Chapter 6: …What Now?
It had been an entire month since Hermione had last seen Severus, but she had received a letter from the boys. They had found the locket, and destroyed it with the Gyffindor sword they had just found, out of nowhere! It was preposterous and Hermione couldn't understand it. She couldn't ask Minerva about the sword, it would be too suspicious. She then decided she would just have to ask Severus about it when he came back. They had asked her for two bottles of Polyjuice potion, since she had access to all of the potions stores. Luckily, there were six bottles hidden away on the very top shelf. It took her more than a couple of hours, not wanting to spend the next month brewing it when she had so many other things to do. She sent them a reply with the bottles, asking them exactly what they needed it for. Normally, she would've asked first before giving it out, but they didn't write often, and they might've needed it immediately. Hopefully they would put it to good use and she wouldn't have to waste good potions. She was worried to put it lightly. So far, it sounded as if they were doing well on their quest for the horcruxes, and she needed to help them out as much as she could, albeit from afar.
She was down in her quarters once again doing some more research. She progressed quite well and she was only a few steps away from fully creating the potion that would mimic death. This was a truly wonderful happening. Severus would be so proud of her! Though he probably wouldn't say it. She smirked, Hermione Granger was a force to be reckoned with and brilliant beyond her years! Well…he wasn't going to offer her praise, she may as well do it for him.
"Ok, let me just add this over hear, and bring to a simmer…yes! Just like that, ooh and let me stir 16 times counter clockwise…" she was half humming and talking to herself. After stirring, she turned the flame down just a tiny bit and checked the clock. From her calculations, the potion should be left like that for another two hours before she could add the next ingredient. Her stomach growled and she realized dinner would be soon.
"Nice, I am starving," she was deliriously happy, and all over a potion. Hermione walked to the Great Hall with confidence and a skip in her step. Some of the students had speculated she was in love for her to be walking around so chipper all the time. Those whispered comments made Hermione want to laugh. Of course she was in love! In love with her work! In love with her accomplishments! Why shouldn't she be? Sure it was arrogant and vain, but she had worked hard and she would continue to work to the bone until all of the answers were discovered.
She ate dinner with in amiable silence among her colleagues. After she was finished, she bid them all good night and went back to check on her potion, although she still had another hour or so to leave it alone.
After checking on it to make sure nothing had overflowed or exploded on her, she sighed. She was always a little tense when she left the potion in the room. This particular version, which Hermione was sure was going to be the right one, had taken the last two weeks to brew so far. After adding her final ingredient, it would need to be stirred 300 times clockwise and then 600 counterclockwise and then to be left for ten days on extremely low heat. Hopefully, after that, she would have something substantial, but she wasn't sure exactly how she would go about testing it. She sighed again, that was another matter and surely she would figure it out after the potion was complete.
While waiting, she decided to tidy up a bit, and go over what she discovered thus far. After straightening up her desk, she pulled out her journal to write out her thoughts:
4 Potions journals
1 mystery journal
"Okay, no what do I know and what do I want to find out?" She continued to write:
Pensieve points to sex book
Potions journals contains research on Unforgivables and death
What's in the mystery journal?
What's the purpose of the silver pendant?
How everything links to Severus' innocence.
I am supposed to complete unfinished potions research.
I am supposed to figure out how to open that journal, or use the pendant to open the journal, or use the sex book to open the journal, or use the sex book to activate the pendant-
"Oh bugger! This is ridiculous!" she yelled and ripped that page out of the journal. "All of this just sounds so preposterous, I don't even know what to do next."
She had examined the sex book to the best of her abilities. She flipped through all the pages, tried looking for a secret nook or anything really that would point out any significance in it. There was nothing visible, so she supposed she still had to keep trying. Hermione blushed, she had about two hundred pages or so and the book would be finished. She hadn't had that much time to sit down and actually read it anyhow; she was terrified that Severus would just pop in and catch her reading it again, which would be really embarrassing. Lost in thought, her watch started beeping, which meant the potion was ready for the next step. Hermione jerked upright and flew out of her chair, now was the time!
"Excellent," she breathed and prepared the ground powder to be poured in. Her hands shook ever so slightly.
"Now Hermione concentrate, one teaspoon at a time," she whispered and listened to her own instructions. She had to be calm and stop shaking. The effects were untold if she were to drop too much in at a time so she needed to be as still as death. After the last speck was added, she charmed a counter on her stirring rod so that it would stop automatically after all the required turns. Hermione released her nervous breath and wiped the sweat off her brow.
