A/N: Yay for a quick update! And an even bigger YAY for almost 200 reviews! You guys ROCK!
Thank you to worrywart, ThornedHuntress, arabellagrace, JarODirt (Pirates reference?), onecelestialbeing, MCannon5887, SnarryGrrl, HarryPGinnyW4eva, articcat621, tattedtinkfreak, IHeartBranson, ilive2read, Lust for Life, and Stephiebob22 for the reviews. : )
Oh - and thank you for the congratulations. We're all super excited!
Hermione quickly walked through the near empty halls of the castle. She was running late to dinner and the few students scampering toward the Great Hall about her were proof. She'd run into Viktor again mid-afternoon and he asked her to take a walk with him by the lake. She had been on her way to look for Severus who she hadn't seen since everyone arrived, but she didn't want to be rude so she'd obliged. The walk was pleasant and the conversation was easy. He'd become more than just a physical being since she'd last seen him, she noticed. But the walk served to remind her of the evening she'd spent in Diagon Alley with Severus, and she was ready to get to dinner and see him.
Sitting down next to him, she happily said, "Hi. How was your afternoon?"
"Fine," he said shortly.
Hermione's face fell. "Is something wrong?"
He didn't answer. He simply continued looking out over the students, waiting for one of his Slytherins to step out of line so he could pummel them for it.
"Severus?" she asked.
Still no answer, and she knew better than to ask a third time. While they were sharing all of themselves with one another, there were certain things they each needed time with; and whatever he was currently dealing with seemed to be one of them.
Oh Merlin…, she thought. He'd not acted like this the whole time she'd been back. In fact, she couldn't remember a time he'd ever been this cold toward her, even when she was a student.
Hermione turned to face front, afraid of what was going on in his mind.
They were silent through dinner as Hermione tried desperately to push away the worrisome heaviness that settled between them. It was very clear something was wrong, and she did not at all like that he wasn't talking to her about it. It worried her, scared her even. He was within reach, but he felt so far away. And if there was one thing Hermione knew about Severus Snape, it was that he was quick to hide behind his defensive walls. She'd seen it constantly in her 7 years as a student. The moment he caught on to someone noticing any kind of emotion in him, he'd shut it down, retreating into his neutral demeanor. He'd allowed her in, given her access and a clear view to the real him; and now he was pushing her away, shutting her out. She felt tears rising in her eyes at the thought.
It was then Minerva stood and clinked her fork against her glass to get everyone's attention. Hermione was thankful for the distraction, steeling herself from her thoughts as she looked to the middle of the table.
"I would like to formally welcome everyone to Hogwarts and remind you all that there will be a ball tomorrow night which is mandatory for all students and staff. I do hope my students will be welcoming of everyone and helpful as needed. Thank you to the rest of you for joining us here, and please feel free to head to your evening activities once you've finished your meal." Minerva sat down with a smile. She loved seeing the school so alive with the extra students, and she always found it interesting to talk with the teachers and headmasters that came from the other schools as well.
It had not escaped her attention that Viktor Krum had accompanied the students from Durmstrang Institute this year. She hadn't seen him since he was there years ago for the Tri-Wizard Tournament, what with him being a big Quidditch champion and all. She knew he was a man who got what he wanted, and she hoped for the sake of peace and sanity that he did not still have his eye on Hermione Granger. If his staring at her all through dinner was any indication however, peace and sanity were about to fly out the window.
Excusing himself from the table, Severus decided that he would do as Minerva had suggested and move on to his evening activities, never mind that for him that consisted of a brooding behavior some might consider pouting or sulking or moping.
Hermione quickly got up to follow him out, prompting Viktor to quickly get up and follow her out.
"Merlin have mercy," Minerva said under her breath as she watched the chain of people leave the room.
"Severus!" Hermione called after him. "Are you not even going to speak to me? I haven't seen you most of the day."
"Do you think I am unaware of that?" he hissed as he spun around to face her.
"Why are you so angry?" she asked, concerned at the enraged look in his eyes. He almost looked as if one wrong move, one wrong word would send him into a downward spiral.
He walked toward her, towering over her as he stopped very near her. He calmed himself slightly, remembering that little voice in his mind telling him that she had chosen him.
He was trying to find the words to tell her, but tell her what? That he was jealous? That he was scared of losing her? To that empty-headed git? That he was sure he would implode if his heart wasn't treated carefully enough? He shook his head. No, none of those were things he could tell her.
"It's complicated," was all he told her in a tone more calm than the one he'd used a moment ago.
