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Chapter 19 : xix.
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After Severus kissed her, he had not attempted to do so again, apparently still fulfilling Hermione’s wishes of taking things slowly. Although, she was a touch miffed that he hadn't tried again. Even so, they had been behaving more couple-like since then. They now were openly holding hands while walking through the corridors, and he had even taken to waiting at the bottom of the stairs of Ravenclaw tower for her in the mornings. Rumors circulated around the school regarding their status, but no one had the nerve to flat out ask either one of them about it, which was just as well to each of them. After nearly two weeks, it all died down anyhow, and now it seemed most people didn't even bat an eyelash at the pair of them together.
Monday morning Hermione had some unexpected free time, due to McGonagall falling ill and cancelling their Transfiguration lesson. With her cloak buttoned to her chin, and her hood up over her head, she quickly rushed across the school grounds, towards the Forbidden Forest.
There was something she hoped to retrieve that she needed for her antivenin, and although she probably could have found it in the Potion’s classroom, she knew that it was stronger if fresh.
The skin surrounding her nose and eyes stung from the cold, and the smalls strands of hair that escaped from her hood grew damp, due to the mist that settled in the air. Her pace increased, and her breath clouded out in front of her while she jogged towards the trees behind Hagrid’s hut.
When she finally arrived to the edge of the forest, she glanced back over her shoulder, making sure that she wouldn't have been caught, since the forest was forbidden to all students. The lights were out at Hagrid’s, and the chimney was devoid of any smoke, so she assumed that he had already been inside the castle. The coast was clear.
As Hermione stepped through the trees, she was forced to light her wand out in front of her, since the lack of sunlight made it appear as if it were nearly nightfall. A silver sphere of light formed around her, giving her about a three foot bubble of visibility. The sounds of branches cracking, and the soft twittering of birds in the distance, along with more sinister, unnatural noises that she knew were unique to the forest filled her ears. A chill ran through her, which had nothing to do with the temperature outside.
With purpose, Hermione crunched her way through the trees and towards her destination. The further she travelled, the quieter it became, until the only sounds were her labored breathing and the crackling from the leaves that blanketed the forest floor. After five more minutes of walking, Hermione stepped through a thicket of shrubbery and found herself in a perfectly circular clearing, with thankfully, a touch more light than before.
It was the unicorn clearing that she had been taken to by Professor Grubbly Plank during Hagrid’s absence her fifth year.
Lowering her wand towards the ground, Hermione walked slowly, as she kicked aside wet leaves and debris, hoping she would find was she was looking for. Nearly ten minutes later she'd almost given up hope, until a glint of silver caught her eye roughly seven paces ahead of her. She felt her heart jump as she rushed over and picked the item off of the ground.
Triumph washed over her as she held the unicorn’s horn in her hand. Upon noticing the thin coating of fuzz that covered it, she nearly cried out loud with joy. It was rare indeed to find the horn from a unicorn foal, but if a person were to become lucky enough to possess one, the healing properties were much stronger coming from an animal as pure and innocent as a young one.
It must had just fallen from the foal, she noted, as she turned it around in her hands to examine it. The fact that it still emitted a faint iridescent glow, and was not as opaque as the ones easily purchased from a shop told her as much. She had to get back to the school and crush it as quickly as possible. Nothing else would be as potent.
Hermione raised her wand, and conjured a handkerchief that she wrapped the small horn in, then carefully placed into the pocket of her robes. The adrenaline flowed through her veins as she realized she gained a monumental step forward in the hopes of brewing a strong enough potion to keep Severus alive.
When she returned back inside the castle, she nearly crashed right into Amelia, as she headed towards Ravenclaw tower to collect her school things for her Arithmancy class.
“Merlin’s socks, Hermione!” Amelia exclaimed. “What the hell were you doing outside? It's absolutely miserable out there.”
Hermione paused for a moment as she lowered her hood and got her bearings. “I just needed some fresh air,” she lied, breathing heavily.
Amelia narrowed her eyes, clearly looking as if she hadn't believed her.
“Right. Well never mind that. Snape was looking for you,” she told her.
Her stomach dropped. She'd completely forgotten to let him know she wouldn't have been at breakfast that morning.
“Damn. Well, it's fine. I'll see him in class in a few moments anyhow.”
Hermione started walking again, Amelia alongside her.
“So are you finally going to tell me what's really going on between you two?” Amelia asked.
She took a look at her friend from the side of her eye and let out a loud breath.
“To be honest, I don't even know how to describe it,” she admitted. “I should have told you earlier, but I didn't know how you'd react.”
“Tell me what?”
Hermione stopped walking and turned to look Amelia full on. Amelia’s eyes burned with curiosity while she waited for Hermione to continue.
“He -- erm…we kissed,” she mumbled.
A smile slowly formed across Amelia’s lips, while Hermione mentally braced herself, anticipating her friend to disapprove.
“That's, great Hermione!” Amelia said, completely surprising her.