"Well, hard part is over. Time to relax." She eyed the book on her favorite love seat and wondered if she should read a little before bed. She smiled and her decision was made. After all, she might find something important, what's the harm in research? She practically ran over to the chair now that she had justified her decision logically. Opening up to where she left off, she began to read about things she'd only dreamt about.
After about a half hour of twenty minutes of careful reading, she heard a pinging noise go off and nearly threw the book across the room. After realizing that it meant the stirring was complete and Severus wasn't dropping by for an impromptu visit, she visibly relaxed and set the book down. She checked the potion and everything looked according to plan, a soft shimmering black was the new color of the potion and it was admittedly beautiful. She lowered the flame once more and placed a shield around the potion. The last thing she needed was something to fly in there in the next ten days.
Hermione had a little bit of extra time before bed, but decided against reading. The noise had startled her out of a rather good mood and she didn't want to feel paranoid anymore. Perhaps she would finish another time. It wasn't like she had much more to go, might as well savor it.
"I'll just lie in for a soak and then I'll go to sleep," she thought. It was much too late to start anything new and she may as well wake up refreshed in the morning. Looking around and making sure everything was tidy enough, she set off to her room to retrieve her bathrobe, shedding clothes along the way.
Hermione made her way to the bathroom, hung her bathrobe and turned on the hot water. She felt the rushing water with her fingertips and was satisfied with the temperature. Surely relaxing in the tub would calm her racing heart that was still beating wildly after being scared. She opened a small cabinet on the wall and found her bath beads and proceeded to drop three in the water.
"Now where did I put my body wash?" she asked herself and looked around the tub area.
"I could've sworn I put it over there…" She spotted it, but it was in the wastebasket. She must've finished it off last night and forgot to buy some more.
"Oh great…maybe there's something else here," she looked around a bit more and sitting on the ledge of the cabinet was a bottle she hadn't noticed before.
"What do we have here?" She uncorked the bottle and a pleasant aroma immediately took her breath away. It didn't smell like an ordinary potion, or a potion at all really. Most potions didn't have a strong or overly fragrant scent. Not wanting to risk putting something unknown on her body, she walked back to the sink and turned the water on. She dabbed a small amount on her fingers and like she suspected, it lathered under the water. Surely Severus wouldn't mind her using this, she didn't even understand why he would have such a feminine smelling product in his bathroom. With the bottle in tow, she stepped into her bath and tied up her hair.
"Ok time for a mental checklist," she thought to herself, "Potion is almost complete, what next? Perhaps I should look into the Unforgivables next. It seemed like he was trying to come up with some sort of protection against it, what a breakthrough it would be if something like that could actually be brewed. His true intentions should be in that journal I can't open and that pendant has to be some sort of key…" She pondered further, she was missing something important, something that would unlock the journal's secrets and reveal the purpose of the silver pendant. The pendant might unlock the whereabouts of another pensieve…no. It had to be something much greater than that, if everything lied in a pensieve, it would have been in the first one; Hermione was almost certain of that. What she wasn't certain about; however, was why Severus Snape needed everything to be a puzzle. Wouldn't it have been easier to just tell her everything? Wouldn't everything be so much simpler if he told her his intentions, if he told her what it was exactly that she needed to complete?
Hermione sighed and sank further in the tub. She poured some of the bottle's contents in her hands and started to wash herself.
She would have to explore more tomorrow, but she had a few exams to administer and papers to grade. She had no idea how she would've been able to teach if Severus hadn't helped her out. Figuring out her own lesson plans and grading system, it would've been too much especially with everything else going on and Severus must've known that. It was difficult to pretend she was just at Hogwarts to teach when there were greater things lying underneath the surface. How in the world had Severus done it? He' s led a double life for must of his adult years, it was certainly no wonder that he was an exceptionally bitter man. She had only been doing this for a few months and she wasn't being tortured or beaten and she only had one master. She splashed the water at that thought.
"Well it's not like he's my real master, it was metaphorical and," she paused. If she really thought about the technicalities of it all, he really was her master and she had to obey him. If she didn't, she risked the lives of her parents, although he hasn't brought this up since the first night, so it seemed more like an idle threat to get her to start everything. She couldn't stop now even if she wanted to. She was closer to the truth now more than ever, and she was almost 100 convinced he wasn't evil. The key now, was to be able to find something that would prove that to everyone else. As she continued to think, she felt a vague tingling in her finger.
