DISCLAIMER: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

Chapter 14

Fingernails on the Brain

Hermione stared dreamily at Snape. That was the chest which had pressed itself against her… those were the fingers that had touched her lips, the lips that had made shivers run down her neck, and underneath the robes… Yes, underneath those robes were all the parts that she had come to know so intimately last night.

Only they weren't. He looked the part, but there was a certain spark missing. He was saying something about the Imperius Curse. She wasn't really paying attention. Teaching-Snape wasn't very interesting, after all, even if he did look like her Snape (Sadistic- and Vengeful-Snape having been reduced once again to a single malicious body; unfortunately, as she hadn't been facing them, she hadn't seen exactly how the melding had come to pass. She meant to ask Insecure-Snape at the next opportunity). Plus, she already knew all about the Imperius. She'd used it just last night. A thrill went through her at the memory, and she squirmed in her seat, casting sidelong glances at Harry and Ron. She felt like everyone could see what she'd done.

She couldn't believe it: she wasn't a virgin anymore. And it had been Professor Snape who'd deflowered her! She'd always imagined it would be someone she was crazy in love with, but in the end, the physical act itself hadn't been that big a deal. She'd thought that she'd feel different afterwards, but she didn't, not really. The greatest difference was that she now had this huge secret that she was bursting to tell someone, but of course she couldn't. Imagine what Harry and Ron would say if she told them that Professor Snape had taken her from the rear last night. Her stomach squiggled at the memory. She wasn't even sore. She had been, right afterwards, but Insecure-Snape had produced a cream from somewhere and fumbled it into her hands, mumbling something about topical use on his way out.

She wondered if, aside from the Imperius, attempted humiliation, Shield charm, and observation by Insecure-Snape, the whole experience had been very similar to a normal bedroom scene. Was it always that quick? Would it have felt different if he'd been in front of her, rather than behind? She'd never find out, not with him, anyway. There was no way she'd ever do that with him again. Well, okay, maybe she would… But only to save someone's soul, she primly told herself. But maybe some day, if she fell in love with someone…

Ron snorted at a joke from Harry, startling Hermione out of her reverie. Teaching-Snape dutifully took five points from Gryffindor, then continued with his monotone lecture. Hermione snuck a look at Ron. Would it feel different with him? She used to have a crush on him, she admitted. But now, looking at him with his baby-face and gangly movements, comparing that to Snape's stubble scratching against her neck, his self-assurance and sense of power, twisted though it was… it was no comparison. Hermione frowned. Now, did that make sense? Surely that was just the Bond speaking. Although, since they'd completed the Bond, she hadn't felt the overpowering desire to be together with him… because she was together with him, or he with her. Not physically, of course, but that wasn't necessary. It wasn't like she could read his thoughts or anything, but she could feel him, sort of in the back of her mind. She knew that he was there, and that he was all right, and that comforted her.

It wasn't like a marriage, either. She wasn't in love with him. She wasn't about to live with him. She felt very powerful, though. She had a real, tangible connection to the soul of another living being.

There was something tugging at her now, however, distracting her. It was the Bond, but she couldn't tell exactly what it meant. Something was bothering her… or him… it was hard to tell. She fidgeted through the rest of class, then dashed out ahead of the boys; she had to find Snape.

At his private quarters, she had to knock several times before Insecure-Snape finally opened the door.

"Where is he?" Hermione asked without preamble, craning to look around the unfortunate professor.

Insecure-Snape's shoulders slumped as he stepped aside. "He's not here," he said curtly.

"Where is he, then?" Hermione demanded, not even thinking about the tone she was taking with a man who was still her professor. The bothersomeness was getting hard to ignore. It was something like the feeling she'd had before the Bond had been completed, but it wasn't a physical urge to be near him. It was hard to pin down, but there was again the feeling that something was missing, that something was out of kilter with the world.

Insecure-Snape shuffled over to a rickety stool and hunched down on it with a forlorn air. "The Headmaster won't let him wander around the castle unattended any more. Some incident with Flitwick. He's got him under observation in his office."

"Thanks!" Hermione turned to go, then hesitated. The pull in her mind was strong, but she felt that she owed something to Insecure-Snape for having helped her. That was a type of bond, too. "Are you all right?" she asked.

