had been used to, she couldn't help but to let a small giggle escape her. However, Hermione had already been through her sixth year, so what would be the harm in missing one morning of classes?
“Yeah?” he asked eagerly.
Hermione nodded, then let him lead her through the Entrance Hall and out into the grounds.
It was a chilly October day, the wind was crisp and strong, causing strands of Hermione’s hair to cover her face; it was clear that winter was on its way. She shivered as she wrapped her robes tightly around her and placed her hands in her pockets.
Severus raised his wand and casted a warming charm on each of them. The effects of the charm were instantaneous; it felt like she had just downed a thermos of hot soup the way the warmth slowly traveled throughout her body. She was grateful, but also slightly irritated. She had spent months on the run using that same exact charm. Why hadn't she thought of it?
Her growing feelings for Severus were beginning to become a distraction; that was something she couldn't afford.
Regardless, she flashed a brilliant smile at him. “Thank you for that.”
Severus waved off her apology then reached for her school bag. He tapped his wand to it and Hermione watched as it shrunk down to the size of a sewing nimble.
“You won't be needing this weighing you down. Put it in your pocket for now,” he instructed as he placed it in her hand.
She wasn't sure if he had done it on purpose or not, but he let his fingers linger for just a moment on her palm. His eyes were unsure and she thought she saw just a hint of red fill his cheeks.
When she took her hand away and placed the charmed bag inside her robes, Severus cleared his throat.
“I thought that you might like to accompany me to a place I go to quite often. Usually to be alone.”
It wasn't exactly a question, but the tone in his voice suggested he was still giving her the opportunity to deny him, if she should so desire. By all logical reasoning she should have. She should have kept their meetings in somewhat public places, where she would not subject herself to fall any deeper into whatever her feelings for him were becoming. But as she looked into his hopeful eyes, she faltered. She was only human after all.
“That sounds lovely, Severus.”
Her heart melted when she noticed the way his lips pulled up when she said his name, and the bright look in his otherwise dark eyes when she agreed to go with him.
Severus more or less jogged towards the Black Lake, and Hermione had to full out run to keep up.
“Severus!” she yelled. “Sl - slow down! My legs aren’t as long as yours!”
Thankfully he stopped and waited for her to catch up. “Sorry,” he mumbled.
Hermione arrived next to him and clutched at the stitch that developed in her side. She took a moment to catch her breath and then stood up straight.
“Where are we going?”
They were venturing much further than most students tended to go on a casual walk around the castle on a school day. If she hadn’t known any better, she’d have thought he was taking her to the boathouse.
Severus shook his head. “Nope. Don’t want to spoil it on you.” Then began walking again with Hermione trailing behind.
The inside of her chest fluttered at seeing how excited Severus seemed to be. She had never - not when he was an adult, or while she had known him as a teenager - seen him appear to be so - so…happy.
Just as she suspected, she and Severus stopped when they reached the boathouse. Looking over both shoulders, Severus appeared to be checking to see if anyone was around before grabbing her by the wrist and taking her inside.
“What are you doing?” Hermione hissed. “We could be expelled for this, you know!”
A low chuckle came from Severus. “Don’t worry, Hermione. We’ve - I mean, I’ve been doing this since third year.”
Lily, she assumed, was the we he had just referenced in his slip of the tongue. For some reason, a small bubble of jealousy formed in the center of her chest.
“Oh. Alright then.”
Hermione stood back with her arms folded as Severus untied one of the small boats she had once travelled in on her first night entering Hogwarts. She looked around the small shack, seeing it for the first time ever in the daylight. Cobwebs hung from the ceiling, the wood was warped in most places - she assumed from the moisture that lingered in the air - the windows were fogged over with grime, making it almost impossible to see anything outside, and the musty smell was so strong it turned her stomach.
She turned her attention back to Severus, who was grunting softly as he untied the ropes which bounded the boat to the dock. A bit of water slapped up from all of the movement and caught him right in the face, causing him to freeze in place, stopping what he was doing. Hermione was silent for a heartbeat and then began to laugh hysterically. The surprised look on Severus’ face, with his hair now sopping wet, was one of the funniest things she had seen.