She was about to tell him to try to explain it, to remind him that he was also required to share all of him with her, when she heard her name being called from over her shoulder; and gone was the calm that had come over Severus. He snapped his gaze up to the source of the voice and intense fury burned in his dark eyes.
Viktor was approaching them, leaving both Hermione and Severus cursing to themselves for the interruption.
"Excuse me," he said to both of them before turning to Hermione and asking, "I was wondering if you might attend the ball with me tomorrow night?"
Hermione's lips parted, and Severus stood statue-still. Neither of them was expecting that question. Hermione had assumed she would be attending the ball with Severus, but since they hadn't yet made their relationship public and he hadn't asked her to attend with him, she had no idea if he even planned on going despite it being mandatory. He always got away with skipping out on those things, or at least sneaking in at the end to make it seem as if he'd been there the whole time. She was going to ask him about it this afternoon, but then Viktor had taken up all her time.
She turned back to Severus, looking for some indication from him as to what she should do, and when he didn't offer her any help she stumbled over her words, saying, "Oh. The ball? Umm, Well. I suppose I haven't really given it much thought."
"Well… Do you have a date?" Viktor asked, thinking it was either a yes or no question.
Hermione just stared at him. She really wished Severus would chime in right about now. She didn't know what to do. If she said yes, she did have a date, she would either be forcing Severus into taking her and revealing their relationship (certainly no one would believe they had gone as friends) or she'd have to quickly find someone else to take her. If she said no, well then she knew Viktor wouldn't take no for an answer.
Sighing and preparing for a small fight, she said, "Well no, but–"
Severus didn't wait for her to finish. That was the last straw for him. He'd tried, he really had. He'd tried to rationalize the hug, her lingering hand on his arm, the looked she'd given him, the way she smiled when he kissed her on the cheek, even the walk and the way she'd smiled when he handed her flowers – but 'No, she didn't have a date'? Was she not planning on going with him? He spun on his heel, retreating away from the only person alive who had the power to crush him. And crush him she did.
He pulled out his wand, waved it, and shouted, "Bindus Dormato!" as he walked away.
Hermione instantly hunched forward, opening her mouth wide in a silent scream as she felt a pain so deep in her chest she thought someone had reached inside and was literally ripping her heart from her body. Viktor caught her just before she dropped to the floor, steadying her as the excruciating sensation within her ribs began to subside to a pulsing, dull ache.
She looked down the hall to see Severus leaned against the wall, his shoulders hunched over. He'd felt it too. She pushed herself away from Viktor, telling him that she was fine as she started to stagger toward Severus, leaving Viktor wide-eyed, confused, and rooted to his spot.
Hearing footsteps approaching, Severus steadied himself on his feet and began walking away again.
"Severus Snape! Stop right now, you arrogant, selfish prick!" she yelled at him, knowing he would never stop at a simple request. He stopped dead in his tracks, and as she approached him she pushed him and desperately asked, "What did you do?" He glared at her for pushing him. "Answer me! What did you do?"
"I've unbound you," he told her calmly, as if it were an easy choice for him. His eyes were cold, and his posture was guarded. Gone was the Severus she'd gotten to know. Professor Snape stood in front of her now.
Tears were trickling down her face at the hollow, desperate feeling in her chest, and they started running freely at his words. She felt so empty, like nothing in the world mattered, like she would never feel anything ever again. She was numb.
She raised a fist to hit him in the chest, but he grabbed her arm. He couldn't stand the pained look on her face, but he was too dejected to do anything about it. He felt like a fool for believing she could love someone like him – a broken, sad excuse of a man nearly twice her age. If she'd truly felt anything, she would have told Viktor she had a date. She wouldn't have flirted with him so freely earlier in the day.
"Give me the charm," he instructed her, still holding her wrist so she couldn't hit him.
She ripped her arm from his grasp and said through tears, "I can't. I don't have it with me." There was no way she was giving it back to him. No, he was hers – they were bound to each other, and just because he went against his word and gave her up at the drop of a hat did not mean she was going to give him up that easily.
Severus felt something crack inside him. He supposed it was the last whole part of his heart shattering at hearing she hadn't been wearing the charm. Though, looking in her eyes past all the torturous tears that were making it glaringly obvious how deeply he'd hurt her by unbinding them, he didn't fully believe her. He suspected it was hidden beneath her sweater, right where it belonged – close to her heart.
"Give it to me, when you have it," Severus told her and walked away, leaving her standing alone in the long dark hall. She watched until he was out of view, and then looked back to her other side. Viktor was still standing at the end of the hall, a mystified look on his face.
Hermione supposed she needed to finish talking to him about the ball, so she approached him, one arm curled around her middle, holding herself and willing away the dull ache that settled within her.