"Why shouldn't I be?" he asked in a monotone.

"You just seem kind of… down. More than usual, I mean." She looked once more around the room, ascertaining that Snape was alone. "There's no one here picking on you, is there?"

Snape shook his head. His lank hair shone dully in the dim light.

Hermione sighed and crossed her arms. "Then why the long face? You did a great job last night. Thanks to you, we got the two worst ones of you Bonded again. You're one step closer to re-integration. Isn't that something to look forward to?"

"If they still want me," he said morosely.

"Is that what this is about? Of course they still want you. Well, maybe not all of them," she admitted, "but most of them, and Professor Dumbledore does, too. And I do."

Snape picked at his robe.

"You're not the same without you. You know what I mean. I swear." When Snape didn't respond, Hermione continued, "Look, this has actually been a good thing. I've really come to know a different side of you. I didn't realize that beneath all that scowling and anger, there was a smart, sensitive … man." Hermione gulped a little at calling him a 'man'. It implied a level of familiarity that she wasn't sure she meant.

The bothersome feeling in the back of her mind was now becoming nearly impossible to ignore.

"I have to go," she said. "Something's not right with this Bond." She shook her head fretfully. "I'll see myself out."

Snape didn't even look up as she hurried out.

In the Headmaster's office, as promised, she found her Bondmate. He was currently destroying, meticulously and with brute force, every item within his reach. Professor Dumbledore was sitting calmly at his desk, bent over a large tome. Every once in a while, he would absentmindedly flick his wand over his head in order to deflect some flying piece of debris.

As she opened the door, Snape whirled around, a fist-sized, solid glass globe in one hand. She instinctively ducked at the same instant that he threw it, and it landed somewhere in the hallway behind her with a loud thud. He looked furious.

"Miss Granger, please come in," Professor Dumbledore said, motioning her closer. "Do close the door behind you, won't you?"

Hermione did so rather quickly, as Snape was making a lunge for it. He reached it a moment too late, and tore fruitlessly at the handle before changing tack and grabbing Hermione around the throat. Too late, she groped for her wand, but Dumbledore was on his feet in an instant and shot a spell at her attacker, causing him to release his hold on her and fall to his knees, gasping for breath.

"You… wouldn't…" he rasped, clawing at his throat.

"No, I wouldn't," Dumbledore agreed. "Miss Granger, step aside, if you would…?"

She hurried to comply, glass crunching underfoot, and as soon as she did, Dumbledore waved his wand, and Snape was able to breathe again, but had apparently become stuck to the floor by both knees and one hand.

Hermione stared wide-eyed at the poor man, rubbing her neck where his arm had bruised her. He was really in a terrible state. No wonder she had felt a disturbance.

"What's happened, Professor?" she asked the Headmaster, horrified, never once taking her eyes from the man on the floor.

"He's keeping me locked up here, that's what's happened!" bellowed Snape.

"I'm afraid it simply became untenable to allow you free rein, Severus," Dumbledore explained with a sigh. "Ruled by your single-minded thirst for cruel vengeance as you are. You are a danger for others, not to mention yourself."

"But you let him go before," Hermione said, her brow wrinkled in a frown at the injustice. "When he was first Bonded to himself. I mean—" She shook her head and tried to get the wording straight.

"Yes, yes, I understand," Professor Dumbledore reassured her. "I thought it prudent, however, to avoid a repeat of the re-Split which occurred by keeping Professor Snape under observation until such time as the next Bonding can be arranged."

"You'll never get me to do it!" Snape vowed.

"It's in your own best interest," Professor Dumbledore responded pleasantly. "You cannot survive separately, except perhaps in Azkaban. Society, I am afraid, is simply not ready for you."

The unpleasant feeling in the back of Hermione's mind throbbed and itched. She felt the overwhelming urge to scratch it, but how does one scratch inside one's head? She put her hands on the sides of her head, weaving her fingers in underneath her hair.

"Please, Professor," Hermione pleaded, turning to the Headmaster. "Isn't there anything that can be done so that he's less… unhappy?" she asked. "It's something about the Bond, I think…" She pressed in as hard as she could, as if that would make the feeling go away. "When he's like this, it… gnaws at me," she finished, for want of a better term.

