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Chapter 15 : xv.
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His hand rested on Hermione’s shoulder, giving it a gentle squeeze. Resisting the urge to face him, she remained still, only tentatively lifting her arm to place her hand upon his long, slender fingers. The silence of the library was heavy, and only further reminded her of how alone they were in that moment, since it was nearly curfew. Her entire body reacted to his closeness, an electricity seemed to flow through her veins as she felt his breath warm on the back of her neck.
“Hermione?” he asked in rough whisper.
Slowly she stood up from her chair and turned to face him. Looking up into his black eyes, they seemed to have a spark in them which she had never seen before; her stomach clenched at the sight. Severus’ lips parted just a hair and Hermione saw the resolve form in his eyes. She gulped as she realized what was about to happen; Hermione had no intentions on stopping it.
With purpose and a steady hand, he reached forward and wrapped his fingers in her long black hair, pulling her head back. She took in a sharp breath as she watched his pupils dilate. When he leaned in towards her, Hermione closed her eyes -- her heart pounded with anticipation. She was finished fighting it. Who knew how long she would be in the past? Her feelings were too strong and too real to ignore. She would grant herself, and Severus, this little slice of happiness in their lives.
After what felt like an eternity, Severus’ lips lightly pressed against Hermione’s. She then threw caution to the wind, and wrapped her arms around his neck, pulling him closer.
He was more experienced than she would have expected, as his lips formed around hers almost like they were two pieces of a puzzle which were destined to fit together. Her heart swelled; she felt a happiness she could not ever remember feeling before. She felt whole.
Suddenly everything around her began swirling, like steam in a hot shower. It started becoming difficult to see Severus through the mist. An iciness crept up her stomach and formed a tight grip around her chest.
Her surroundings continued to fade.
“Wake up, Hermione.”
Severus, along with everything else around them began to evaporate. She reached out for him, but her hand went right through him, as if he was a ghost.
“Hey, it's time to get up,” Amelia quietly coaxed from the side of Hermione’s bed.
“No,” Hermione groaned, as she attempted to cling to the remnants of the dream she was rudely ripped away from.
Her eyes remained closed, but all she saw now was darkness. All she felt was the warmth of her pillow against the side of her lips. The only thing wrapped around her was her comforter. Severus and his embrace were gone.
Amelia chuckled as she pulled the covers off Hermione.
“Come on, we’re going to be late if you don't get your arse out of that bed.”
Hermione scowled at her friend, sat up and wiped the sleep from her eyes. She didn't know what she was more aggravated with, the fact that she was taken out of a wonderful dream, or that she was currently freezing after Amelia had taken her blankets off of her.
“Don't get your wand all in a twist, I'm coming,” Hermione grumbled.
As Hermione stretched and swung her legs over the edge of her bed, the dream was still fresh in her mind. Of course that night in the library hadn't played out quite like that at all. Yes, he did place his hand on her shoulder, but instead of reciprocating the contact he initially made, Hermione shrugged him off, terrified of her newly realized feelings for Severus Snape.
The week that followed was one of the more confusing ones she had ever endured. Every word, every action, every touch, and even every last breath she took was carefully measured. She had reached the decision of not acting on her feelings for Severus whatsoever. Doing so would have been incredibly foolish, not to mention exceptionally dangerous. But that did not make being near him any easier. In fact, being in his presence was proving to be more difficult than she would have anticipated. When she first realized she fancied Ron, the most she had to worry about was whether or not he fancied her back, but with Severus, she worried she could potentially ruin the very fabric of time. She could not let her emotions jeopardize the lives of so many people -- including her own.
“Are you going to sit there all morning, or are you going to get ready to go to Hogsmeade?” Amelia asked, standing in front of Hermione with her hands on her hips.
Hermione forced a smile and stood up. “Sorry,” she mumbled. “I'll get ready now.”
When the girls arrived to the Great Hall, the excitement in the air was palpable, as it always the first Hogsmeade visit of term. Conversations seemed louder than normal while the students quickly stuffed food into their mouths, trying to eat as fast as they could so they could hurry to the Wizarding village. Nearly all of their friends were just about finished with breakfast by the time Hermione and Amelia arrived.
“What took you so long?” Edgar whined as the girls sat down.
Amelia jerked her head towards Hermione.
“Someone -- not mentioning any names -- had a little bit of a sleepy start to their day,” she jokingly complained.
Hermione’s cheeks flushed as Edgar shook his head in mock disappointment.
“Tsk, tsk, Hermione,” he said.
Otto playfully elbowed Hermione’s side.
“Maybe if someone wasn’t out so late with a certain Slytherin, then just maybe they would have had more sleep,” he scolded with a wink and a cheeky grin.
