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Chapter 16 : xvi.
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Why Hermione didn't charm her hair all during her time at school was beyond her, she wondered while she easily curled it around her wand. It wasn't until two hours later, when her hair fell in soft ringlets around her shoulders she remembered why, as she stretched out her cramped fingers. It took too much bloody time. Far easier to just pin it back and out of her face. But since tonight was a special occasion, she figured she ought to have made an attempt.
She got ready slowly, only half-present, while Amelia lamented about how disappointed she was that Remus had to go home for a family emergency, and could not attend the Halloween party with her. Hermione knew differently. It was a full moon that night, and she knew her friend was currently being escorted to the Shrieking Shack, through the secret tunnel beneath the Whomping Willow. Even though she felt horribly about the pain Remus would be in that evening, a part of her was relieved, since that meant that James, Sirius and Peter would also be with him, and nowhere near Slughorn’s Halloween Party.
As she slipped the black, sleeveless, dress over her head, her mind’s eye seemed hell bent on flashing pictures of her afternoon with Severus. Not the good ones, of course not, but the ones of him with Lucius and Yaxley in the Three Broomsticks. The way the color had drained from his face when Severus had returned to their table, the most prominent image in her head.
Trying to distract herself, she took a long look at the finished outcome in the mirror in her dorm. Her new hair color suited the outfit, which she was pleased about. The dress hugged at her curves in all the right places, and flowed like water from her hips down to her mid-calf, making her appear more her actual age of nearly nineteen, rather than the sixteen year old she was playing the role of.
“You look beautiful, Hermione,” said Amelia after a few moments of silence.
Hermione turned and smiled, feeling butterflies in her stomach, as she hoped her partner for the evening felt the same way.
“You as well, Amelia.”
The bronze, bell-sleeved, shift dress Amelia wore was far more modest than what Hermione had chosen, but suited the girl all the same. Hermione began to wonder if she perhaps would be too overdressed for a school party as she looked at her friend. But it was no matter, Hermione had no time to change, since Severus would be calling to collect her in mere moments.
She had to admit, as Hermione entered the Common Room, that she felt a small bout of satisfaction in seeing Rita’s eyes nearly bug out of her head, before turning her expression into neutral indifference. Lockhart flashed both Amelia and Hermione a jovial smile, as he complimented each of the girls, which earned a huff from his girlfriend.
In another time - another universe really, Lockhart’s words would have made Hermione’s knees go weak. Her twelve year old self would have swooned and immediately written about it in her journal, but this Hermione was unphased by his superficial charm. Instead she offered a polite thank you, then a subtle wink to Rita, knowing it would make her blood boil.
Edgar, Sturgis, Otto, Alice and Dorcas were not members of the ‘Slug Club,’ therefore sat in their nightclothes in the Common Room. The boys wolf-whistled and threw a few well meaning jokes their way, as the two girls pouted, wishing they had a reason to wear a fancy dress and dance the night away. Hermione would have traded places with them in an instant, she assured them.
While everyone was talking, Hermione anxiously glanced down at her watch, hoping she wasn't running late by stopping to chat with her housemates.
“Someone looks a little nervous, considering it's not a date,” Amelia said discretely, mimicking Hermione’s voice.
“Oh quiet yourself,” Hermione retorted, yet couldn't suppress the nervous giggle that escaped her.
“Go on then,” Amelia told her, then shoved her gently. “Don't keep him waiting.”
The normal jealous edge to Amelia's voice, when she would discuss Severus, for once was gone. Hermione knew that Amelia sincerely wanted her to have a good time, regardless of her personal feelings about the boy.
“Thank you,” said Hermione. “And please try to have fun this evening.”
Amelia smiled sadly. “I will. Now off with you.”
Hermione laughed quietly before saying goodnight to the rest of her Ravenclaw friends, then quickly made her way out of the Common Room.
She took the stairs carefully, not exactly comfortable walking in heels, she did not exactly fancy the idea of tumbling down them and breaking her neck.
Her pulse accelerated as she landed on the ground floor - where she and Severus had agreed to meet. She wrung her hands together while she watched the other students, who were attending the party, meet up with their friends and dates from other houses. She breathed a sigh of relief when studying how the other girls were dressed. Not too unlike what Hermione was wearing, which made her feel better knowing she wouldn't completely stick out.
