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Chapter 21 : xxi.
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Hermione’s eyes were struggling to remain opened while she sat listening to Professor Crabtree. She'd been up too late the evening before, working in the Potion’s classroom with Severus, and afterwards only had around three full hours of sleep. It seemed the more she worked on her antivenin, and the closer she became to Severus, the more frequently she would have nightmares. The one she had the previous night had been particularly horrible, since it had been she reliving Severus’ last moments, for at least the dozenth time.
Yet this time it was very different. Instead of man-Severus, it was the Severus she had known now who was bleeding out in front of her. It was her Severus who gasped for air, while trying to gargle his last words to Hermione and her friends. It was her Severus whose eyes she looked into and watched the light slowly fade out of them. And it was her Severus whom she woke up shouting for, drenched in a cold sweat.
Her roommates hadn't heard her, of course. They never did. Hermione had taken to placing a silencing charm on the hangings around her bed each night since she'd first arrived to the past. She knew of the nightmares she had frequently, and didn't think it wise for Amelia and the other girls -- especially Rita -- to hear her thrashing and screaming in the middle of the night. Her addition to their dorm had already been strange enough without that happening as well.
Her eyes, which she hadn't realized closed, popped open when she heard a paper land in front of her. She looked up to see if Crabtree had noticed, but he had his back turned writing something on the blackboard, so she quickly grabbed it and unfolded it underneath her desk.
On it there was a crude, stick-figure drawing of a boy with shoulder length dark hair, who sat in a chair. She watched as his eyes transformed to X’s, then as he slumped over in his seat, before he faded off of the paper. In his place a tombstone formed with the words, ‘Here Lies Severus Snape. First Known Soul to Die of Boredom,’ appearing across it. It then turned back to the boy, and the cycle repeated itself.
Hermione snorted loudly, the room went completely silent, and all eyes -- except Severus’ -- fell upon her. She quickly coughed to mask her laughter, and after raising his eyebrows at her, Professor Crabtree continued on with his revision lesson. From the corner of her eye, she saw Severus’ shoulders shaking with silent laughter in the seat across and ahead of her.
Amelia nudged her. “What's that?” she whispered.
Hermione handed her the paper, and she too snorted, but much more discretely.
“How about that? He has a sense of humor,” she whispered again.
Hermione softly kicked her in the foot. “Oh quiet,” she said under her breath.
“Girls!” Crabtree, who normally had an easy going disposition, yelled at Hermione and Amelia with his arms folded across his chest.
As she sneaked a peek at Amelia, she saw her blush, and felt her face do the same.
“Sorry, Professor,” they said in unison.
Not wanting to get in any more trouble, Hermione worked extra hard to stay awake, and pay attention through the rest of their lesson.
After class had ended, Amelia chatted with Hermione briefly, making plans for the following afternoon, before saying a quick goodbye, since Severus was waiting to walk with her.
“Sorry about getting you into trouble,” he told her when they exited the room.
He was smirking, so she knew he hadn't been that sorry about it, regardless she smiled.
“It's alright, Severus. Your drawing was rather amusing,” she told him, then poked his side. “But I wouldn't consider art as a future occupation.”
Severus took her hand, which had become routine by now, and chuckled softly. “Damn, there goes my dreams of becoming the next Picasso,” he said dryly.
“Well hopefully it was a good dream while it lasted,” she teased.
He snorted quietly, then shook his head as he playfully bumped his shoulder into her.
“Alright, enough with the jokes about my abysmal drawing skills, we need to get some revision in before dinner.”
Hermione sighed. She already knew all of the information backwards and forwards, and probably could have recited in her sleep. It was bad enough sitting through each class the entire term, learning the same things she'd learned nearly two years ago -- for her. But revising it all again was almost torture. Especially when she had more important things she needed to work on. But Severus hadn't learned any of this before, so to keep up appearances, she had to agree and then they both made their way to the library.
Sat at their usual table in the back, the two were nearly an hour into their revisions when Severus looked up at her. She noticed his normal nervous ticks -- tugging at his sleeve and clearing his throat, which caused her to become anxious by proxy.
“Everything alright?” she asked.
He kept his gaze locked on his hands as he answered her. “Yes. Well, erm...no? I -- can I ask you something?”
Hermione gently closed the book she had opened and placed her quill on the table, giving him her full attention.
“Anything, Severus. You know that,” she told him with a warm smile.
She watched his Adam's apple bob before taking a breath. Her head cocked to the side; she was extraordinarily curious about what was making him appear so bothered.
“Hermione, you fancy me, correct?” he asked so quietly, it took her a minute to register what he said.
When it finally hit her, she couldn't help but to laugh. “I would think that's rather obvious, considering we’ve been snogging about the castle, Severus.”
His lips twitched upwards. “Good point,” he agreed. “Well, what I wanted to ask you was,” he hesitated for a moment, then looked right into her eyes. “Are we -- I mean. What is this?” he asked, pointing from her and back to himself.
