Disclaimer: Just a bit of fun that doesn't belong to me.

Chapter 26

Dungeon Bumps and Grumps

Hermione's head throbbed as she fought to open her eyes to slits. She was sprawled on a very cold, hard surface, and before she could contemplate where this surface might be, her eyes came into focus on the person hovering above her.

"Miss Granger, are you all right?" McGonagall said, her voice concerned.

"Where am I?" she asked, nearly whimpering at the stabbing pain in her right elbow.

"The dungeons. Specifically, Professor Snape's office," McGonagall said, her eyes darting away from Hermione's and narrowing. "Did he attack you?"

"What? Who?" she asked, her mind foggy. She began to sit up, wincing as she straightened her arm.

"Don't move. It looks like you've hurt your arm and hit your head rather hard. I'll take care of it since Poppy's away, but first," McGonagall's lips thinned, "did Severus attack you?"

Suddenly, Hermione was aware that she wasn't holding his wand anymore. Panic welled in her chest and she shot into a sitting position, ignoring her pain and McGonagall's protests. She frantically patted around the dark stone floor, an image of his wand broken in two playing through her mind.

"What is it? What are you looking for?" McGonagall asked, taken aback by Hermione's sudden panic.

"Professor Snape's wand, where is it? Oh, if it's broken -"

"Miss Granger, calm yourself. It's right here." McGonagall reached down and retrieved it from the floor near Hermione's knee.

"Oh, thank Merlin," she sighed in relief and snatched it from McGonagall's hand. She'd barelyestablished a firm grip on its handle before she heard a groan near her feet. She was shocked to discover that Professor Snape was lying not far from her.

"Miss Granger, I have no idea what is going on here," McGonagall said, her face hard and her wand pointed at Snape, "but I need to know, did he attack you?"

"What? No!" she exclaimed, clutching his wand close to her chest. "We…I think we…we-"

"-We exchanged wands, you blathering fool," Snape growled. Hermione looked up to see him scowling at her, sitting up and rubbing a hand on the side of his head. He pulled his knees up and winced, a near silent hiss escaping his lips. "Really Miss Granger," he breathed, "for being so proficient in memorizing textbooks verbatim, I find it surprising you are unable recall an event that took place only a few minutes ago. Does the word 'honeysuckle' ring a bell?" Hermione gasped.

"I demand to know what is going on here, this instant!" McGonagall thundered, her wand still pointed firmly at Snape. Hermione looked nervously between them, unsure of what to say.

"As I said before, we exchanged wands," Snape said, producing Hermione's wand and holding it up, jiggling it in the air.

"Then why was I summoned by a frantic house-elf to find the two of you toe to toe and unconscious? Why does she look so frantic? And what is the significance of honeysuckle? I'm afraid I have difficulties trusting your judgment at the moment Severus. You've attacked a healer, I wouldn't put it past you to attack a student!"

"He didn't attack me, Professor. We exchanged wands, that's all," Hermione said, shivering with the cold of the floor.

"And I suppose you're going to say the house-elf attacked you?"

"No," Snape said in strained voice as he stood up. Hermione was shocked when he limped over and offered her his hand, and she accepted it with her left, her eyes widening as his cold fingers wrapped about her wrist. She cringed at the sharp pain shooting down her right arm, but stayed silent as he pulled her up. He dropped her hand immediately and took a step away.

"Then what happened?" McGonagall asked, eyeing the two of them with suspicion.

"Dumbledore knew of our plans to exchange wands, which is, as I've twice told you, exactly what occurred. If you require immediate answers beyond those I have given, I suggest you go speak with him," he said, brushing dust from his robes. "Inform him that the exchange did not go quite as expected, and I'll be by to speak with him after Miss Granger and I have a few words. Alone." He flicked Hermione's wand toward the door and it opened with a heavy thud. McGonagall's eyes flicked from the door to Hermione.

"I'll be fine, Professor. Really, I want to stay."

"If you're sure…" McGonagall trailed off hesitantly.

"I'm sure," Hermione said, donning her most reassuring smile.

"Fine," she sighed, turning to Snape. "If one hair, Severus, one hair, on Miss Granger's head -"

"Really Minerva, you're being absurd," Snape interrupted. "If I'd intended to injure her, I'd have done so already."

"Hmph," McGonagall replied, turning and walking to the door. "Albus better have some real answers."

"He will," Snape said shortly, flicking Hermione's wand and slamming the door as soon as McGonagall was through it. He turned to her and glanced at the wand in her hand. "It is strange to see my wand in another's possession."

"Do you want it back?" Hermione asked, holding the handle out to him. He shook his head slightly, his eyes still fixed on the wand. They stood without speaking, the silence thick within the dungeon's cold walls. Hermione tried to straighten her arm and grimaced.

"Are you hurt? Your arm?" Snape asked suddenly.

"No, I'm fine," she said, bending and straightening her arm again, attempting to keep her expression nonchalant through the pain.

"It's obvious you're lying to me." He took a limped step toward her. "Why?" He took another step.

"Really, it's just a bump. It appears you, however, are hurt," she said, taking a step back and gesturing toward his knee.

"It's just a bump," he muttered through clenched teeth. "Sit." He pointed toward the chair she'd sat in earlier. She nodded and sat as he limped to the side of his desk. "Now, let me examine your arm." He flicked her wand at the chair and pulled it closer.

"I told you it's just-"

"-if it's just a bump, why won't you let me see it?"

Hermione's mouth opened and closed a few times to respond, but when no words can out, she frowned and stretched her arm across the desk and gingerly rolled the sleeve of her robes to her upper arm, shocked at the swelling that greeted her at the crook of her arm. Snape leaned over and glanced at her arm.