Dumbledore's lined face took on a look of concern. "Dear me, I hadn't thought of that," he remarked gravely. "Of course, Professor Snape's distress will be affecting you as well." He gestured around the ruined room. "I was allowing him to take out his compulsion for destruction on some trinkets here, which seemed to appease him somewhat, but it looks that he's gone right through the lot."

Hermione thought quickly. If all he needed was something to wreak havoc on… "Maybe I could take him outside, Professor?" she ventured. "Let him rip up some plants…?"

"Plants!" Snape snorted. "Rip off some heads, more like it!" Although he seemed contemptuous of the idea, Hermione felt the disorder in her mind ebbing.

Professor Dumbledore regarded Hermione kindly. "While I appreciate the thought, are you certain that you can contain him should he get too – shall we say -- overzealous?"

Hermione stood up straight and thrust her shoulders back. "I handled him myself last night," she declared, although actually, she had had a bit of help from Insecure-Snape. But mostly, she had kept both Vengeful-Snape and Sadistic-Snape under control all by herself.

"So you did," Dumbledore acknowledged with a nod. He seemed to be taking the idea under serious consideration. "Perhaps we can attempt it for the afternoon only. I would expect you to bring him back here tonight."

Hermione's heart leapt. Not that she was going to enjoy spending time with Malicious-Snape, but she was gratified that Professor Dumbledore had accepted her suggestion and seen fit to entrust her with such a great responsibility. She was confident that she would be able to handle Snape. All she'd have to do would be to Immobilize him if he got out of line.

"Absolutely, Professor," she assured him importantly. "I'll be sure to have him back in time for dinner."

Snape was strangely silent during this exchange, but if the Headmaster thought anything of it, he didn't mention it. Hermione, for her part, took his silence for acquiescence; after all, she was getting him out, which was exactly what he wanted. She vaguely imagined that he might try to escape or kill someone again, but after all, what could he do without a wand? Still, she pointed hers at him warningly as Professor Dumbledore released him from the Sticking Charm.

"Slowly, now, Professor," she warned him. "You know what will happen if you don't behave yourself."

Snape rose to his not unimpressive height and sneered down at Hermione with nothing but contempt in his eyes. "You'll get Snivellus to beat me up?" he mocked.

Hermione gripped her wand more tightly. "Do I need to remind you what position you ended up in last night when you tried your tricks?"

Snape's lip curled in what may have been meant to be amusement. "You mean the one where I had you bent over with your arse in the air, begging me to—"

"Severus!" Professor Dumbledore admonished him. "That is no way to talk to a lady, much less one who has so kindly offered to help you."

Snape glowered at both of them, flexing his hands in a dangerous way. Hermione briefly considered casting the Shield charm again, but that seemed like showing weakness to her. Besides, he was calm now. She could feel it.

"After you," she commanded, indicating the door.

Snape cast one final look at Dumbledore, as if to see whether he was really going to let them get away with it, but it seemed he was, for the door swung inward of its own accord, and Snape lost no time in taking egress. Hermione ran after him, calling out, "Thank you, Professor! You won't be sorry, I promise!" over her shoulder.

Almost immediately, however, she worried that perhaps he would be sorry, or at the very least, she would be, for when she reached the bottom of the stairs, Snape was nowhere in sight. Panic froze her momentarily, before she heard the very distinctive sound of his voice, raised in a taunting manner.

She raced to follow it, and, turning the corner, found him nose-to-nose with Harry, Ron standing behind them, white-mouthed and uncertain.

"What's going on?" she demanded as she approached. "I swear, I let you out of my sight for two seconds—"

Before she knew what was happening, Snape had whirled around and seized her wand, which she was still holding, out of her hand.

"Hey--!" she protested, but Snape was already sending a curse at Harry, a nasty one, one which Harry was unable to deflect, being likewise unprepared for the unmitigated attack.

"What's he doing!" Ron screeched, obviously torn between wanting to help Harry and fearful of taking on Snape.

"Take that, Potter!" Snape bellowed, shooting another, clearly painful, hex at the unfortunate boy, who was now on the floor, squirming.

