A Harry Potter fanfic by canoncansodoff
Summary: Harry is hit by a dark curse that causes his skin and lungs to burn on contact with air. Hermione hits upon a novel solution when a cure can't be found that involves hydrotherapy, hormones, and a backyard swimming pool.
Ship: H/Hr/V (for Vector, not Voldemort...I'm not that sick). Other girls might join in on the fun.
Warnings: This story starts with an edgy chapter that skirts the perils of a professor/student relationship by setting it a few weeks after Hermione and Harry's graduation. It also includes semi-oblique references to off-camera sexual predation that occurred more than twenty-years past (anyone sensitive to rape descriptions should take heed). This story will try to avoid the Weasleys as much as possible, and will include femmeslash.
Chapter 1: An Idea Forms
In the wee hours of a Sunday morning, two witches worried in front of a blackboard.
Hermione Granger worried for Harry Potter. Septima Vector worried for Hermione Granger.
The younger witch let the piece of chalk she'd held in her hand drop to the floor. "But...I was so certain...we've spent all week...it can't be...what do we do now?"
Hogwarts's Arithmancy Professor scanned the formulas written on the hovering board one last time. She was quite certain that they were correct, but given the fact that these were equations that might save Harry Potter's life and magic, it was the least she could do. Once the review was completed, she sighed, and placed her own stick of chalk on the blackboard's ledge. This allowed her to pull her former student into a one-armed, side-by-side hug.
Pulling as much empathy and support into her voice as she could, Vector said, "Hermione...we agreed when we chose this line of inquiry that it had the highest probability of success. But that doesn't mean that the other options lack viability."
"But they'll each take just as long to evaluate, and Harry doesn't have that time!" Hermione cried.
When the Arithmancy professor squeezed Hermione's shoulder, the bushy-haired witch responded by pulling her mentor into a bear-hug and burying her face into her shoulders.
A very small part of Septima Vector's highly-organized mind wanted to relish the sensation of having the object of her desires within her arms...to have Hermione's breasts mashed up against her own...to have her lips within nibbling distance of Hermione's ear lobe. But the better angels were firmly in control of the witch's thoughts and actions, and they knew that this was neither the time, nor place to act on selfish needs and desires.
The black-haired witch held Hermione loosely, and tried to chart the most logical forward path.
"Hermione," she said softly. "It's so late...or early...we've been so focussed, and pounding down pepper-up potions like pumpkin juice. Neither of us will be able to focus on the other options without some rest."
The sound of a sniffle and the touch of Hermione's head as she nodded into the older witch's neck indicated her agreement.
"You're right, as usual," Hermione muttered.
Septima pulled back from the embrace, took hold of Hermione's hands, and started to pull her towards the guest bedroom her quarters at Hogwarts. The younger witch followed willingly, only to stop short at the bedroom door's threshold.
"Come, now Hermione...you're no longer my student, and not yet my apprentice. It's Septima."
Hermione blushed, and looked down at the floor. "Septima...I'm so scared for Harry...and...and...the nightmares...I know they'll come..."
The Arithmancy professor's lips curled upward. "So we should dispense with preliminaries and accept inevitable outcomes?"
"If...if you don't mind?" Hermione asked hopefully.
Vector closed her eyes and took in a deep breath. Her better angels were now fighting a losing battle.
After a few moments, she stared deeply into Hermione's needy eyes, and nodded towards the threshold.
"Go on, then, and wash up. I'll see you in bed."
Hermione somehow managed to smile through her dried tears. She leaned forward, placed a kiss on Vector's cheek, and disappeared into the guest lavatory.
Septima shook her head and headed towards the lav attached to her own bedroom, stopping along the way to shed her robes and grab a t-shirt and a pair of knickers from her dresser drawers. She snorted when she noticed her color selection...crimson French-cut shorts trimmed with gold ribbon. Not something an alumnae of Slytherin House would be expected to wear. But then again, they were worn for the benefit of her favorite Gryffindor.