His question somewhat surprised her, since she'd been sort of wondering the same. Clearly they were more than friends, however they really hadn't defined their relationship yet. Although, the more she thought about it, the more she realized they really hadn't needed to. But still, the first and only conversation they had regarding the two of them, up until that point, Hermione had made it clear to him that they weren't in a relationship, and that she'd wanted to take things slowly. And at this point, that seemed to not be enough for him any longer -- it wasn't enough for her any longer if she were being entirely truthful with herself. Without intending to, they had seemed to have crossed that line she had attempted to draw.
A slow smile painted her lips as she watched the lines crease on his forehead, while he waited for her to speak.
“This.” She pointed to herself and then him, just as he had done. “Is a relationship, Severus. As in the two of us are a couple.”
Nothing was said after that, and her pulse quickened when she realized his expression hadn't changed. Was she wrong?
“Isn't it?” she quickly added.
Slowly his posture began to relax, and the worry lines on his face smoothed out. Once again he had that look of wonder in his dark eyes, like she was an enigma he was trying to figure out.
“I would like it to be,” he finally said. “I'm not the type to just go snogging about the castle -- as you said -- with just anyone.”
Hermione laughed at Severus mimicking her voice when he repeated her words.
“Nor am I,” she tried to say through her giggles.
Severus full out smiled, and reached across the table for her hand.
“So I suppose that means I can officially call you my girlfriend now?” he asked with a light in his eyes.
Deep down she knew that this was a horrible decision. That nagging part of her brain that always forced her to think rationally and logically was shouting every warning imaginable at her. There were so many things wrong with her becoming so involved with him, but in the end her heart won out over her brain. She'd already unconsciously made the decision weeks ago. Severus made her happy. He was everything she never realized she needed or wanted in a partner. Once she'd broken down his walls, she had the opportunity to see the real Severus. And the real Severus was sweet, kind -- to her at least -- funny and the most intelligent person she had ever known. She couldn't have denied him if she tried.
“I suppose it does,” she responded softly, while giving his hand a squeeze.
The pure joy in his returning smile nearly knocked the wind from her.
17 December 1976
Over the course of the next week, Hermione and Severus hadn't had much of a chance to enjoy the beginnings of their new relationship, since exams were happening. They'd spent most of their free time reviewing their notes and textbooks together, or working on Hermione’s project. Even though she had already taken these exams, the compulsion to excel in everything she did took over, and she found herself exhausted, yet confident that she'd done well, by the time her last exam was finished on Friday afternoon.
“Thank Merlin those are finally over,” Severus said, as he and Hermione walked the corridors together. “Now we’ll finally have some time to ourselves.”
She squeaked when he pulled her by the wrist, and wrapped his arm around her waist, before bending down to kiss her right in the middle of all the students who were in the halls.
At first she was slightly alarmed, since it was the first time he had ever shown his affection for her so openly in front of the student body. But she tucked that away and let herself melt into his kiss, not caring who saw, or what they might have thought.
When he released her she swayed on the spot and felt a slow burn fill her cheeks. But besides a few people whistling, or telling them to get a room, no one really seemed to notice them. Hermione was a little embarrassed by the taunts and jokingly slapped his arm.
“What?” he asked with false innocence in his widened eyes.
Hermione snorted and shook her head, then continued her walk towards Ravenclaw tower. Severus quickly fell in step beside her once more.
“I wouldn't have pegged you for the public display of affection type of person,” Hermione told him.
Severus snaked his arm around her waist again as they walked, and he shrugged.
“Just making sure everyone is clear on the fact that you’re mine. Black could certainly take the hint,” he responded with a bit of venom in his voice.
Her eyes rolled. “Don't be silly, Severus. Sirius Black is no threat to us at all, and you should know that,” she scolded.
He mumbled something about ‘big shots’ and ‘thinks he so great,’ which Hermione chose to pretend not to hear. Yes, Sirius still came on a little too strongly with her, but she'd made it perfectly plain that she would have preferred to attempt snogging the Whomping Willow rather than him.
“Care to help me work on my project?” she asked in an effort to change the topic.
He frowned down at her, then let out a heavy sigh. “I thought we would take a break tonight, considering we've been working non-stop all week.”
Spending an evening with Severus not doing any work was very tempting, especially when he sounded as dejected as he did when she asked, but she couldn't let him distract her from something as important as the antivenin.
An idea struck her. Hopefully Amelia wouldn't end up too angry with her for cancelling the plans they had made for the following day.
“I'll make a deal with you,” she said. He raised an eyebrow in response. “Help me work on it tonight, and tomorrow you can have me -- work free -- the entire day.”
Compromise was a key component to a healthy relationship after all.
He mulled it over for a few seconds, before kissing the top of her head.
“Alright. You've got a deal,” he agreed.
She breathed out a sigh of relief, since she'd been itching to get to the Potion’s classroom all day. Hermione and Severus had a theory they'd come up with, and she'd been anxious to try out. If it proved to work, she couldn't afford to waste any time, and wanted to get to it right away.