At first she did not recognize the young man who walked towards her. The fact that he was in deep, forest green dress robes, and not his signature black, was the first thing that threw her off. Next was his hair, which he had tied back with a thin leather cord, allowing only two strands of his hair to fall in his face. With the majority of his hair no longer obstructing them, she noticed how deep and dark his eyes were in contrast to his pale skin. He looked striking, and above all else, exceptionally handsome.
She watched his eyes, as they briefly traveled the length of her body, and in that moment, she felt entirely exposed. Hopefully he liked what he saw, she thought.
When he stopped in front of her, she swallowed hard. “You clean up nicely,” she told him, unable to keep the smile from spreading across her face.
A rare blush appeared on Severus’ cheeks as he reached back and ran his hand over the small nub of hair that hung down the back of his neck.
“Thanks,” he mumbled. “You - erm. You look lovely, Hermione.”
Damn it all, she thought, knowing that fighting her feelings would be next to impossible if he continued to look at her in the way he was then, and if he spoke to her again as he just did. It wasn't often, if ever, that Hermione Granger melted, but she was nearly a puddle on the floor at that point.
“Shall we?” he asked, offering his arm to her, which she took without hesitation.
Together they walked down to the dungeons, with all the awkward silence of a first date. How strange it was that they had been able to communicate so easily that afternoon, yet formal wear, and the promise of dinner and dancing would clam them both up, as if it were the first time they had ever met.
Occasionally she would look up at him, and be met with a shy smile she would reflexively return. When she first decided she would use that Time-Turner, never in one hundred lifetimes would she have imagined it would eventually take her there. On the arm of Severus Snape with an overwhelming attraction in her heart.
Finally they reached Slughorn’s office, and Hermione barely had chance to take in her surroundings before their professor bounced his way towards them in his emerald smoking jacket, completely abandoning a conversation he was having with a Gryffindor fourth year.
“Miss Devereux! Mister Snape!” he exclaimed, his arms opened wide. “Come in, come in! So many people I'd like too to meet.”
Hermione wanted to crawl beneath the nearest table. It was bad enough that she had already been seen by all of the students and staff at Hogwarts, now Slughorn intended on showing her off to prominent members of the Wizarding community, like some sort of show pony.
Severus quickly glanced down at Hermione, she gave him a panicked look, hoping he would take the hint.
“Erm, perhaps in a bit, Professor. Hermione and I would like to get some refreshments first, if that's alright?”
Slughorn’s face fell into a comically exaggerated pout as he looked between his two prized students.
“Very well, you two. But don't think you can hide from me all evening,” he joked, before his attention was taken by a curvy brunette who had just passed by.
“Esmeralda, my dear. I was just speaking with Albus regarding…” he trailed off as he chased the woman down.
Hermione heard Severus snort, and she looked up to find him shaking his head in silent laughter.
“He’s certainly something, isn't he?” Hermione asked.
“Something, indeed,” he agreed, then took her hand, once again intertwining their fingers together. “Come on. Let's find a seat.”
As they crossed the room together, Hermione noticed Lily Evans, dressed in tight, shimmering gold, blatantly staring right at them. Her mouth was slightly agape, and Hermione wasn't certain, but she thought she detected a hint of jealousy in her expression. Lily quickly seemed to realize she had been caught staring and lifted her arm to tentatively wave at Hermione, who smiled as if she hadn't noticed a thing and waved back.
Severus led Hermione to a small table in the back, away from the rest of the crowd, which Hermione thought was perfect. As they sat down, a House-Elf appeared with a tray of mead, red wine, Butterbeer and water. Hermione grabbed herself a glass of the wine, Severus a glass of the mead.
She finally took the chance to look at the room around her. Carved pumpkins floated in the air, giving the room a warm orange glow, charmed purple bats flittered around the ceiling, and the candles on the tables burned with deep green flames. Some Wizarding string quartet played background music, raised up above the crowd on a platform normally not present in the office.
“Slughorn definitely goes all out,” Hermione commented.
Severus grunted noncommittally. Even though his hand was still firmly holding onto Hermione’s, she could tell from his expression that he was miles away.
“What's wrong, Severus?”
He didn't say anything for entirely too long - or at least it felt that way to her, until he shook his head and told her it was nothing. Yet, Hermione didn't miss the way his eyes flickered towards Lily when he said it, and she couldn't help but to wonder if he'd seen their brief exchange.