As he used his robes to dry himself, Hermione heard him mutter, “Har, har. Very funny,” before he reached down and splashed her.
The water was ice cold. Her mouth popped opened comically from the sheer shock of what he had just done. Slowly she raised her wand and stalked towards him, a playful smile on her lips.
“You really shouldn’t have done that,” she threatened.
Severus tried to hide his amusement, and instead settled on an exaggerated apology. She found herself easily laughing and having fun with him, which was something she most certainly had never expected to happen. Who was this person? she wondered. He was beginning to let some of his walls down, and the more he did, the more she found herself liking what she saw.
“As frightening as you are, I reckon it’s probably for the best if we get going,” Severus said, gesturing towards the boat he untied.
Hermione casted a quick drying spell on herself and nodded, then stowed her wand back into her pocket.
Severus climbed into the boat first as Hermione stood nervously at the edge of the dock. She had no idea where he was planning on taking her, or why they needed a boat to get there. Also, what if they were caught? She was sure that Dumbledore would not be pleased with her breaking the rules and taking unnecessary risks, due to the nature of her existence in that time period. But when she watched Severus extend his hand to help her into the boat, and saw the small crease form between his eyes, almost as if he was waiting for her to change her mind, all of her doubts washed away, and she placed her hand in his.
As they travelled across the lake Severus seemed to be almost buzzing with excitement. Again it was so unusual to see this teenager, who she had known as a miserable and at times downright mean man, appear so young and normal. Even the younger version that she had first met was completely different than the boy sitting across from her at that moment. She couldn’t help but to smile.
“What are you thinking about?” Severus asked.
Hermione shook her head. She could hardly tell him what thoughts had just run through her head. “Nothing, really. Just enjoying the ride,” she lied.
He cocked an eyebrow, apparently not believing her, but did not press on any further.
The journey across the lake had them in a mutual, yet comfortable silence. Each lost in their own thoughts - Hermione still extremely curious as to where they were going. Suddenly, ahead in the distance, Hermione saw a tiny patch of land and assumed that was where they were headed.
“Is that where we’re going?” she asked and pointed towards the small island. Severus nodded, but did it elaborate.
In no time at all the boat bumped into the shore causing Hermione to lurch forward, and nearly landed on Severus’ lap. Their faces were mere inches apart, and Hermione felt a tension stronger than any she had ever experienced before. She looked into his eyes and felt goosebumps all over - his gaze burned into hers with an inferno like intensity. With a shake of her head, she stopped herself from leaning in and quickly scooted away from him.
Not appropriate! Her conscience screamed. She had to stifle whatever weakness she was developing for Severus. This distraction could potentially cost them both of their lives if she was not more careful.
“So - erm...you come here often?” she asked in a sandpapery voice.
The frown on Severus’ lips, after her backing away, did not go unnoticed by Hermione. His disappointment, and the way it made her stomach twist, certainly was not making things easier for her.
“As often as I can manage,” he responded. The light and playful tone of his voice now gone; he sounded colder.
Hermione stood up and almost lost her balance as the boat swayed from the sudden movement. She steadied herself and this time was the one to extend her hand. “Well we’re not staying in here all day, are we? Show me what’s so special about this place,” she teased.
He glanced at her hand for a moment. The way he looked at it, it was like he was almost afraid it would bite him. But to her delight, he tentatively lifted his arm and wrapped his long fingers around her palm, while she tried to ignore the almost electric feeling his touch caused. Hermione pulled and helped him up - the boat rocked even more. She had to grip onto the side tightly to keep from going over.
“Let’s get out of this thing before I lose you in the lake,” Severus said, while rolling his eyes and letting out a short laugh.
Together they climbed onto the shore and the moment their feet hit the ground, she let go of his hand. It was a small piece of land, no bigger than a Quidditch Pitch. Willow trees were sporadically growing from all places on the island, and the grass was well up past her ankles. It was obvious the place was rarely, if ever visited. Yet there was something kind of charming about the space. It was almost as if they were in their own world, not only completely separate from Hogwarts, but from the rest of the Wizarding community as well - and most of all, from the developing war happening outside of the castle’s walls.
