Was that what he meant? Someone broke the secret because they found the letter? But that's not possible. No one can enter my office so freely... Severus stopped in his thoughts. So far, no one can enter my office—

Except for Hermione Granger.

Severus couldn't remain in his office any longer; the students waiting outside his dungeon already began making a racket in the hallway.He cussed again as he neatly set his books back and stormed out of his office for class.

Everyone stopped talking the instant Severus slammed the dungeon door open and glared at them icily. Hermione's eyes were fixed on Severus' right shoulder as she entered the classroom. As much as Severus tried to hide it, she could tell it was throbbing badly to every single movement of his body. For once, Hermione wasn't paying attention, nor taking any notes from the lecture.

"It really does hurt, doesn't it?" Harry leaned over and whispered in Hermione's ear.

"Obviously."

"I meant you."

Severus had heard their small conversation. He turned around and glowered at the two of them coldly. "Ten points from Gryffindor for talking in class. If I hear another word from you again, Mr. Potter, it's detention."

A few Slytherin girls sitting a few tables away giggled.

After Severus walked to the back of the room, Hermione nudged Harry's stomach and whispered, "What in Merlin's name are you talking about?"

"Doesn't it just kill you to see him like that?" Harry gestured at Snape's back with his head.

Harry was right. Hermione felt her insides twist and sting each time Severus tensed his body to the pain from his shoulder. She slightly nodded in agreement.

"Kill to see who like what?" Ron asked. He obviously was listening to Harry and Hermione's conversation all along.

"It's nothing important." Harry gave Ron a shove as Snape paced down the steps again.

The bell rang loudly as students filed out of the classroom. After knowing everyone had left, Severus stopped maintaining his firm posture and grasped a nearby table as he strained to keep himself balanced. He was sweating from the sharp pain as he lifted his left hand and placed it upon his shoulder, feeling the lump burn against his palm. After regaining some strength, Severus began walking slowly back to his office. Suddenly, he noticed the presence of someone still in the classroom.

"Miss Granger, don't you have class to attend?"

Did she see all of that?

"Why..." Hermione's voice was shaking."Why did you save me like that?"

Severus was slightly confused. It didn't take him long to perceive what Hermione was saying.

Damn it, she did.

"How else was I supposed to defend you?" Severus replied.

"You could've gotten yourself killed."

Severus sneered. "That's not for you to decide, Miss Granger."

"Why didn't you just push me aside? Or perhaps use a counter curse?" Tears began well up in Hermione's eyes. "Then you wouldn't have endured all that pain for me..."

"It was all out of nothing but free will." He said truthfully.

"Yet it makes me feel guilty! I was the one who was supposed to get hit, not you..." Tears began to slide down Hermione's cheeks.

There was more to the reason why Hermione hated the fact that Severus had saved her. The wound on his back had tortured her more than ever; the way Severus tried to act like nothing was wrong slit a fresh cut in Hermione's heart. If she hadn't been so stupid, if only she shouted out the counter curse, then none of this would've happened.

"It was Voldemort who made this wound more severe." Severus said softly. "It wasn't your fault from the first place." He tried to stand up straight, but failed miserably.

"Voldemort wouldn't get the chance to bring the burn from first degree to third if it wasn't because you got hit by his spell." Hermione said, tears still falling from her eyes.

She is getting outrageously annoying...

"If you want to take the blame of my injury, you're free to do so." Severus muttered apathetically, slightly losing his temper.

Hermione's tears didn't seem to stop falling.

"However," he added in a mild tone, "Keep in mind I never accused you for any of this."

Hermione looked up at him, astonished.

"Professor... you—"

The sound of Severus opening his office door cut Hermione off. "I'm expecting to see you tonight." He said as he entered his room.

The last sentence lingered in the air as Severus' door clicked shut.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

"Hermione, where are you going?"

Hermione ran right into Ron at the opening of the portrait hole.

"To Snape's office, of course."

Ron crossed his arms. "For what? Compensating?"

"He saved me twice in a row, Ron."

"Ron, will you just let her pass? Snape's not going to be happy if she's late." Ginny stood up from the couch and glared at her brother.

Ron snorted and stepped away from the entrance he was blocking.

"Thank you." Hermione said sarcastically.

After waiting a few minutes for Hermione to walk far, Harry sighed.

"Mate, you need to stop getting jealous."

Ginny nodded at Harry's statement.

"What? Isn't it human nature?"

"Obviously Hermione isn't paying much attention to it." Harry said.

"Why is that?"

"Dunno." Harry and Ginny said at the same time.

Hermione had arrived at Severus' office earlier than expected. Slightly excited to meet him alone, Hermione gave her heaving chest a pat. Then she took a deep breath and knocked on his door lightly.

"Come in." The deep voice called inside.

Hermione opened the door as a light warm breeze met her. Severus was sitting at his desk, reading a pile of essays.

"You'll be grading the Sixth years today," Severus said without looking up. "It's over at the coffee table."

Hermione glanced at the big wooden chair Severus sat in. "Professor?"

"Yes?"