Hogwarts' Professor of Arithmancy had always been attracted to girls more than boys. Always.
Now this hadn't been much of a problem when in her younger years. There was a certain amount of latitude given to young witches at Hogwarts, and a tradition of warming bed and sharing bodies in the girls' dormitories. Septima had made the most of living up to that tradition. But female lovers were something to be left behind at school, and it was expected that a witch would move on to a more "mature" type of love between a witch and a wizard. That this "higher" form of love was often expected to blossom within arranged marriages between complete strangers was one of the more glaring examples of illogic within the wizarding world.
Septima had lost her Seventh-Year female lover to an arranged marriage with a Italian wizard soon after graduation, and seemed destined for the same fate. Her father was keen on marrying her off, despite her pleas that she loved learning far more than she could love any wizard. Fortunately for Septima, her father didn't have final say. It was her grandfather who was the Vector family patriarch, and he was willing to take a broader perspective.
It was a feather in a patriarch's hat to have members of his family hold Masteries...and an wing's worth of feathers to have a member of the family on staff at the finest institution of witchcraft and wizardry in the world. Unfortunately, it was hard for a married witch to work outside the home (much less live outside of it within professorial quarters)...this was why it was so very rare for a married witch to teach (and why none of Septima's female professors were married). So a deal was struck; Septima was allowed to apprentice to the Hogwarts professor, and to attempt to gain her Mastery in the subject. Once she gained her Mastery she had five years to secure a position on the Hogwarts staff. So long as she held that position, she would not be forced into any marriage.
Vector had been grateful for her grandfather's flexibility, and thrilled to have immediately been accepted as apprentice to the Hogwarts arithmancy professor. But then reality struck, and she discovered that the rules that prevented professors from fraternizing with students did not apply to relationships between masters and their apprentices. Those rules, left largely untouched from their Medieval origins, allowed an unscrupulous witch or wizard near-unlimited control over their charge's life...not just what they studied, and when they worked, but where they slept, and when they were sodomized.
Everything but her nominal virginity were up for grabs for the master to which Vector signed away seven years of her young life. And grab he did...she had apprenticed to a wizard whose cheerful, professional demeanor disappeared as soon as he was behind the closed doors of his quarters. The lecherous old man had Septima stripped-down and on her knees as often as he had her before the blackboard learning her craft. Would have been horrible enough if she were straight...but for a witch's witch? Her only solace was the fact that she would be no better off if she left her apprenticeship and was forced into an arranged marriage. At least this way provided a clear pathway out of hell.
The incentive to gain her Mastery and her freedom was strong enough for the brilliant young witch to complete her required tutelages nearly four years early. But how rare is the professor who allows his apprentice (or graduate student) to leave their control before the contracted time expires? Vector's master had someone to grade his papers and warm his bed...he wasn't about to easily give that up. He therefore found a myriad of petty little ways to delay her departure...insisting on thesis revisions for the use of the wrong type of parchment, or margins of printed text that were too wide for his liking. And it went without saying that as a busy man, the professor needed at least two or three months to review each revised draft.
Septima's horrid situation had not gone unnoticed amongst some of the female faculty. Minerva McGonnagall had been very sympathetic...her apprenticeship to Headmaster Dumbledore had been almost as vexing (although it had involved none of the sexual predation...for reasons that the two witches suspected, but never voiced). The Hogwarts Matron had also been quite supportive, to the point of conspiracy during Vector's fifth year of apprenticeship. A witch's witch herself, Poppy played a bit loose with her Healer's oath one night, and informed the apprentice that her master had a heart condition, and that excessive exertion would be potentially fatal for.
That night, Apprentice Vector lost her nominal virginity at the start of a marathon session of sex that two hours caused her mentor to lose his life to a shag-induced heart attack.
He died with a smile on his face...but his apprentice's Slytherin smile lasted much longer.
