A/N: This is my first Harry Potter fic, so if I make any mistakes please be kind
A/N 2: Sori it's taken so long to update, but I'm having trouble writing this bit and the next, I want to try and get it as real as I can. If anything seems off, I'm sori.
Disclaimer: I own nothing. If ya really wanna sue me then you can have what I got...Student loans debts!
Thanx for the reviews!
Innogen: I know it's taking me a while to get through this, I've been putting off writing what will probably be now the next chapter, cos I'm not sure how to write it. Hopefully this is enough plot developement to keep you going? On the plus side, this is the longest chapter I've ever written, and the length is due to you...I'm glad you said what you did, this bit wouldn't have been the same in lots of little chapters! Thanx!
Hermione wandered slowly through the halls of the third floor. Being Head Girl certainly had its advantages, and being able to patrol the empty corridors was something she had come to appreciate.
For the last four weeks, since she had returned to Hogwarts, it had been just about the only time she could get any privacy at all. When she was in her rooms Godric constantly tried to start conversations – who'd have thought a portrait could be so chatty? – and Harry and Ron would drop by everyday without fail. At meals and between classes there were students everywhere, and Harry seemed unable to get more than ten feet from her. Even the library no longer offered the solitude it used to. With NEWTs looming, the majority of the seventh years had made it their new home.
At the thought of NEWTs Hermione groaned. Constantly being badgered by her well meaning - but slightly annoying – friends meant that she hadn't had chance to even draw up a revision timetable yet.
Hermione was so lost in her thoughts that she didn't even hear the footsteps behind her, rapidly approaching.
Severus Snape's face brightened as he noticed that he was not the only person in the corridor. He hadn't caught any students out after curfew all week…a grin slid onto his face. He was going to have some fun, see if he couldn't scare the snivelling idiot – whoever it turned out to be – silly before handing out a punishment.
He increased his pace, and noticed with another grin that the student had yet to notice his presence.
He raised his hand and clamped it down firmly on the shoulder in front of him, opening his mouth to speak.
He didn't get chance.
Hermione let out an ear splitting scream the second she felt it. Wrenching her shoulder from the hand, she spun around with her wand already raised.
Seeing the shadowy figure temporarily frozen in shock she saw her chance and did the only thing she could think of.
Caught un-aware, Snape went flying across the corridor. His hand reached reflexively for his wand, and as he hit the ground he cast the dis-arming charm.
A panicked Hermione glanced from the shadowy figure, still unrecognizable to her in the dim hallway, to her wand – now lying uselessly a few feet from her opponent - to the hallway behind her. If she ran he could easily cast another hex at her, but neither did she think she could reach her wand safely.
She hid behind a large statue, huddled up with her arms around her knees, and started to pray that he hadn't seen her hide, that he'd just leave.
'What in the hell was that?' Snape thought, staring in shock at the hallway before him, and the abandoned wand at his feet.
He quickly grabbed the wand and climbed to his feet. The hallway appeared empty, and yet there was no way the girl could have disappeared so quickly. He cursed the poor lighting – if it had been a little brighter he could at least have seen who it was.
A sudden noise grabbed his attention. A soft sob coming from behind the large statue of – 'well, merlin only knows what that thing's supposed to be!' he thought derisively.
He began heading towards it.
The muttered curse echoed in the quiet hallway, and a sob escaped Hermione. 'Why can't he just go away? Please go away…'
She heard the footsteps approaching softly.
When Severus Snape rounded the corner he looked down at the terrified girl. Her face was buried as she made herself as small as possible, and she was muttering softly.
"No…not again…please not again…no…just leave, please…" Sobs interspersed the desperate plea.
He knelt down carefully a few feet from her, moving slowly so as not to startle her any more, and tried to get a better look at her.
"Miss Granger?" he gasped.
The familiar voice startled her, drawing her swiftly back from the panic and terror that had consumed her moments before. Her head jerked up, and she found herself face to face with Professor Snape, who was looking very unlike himself – shock, worry and confusion were expressions almost completely foreign to the normally snarky and sarcastic professor.
Relief flashed across Hermione's face, followed closely by comprehension…she realized the mess she was now in. Snape would want an explanation…'Oh my god! I attacked a teacher! Oh shit!'
A completely new panic began rising in her chest, and without another thought Hermione leapt to her feet and sprinted past Snape and down the corridor. She didn't stop running until she reached her rooms, and the instant she was through the portrait she reached for her wand to cast an extra warding spell on the door, in case he followed for an explanation.
Hermione cursed when her hand clutched thin air. He had her wand! How could she face him to get it back? 'He'll have you expelled before you get chance, idiot! Which part of you attacked a teacher don't you get?' a small voice in the back of her mind chided.
When she went to bed that night worries kept her awake well into the early hours. The only silver lining she could find on this monster of a cloud was the fact that it was now the weekend – she would not have to face him until Monday, unless he went straight to the Headmaster about her.