"I think you should sit at the couch, since your back is..."

"That's very considerate of you." Severus said as he got up from his desk and moved over to his couch.

Hermione sat down on the wooden chair and took a few glances over at Snape's back. The gauze strapped around his scapula was thick and visible under his white button-up shirt. It didn't seem to bother him that much like it did this morning anymore. She let out a small sigh of relief and picked one essay up from the pile. She let out a small grin when she noticed the first paper belonged to Ginny.

"Don't go soft on her just because she's a friend."

Hermione shot up and stared at the owner of the voice. "Pardon me?"

Severus repeated his statement again without looking away from the paper in his hand. "I said; don't go soft on Ginny Weasley just because she's your friend."

How did he know I'm reading Ginny's paper?

"What about you Professor? Do you go soft on Malfoy's essay?"

"In case you haven't noticed, I often hand you the papers I know I'll be biased against." Severus stated, finally looking up at Hermione.

Oh yeah huh... Hermione raised her eyebrows. No wonder he knows I'm reading Ginny's.

"And Draco Malfoy doesn't go to this school anymore."

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

By the time Hermione finished grading her pile of essays, Severus had fallen asleep. It was only 11:30, but Hermione guessed it was probably because the tranquilizing potion Severus had drank that made him so sleepy. Her heart suddenly began aching. He was so close to her, but she couldn't—no, shouldn't touch him. Hermione stood frozen in front of Severus' sleeping figure for a long time. Finally, she couldn't hold in her emotions any longer. She noiselessly approached him from where she was standing. His lips were too alluring to her... She bent down and moved her face closer. Severus' face was only a few centimeters away, for she could feel his steady breath on her lips.

"You've gone too far, Miss Granger."

Severus' bleak, coal-black eyes glared into hers.

Hermione pulled herself away instinctively. "I...I'm sorry...Professor."

"That's not very wise of you to do that." Severus said callously as he rose from the emerald couch. "Since you're done with the grading, please head back to your tower."

Hermione stood in front of the fireplace, not eager to move.

"What are you doing? I said you're allowed to leave."

Hermione knew why she wanted to stay. She couldn't stand not being able to see him for another eight to nine hours.

"I want to stay." She whispered. I want to stay...with you.

Severus gave her a perplexed look. "Why? Don't you have class tomorrow?"

Why? Snape is now asking her why? How could she tell him?

"Hermione Granger," his voice interrupted her thoughts. "I'm asking you a question."

"I..." Hermione's eyes darted around the room.

Severus eyed her suspiciously, waiting for her answer.

I can't say it! I just can't! I can't tell him I like him... Hermione felt a wave of despair pass by her mind. She nervously turned her face away from Severus' gaze.

"Forget what I said, Professor. I'm leaving this instant." Hermione replied as she headed for the door.

Before her fingers could get hold of the silver doorknob, Severus clutched her wrist and turned her around forcefully. His powerful hands seized her shoulders and pinned her against the wall.

"You're hiding something."Severus hissed.

Hermione tried to give Severus an unwavering look. "I'm not."

"Yes you are," Severus' grip on her shoulders tightened. "Don't even attempt to lie to me." His unfathomable black eyes surveyed her attentively.

"You're obviously not willing to spill what you have in your mind, Miss Granger." Severus pressed Hermione harder onto the cold, stone wall.

She took the first letter after all, didn't she? And now she wants to stay because she knows I have another one? I should've suspected her...

"I'm giving you once last chance."

"I have nothing to say." Hermione answered as she gritted her teeth. She could feel her shoulders palpitating with fear from Severus' dark gaze.

Severus' let out a sardonic grin. "Very well then... Since you are so determined to hide your secret, allow me to reveal it—"

Hermione knew what Severus was going to do to her. She involuntarily shifted her head sideways and shut her eyes to avoid him from entering.

"Legilimens!"

Severus plunged into her mind, looking for signs of her stealing the letter from his office.

He found nothing.

Instead, he began to decipher one of the raging emotions occupying her mind. NO! Severus could hear her scream. Don't, Professor, please don't!

What he saw left him utterly speechless. He threw himself out of her mind and glowered fiercely at the auburn haired girl writhing under his grasp. Hermione fell to the floor with an audible thump as Severus loosened his grip on her shoulders and backed away. She could feel her face blazing as her eyes started to water. She began weeping softly, partly from the pain on her shoulders and knees; mostly because of the shame she felt for her feelings.

"Oh God..." Hermione muttered.

Severus gave Hermione a look of disgust and rushed out of his office, the doors banged shut behind him.

The rain began falling from the black skies. Hermione buried her face in her hands and started sob. He had walked away from her, disgusted.

She knew clear enough he hated her.


Disclaimer: Look at chapter 3.

A/N: mwa haha. this chapter sure took me long enough o.O... my finals are finally over, damn it kills to not be able to write when there's millions of ideas spilling out of my mind. i hope everyone likes it! and remember to read and review :) even a single letter can make me feel bliss. please let me know that you've read my story!

of course, tons of love all of those who continuously give me feedback ;) (mwah)