"I'm very sorry about that," she said to him.
"Are you alright?" he asked her, concern rooted deep in his eyes.
"Yes," she lied. "I'm fine. I think I just need some rest. But about the ball…" She swallowed, choking back tears. "I do not have a date, but I'm actually waiting for someone in particular to ask me. I appreciate your offer, but I must decline."
"But it's tomorrow. If he hasn't asked by now…" he tried to reason with her, not believing someone would decline an offer to be his date.
"I'm still going to wait," she insisted.
"Hermione, that doesn't make sense," he complained.
"Viktor," she said, wanting his full attention, "No."
With that, she bid him good night, leaving him stunned that she just told him no when she didn't have a date. Who could she be waiting for who was so worth it that she'd tell him no only one day ahead of time? Shaking his head, he went back to the Great Hall, hoping to find another suitable young teacher who could accompany him instead.
That night, Hermione found sleep was hard to find. She'd spent most nights with Severus since they started seeing each other and she found it difficult to fall asleep alone now.
Her mind started spinning with possibilities of what had happened. She was sure it had to do with Viktor because none of it had started until he arrived; but if Severus would have just talked to her she could have cleared up whatever misunderstanding was brewing in his confounded brain. She would have explained that Viktor didn't mean anything to her, he never had. He was a fun date when she'd gone to the ball with him when she was a student, but that was it. She never kept in touch with him and was really quite surprised to see him today. She was even more surprised when he'd given her a giant hug and kept his hands on her.
Hermione gasped, covering her mouth and remembering that Severus had been standing near Alice. He'd seen. Why didn't he tell me he'd seen us? Oh Merlin, did he see us by the lake too?
Knowing all too well Severus's insecurities about their relationship, she covered her face and groaned at the mess Viktor Krum's arrival had caused.
Finding herself exhausted from all the crying and finally having some sense of what had happened, sleep slowly crept over her, lulling her into a quiet place where the ache in her chest seemed to subside, at least for a while.
Severus didn't even go to bed. He knew his mind would be turning all night, never allowing him the sweet surrender of sleep. Instead he'd sat by the fire with a firewhiskey in hand, wondering what the hell he was thinking getting involved with someone. He was not relationship material,
of this he was sure.
He allowed himself to fully feel the hurt, the hollow concave that was now his chest. He could live with the hurt. He was an expert at burying and hiding such things from people. He'd been doing it all his life. He'd made a career out of it in his spy days. He just hoped that Hermione's pain would eventually subside so she could move on with her life.
Finding himself at the end of his thoughts with an empty glass, he closed his eyes, allowing the sleep he was sure wouldn't come to wash over him like a welcome friend.
Both Severus and Hermione struggled through the next day. Where Hermione attempted to dive into her lessons for a distraction however, Severus decided to load up his students with an impossible amount of homework. Every class complained, babbling on about the ball being later that evening, not to mention none of them wanted to spend their entire weekend doing work for his class; and each time the class complained, he threatened to add on more. A silence quickly fell over the room as he returned to his brooding at his desk while he watched the students feverishly get as much work done as possible; and the cycle continued through every class.
Hermione smiled when Alice Trowslow walked into her second class of the day. Her smiled quickly faded to a look of concern when Alice didn't at all acknowledge her as she usually did, but instead quickly walked to her desk at the front of the class and flipped open her potions book, quickly scribbling across her parchment that looked to be a mess of notes. Her concern deepened when another three students quickly filed in and did the same thing.
"Alice? Is everything alright?" she asked, squatting in front of the girl's desk.
"Remember how you said Professor Snape gives more homework on the days he's probably in a foul mood?" she asked, not taking her eyes off the potions book.
Oh dear… "Yes," she replied.
Alice finally looked up at Hermione as she said, "If the amount of homework is any indication of his mood, I don't think it's possible for it to be anymore foul than it currently is."
"How so?" she asked.
"He's assigned six chapters to be read and all the questions answered in no less than five sentences each. And it's all to be done by Monday!" After a brief pause Alice added, "And he threatened a quiz over the material Monday as well!"
Hermione took a deep breath as she stood and looked over the rest of her classroom. "How many of you have just come from Professor Snape's class?" she asked.
Six students, including Alice, raised their hands, all looking terrified.
"Well, you're all in luck. The lesson I have planned today is a very short one, and I was planning to give you a study period after I was finished. For those of you who have not yet had Professor Snape's class for the day, I suggest you go get your potions book and get an outline of what you're up against from the other students as soon as I am finished. Let's begin."