“It’s beautiful here,” Hermione whispered.
Severus placed both hands on her shoulders as he smirked at her. “You haven’t seen the best part yet.”
He applied light pressure, gently turning her back towards the lake. Hermione sucked in a sharp breath. The view was the most wonderful she had ever seen.
Hogwarts was off in the distance, it’s silhouette dominating the most of the space before her. The mountains behind the castle seemed to stretch on for all eternity, and the Black Lake looked as if it had a Shimmering Charm placed upon it. Two birds soared through the air above them, and for a nice change, patches of white fluffy clouds filled the sky. The scene in front of her looked more like a painting than anything that could exist in real life. She almost felt like she was seeing Hogwarts for the first time all over again.
“Severus...it’s - it’s the most wonderful thing I think I’ve ever seen. It’s honestly magical,” she said in a voice as soft as the wind that blew around them.
Until she had broken the silence, she hadn’t noticed that Severus still had his hands resting on her shoulders. She shivered lightly from the contact, and then again when his breath tickled her ear as he spoke to her.
“I thought you would appreciate this.”
Hermione was at a loss for words. Never would she have pictured Severus Snape coming to a place like this. He always appeared to her as someone who would rather spend his time hiding in a dark and quiet place, such as the dungeons of the castle, or as they had been in often, the Library. She was continually seeing more and more of an entirely different side of him, one that was making it nearly impossible for her to deny her feelings for.
Very gently, as to not offend him, she removed herself from his grip, pretending to take a walk around to see more of his secret place he decided to share with her.
“How did you come to find this?” She asked as her hand gently grazed the leaves from the Weeping Willow she stood under. It was so far from the school, she had never noticed it before, not even once the entire time she attended Hogwarts.
When she turned around, a dark shadow crossed over Severus’ face. He exhaled loudly and lowered himself to the ground, where he sat with his legs stretched out before him. Hermione hesitated for a moment, then went to join him, tucking her legs to the side as she sat down.
“An unpleasant event, which turned into a lucky surprise,” he told her with steel in his voice.
Hermione’s interest was piqued. She tilted her head to the side and waited for him to elaborate.
Severus looked over her shoulder, back towards the school, as she watched his expression morph into a scowl.
“I’m sure you have noticed my…relationship with Potter and his merry gang of morons,” he stated.
“Erm...yes,” Hermione answered, knowing that if this story had anything to do with those boys, it was not going to be a particularly happy memory for Severus.
“During our third year - it was our first trip to Hogsmeade, actually - I was the fortunate target of another one of their ludicrous pranks.”
The sneer that was so uniquely Severus’ returned to him, making him look much more like the older version of himself than the teasing and almost cheerful teenager she was with minutes before.
“Obviously I was excited to visit the village. We all were. But on my walk down, I had the good luck of running into them. Of course they ganged up on me, as they tend to do. It’s not as if any of the cowards would face me on their own. They always have to band together, like a pathetic little pack of rabid dogs.”
Hermione couldn’t help but to feel a small twinge of dislike for James, Sirius and Remus at that moment. Peter she had already despised, so her opinion of that man hadn’t changed. But to watch Severus as he recalled being so outnumbered - even though she had seen it first hand at that point - made her want to go back to the school and hex the three of them silly. Perhaps she would have a little chat with Remus next time they were together.
Severus continued with his story, pulling Hermione out of her thoughts.
“They found me walking alone, on my way to meet a friend, and thought it would be a right laugh to immobilize me. We were near the boathouse, and Potter suggested stuffing me in a boat and setting it free.”
Hermione inhaled sharply. What an awful thing to do to someone, she thought. It was no wonder he hated them all so much. “Oh Severus,” she whispered and placed her hand on his calf. His eyes widened a fraction when she had done so, but very quickly his expression went dark once more.
“As you could probably guess, they went on with their plan. Here I was at thirteen, frozen and floating Merlin knows where across the lake.”
She assumed that he must have arrived at the island at some point, but there was one thing she couldn’t work out.
“How on earth did you manage to get back?” she asked.
Of course, she thought.