"No!" Hermione cried, horrified. "Stop it!" She made a grab for the wand, but Snape shoved her handily away, then sent Harry skittering against the wall, where he slumped down, motionless. "Harry!" Hermione screamed. Oh, no! This was all her fault! He'd kill Harry before she had a chance to get Professor Dumbledore…

Snape was just raising the wand once more, when… he grabbed at his head with both hands and bent over, as if he were hearing a sound that was painful to his ears.

"What the—" Ron grunted out.

"Ron!" Hermione said, it beginning to dawn on her what had happened. "Quickly, get Harry down to the hospital wing! I'll take care of Professor Snape! Quickly!" she repeated, as Ron was still standing there dumbly, gaping at the hunched-over professor.

For his part, Snape raised his head now and pointed the wand at Hermione. "You…" he ground out. "You're doing this…"

Hermione shook her head, frightened but adamant. "No, you're doing it. You hurt my best friend. I thought you were going to kill him. It's the Bond. That's what it feels like when I'm in distress."

Snape snarled like a wild cat and launched himself at Hermione. Too bad she hadn't cast that Shield charm after all, she fleetingly thought as his hands came into contact with her shoulders and slammed her against the wall. She caught a glimpse of Ron loping away, Harry's lifeless figure slung over his shoulder, and while she was grateful that Harry would be looked after, she realized she was now all alone with a psychopathic killer.

"Do you mean to tell me, that if I do anything that causes you distress, this bloody Bond will scratch its fingernails across my brain until I stop?"

"That's exactly what it feels like!" Hermione exclaimed in relief. It had been bothering her no end that she couldn't describe what the feeling was like. "And I don't think it has to be you, per se, causing the distress. It could be anything. I felt it when Dumbledore was holding you prisoner."

"Hm…" Snape seemed to be considering how he could turn this to his advantage. "But if I do something that makes you … happy …" He seemed to find the very word distasteful. "… the Bond shouldn't object to it?"

Hermione shrugged. "I don't see why it should. But it's not like you're very likely to do something that I'd like, is it?" she added cynically.

Snape pressed her wand to her throat. "Quickly! Tell me whom you'd like to take vengeance on! Who would you like to see turned inside out through their nose and dragged across sharpened Basilisk fangs?"

"Okay, first of all—" Hermione pushed the wand away from her with her fingertip. "—that kind of tends to increase my stress levels. Secondly, I don't hate anyone that much. Not all of us bear grudges a mile long, you know."

"A strong dislike, then! Someone who – I don't know, wouldn't let you play their little reindeer games! Called you names! Laughed at your hair! There must be dozens to choose from!"

"You mean other than you?"

"Would that work?" Snape asked hopefully. "Should we get the one who teaches? I'll bet he grades very, very unfairly…"

"No!" Hermione retorted. "You will not go hexing yourself!"

"That damned pompous one, then. He always thinks he's so much smarter than you."

"Does he really?" Hermione was a little hurt by that.

"Oh, yes…" Malicious-Snape said greedily. "Much, much smarter. He thinks you're even stupider than Potter…"

Hermione scoffed. Even she could see that that was patently untrue. "That's silly. You're just trying to get me to agree to your hexing someone. I won't do it."

"Isn't there someone you'd like to see suffer, just a little? Someone who's made your life unpleasant, someone who never seems to get their just desserts? Someone who has everything handed to them on a silver platter, while you've had to work your fingers to the bone for everything you've ever gotten—"

"Malfoy," Hermione murmured, almost involuntarily.

Snape perked his ears. "What's that? Malfoy, did you say?"

"No! You won't hex anyone!"

"Elder or younger?" Snape pressed, ignoring her protest. "If it's Draco, we could go get him right now. I know all the dormitory passwords. He can't hide."

"No, I said! Just because he's belittled me since day one, made fun of my heritage, sabotaged my classwork—"

"Don't forget, made fun of your looks," Snape added slyly. "I heard him calling you a beaver several times, before you got those things—" He indicated her front teeth. "—fixed. Of course, back then, I awarded him House points for putting you in your snotty little place, but now—" he hurried to add, alarmed at Hermione's darkening expression, "now, I'm on your side! He deserves to be punished. It's time he got his comeuppance. I'm sure we can come up with more reasons…"

Hermione mumbled something sheepishly.

"What's that? I didn't quite catch it…" Snape said eagerly.