Her brow furrowed. “But I thought -- I mean -- you don't like him?” Hermione stammered.
Amelia snorted as the two girls began to walk again. “It's not that I don't like him, Hermione. I hardly know him. I just don't like some of the things I've heard that he's done.”
Hermione opened her mouth to defend Severus, but Amelia stopped her.
“Hey, I trust your judgement, and if you like him, then he must not be that bad.” She smirked.
The corners of Hermione’s mouth twitched. “No, he's not,” she said.
Taking Hermione’s admission as an invitation to speak about boys and relationships, Amelia told Hermione that Remus had finally asked her to be his girlfriend that morning. Hermione was genuinely happy for the both of them, knowing from the short time she had been friends with them both, that it was long overdue.
Their conversation hadn't lasted long, since Amelia had to rush to the opposite side of the castle so she wouldn't be late to her Muggle Studies lesson. The girls parted ways near the Ravenclaw Common room, and Hermione rushed up the stairs and to her dormitory.
Once inside, she quickly summoned her pestle and mortar, then took the unicorn horn from her cloak. As she crushed it into a fine multicolored powder, she realized she was running late for class. Severus would be sure to worry about her, since she'd been missing all morning, but she would make up some excuse about not feeling well, or something of that nature. She'd already taken these classes before, so it wasn't as if they were vitally important to her education.
Once the horn was crushed completely, she conjured a glass vial, and carefully poured the contents of the mortar inside. Once the stopper was in place, she cast a stasis charm on the powder, to make sure it remained as fresh as possible, wrapped the vial in the handkerchief the horn had previously been in, and placed it in the bottom of her school trunk.
By the time she had finished, changed and gathered her belongings, she was nearly half an hour late for class. Figuring it would be pointless showing up when the lesson was nearly finished, she instead took a slow walk to the library, hoping to take advantage of its emptiness while most of the other students were attending their classes.
Knowing that griffin claws were used in Strengthening Solutions, she wanted to research more into them and their uses, to see if using one would prove beneficial. And to see if there would be any negative reactions with the other ingredients she had already been collecting and planning to mix.
25th November 1976
“Damn! Damn, damn, damn! I'm never going to get this right!” Hermione cried out while siphoning off the sludge from the burnt potion, that exploded out of the cauldron, and landed all over herself and half of the Potion’s classroom.
Everything seemed to be going smoothly, until an impulsive decision to add a few drops of Dragon’s Blood into her concoction struck her. The moment the third drop fell into the mixture, the whole thing went up in flames, bubbled and erupted from the cauldron like a volcano. Apart from some singed hair, and a few holes in her robes, she luckily was not physically harmed. Mentally though, that was an entirely different story.
Once everything was cleared up, tears of frustration filled up her eyes, and before she could stop them, they brimmed over and flowed down her cheeks. She'd thought she'd worked it out, but again was left with no results. Every night she'd been working on her antivenin, and every night she was becoming more and more discouraged. She just had to get this right.
It wasn't long before her frustration turned into bereavement, when she thought of the ramifications of her not succeeding. Images of an adult Severus, bleeding from multiple puncture wounds, while gargling his words flooded her mind. She'd almost collapsed from the weight of her anguish in reliving that moment.
Hermione’s head whipped up when she felt an arm come around her shoulders. She quickly wiped her face and turned to look to see who it was, even though she'd already known.
Severus looked at her with a V formed between his eyebrows as he reached towards her and wiped a stray tear from her eye.
“What happened?” he asked.
Seeing him there, young, whole and alive, after the images she'd just seen behind her closed eyes was too much for her to take in at that moment. Her whole frame vibrated as fresh sobs rocked her body. Severus hesitated briefly, before wrapping both arms around her.
“Shh. It's alright,” he tried to sooth her, while stroking her hair as she cried into his shoulder.
“It -- b-blew up!” Hermione hiccoughed into his robes.
She knew she must have looked completely silly, sobbing over her failed attempt, since Severus wouldn't have realized how important it was for her to succeed. To him, this was just something she was working on for her education, not a matter of life and death as it truly was.
Hermione cried and cried for nearly twenty minutes; Severus held her the entire time. It was the first time in months that Hermione finally let out all of the fear, uncertainty, stress and sadness she'd felt for over a year. The first time she'd truly fallen apart since she and Harry were alone hunting Horcruxes together. Each time she'd thought she was finished, another image from the Battle, or the months on the run, or when she was being tortured at Malfoy Manor would pop into her head. Everything had finally all come crashing down, just because of another setback. She knew she couldn't give up, but the more she fell apart, the better it strangely made her feel.
Finally she'd begun to pull herself together and lifted her head from his shoulder. His arms were still around her; she made no attempt to move from him.
“I'm s-sorry,” she whispered with a small sniffle.
Severus' eyes were wide, filled with alarm.
“Hermione, what happened? I've -- I’ve never seen you like that before,” he said, sounding a touch frightened by her outburst.