"Oh!" It was warm, and simply sensational. She rubbed her fingers together and liked how they felt. "It must've been the wash," she hummed and her eyes glazed over. All of a sudden, she felt unexplainably relaxed and then the rest of the sensation traveled its way down her body. Hermione gasped. It felt like hot sugar was being poured all over her body and her sensory nerves were being enveloped in sheer warmth.
"Oh this feels just wonderful," Hermione whispered to herself in ecstasy. She had never before felt this way. She had been to the spa with her mother a handful of times, but they had nothing on this baby. She ran her hands up the length of her body and stopped short at her breasts. When she touched them, they felt even more divine, so she continued to do it. She swirled her fingers around in a circular motion and she moaned. She couldn't stop herself, not that she wanted to.
"Oh-oh!" She started rubbing the side of her neck and cupped a handful of water to run over her body. Before she knew it, her hands were trailing to the lower parts of her body.
Simply put, Severus was more than a little pissed off. He couldn't believe the audacity of those boys, breaking into the Bellatrix Lestrange's Gringotts vault. He had provided them with the sword to destroy the locket and left them with three items Dumbledore had bequested him to give to them: the Deluminator, the Tale of the Beedle and the Bard, and the Resurrection Stone. With all of them, he also hinted at the hidden whereabouts of the Hufflepuff Cup, although never in his wildest dreams had he expected them to actually break into the vault. From what he heard, they had Polyjuiced themselves, although he could not fathom how on Earth they managed to get their hands on it. He suspected Miss Granger to have had something to do with it and he fully planned to ask her when he arrived back to his quarters. He was pleased that they managed to get into the vault and destroy the cup without getting killed, but that was the thing. They could've been killed and all of their plans would be for naught. He'd have felt better if Hermione was with them, but he needed her here at Hogwarts. Her purpose was greater than to simply be the brains behind those dunderheads' operations. Although he would have to admit that without her there, they managed fairly well and were using their minds to their fullest extent without depending on Hermione for the answers. He had watched them argue in the forest and Ron stalk off, but he managed to keep a close eye on both and leave them with the necessary items. He hoped they would figure out the whereabouts of the next horcruxes and soon. Being tortured by the Dark Lord was not an ideal prospect, but he supposed everything would be worth it in the end, even if he probably won't live to see it. He provided Miss Granger with the necessary elements to finish what he could not and so even if he died, his most important mission was now in her hands.
Out of anyone in the Order, he believed her to be the most intelligent and worthy. He never really liked the girl, but he really didn't dislike her either. Her insatiable desire for knowledge and answers made her all the more perfect for this. He was now outside the castle walls and made his way to the direction of the dungeons. When he finally arrived, he looked around for people. More than a handful of times he's had to Obliviate Hagrid and he didn't want to make it a habit. He whispered a spell and a password and the ground pulled out from under him. He used a slight levitation spell so he descending at a much slower pace than gravity would allow. He reached the bottom and whispered another password and stepped through the wall.
It was rather convenient how the Headmaster had set this up for him and he had done it when Voldermort had risen again. In a certain coordinate on castle grounds, a 2x2 magical patch of grass was spelled to look and feel like an ordinary patch of grass. With the correct password, it gave way to a tunnel that would descend to the dungeons where a portion of his bedchamber wall was spelled as well. The surfaces would turn into a peculiar liquid substance for five seconds exactly and he was allowed to step through, and no one would even know it was a secret entrance.
As soon as he entered his chambers, he had a strange feeling that something was amiss, that something wasn't quite right. He crept around stealthily to ascertain the state of his whereabouts. He continued out of the room and made sure no one was in sight.
"Where is Miss Granger, she is usually in here at this time of night," he wondered. He crept past the bathroom with the door open ever so slightly. What he saw, however, would be permanently embedded in his mind for the rest of his days.
"Oh good God!" he thought and backed straight into the wall. It was Miss Granger! In his tub! T-t-touching herself! He never found himself ever lusting after a student in all his tenure at Hogwarts. Never! He could hear her moaning through the door and he longed to be in there with her, longed to have his hands touching her in that way, longed to be the one to elicit those moans from her. Being strictly technical, she wasn't a student anymore, but a professor, an adult…oh but she was much too young, and he was much too old to be having these dirty thoughts of this young, but delectable woman.
"I have to get out of here," he whispered to himself. "I'll come back tomorrow night, this can wait one more day." With that, he promptly exited by which he came, not wanting to be tempted further into going off course. How inappropriate that she be doing that! How inappropriate that she leave to door slightly open so I could see her that way! Everything had suddenly and unwelcomingly become much more complicated.