"I said, okay, you can do one little hex on him," she repeated, out of the corner of her mouth. "But nothing painful!" she hastened to add, upon seeing his face light up evilly.

"All right, all right, we'll start small. Give you a taste for it," he agreed, rubbing his hands together. "What would you suggest? Boils? Slime-balls? Lusitanian Bollocks Jinx?"

"I'm… not sure what that last one is," she said, giving Snape an odd look. "And boils sound painful. How about…" Hermione cast about in her mind for something fitting, yet not disabling. Something that would show him that blood purity wasn't everything. Was there a curse to turn someone into a Muggle-born for a day? Although he wouldn't even notice the difference, because there was no difference… His looks, then. Snape was right, Malfoy's second most favorite target on Hermione was her looks. Her eye fell on Snape's own less-than-desirable hair as she considered… Exactly!

"Greaseball!" she exclaimed, snapping her fingers.

"Swotty pain-in-the-arse!" Snape retorted.

Hermione clicked her tongue. "No! I don't mean you. I mean the Greaseball Hex. You can cast that on Malfoy."

"It's not painful at all," Snape said derisively.

"I said, no pain," Hermione reminded him. "Not physical pain, anyway. But Malfoy's always making fun of other people's hair… mine, Harry's, Ron's… And he takes great care with his own. It'll drive him crazy if he can't get it clean."

"I was hoping for something a bit more creative," Snape said, peeved.

"It's either that, or back to Professor Dumbledore's office."

Snape exhaled sharply through his nose and twisted his lips in a dissatisfied manner. "I get to pick the next one, then."

"We'll see," Hermione responded evasively.

Snape started off down the corridor, and Hermione hustled to catch up. Thinking he was now bent on his little plans and wouldn't notice, she reached over and tried to snatch her wand back, but Snape tightened his grip on it and pulled it away from her, hard.

"I'll need that for the Hex, won't I?" he said in a scathing tone that clearly was meant to indicate how stupid Hermione was.

"But it's my wand," she insisted, pulling back just as hard.

"What's yours is mine," he retorted, yanking so hard that Hermione stumbled and nearly fell over. A warning tickle began in her mind.

Both of them stopped and stared daggers at each other. The tickle receded, yet neither would relinquish control of the wand. Hermione realized that if she backed down, it would be the first step to his will gaining the upper hand over hers.

"We'll both hold it," she said with steely determination.

"Fine," he forced out between narrowed lips.

They both looked contemptuously away and continued their descent to the Slytherin area of the castle, holding the wand between them like a bridge over a vast chasm.

--/--/--/--/--

Some time later, the Snapes currently in residence in their quarters were rudely startled out of their current occupations (Teaching-Snape was grading papers, and Insecure-Snape wasn't doing much of anything other than brooding, by the looks of it) by the door bursting open, spilling their malicious counterpart and Hermione into the room.

The two intruders were laughing like there would be no tomorrow. Well, in the case of Malicious-Snape it was more of an evil gurgle, but Hermione was laughing so hard she had to sit down in order not to wet herself.

Insecure-Snape, affronted, got up and slipped into the bedroom. Hermione, her eyes clouded with tears of mirth, nevertheless saw him go and called out, "Professor! You don't need to leave, Professor!" before dissolving again into peals of laughter and literally rolling around on the floor.

"Do you two mind?" Teaching-Snape drawled. "I'm trying to mark the fourth-year essays."

Malicious-Snape went over to the desk and picked up a handful of the parchments in question.

"What do you think you're doing?" Teaching-Snape protested and tried to retrieve them, but Malicious-Snape was too fast for him, tossing the lot into the open grate, where a fire was merrily burning away.

"Extingua!" Teaching-Snape exclaimed with remarkable presence of mind, luckily being in possession, as per usual, of their wand.

"Pity," Malicious-Snape said.

Teaching-Snape glared, but said nothing as he bent over to fish the singed papers out of the ashes.

Hermione, in the meantime, had regained control over her faculties, her paroxysms of hilarity reduced to a few hiccupy giggles.

"Did you see his face?" she asked, obviously working hard to contain herself.

Snape smirked. "Yes. I do believe he's jealous. An excellent side-effect of this little situation."