“When all of the students returned from Hogsmeade, it was brought to the headmaster’s attention that I was not seen the entire day. The person who went to Dumbledore also suspected, or knew, who was behind my disappearance.”
Severus began pulling pieces of grass from the ground. He looked so pained that Hermione fought the urge to wrap her arms around him and to let him know that he had her now, and no one would mess with him like that again while she was around.
“Six hours I was stuck in that boat. But when Dumbledore finally arrive and lifted the curse on me, I saw this.” He gestured around the land they sat on, and towards the view of the school and the mountains. “I knew it would be the perfect place to get away when needed.”
She took a moment to look around and found herself agreeing with him. No one would ever find someone there, not if they did not want to be found.
“What happened to Potter and his friends?” Hermione asked.
Severus smiled at her sarcastically. “Detention. Just one.” He threw the handful of grass he had just plucked back on the ground. “They should have been expelled,” he grumbled.
Hermione felt horribly for him. “That’s all? One detention? But Severus, you could have been seriously hurt! What if the boat capsized? You could have been killed!” She felt her face flush with anger.
“The old - erm...your Uncle seems to have a bit of a soft spot when it comes to the moronic foursome,” he said through his teeth. “As do half the school - including staff.”
She was starting to work out how Severus ended up so miserable and bitter. He had obviously felt alone and mistreated while he was in shool. Even by his Professors, who were supposed to remain neutral and not show favoritism. But even she couldn’t deny that from her own personal experience, she, Ron and Harry were the ones who always seemed to receive a free pass from Professor Dumbledore. If she were being honest with herself, there were too many times to count that she and her friends should have been expelled from the school.
“I’m so sorry, Severus,” she whispered.
He jerked his head up and looked at her with anger still in his eyes. “I don’t need pity,” he snapped.
Hermione sighed. “Yes, I know that. And I’m not pitying you. I am truly sorry for what happened to you. No one deserves that.”
Severus shrugged his shoulders, almost like saying to her that it was no big deal. “I’m used to it.”
“Well...you shouldn't be,” she told him.
They sat together quietly for a few minutes. Hermione was trying to figure out a way to change the subject, to talk about something that would pull him out of the sulky mood he was slipping into.
Then she thought of something.
He looked back to Hermione and jerked his head up, as if silently asking, ‘what?’
“Are you planning on attending Slughorn’s Halloween party?”
Severus was another member of the ever exclusive Slug Club, which in their last meeting they had all been informed about the Professor’s party he planned on throwing for them with, as he put it, “Some of the most important and influential Witches and Wizards in Britain,” attending. Hermione rolled her eyes at the thought.
“Sort of have to, considering I'm part of that ridiculous club, and he's my head of house,” he answered, then eyed her suspiciously. “Why?”
“Just curious, that's all,” she said with a shrug.
After she responded, Severus dropped his gaze to the ground. He started to tug on the cuff of his sleeve and cleared his throat.
“Hermione?” his voice cracked a bit. “Do - erm. I mean, would you like to perhaps, er...would you like to go with me?” he mumbled, not looking at her as he asked.
“Like as in a date?” Her voice went up an octave in a panic.
As much as her heart was fluttering like the wings of a hummingbird, and as much as the idea of him asking her on a date sent her pulse into overdrive, she had to remind herself that it was not why she was there. If she had feelings for Severus that was one thing. It was something she could tuck away and manage. But if he started to have feelings for her as well...that was a mess did not want to happen.
He obviously picked up on her tone and began to backtrack. “No, of course not,” he said in a rush. “Not unless you want it to be.”
Hermione had to nip this immediately.
“Severus, I think it would be best if we went as friends,” she stressed.
When he looked back up at her, it tore at her heart to see the strained smile he gave her. “Of course. Friends,” he agreed in a monotone voice.
The disappointment was plainly visible on his face and Hermione knew it was not the first time that Severus had heard the just as friends response in his life. She hated to do it to him, but truly she had no other choice.
After the awkwardness of the moment passed, Hermione and Severus slipped back into easy conversation. Severus began asking her questions of her childhood and what her life was like before she had come to Hogwarts. Mostly she tried to stick to the truth, obviously omitting details which would have revealed her true identity. But for the most part, every story about her youth that she told him was true.