Hermione's face burned hotter as she rolled her eyes and told him to shut it. For the last week she had tried to control her temper when it came to the jokes she had to endure regarding Severus -- she realized they were unavoidable, considering the amount of time she spent with him.
Amelia, who felt terrible after Hermione storming off the previous weekend, immediately changed the subject.
“Edgar, don't forget mum’s birthday next week. I reckon we should get her something while we’re in Hogsmeade today.”
While Amelia and Edgar began arguing over what to get their mother, Hermione drifted off into her thoughts. Severus still hadn’t given her a straight answer on whether he wanted to go to the village or not. She knew he was worried about James and Sirius, since he had not had any good experiences with them any time he attempted to join the rest of his classmates in the village. If he wished to stay behind, she would remain at the castle with him, but truthfully, she wanted to go. There were some items she was running low on, and also she felt it would be nice to get away from Hogwarts, if only for a few hours.
Suddenly she noticed that her friends grew uncharacteristically silent, and Amelia looked passed Hermione, wearing an expression equivalent to someone who had just witnessed a Hippogriff come dancing into the Great Hall on its hind legs. It didn't take long for Hermione to figure out what caused that flabbergasted look.
“Hey, Snape…” Amelia said, with an inflection which made it sound more like a question.
Hermione was stunned. Severus had never come to her table before. Edgar and Otto narrowed their eyes, before quietly returning to their food.
“Bones,” Severus responded as Hermione turned around. “Are you ready?” he asked, looking down at her.
His discomfort would have gone unnoticed by her housemates, but Hermione noticed the small crease between his eyebrows, and the way he pulled at the cuff of his left sleeve.
She wasn't nearly finished eating, but her nerves seemed to fill up the rest of her stomach. She wouldn't have been able to have another bite if she tried.
“Erm...yes. Yes, we can go now if you'd like,” she said, earning a loud sigh from Amelia.
“You're not coming with us, I take it?” Amelia asked.
Hermione’s stomach twisted guiltily upon hearing the disappointment in her voice. Again she had to remind herself not to feel badly about it; Severus was her number one priority.
“I'm sorry, Amelia. We’d already made plans, and…” she trailed off, not quite sure how to explain further.
Amelia’s eyes travelled between Severus and Hermione, before her shoulders slumped in defeat.
“I get it,” she said. “Make sure you save a little time for me later on, yeah?”
“I will, Amelia. Promise,” Hermione said sincerely.
With a quick goodbye to the Edgar and Otto, Hermione stood from her seat and followed Severus out of the Great Hall and into the corridor.
“So...Hogsmeade?” he asked once they were alone.
“What made you change your mind?” Hermione tried to hide her smile.
Severus glanced at her from the side of his eye and a small smirk spread across his lips.
“I had a feeling you didn't want to be cooped up in the castle,” he said then shrugged. “Besides, I've seen your wandwork. If any…problems should arise, at least I won't feel so outnumbered.”
Hermione beamed at the compliment. He was correct in his assumption. She had no intention on letting anyone or anything spoil her day in town with Severus.
When they arrived to the village, it was buzzing with excitement from the third years, who bounced around with the exuberance of people who might have thought if they moved quickly enough, it would be possible for them to physically be in two places at once.
The tinkling bells of shop doors, innocent laughter, and the sweet odor of Honeydukes filled the air around them. The scene before her was so light and devoid of the darkness that seemed to have followed her for the better part of her adolescence, that it caused a small giggle to come from her lips. The younger students’ excitement was as infectious as it was intoxicating. She felt like a normal teenager for the first time in so long.
“What's funny?” Severus asked with a furrowed brow.
Hermione pointed at a group of the third years who were tugging at each other’s robes and pointing towards Zonko’s.
“They're just so excited to be here,” she answered with a smile.
Severus grunted noncommittally.
For a moment, she'd forgotten that his first Hogsmeade experience had been the complete opposite of the children’s in front of her.
“Are you alright being here?” she asked.
“Of course,” he responded immediately. “It's where you wanted to be, correct?”
Hermione bit her lip. How sweet of him to go there because of her.
“It is…” She turned to better look at his face. “But I also want to know that you're having a nice time, too. I mean, if you're uncomfortable we can leave.”
The corners of Severus’ lips twitched, as if he was fighting a smile. “Don't worry about me. Let's just have a walk around, yeah?”
Hermione nodded before briefly pausing as he offered her his elbow. She looked down at it like it was a lethal weapon. Should she really continue to blur the lines of their friendship? Perhaps he didn't mean it in the way she feared. Finally deciding that it was a harmless gesture, she linked her arm through his, and the two began a leisurely pace down the road.
When they reached the entrance to The Three Broomsticks, Severus brought Hermione to a stop.