"What?" She looked in confusion and horror at Teaching-Snape, who seemed to be paying them little mind.

"Not him, you dolt! The other one." Malicious-Snape jerked his head toward the bedroom.

Comprehension dawned, but Hermione found that idea nearly as ridiculous. "Not him! Malfoy! Did you see Malfoy's face!"

"Yes, that was also quite amusing," Snape agreed.

"And he's not jealous," she added. He couldn't be. That was silly. He was just sulky. Probably still upset that no one wanted to Bond with him.

"No?" Snape raised his eyebrows.

"No," Hermione replied firmly. "And you should stop being so mean to him."

"I can't help myself," Malicious-Snape said both smugly and truthfully. "It's too easy."

"When you're all together again, it's just going to make the lot of you miserable in there."

Malicious-Snape's face darkened. "I will not be forced together with him."

Teaching-Snape sniffed in what sounded like a meaningful way, but when Hermione spun around to look at him, he was dutifully marking essays.

"I won't!" Malicious-Snape repeated, with emphasis.

"Where are the rest anyway?" Hermione asked, looking around. There were two Snapes unaccounted-for.

"Up in the Headmaster's office," Teaching-Snape murmured, pausing to dip his quill into the inkpot before him.

Hermione's eyes widened. "Doing what?"

"Being Bonded," he droned.

"What, without us?" Hermione was surprised, and more than a little affronted. That meant they had to have gotten another witness.

"It would appear so," Teaching-Snape answered dryly. Or perhaps only factually.

"It does only take two," Malicious-Snape reminded her in a condescending tone. "Well, in our case, three." He eyed her in a lascivious manner that made Hermione feel both squeamish and, admittedly, slightly horny.

"I never did get to properly put you in your place last night," he continued, advancing now on her. Hermione closed her hand around her wand, which she had, thankfully, somehow ended up in possession of after their visit to the Slytherin dorms.

Teaching-Snape eyed the two of them. "If you're going to have sex, do it in the other room," he said peremptorily. "I have precisely twenty-four essays to get through before tomorrow morning."

Hermione's mouth dropped open in horror at the suggestion. "I should think not, thank you very much!"

"We'll do it wherever we bloody well please!" Malicious-Snape retorted, misunderstanding her objection on purpose. To Hermione, he cajoled, "It would annoy him no end. Think of it as a little revenge for his unfair marking schemes."

Hermione pulled her robes close around her neck. "No!" Although, admittedly, she was a bit titillated at the proposition and curious to see what a non-coercive encounter would entail, decorum demanded that she refuse.

He appeared to be on the verge of pressing the point, but then apparently remembered the unpleasantness that could ensue if Hermione were to become overly distressed and grumbled instead, "Then I'll have to go and torture Snivellus a bit," pushing past Hermione to the room which Insecure-Snape had retired to earlier.

"You will do no such thing!" Hermione hurried after him, entering the bedroom just in time to see Insecure-Snape's eyes widen in shock at the intrusion.

"We'll be needing this room," Malicious-Snape sneered, tossing back the covers on the bed.

"What...?" Insecure-Snape's eyes flitted from his doppelganger to Hermione, whose frown he interpreted as being directed at him.

"Unless you want to stay and watch?" Malicious-Snape leered suggestively.

"Watch?" Insecure-Snape repeated dumbly.

"Seems she just can't get enough of me," Malicious-Snape said, loosening his robes.

Hermione only now cottoned on to what he was up to. It seemed that Insecure-Snape did, too, for he stiffened up and began edging toward the door.

"Shut up!" Hermione told Malicious-Snape crossly. "I told you no! He's just saying that to get your goat," she informed Insecure-Snape. "Which is ridiculous. I mean, like you'd care." She rolled her eyes in an exaggerated manner.

"I don't care," Insecure-Snape murmured, not looking at her.

"Of course you don't," Malicious-Snape agreed. "You wouldn't care to get a handful of that firm, round, arse." He reached down and pinched Hermione on that very protrusion.

She gave a little exclamation of surprise and slapped his hand away, but couldn't help thinking of what it had felt like to have him touch her bare cheek the previous night. A little thrill went through her.

"Nor to nuzzle up against that smooth, soft neck..." Hermione recalled the scratch of his cheek, the heat of his breath. But it was wrong! She didn't desire him! He was old and ugly and cruel. She'd done what she had to, but that was over now.