"Just a bump?" he inquired.

"Yes," she glanced toward her arm and could feel her face pale, "a very large bump." Hermione watched as his eyes seemed to scan every inch of her arm.

"Quite." Hermione's breath hitched as he began to gently prod her arm with cool fingers. He took her wand and held it to her elbow, holding her wrist in his other hand, he began murmuring an incantation under his breath. The pain began to subside immediately and she could feel the swelling begin to lessen. "Better?" he asked as he lowered the wand.

"Much," she breathed, aware that his hand still rested on her wrist. "Thanks." He nodded and released her wrist and limped around the desk to sit in his chair. "Is your knee injured?"

"I'll deal with it later. First, we need to discuss what just happened. Other than the injury, how do you feel?"

"I'm…I'm not sure. I don't have that empty, destitute feeling I usually have after we exchange wands."

"Neither do I. To verify, you have not attempted any magic with my wand since we awoke?"

"No, not yet." She held it up, her grip firming slightly in anticipation. "May I?" He nodded and gestured to a candle sitting on his desk.

"Light the candle," he said, his eyes narrowing at the candle as though it had offended him.

"Incendio." She was relieved when the wick of the candle began to burn with a bright flame. She looked from the candle to Snape, unable to keep a silly grin from spreading across her face. "That felt good."

"So I see," he said, an eyebrow raised at her smile. He stood with a wince and blew out the candle. Pointing his wand at smoking wick, he muttered the same spell, his lips twitching ever so slightly as the flame began to burn again. He looked up at Hermione and nodded. "Hm, yes, that was…gratifying." Hermione chuckled as he blew out the candle and lit it with magic again. He took a seat in his chair, his eyes fastened to Hermione's wand.

"You know, my wand was in the possession of Bellatrix for a time. I'm sure it's performed unspeakable magic, much like her own wand," she said quietly after a moment's silence, remembering his anger at seeing her with Bellatrix's wand the day of the ceremony. He looked up and studied her face for a moment, seeming almost hesitant to respond.

"Do not forget, the wand you now hold in your hand was the instrument of Dumbledore's murder," he stretched his left arm across the desk toward Hermione, palm up, "as was my magic…my soul." He closed his open palm into a tight fist and brought Hermione's wand to the cuff of his sleeve, silently undoing the buttons with magic. Using the tip of her wand, he pushed the fabric up his pale forearm, exposing the faded Dark Mark. Hermione found she couldn't tear her eyes away from his marked skin, though she could feel him studying her intently. "I have committed unspeakable evil, and my wand was with me through every act." Hermione pulled her eyes away from the Dark Mark to look at him, and found his black gaze nearly staggering in its intensity, as it had been during the ceremony.

"Your wand...it doesn't feel evil," she whispered. She brought left hand toward the desk, slowly stretching her shaking fingertips toward his clenched fist. At the first feather-light touch, she felt his hand flinch beneath hers and watched his eyes flutter shut. She ran her fingertips across his knuckles with a firmer touch, then down his long fingers to where the nails dug into his palm. Covering his hand with her own, he let her open his fist, and after tracing his calloused thumb from nail to wrist, she pressed their palms together. His eyes opened and she looked into them bravely. "This doesn't feel evil either," she breathed.

His breathing hitched, and he gently closed his hand around her wrist, brushing her skin with the pad of his thumb. After a moment, he stilled, then lowered his eyes and pulled his hand away. He slipped her wand up his sleeve and buttoned his cuff by hand. Hermione couldn't help but to feel slightly bereft of his touch.

"I apologize."

"You have nothing to apologize for," she replied firmly. He scoffed. "So, what now?" His eyes swept over her face.

"For now, you need rest, and I have an injured knee that needs attending."

"I can heal it-" Snape held up a hand.

"Miss Granger, I'm in possession of a functioning wand, I assure you, I more than capable of dealing with the situation myself."

"Of course, sir." Hermione felt her cheeks growing warm in a blush. "Shouldn't we speak to Dumbledore tonight?" He shook his head.

"No, I will speak will him and the Headmistress tonight. You will wait until tomorrow. Minerva is quite displeased with me at the moment, I'd rather not make the situation worse by running her precious cub into a state of exhaustion. Find me in the staff room tomorrow morning at nine. After we've eaten, I will accompany you to the tower, and we shall both speak to them then. Be prepared to answer difficult questions; there's no doubt the Headmistress will have plenty for you." Hermione nodded and stood up from her chair.

"Until tomorrow," she said, stowing Snape's wand in her sleeve.

"I don't suppose it's necessary to remind you that my wand is precious to me?" he asked, his eyes fixed on her sleeve. Hermione shook her head.

"Of course not. I'll care for it as though it were my own. And I don't suppose I need to remind you either…" Snape responded with a snort and a roll of his eyes.

"Good night, Miss Ganger."

"Good night, sir."

A/N: *ducks* I know, I know. *ducks again* I'm so, so, sorry it's taken me so long to update. I have no excuse. I was feeling very discouraged about this story, and I suppose my discouragement took a while to improve. My muse was insistent that I do a ton of art/crafts and be uninspired to write. I'm going to start trying again though. I want to finish this story and I certainly don't want to leave anyone hanging. All I can do is apologize for my long absence. If all goes as planned, this story has probably five more chapters before it is completed.

A million thanks to wywrite and coliemcnoly for still being there for me after all this time.

If you'd like to see some of the art that's been keeping me busy, I'll be putting a link to my deviantArt page in my profile.