“Fancy a Butterbeer?” he asked, jerking his head towards the pub.
It was rather chilly outside, and a Butterbeer was always a sure way to warm up.
“Actually yes, Severus. That sounds lovely.”
It was quite busy inside, considering how early in the morning it was. It hadn't even reached noon yet, and already most of the tables were occupied with ruckus teenagers. Hermione's eyes automatically locked on the loudest table and her heart skipped a beat when she saw who sat at it.
“Fuck…” Severus cursed under his breath. It appeared he had seen them too.
Sirius and James both turned and looked towards them. Sirius whispered into James’ ear, and she watched the mischievous grin spread across his face. She knew nothing good would come out of them all being there.
“We can leave,” Hermione said quickly.
Before he could answer, a voice called out across the room.
“Oi! Devereux! Why don't you ditch Snivelly and come join us!” Sirius shouted while waving her over.
She felt Severus stiffen and begin to shake from anger beside her. Remus, who must have arrived early to spend time with his friends before going off with Amelia, rolled his eyes and mouthed, I'm sorry, then slapped Sirius’ arm.
“Let's just leave, Severus. We can come back later,” she said again, once Sirius’ attention was diverted.
When she looked up at him, she saw Severus’ jaw was clenched and true hatred burned in his eyes.
“Fine,” he agreed through his teeth.
Without a glance back at the four boys, Hermione and Severus turned around, and she half-pulled him through the doorway, before any fighting could happen.
Perhaps it was a mistake going there, she thought. Severus’ entire mood had changed in an instant. Why couldn't they all just leave one another alone?
Severus kicked a rock in frustration. “I'm sorry, Hermione,” he said angrily. “Those -- those -- those --”
She watched his normally pale face gain a great deal of color, while he struggled to find a word to describe the four young men. It wasn't as if anything had transpired between them, other than a rude word, so she tried to calm him down and make the most of the rest of their day.
As he stood with his back towards her, his robes flapping in the strong wind, Hermione stepped forward and locked her hand gently around his bicep. Other than a reflexive twitch of his muscle, he did not move.
“Hey,” she said softly. “Nothing happened. Let's just go somewhere else and continue on with the nice day that we were having.”
Slowly he turned around then gave her a tentative smile, the tension she was holding in her shoulders released.
“Again, I'm sorry,” he told her with his eyes cast down to the ground.
He had no reason to apologize.
As he looked up and met her eyeline, his dark eyes were wide and sincere.
“I just wanted to have a normal trip here. Like...like everyone else…” he trailed off.
Hermione’s heart broke upon hearing the pain in his voice. Severus never did get to experience Hogsmeade without some sort of altercation between him, Sirius and James.
Almost as if on instinct, she took his hand in hers, intertwining their fingers together. His eyes widened for a fraction of a second, before the corner of his mouth turned up the tiniest amount.
“And so you shall,” she answered in a sure voice.
They both decided to stop in Scrivenshaft's Quill Shop, since the two of them both had the terrible habit of biting on their quills, they figured it would be best to stock up while they were there.
After, they took a look around Dogweed and Deathcap to see if there were any potions ingredients they could pick up. Then they took a slow walk to Dervish and Banges so Hermione could purchase her own scale, since she had been borrowing one of the spares in Slughorn’s classroom.
By the time they were heading back to The Three Broomsticks, the incident earlier was all but forgotten. Hermione and Severus talked nearly nonstop the entire time they were together -- she actually never would have believed Severus could talk that much. He seemed very interested in everything she had to say, from the most mundane things, such as her favorite foods, to more in depth topics, like her thoughts on different spell methods and new techniques she was contemplating trying out. Their hands remained linked together the entire time.
The coast was clear when they entered the pub for the second time, and the two of them found a small table all the way in the back. Hermione sat there alone while Severus bought them drinks, when suddenly her entire body felt as if it was encased in ice, as she noticed a familiar mane of white-blond hair, three tables away. Lucius Malfoy was there.
“Oh no…” she gasped.
She realized that Lucius seemed to be looking directly at Severus, as he stood waiting for their Butterbeers. Desperately she hoped she was wrong, but her fears were confirmed when his eyes followed him all the way back to their seats.
“This should warm us up a bit,” Severus said as he placed a cup in front of her before sitting down.
Hermione’s thank you died on her lips due to Lucius and a burly, sandy haired man, with cruel eyes appearing on each side of Severus. The man seemed vaguely familiar to Hermione, and for a moment she couldn't put her finger on who he was, until he spoke. The hairs on the back of her neck stood straight. It was Yaxley. Another Death Eater.
“Severus,” Lucius drawled in greeting, yet he kept his eyes on Hermione.