The next morning when Hermione didn't come down to breakfast, Harry suggested to Ron that they go find her.
"Give the girl a break, Harry! She probably just wanted some peace and quiet for a change. You haven't let her have five minutes to herself all term."
"Well, she's been acting strange! I'm worried about her, okay? She hasn't been right since summer…"
"She's probably just worried about NEWTs. She hasn't had much time to study, partly because you keep insisting we visit her every five minutes. She seems fine to me Harry," Ron replied, exasperated. "Let's just give her some peace and quiet this weekend, if she wants to see us she knows where to find us. I bet she'll be grateful Harry."
"You think?" Harry asked dubiously. Was it just exams? It was a good explanation…Harry was starting to feel a bit foolish – had he really been being a nuisance?
"Yeah, I do. Hey, you started that essay Binns gave us yet?"
Severus had also forgone breakfast in the Great Hall that morning. He sat in his study, staring blankly at the wand before him. It was now proof that as strange as the previous night was, it was also real.
After spending a great deal of the night thinking about it, there was still one thing which completely confused him. He couldn't explain any of it definitely of course, but he had his suspicions about her intial reactions. He was almost certain he knew why she ran at last.
No, what confused him was the look of complete relief on her face between the two. It didn't fit in with his other suspicions at all.
Severus let out a sigh. What should he do now?
The simplest problem he currently had was her wand. She would need it back, before lessons started on Monday. He doubted she would come and ask for it – 'Hell, she's probably waiting to hear that I've had her expelled!' – so it was his problem to solve. Sometimes he wished that he really were the nasty bastard everyone thought he was. It would make life so much easier.
'Not everyone thinks that...you've never been able to fool Albus, and Minerva hasn't been convinced in a long time…concentrate! The wand…'
He could return it to her himself, but he wasn't sure that was the best option. He needed to figure out how he was going to handle the bigger problem before he spoke to her about any of it, or he could screw it all up. She needed help, that much was clear to him. He just wasn't sure how to give it to her yet…he needed to think.
"Of course!" he exclaimed, grabbing the wand as he leapt from his chair.
It was the perfect solution. She wouldn't feel pressured to try to explain, he would get the extra thinking time he needed, she'd get her wand back, and hopefully realise she wasn't going to be expelled.
He quickly wrote a short note, and made his way to the owlery.
Hermione looked up from her breakfast at the faint tapping noise. She made her way curiously to the window, opened it, and stepped back as a magnificent black owl entered.
She quickly took the large package it carried, and fetched a few owl treats. After happily accepting them the bird left, and Hermione turned her attention to her parcel.
She'd never seen the owl before, and it certainly wasn't one of the school ones, so she couldn't even begin to guess who might have sent it.
She let out a gasp as the parcel opened to reveal her wand, and quickly reached for the note beneath it.
I shall be most dis-pleased if you disclose to anyone that you managed to get that little jinx past me.
If you feel the need to explain yourself you know where you may find me.
Prof. S. Snape.'
Hermione wasn't sure what to make of the note.
'Does this mean that he's not going to Professor Dumbledore? I'm not gonna be expelled?'
It made sense that he didn't want anyone knowing she had managed to get her spell past him, and yet at the same time she had not thought he would let his pride stop him from getting rid of someone who he'd hated for six years now. Was he trying to lure her into a false sense of security?
Somehow she didn't think so. She knew he was honest, he'd proved that often enough, and his letter…the wording…
It seemed to her that he was almost…reassuring her that he wasn't going to tell anyone. He wasn't even demanding an explanation. 'Yet,' her little inner voice added.
Hermione paused in the corridor again…was she really going to do this?
The dungeons were completely deserted. No-one wanted to linger down here, especially not when the weather was as beautiful as it was – 'Well, almost no-one,' Hermione thought.
After thinking about it – something she had done constantly since she had read his note – Hermione had decided that whether he demanded it or not, Professor Snape deserved an explanation. She hadn't decided yet how much she would tell him – if he was even willing to listen, she knew he hated 'excuses' for anything – but the thought of saying anything at all was now becoming too terrifying.
She squared her shoulders resolutely. She owed him an apology at least. She began walking again, heading straight for the Potions Master's office.
With a slightly trembling hand she knocked softly on the door.
Severus looked up from the essays he was marking.
"Enter!" he barked, annoyed at being disturbed.
At the sight of Hermione Granger striding into his office, Severus stared in disbelief. She had her wand back, what on earth could she want? He covered his surprise admirably, and spoke.
"Miss Granger, I am quite busy. What do you want?"
"I…uh…that is…" Hermione stuttered nervously.
"If you have something to say, then say it Miss Granger," he said impatiently. 'Idiot! Alienating her will not make helping her any easier!' he chided himself.
"I…I came to say I'm sorry…about last night." She waited, staring at the floor, for his reaction.