Malicious-Snape was continuing, taunting Insecure-Snape: "...or to bury your—"

"That's enough!" Hermione cut him off, her voice taking on an uncontrollably shrill tone. Insecure-Snape was looking quite uncomfortable, and she wasn't feeling entirely at ease herself. "You're getting nowhere with this. He obviously doesn't care. You're only making a fool of yourself. I think you're just miffed I won't ... do what you want and you're trying to embarrass me. All right. You've succeeded. Happy?"

"How can I be with you stopping me from doing anything even halfway amusing? You're as bad as the dutiful one and the self-preserving one put together," he said with disgust.

"Look, you can't spend every waking moment getting revenge on someone. Don't you want to... I don't know, read a book or something?"

"You mistake me for the smart one," he sniffed.

"You're smart, too! You're not purely sadistic, you know. I've noticed that each of you has some of the others in him, too. He's not entirely without pride." She gestured toward Insecure-Snape. "You can lie through your teeth when it serves your purposes; the one who teaches us can be pretty smart. I think you can control your impulses. You just don't want to. You're self-indulgent and juvenile."

"And you're a self-important, prudish goose."

"I am not!"

"Blue-stocking!"

"Oh!" She stamped her foot and let out a little scream. "You're impossible! Why is he like this?" she asked Insecure-Snape, just blowing off steam, not expecting an answer.

Insecure-Snape mumbled something at his shoes.

"What? I didn't catch that."

"Senseless drivel, no doubt," Malicious-Snape said.

"Sh! I want to hear. He's always had very good ideas. What did you say, Professor?"

Insecure-Snape shook his head. "Nothing."

"No really, I want to hear. Do you know why he's always trying to hurt people? I mean, the rest of you I can pretty much figure out. Everyone's got more or less some degree of insecurity or intelligence or sense of duty. If I were split up, those aspects of me would probably also manifest themselves. But I don't think I've got an entire vengeful side to me. Nor do most people. So what made that particular personality type split off from you?"

"I don't know," Insecure-Snape said, just a bit too quickly.

"He doesn't know!" Malicious-Snape redoubled. "And you don't need to know, either. Does there have to be a reason for everything? It's a good thing I was around, though, or else I would have been walked all over by the likes of Potter and Black."

Insecure-Snape whimpered a bit.

"You mean Harry's father?" She recalled that there had been a discussion a while back about the systematic bullying which James Potter and his friends had put Snape through during their school years.

"All attitude and no brain," Malicious-Snape said through his teeth. "Thought they were better than everyone else and wanted to make sure we knew it. I should have crushed them... would have, too, if the others hadn't stood in my way."

"There were too many of them," Insecure-Snape spoke up weakly.

"Bah! Too many of us, more like it. If it had just been me, don't think they would have come back for seconds."

In the next room, a clock chimed six times, followed by the sound of a chair being pushed back. "Time for dinner," barked out Teaching-Snape.

Hermione and Malicious-Snape exchanged a look. It was time for her to bring him back to Dumbledore's office.

"Are you going to come quietly, or do I need to get Professor Snape to help?"

Malicious-Snape's nostrils flared as he regarded Insecure-Snape contemptuously. "As if he had any control over me."

"Not him. Him." Hermione raised her eyebrows in the direction of the door, where Teaching-Snape was standing, tapping his wand against his arm.

In an instant, Malicious-Snape was on him, but Hermione quickly Immobilized him before any damage could be done.

"Levicorpus," she sighed, allowing Teaching-Snape to clamber to his feet once again. "He really is tiresome, isn't he?" she commented, herding the hovering professor toward the door.

"I really should be getting to dinner," Teaching-Snape said, obviously torn between the duty to represent his House and helping Hermione.

"Never mind, Professor. I can handle it from here. Good night, Professor," she added over her shoulder in the direction of Insecure-Snape as she navigated her way out of his quarters with her frozen charge.

If only there were a way to get rid of this obsession with getting his own back, Hermione fretted as she made her way toward the Headmaster's office, trying to avoid the more oft-frequented hallways. She didn't fancy explaining why she had Professor Snape in a Body-Bind.

End chapter