Hermione tore her eyes away from the two men, and locked hers with Severus’. His shoulders sank, she could almost feel his annoyance coming off of him.
“Lucius. Yaxley,” he responded, sounding bored.
“I apologize for interrupting your...date?” Lucius raised an eyebrow, still looking at Hermione. “But I was wondering if I may have a word?”
Severus glanced to his left, then to his right, and audibly exhaled.
“If you must.”
The cold and carefully placed, indifferent mask was back on Severus’ face. Gone was the younger, almost carefree expression he had adopted for most of the time they had spent together that day.
Hermione tried silently pleading with her eyes, trying to tell him not to go; she had had a feeling of what -- whom, they wished to speak with him about.
Lucius, who must have mistaken her expression, gave a forced smile.
“We won't keep him from you long…” he trailed off, as if waiting to be introduced.
“Hermione Devereux,” Severus said. “Hermione, this is Lucius Malfoy and Corban Yaxley.”
Lucius extended his hand, which Hermione took, knowing she had to keep up pretenses, and could not appear to loathe the men standing before her.
“Pleasure,” she said shortly.
Yaxley merely grunted in her general direction.
Excusing himself from the table, Severus promised he would return shortly, then followed the two Death Eaters to the table they had just vacated a few moments before.
Hermione clasped her cup with both hands as she watched the three of them intently.
The conversation seemed to be quite serious. Lucius and Yaxley’s brows were furrowed, yet Severus almost appeared to have a twitch, since he would look back at her over his shoulder every few seconds. She noticed, much to her dismay, that the two men had their wands out on the table, their hands both resting on top of them. She feared they were threatening Severus, but trying to appear to the patrons that nothing more than polite conversation was happening. Hermione placed her hand in her robes and firmly grasped her wand, just in case she would need it.
She knew they were trying to recruit him. It wouldn't be much longer until he did join Voldemort; just a little over a year from what she learned from Harry. How she wished she could stop him. But no matter how much it pained her, she knew she had to let it run its course. Severus had to join Voldemort, otherwise Harry would never become The Chosen One. Then who would stop Voldemort? Perhaps someone would, but Hermione knew she couldn't leave that up to chance.
She fought back tears that were threatening to brim over as she thought of what Severus would go through in the upcoming years. So badly she wanted to shield him from all that pain.
After just a few minutes, they all returned to the table. Severus took his seat, looking a touch paler than when he first left, as the other two remained standing at his sides.
“Thank you for letting us borrow him, Miss Devereaux. It's an absolute delight seeing him with a proper witch for a change,” Lucius sneered.
Severus knuckles turned white as he squeezed the handle of his mug.
Hermione’s nostrils flared at the obvious dig regarding Severus and Lily Evans.
It was a rare occasion for Hermione to bite her tongue, but considering where she was, who she was with, and the role she had to play, it was one of those times she had done so. She settled on a tight smile, then returned to her Butterbeer, acting as if she was completely uninterested in any further conversation with them.
“Think it over, Snape,” Yaxley threatened, his gravelly voice giving her goosebumps.
When they finally left Hermione and Severus alone, Severus had become his usual withdrawn self. He barely said a word to her, and all but ignored the drink he purchased, what felt like a century ago.
After an uncomfortably silent twenty minutes or so, Severus looked at his wrist watch.
“We should head on up if you want to be ready for Slughorn’s party on time,” he said.
With all that had happened, Hermione forgot about the party completely. And if she was being honest with herself, she'd lost any ambition that she'd had to go.
“You still want to go?” she asked.
He looked up quickly with wide eyes.
“Of course,” he said. “Don't - don't you?”
He looked so disappointed in that moment. Hermione felt terrible for even asking. Even though he was confident in most things, she knew there was a large part of him that was still unsure of himself. Especially when it came to the opposite sex.
“Yes,” she lied. “I just wasn't sure if you still did or not. You…” she bit her lip. “You seemed different after that,” she admitted.
His mouth parted opened so you could just see the top row of his teeth. She only barely made out his small intake of breath, before his eyes softened. She was taken by surprise when he reached across the table and folded his hand around hers.
Hermione didn't know how to explain it, but something felt like it shifted in that moment. Yes, she held onto his hand for most of the day, but this somehow was different. The way he looked at her, like she was the only person to have ever shown him true compassion, and how he gently ran his thumb back and forth across her knuckles. She had no words, but she had feelings. Feelings she was certain she'd never had before.
“Of course I still do, Hermione,” he reassured her in a soft voice that was so unlike anything she'd heard from him before.
Her heart fluttered. She tried to tell herself to get a grip. That she wasn't there for this. Whatever this was.
When she smiled and looked into his black eyes, it was clear that she'd finally broken down his walls. But what was he doing to her in the process?
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