“You and Lily Evans are friends?” he asked bluntly. Hermione saw the way he flinched when he said her name.
A wave of envy struck Hermione, as she wondered if he still had feelings for Lily. Again she found herself silently comparing herself to the beautiful Gryffindor, and again she thought herself not measuring up.
“Acquaintances, more like it. I've only spoken to her a handful of times,” Hermione said with her eyes on the table. “Why do you ask?”
She chanced looking up at him. There was no mistaking the obvious sadness in his eyes. Apparently those wounds were still fresh.
“No reason,” he answered.
Everything inside of Hermione was screaming for her to press the issue. To understand more of what happened. To hear his side of the story. However, she knew that it was not the time. Their afternoon in Hogsmeade had already been tainted, and she was not going to let her evening be spoiled either.
“Are Slughorn’s parties always this extravagant,” she asked, trying to change the subject.
“Are Slug- what? Oh.” He blinked a few times, appearing confused, taken off guard by her sudden topic change. “Yeah. Pretty much.”
Soon they feel back into easy conversation. Severus preparing Hermione for Slughorn inevitably showing her off, and introducing her to his former students and important guests. He pointed out of few of them that he had known -- a couple Ministry higher ups, a famous Wizarding author who wrote mostly romance novels Hermione had never read, and Damocles who she knew would very soon perfect the Wolfsbane Potion.
Although their table could have seated four, none of the other students joined them once the food had arrived. Hermione was content with that, as she and Severus ate their way through a delicious roast, potatoes and about as much food as was normally served during special occasions in the Great Hall. By the time she finished, she was amazed that her dress had not burst opened.
As the plates vanished and the lighting became dimmer, the music picked up and their classmates filled the floor to dance. Hermione watched on with a smile as she saw Amelia bouncing around and genuinely appearing to be enjoying herself, with a small mixed group of Gryffindors and Hufflepuffs. Rita and Lockhart were, as always, wrapped around one another in a way that was bordering on indecent. Hermione shook her head.
It wasn't long before Severus and Hermione were the only guests their age who had remained seated.
Severus cleared his throat, yet kept his eyes on the dance floor. “Did you, erm. Did you want to…” he gestured towards everyone.
Hermione bit her lip to keep from laughing at the fact that Severus Snape was attempting to ask her to dance. She couldn't picture it -- him dancing.
“Only if you want to,” she responded in a rushed voice.
“If you want to I will,” he mumbled. Still avoiding her eyes.
Knowing that if she didn't act, they would go back and forth that way all evening, Hermione made the first move and stood up.
“Come on,” she said, offering him her hand. “It'll be fun.”
The expression on Severus’ face was wary, regardless, he took her hand and allowed her to tow him towards the group of dancing students.
At first they stood quite awkwardly, not exactly dancing, but sort of swaying to the music. Amelia must have noticed them and rushed her way over.
“Hey Hermione!” she exclaimed out of breath. “Snape.”
Hermione chuckled, taking in Amelia’s pink cheeks and disheveled hair. “Having a good time, are we?” She smirked with a raised eyebrow.
“Too much wine,” Amelia laughed, as if that explained everything. “How about you? Much more fun that his usual supper parties, don't you reckon?”
Since the only other experience Hermione had had at one of Slughorn's parties, she was spending the evening trying to escape from Cormac, she really hadn't ever had a chance to properly enjoy one. But now that she was there with someone of her choosing, and not worrying about being assaulted, she had to admit, she was having a rather good time.
“Absolutely.” Hermione smiled.
Amelia then glanced between she and Severus and her face fell. Hermione noticed the scowl that was forming on her partner’s face, most likely due to the unwanted interruption.
“Right. I'll leave you two at it then,” said Amelia. “Have fun! We’ll catch up in the Common Room later,” she said with a subtle wink. Hermione rolled her eyes.
As Amelia ran back towards her friends the music slowed and Hermione felt the blush creep up her face. She hadn't anticipated this when she first dragged Severus out there. What happened to the lively music?
“Do you still want to…?” Hermione asked, glancing around them.
Severus looked down at her for a moment, then taking her by surprise, he placed his one hand on her waist, and the other took her right hand. She froze at first, before he started to lead her around in a waltz, which he was shockingly good at.
“You can dance?” she asked.
He raised an eyebrow. “Surprised?”
Hermione laughed and felt her heart skip a beat. There was just so much that she was learning about him. So much that was making it more and more difficult to stay away.