"You are lucky, Miss Granger, that it was I, and not a student, who startled you. You could have seriously injured someone, do you realise that?" He spoke earnestly, and as he did so his hand went absently to rub his shoulder where it had impacted with the corridor wall. He had not been hurt badly, but one of the younger students, so much smaller than he was…
The sound of rather violent gasping sobs interrupted his thoughts, and he saw that Hermione had gone pale with shock. She had obviously not considered that possibility yet, and she was not dealing too well with it.
"Calm yourself, Miss Granger." 'What am I supposed to do now?' "Sit down, for goodness sake. I'll make some tea, it should help you calm down a little."
Hermione looked up, shocked. The last thing she had expected was this. She had fully expected detentions and docked house points, and here he was – Severus Snape, hated Potions Master, greasy git, and nasty bastard extraordinaire – offering her tea?
She moved slowly to an empty chair, trying desperately to get herself under control. What he'd said had struck a nerve. A younger student might not have known how to dis-arm her, and she wasn't entirely sure that she would have stopped with that one curse.
Would she have run away? Or would she have attacked again? She had been so terrified, she had had only one thought in her head. It would not happen again…she wouldn't let it. Now she didn't know if she would have stopped, and it scared her to death.
Severus watched her carefully as he made the tea. His thinking time was up it seemed. He could not help admiring the courage it must have taken for her to face him. He could see that his comment had hit a nerve, and now he found himself wondering what would have happened if he had not dis-armed her?
Picking up the tea tray he made his way to the other chair, and set the tray on the coffee table. He poured two cups, took his, and sat back. He could think of no way to restart the conversation, and so decided to wait and see what she would do and say.
After what seemed like an eternity, Hermione managed to get herself back under control. She took the second cup of tea from the tray and cradled it between her hands, feeling the warmth spread from the beautiful china to her chilled fingers.
"I was so scared…I didn't even consider…"
Severus watched silently as her voice trailed off. She wasn't looking at him, and he suspected that she wasn't talking to him either. She sounded as though she was lost in thought, and he remained as still and silent as possible, not wanting to break the calm.
She was silent for a few minutes, and then suddenly began to speak. Her voice was clear, her eyes focused firmly on her tea cup.
"They didn't want me to come back, you know. They wanted to keep me there, to keep an eye on me. They didn't understand that…" her voice caught, and her eyes began to tear up. She shook her head slightly, resolutely, and continued. "They didn't realise that in my mind, he was waiting around every corner. I couldn't leave the house alone anymore. They'll probably never find him, that's what the police said to my parents. They thought I wasn't listening...thought I was asleep. I was in hospital for two weeks, you know. That's why I was late this term." She raised her head, and locked eyes with her teacher. "I thought he'd found me. I thought you were him, and I wanted to hurt him, so badly. I think…" She broke off, a look of realisation crossing her face. "I think I wanted to kill him…"
Her expression became one of guilt and gratitude…a peculiar mixture.
"Thank you, Professor," she whispered softly.
Severus sat in stunned silence as she spoke.
He was now glad that his shoulder was bruised and aching, glad that it was he who had happened upon her the previous night. He had been able to stop her when she couldn't stop herself. Her gratitude for that was not lost on him, despite her nearly inaudible thanks.
He didn't know what to say. Would she continue if he gave her chance? He wasn't sure he wanted to hear any more, but he was sure she had told no-one else at Hogwarts – 'not even Albus knows,' he thought, remembering what he'd overheard of the Headmaster's mutterings at the beginning of term – and he knew that it could help for her to have someone around who knew…someone she could talk to whenever it got to be too much for her.
The silence stretched, and he realised that she was waiting for him to say something. He had no idea what he was supposed to say, he never had been good at dealing with delicate situations.
"I'm sorry, Professor, I should go…you're busy, you don't need…I should go. Thank you for the tea." She set her still full cup on the table as she spoke, and made to leave.
"Miss Granger," he said again, his voice no longer uncertain, but soft and commanding. Hermione paused. "Marking second year essays is hardly of great import or urgency…I could be wrong…" He pointedly ignored the smirk on her face at that remark, and continued, "but maybe you need someone to talk to? I'm sure I'm not the most obvious choice, but I think maybe I could help you…"
"Why are you being nice to me?" Hermione's voice was strained…she refused to cry again…she wanted to scream at him for making her need to cry again.
"I'm not quite so terrible that you think me incapable of compassion, am I? What you have been through…" his voice caught slightly, and then he continued, "what you have been through is something no-one should have to go through…you may rest assured that I will not tell a soul anything you tell me in confidence, Miss Granger."
My attempt at a cliff-hanger...is it any good?...grins...will she talk? will we finally find out what happened to Hermione? review and all will be revealed...
A/N: I may have internet problems for a while...I'm changing internet providers, not sure how long it'll take to sort out. I may get the next chapter up before-hand, but if not then it'll be a.s.a.p, promise!