She felt herself blush and glanced down at his green and silver tie. “I don't know what that was,” she lied. “I guess when the potion exploded, all the stress from exams and working on this every night, and everything just got to me. That won't happen again.”
Again, Severus’ fingers methodically combed through her hair. “Merlin, from the way you were crying, I’d thought someone died,” he said softly.
Hermione froze. He actually wasn't too far off the mark there.
Slowly she looked up from his tie and once again saw the concern for her burning in his eyes. She wasn't sure why she'd done what she did next. Perhaps she was looking for a way to take her mind off of things, or maybe she was looking for a way to distract him and keep him from asking more questions. Or maybe, when she took his face between her hands and felt the warmth of his skin, she was searching for undeniable proof that he was alive and with her. Slowly, she leaned forward and gently kissed him. His lips were warm and soft, and she could taste the salt from her tears that had fallen down her face and onto both their lips. His arms tightened around her. She could feel the smile that formed on his face right before she pulled away.
“Thank you,” she said.
His cheeks were flushed as he let out a low chuckle. “For what?” he asked, sounding as winded as if he'd just run the length of a Quidditch pitch.
“For being here,” she told him.
As his black eyes softened, and before Severus could respond, both Hermione and he jumped apart when someone cleared their throat behind them. Her heart nearly leaped out of her chest.
“Now as happy as I might be to see my two top students so enamoured with one another, this wasn't what I had in mind when I agreed to allow you both access to my classroom after hours,” Professor Slughorn mildly scolded them.
Hermione’s face was on fire as she looked up at her professor, who was shaking his head; his shoulders bouncing with silent laughter.
“We’re sorry, Professor,” Severus said quietly, Hermione nodded beside him.
Slughorn let out a loud laugh. “Oh to be young and in love,” said he in a dreamy voice.
Hermione wanted to crawl in a hole when he'd said the words in love. She was quite sure she'd never been so mortified in her life.
“You may find it difficult to believe, but I do remember what it was like to be your age,” Slughorn continued. Every part of Hermione wished he would stop. “But as your teacher, I do have to insist that this does not happen again.”
“Yes, sir,” Hermione and Severus both mumbled together.
Perhaps the evening would all prove to have been a nightmare, Hermione pleaded in her head.
Without embarrassing them any further, Slughorn suggested that they'd both call it a night, and dismissed them from his classroom. Hermione had been more than happy to leave, and nearly sprinted out of the door.
“Well that was…” Severus trailed off, as he walked her to Ravenclaw.
“The most embarrassed I'd ever been in my life,” she finished for him.
Severus looked at her from the corner of his eye, while he walked next to her. Hermione glanced up at him and noticed a small smile tugging at his lips. The reality of what had just happened hit her, and how ridiculous it had been -- they were caught snogging by a teacher. Hermione Granger -- well Devereux to the people there -- and Severus Snape, two people who were the least likely to have been told off for doing so. Before she knew it, a giggle bursted out from her. Severus let out a deep chuckle in response. Then suddenly the two of them had been in stitches over the whole situation. Primarily the way Slughorn’s mouth comically popped open and the way his eyes nearly fell from their sockets. In just a few minutes time, it had gone from the most mortifying experience she'd ever had, to the most hilarious experience she'd ever had. And no matter what happened, she knew it would be something both of them would remember for the rest of their lives.
Once the laughter had finally died away, and even the stray giggles were gone, Severus took Hermione’s hand and the two continued walking along the corridors.
She so loved when he would say her name. It still hadn't lost its charm on her. The deep baritone of his voice, even as a teenager, would make it sound like the most wonderful symphony to her ears. A reflexive smile painted her lips.
“What are your plans for the holiday break?” he asked, sounding hopeful.
Hermione squeezed his hand. “I'm staying here with my Uncle,” she half-lied.
He squeezed her hand in return. “I guess that's good luck, considering I'll be here as well.”
“Well good. Then I'm not losing my potion’s partner over the break,” she joked as she playfully bumped her hip into his side.
Severus laughed softly. “That's the only reason you like me. My unparalleled brilliance.”
“Yep,” she quipped, not missing a beat.
As always when walking with him, they arrived at the bottom of the stairs to her Common Room in no time.
When she stopped to say goodnight to him, a huge wave of emotion washed over her. She realized how grateful she was for him that evening. Because of Severus, she'd done a complete turnaround from how she'd been feeling when he first arrived into the Potion’s classroom, to find her sobbing over an empty cauldron. For someone she'd known most of her life as a person who was reserved, cold, and sometimes cruel, he'd shown himself to be much kinder, opened and more comforting than she ever would have imagined.
Was he actually like that, deep down, as an adult? Or had he been through and seen too much that he'd be forever different? Would it even be possible for them to continue any sort of relationship once she returned to her time -- if he survived, of course?
As she stood on her toes and placed a soft kiss to his cheek before saying goodbye, she found herself desperately hoping so.
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