“Actually, yes I am,” she admitted.
As they spun and made their way around their small corner of the room, he kept his eyes locked on hers the entire time. She found it difficult to breathe.
“My mother taught me,” he said suddenly. “When I was small, after a…rough evening, she would come to my room and turn on the radio. The two of us would dance. I don't know who she was trying to benefit more, me or herself. But she was different when she danced. Her eyes would light up and I would actually see some life in there. I would see mum smile.”
Hermione felt her heart breaking for him, as he shared that detail with her. She was sure it was something he hadn't told many people and she felt honored that he thought enough of her to share it.
Knowing how he hated any sort of pity, Hermione didn't say a word, yet she took the hand that was resting on his shoulder and gently placed it on his chest, spreading her fingers over his heart. She looked up and gave him a warm smile, he squeezed the hand he was holding a little more firmly in return.
When the song finished neither of them let go of the other. Their faces were in closer proximity to each other than they had ever been, and Hermione could feel every bit of tension in that moment. Like a moth to a flame he brought his head down closer, their lips were millimeters apart. Realizing what was happening, Hermione snapped herself out of the trance the moment seemed to have placed her into. She took a quick step back.
“I need to go to the loo,” she said, then hastily made her way away from him, through the crowd of students and out into the hall.
When she slipped into one of the stalls, she stood with her back against the wall, holding her face in both hands.
“No. No, no, no, no, Hermione,” she scolded herself.
What was she doing? She didn't belong there. How could she have let this happen? What would it do to Severus when she returned to her own time? Because, clearly he had some sort of feelings for her now as well.
“Ugh!” she yelled.
Her head was a mess. Every single rational part of her brain was telling her not to let this happen. Not to let she and Severus explore any kind of relationship that wasn't platonic. Yet, her heart was telling her head to bugger off. She had never felt the way she did for him before. Not with Ron and not with Viktor. What she felt for Severus was on an entirely different level. Was it love? She wasn't sure. She'd never been in love before. She thought she was with Ron, but now she'd realized that she hadn't been in love with him. What in the name of Merlin was she to do?
Hermione sniffled and wiped a tear that had fallen down her cheek.
“Hello?” a voice called out. Hermione jumped. “Are you alright?”
It felt like the floor gave out underneath her feet. She recognized that voice.
“I'm fine,” Hermione answered, her voice cracking.
When she stepped out of the stall, Lily’s face was full of surprise when she realized who had been crying. Her surprise quickly turned to anger, however.
“What did he do to you?” she demanded with fire in her eyes.
Hermione blinked rapidly then her brow furrowed. She understood why Lily had come to that conclusion, but truthfully, it miffed her horribly.
“He hasn't done anything to me,” said Hermione with steel in her voice. “We’ve been having a lovely time, actually.”
Lily looked taken aback by Hermione’s sudden change in attitude with her. Her face went blank, devoid of any emotion.
“Oh. Well lovely then,” Lily said dryly. “I just assumed-”
Hermione cut her off. “You shouldn't have assumed anything, Lily. I know what happened between you and Severus, however, it isn't fair of you to interfere with any relationships he may be developing now.”
Lily narrowed her eyes and seemed to be looking at Hermione for the first time. “Well if you know, then you should understand why I would have thought he'd done something that caused you to end up alone here, crying.”
Hermione was truly angry now. Whatever happened between Lily and Severus was in the past, and she didn't feel it right for Lily to intrude. She had no claim on Severus any longer.
“I think it would be for the best if you were to keep your opinions to yourself from now on,” Hermione said cooly, then walked passed Lily and out the door, without waiting for a response from her.
One thing she knew, as she made her way back to Slughorn's office, was that she would never tell Severus about that exchange with Lily. And she also knew that nothing between she and Lily would ever be the same again.
A/N - I want to thank everyone who voted for this story in the Dobby's. I was completely blown away when I saw that it won, because honestly I never ever expected it. *squishes everyone* Thanks to everyone, old and new, who has read, reviewed and favorited. I sincerely appreciate it more than you know. I'm really going to try for an update either every two weeks, or at the least every month. So far I've keep my word to myself, as both chapters 15 and 16 were posted within 10 days, and chapter 17 is already started. But if an update ends up being late, don't worry, I will never ever ever abandon this fic. I love it too much haha. Thanks again to you all!
So much love,
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