Hermione swallowed as she approached her desk, rummaging through her notes to try and find something that would be quick to teach. She actually had a very lengthy lesson planned, but she knew Serverus's mood was her fault, and she couldn't stand him punishing all the students he had within his reach as a result.
"Here we are," she said as she found something that she figured should only take about fifteen minutes to teach.
As soon as she was finished with her lesson, every student that wasn't one of the six who had been to Severus's class ran out of her classroom to get their potion books.
"Alice, tell me exactly what he assigned to you," Hermione requested.
"The next six chapters, right after the last thing he taught us," she said as she once again flipped her book open and began scribbling on her parchment.
"Alright," Hermione simply replied.
She relayed the assignment to the students as they came back into her classroom, letting them know she couldn't guarantee they would be working on the correct chapters, but that she could guarantee it would be six chapters and all the questions as Alice had described at the beginning of class.
After giving them the assignment, she added, "And let's just all keep quiet about the fact that you had a study period in my class, shall we? The last thing I need is Professor Snape giving me homework of some kind."
The students laughed, but Hermione was quiet serious. If Severus found out that she was easing the blow he was attempting to deliver to his students, he would be livid; and he was certainly upset enough with her already.
Hermione must have been more nervous and distracted than she thought because when Alice called her name, drawing her out of her thoughts, all the other students were gone.
"You seem a bit distracted, Miss Granger. Are you alright?"
"Yes, I'm fine Alice. Thank you for asking. Did you get much of your work done?" she asked.
Looking down at her book, she replied, "Enough to make a difference and possibly be able to eat a meal or too without this book this weekend."
Hermione let out a sympathetic chuckle. "I am so sorry he gave you so much to do, and on the weekend of the ball!"
"Why are you sorry?" Alice asked. "It's not as if it's your fault."
But it is… "I just remember what it's like to be in his class," she told the girl. Then, seeing Alice rubbing her eyes, she asked, "Is something the matter with your eyes?"
"I don't know. I keep seeing little flashes of light. Almost like fireworks between people. It's very strange," Alice told her while rubbing her eyes again.
Hermione took a deep breath and held it for a moment, not sure how to address this. "Do you see them between specific people?"
Alice nodded as she said, "Yes. Certain students, and often between you and Professor Snape. Do you know what it is?"
Hermione replied, "Not exactly, but I know someone that can explain it to you. Do you have class right now?"
The girl simply shook her head. Hermione told the students that were now sitting at desks for her next class to share the wonderful news about the homework for Professor Snape's class with those who did not yet know. She sent the students out for their books, telling them to come right back and get started, and that she would be back soon as well.
She then escorted Alice to Minerva's office, leaving her in the lower level of the office while she approached Minerva's desk.
"How can I help you, Hermione?" Minerva asked suspiciously.
Hermione took a deep breath and allowed her eyes to run over Minerva's desk before looking up at her and quietly saying, "Severus explained to me that you can see sparks between people."
Minerva nodded her head as she clasped her hands on her desk and said, "Yes, that is true."
"I believe Miss Trowslow can as well."
Minerva leaned to the side, her eyes wide as she looked at Alice. Sitting back up to center, she asked, "Why would you think that?"
"She was rubbing her eyes in my class and when I asked about it she said it was much like seeing fireworks. She sees them between specific students….and between myself and Severus," Hermione explained.
Minerva smiled at Hermione before standing and walking around her desk.
"Miss Trowslow, do you have class this period?" she asked.
"No, Professor," Alice responded.
"You do now!" Minerva stated. "You will be starting an independent study with me on Monday. Meet me here after your second class and we'll get started. In the meantime, go see Madam Pomfrey and let her know I've sent you in for a remedy for seeing spots."
"Alright," Alice said, somewhat confused as to how she'd just gained another class.
"Good luck with your homework," Hermione said as the girl began to leave the office, turning only to give Hermione a weak smile in response.
"I thought she was a bright student. Why will she be needing luck?" Minerva asked.
"Severus decided to ruin everyone's weekend by assigning six chapters of homework, including the questions and he also threatened a quiz on Monday," Hermione explained.
"Let me guess – Viktor Krum?" Minerva asked.
Hermione's eyes went wide.
"Come now, child. You brought Alice to me because I possess the same ability she seems to be forming. Does it not go to reason that I should be aware of these sorts of things?" she asked.
"Yes, I suppose so," Hermione stated. Then after another moment, she said, "Oh my! I have to get back to my class! See you tonight at the ball," she called over her shoulder as she took off in a sprint toward her classroom.
I've got my fingers crossed for another update in a few days. Stay tuned!