Once again the evening found Hermione and Severus bent over a cauldron, but this time Hermione felt she had really made a giant leap forward. Nothing had exploded, turned to a tar-like substance or caught on fire. Nor did the mixture she had brewing fill the air with noxious fumes, causing each of them to place a Bubble Head Charm upon themselves. It was a positive sign.
The mixture of Unicorn Horn powder, Griffin Claw powder, Boom Berry juice and Nux Myristica was simmering over a low heat. After much research, she found that it would be best to let this portion stew for at least a month before adding the Jobberknoll parts. After which, she would let that sit for an additional week, before hopefully adding the Phoenix tears. If her and Severus’ calculations were correct, and between the two of them she was positive they were, then she would have the perfect antivenin. There was still only the issue on how to test it.
As she sat back on her stool, she began to think of how she could possibly do that. Perhaps she could manage to get some Acromantula venom, ingest that, then administer her potion? It wasn't the same as snake venom, but it was powerful and extremely rare. Not to mention every bit as lethal as she knew Nagini’s venom was. It was a long shot, but it was all she had at the moment.
“What's the matter, Hermione? You're a million miles away,” Severus asked, breaking into her thoughts.
She shook her head and gave him a smile. “Nothing. Just going through all the steps we went over in my head again,” she lied.
He nodded. “I think we’ve really got it this time,” he told her confidently. “They'll be so impressed, there won't be any way you don't get that apprenticeship.”
Severus looked so proud of her in that moment. She had never imagined he could look at her in that way.
If only it were that simple, she thought to herself. If only it were a mere matter of getting into that program or not. Obviously she still would have obsessed over her work if it had been, but not to the point she had been, when it's success meant the difference between Severus living or dying. She tried to push that thought away, too afraid that the anguish of it would clearly show on her face.
“You've been loads of help,” she said with a small crack in her voice.
Severus chuckled. “Well if I didn't, I wouldn't have seen you half as much.”
She blushed at his words and felt her heart squeeze. “Why do you think I asked for your help?” she admitted. It was part of the reason, after all.
He placed his finger across his bottom lip and pretended to be thinking. “Oh I don't know,” he said airily, “because I'm better at Potions than you are.”
Hermione cocked an eyebrow and laughed. She then sneakily flicked her wand under the desk, sending a very light Stinging Jinx at his leg, causing him to jump and nearly toppled from his seat.
He let out a small hiss as his hair fell all into his face, and he rubbed at the spot the spell had hit. Hermione laughed harder.
“That may be, but clearly you're not better at spells,” she taunted.
Severus stood from his seat with his hair still covering his face, and stalked over towards her. Hermione rolled her eyes.
“You don't scare me, Severus.”
He pushed the hair from his eyes and raised an eyebrow at her. A slow predatory smirk spread across his lips before he grabbed her around the waist, causing her to squeak in surprise, and tickled her unmercifully.
She squirmed off of her stool in an attempt to get away from him, but it was no use. He had too strong of a grip on her. Hermione pleaded for him to stop between giggles.
“This is what happens when you hurl jinxes at your innocent boyfriend, Hermione,” he said playfully as his fingers continued their assault on her sides.
Again she felt her entire body burn for Severus as the two play fought. He sparked a need in her that she hadn't ever felt with any other boy. She panted, begged for him to let up, and laughed, then figured a way to make him stop. Hermione threw her arms around his neck and pulled him down into a kiss. He immediately stopped his attack, then pulled her tightly against him and snogged her back with as much heat and passion as she felt in that moment.
Then just ask quickly as she drew him to her, she pushed him away and stepped back.
“I - I give up. You wi - win,” she huffed, then placed a soft peck on his cheek.
Severus gave her a smug smile in return and the two walked back to the desk together.
“If that's how you get me to stop, I may have to attack you more often,” he teased as they both sat down.
Hermione narrowed her eyes. “Next time I may not be as nice, and may stop you with another Stinging Jinx. And trust me, next time it won't be in the leg,” she responded in a sugar coated voice.
His eyebrows raised and a low chuckle escaped him.
“We should probably clean up and get out of here before Slughorn catches us not working again,” said Severus, who was still smiling.
Hermione nodded and couldn't help but to think how happy Severus had been for the last few weeks. It warmed her heart to see him that way, and it made her even happier to know that she was partly the reason for it. Perhaps that was exactly what he needed in his life -- a little happiness, and someone to show him kindness. She desperately hoped that her presence there was helping her achieve her goal in showing him that his life was worth it.
“What are you so smiley about?” He asked with a laugh.
She turned from her bag she was putting her belongings into and looked right into his eyes. “You,” she responded truthfully.
He appeared a bit taken aback at first, almost like he couldn't believe that he could possibly make anyone happy. His brow furrowed before it softened out and his lips tugged upwards. He got up from his seat, walked over to her, then wrapped his arms around her tightly.
“I don't know what I've done to deserve you, but I'm glad I have you,” he whispered into her hair.
She felt her throat tighten. “I'm glad too, Severus. I always will be. Remember that. No matter what, always remember that.”
Severus kissed her forehead. “I’ll try.”
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