Hermione learned a little about Severus’ past. There were some things that he remained vague about when he spoke, and some questions that he just would not answer. However she did learn that he'd come from a neglectful and borderline abusive home. His father being a Muggle alcoholic, with a mother who had given up years ago, and accepted the abuse of herself and her only son without putting up a fight.
Her heart ached for Severus, and the more she learned about him and his past, the more she began to understand the choices he would come to make in his future. She only wished there was a way she could stop him from making those choices, but knew she was not able to. The reality of that fact made her want to vomit.
About midday, Hermione and Severus decided to make their way back to the castle, as both of them had grown rather hungry. The morning with him was an enjoyable one for the majority of the time. Only those few moments when they had come across difficult and painful topics had been a little rough. But other than that, she laughed with him and felt more carefree than she had in many, many months.
When they arrived back at the castle, Severus remember that he needed to get something from the Slytherin common room and told Hermione he would meet up with her later. They parted ways in the Entrance Hall and Hermione began to make her way to the Great Hall for lunch.
Just as Severus disappeared around a corner, she heard a girl’s voice call her name. When she turned around she felt like all the color had drained from her face.
Lily Evans was standing alone and glanced down the hall Severus had just been in, then back at Hermione with a look of deep concern on her face. As Hermione looked at her long red hair, flawless skin, and stunning green eyes, she couldn't help but to think Lily was exceptionally beautiful. I could never compete with that, she found herself thinking.
“I hope you don't think I'm completely mental, but I was wondering if I may have a word?” she asked.
Hermione nearly went numb. “Erm, absolutely Lily. What can I help you with?”
Lily looked every bit as uncomfortable as Hermione felt. Her face was bright red and she seemed to be having trouble making eye contact with Hermione.
“I just realized that we haven't had the chance to speak much since that first day. How has term been treating you so far?”
Hermione had a feeling that that was not why Lily had stopped her, but Hermione played along. She put on an innocent smile and slipped easily back into the character of Hermione Devereux. She hadn’t realized that she was behaving more like Hermione Granger during her morning with Severus.
“Really well, actually. The coursework isn't as difficult as I feared it might have been, and everyone I've met has been very lovely,” she responded in the shy voice she had adopted for her alter persona.
Lily nodded and smiled back at Hermione. “I'm glad to hear that.”
The thing that saddened and surprised Hermione was that Lily genuinely did sound as if she was happy to hear that Hermione was settling in smoothly. Yet she remained tense, waiting for the topic she was sure Lily was bound to bring up.
Hermione didn't have to wait long.
“Please forgive me for prying, and I'm sorry if I come across as meddling, but I've noticed you're spending a fair amount of time with Severus Snape.” The slight curl of Lily’s lip when she said his name, and the way her cheeks darkened more did not escape Hermione’s notice.
Keeping her expression as neutral as she could manage, Hermione responded. “Yes. He's become one of my closest friends actually.”
Lily nodded slowly and looked down towards the ground. She didn't exactly look sad, but there was some emotion that Hermione couldn't quite read that briefly crossed her face.
“I know it's not my place, but since you're new, I feel like I should at least give you a little bit of a warning,” Lily said quietly. “I know he may seem like a decent person now, but there is a dark side to him, Hermione. And, well...just be careful is all.”
Under normal circumstances Hermione would have been entirely annoyed by someone prying into her personal business the way Lily had just done. But considering she knew what happened between Severus and Lily, and who Lily was, Hermione felt a small amount of gratitude towards the obviously uncomfortable girl standing before her.
A genuine smile formed on Hermione’s lips. “Thank you, Lily. I will certainly keep that in mind.”
Lily looked up and smiled back at Hermione. Once again she found herself a little taken aback when looking into her eyes - Harry’s eyes, but quickly shook herself out of it. Even though she had been there for nearly two months at that point, some things were still surreal for her.
“Come on, I’ll walk with you to lunch,” Lily offered.
“Thanks, Lily. I’d like that.”
And in a bizarre turn of events, Hermione found herself walking side by side, having a now delightful conversation, with Lily Evans for the first time since she had arrived to Hogwarts that year.
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