As it was mid-term and she was already teaching the lower level arithmancy classes, Vector was offered the temporary posting as a replacement professor...pending her apprenticeship to a new master. Septima, however, had enough leverage to request that the work she had already completed be evaluated by an independent panel. That independent panel, of course, saw no reason not to immediately award the arithmatic savant a mastery. Headmaster Dumbledore, in turn, saw no reason not to make the job offer permanent. So it was that Septima Vector, at age 22 and 1/2, and less than five years of apprenticeship, became one of the youngest professors in the history of Hogwarts.
Now, some 22 years later, Septima had just managed to dodge the most serious threat to that career (and her single life)...her feelings for the object of her bedtime (and daytime) fantasies. She had always managed to work through (and around) the student crushes held by some of her female students (and the odd male who was too daft or delusional to ignore the rumors concerning her sexual orientation). She had shared a few flings with non-student witches, but nothing that lasted. She had even had the odd fantasy involving some of her more nubile students, but not to the point of danger. But then a bossy, brilliant bushy-haired muggleborn witch walked into her classroom and into her life.
Hogwarts' Professor of Arithmancy had tried, but failed, to pinpoint exactly when she began to fancy her favorite student. It could have been as early as Hermione's Fifth Year, at least on an unconscious level. Part of the problem was trying to separate romantic feelings from the kind of affection shared between kindred spirits. And that Hermione was Septima's kindred spirit, at least in terms of her love of arithmancy, and her passion of learning, there could be no doubt. That much the two had admitted to each other. But those other thoughts...the imaginings of shared baths, shared beds, shared bodies? They were forbidden, and inappropriate, and (needless to say) completely against the Code of Conduct that Hogwarts professors were expected to adhere to.
It was probably the Second War that had saved her job. As much as Hermione bonded with her Arithmancy professor, she was an order of magnitude closer to her best friend, Harry Potter. Her single-minded dedication to keeping him alive, and to the defeat of Voldemort, had kept Hermione busy enough to keep Septima away from temptation, and away from any physical contact beyond the odd, awkward hug. Hermione also seemed well aware of necessary boundaries, and the rules and risks involved. Which is why it got really awkward when, a month before her N.E.W.T.s, she asked Professor Vector about the possibility of an apprenticeship.
Vector sat Hermione down and asked if she really knew what she would be signing up for.
Vector then recounted her own horrid experiences as a apprentice.
Hermione responded with an expression of complete trust.
Vector, at the point of sexual frustration and exasperation, demanded to know what Hermione would do if she apprenticed to a female master who forced her to satisfy her orally on a daily basis.
Hermione smiled, and replied that force might not be an issue, depending on who the female master was.
Vector closed her eyes, squeezed her thighs together, and asked, "What about Harry?"
Hermione frowned. She then stated that she couldn't start an apprenticeship until after Harry had defeated Voldemort. She also observed, somewhat bitterly, that Harry only thought of her as a friend.
That was enough to make Septima frown. The mixed messages were infuriating, but as Hermione was still a student, she couldn't pursue that line of inquiry any further.
Not knowing at all whether she could trust herself, Vector made a tentative offer of apprenticeship, with official papers not to be signed until after graduation and after Hermione felt free to fully devote herself to her studies.
Then Voldemort attacked Hogwarts on the first day of N.E.W.T. examinations.
Harry defeated the Dark Lord, but was struck with a curse that put his life and magic in great danger. Ironically, it wasn't the curse that was slowly killing Harry, but the medicinal treatment that kept a far quicker (and horrifically painful) death at bay. He had been housed within the Hospital Wing of Hogwarts, which allowed Hermione to visit his stasis-held body even as she desperately searched for a counter to the arcane curse that he had been struck down with.
Time spent in the library searching for a counter-curse was made possible when examinations were canceled (in light of student injuries and general celebrations), and N.E.W.T.s awarded based on classroom grades. Hermione took full advantage of the opportunity, going so far as to skip graduation ceremonies in favor of more forays into the Restricted Section. When school let out for the year and students headed home, Hermione was offered the opportunity to stay on at Hogwarts, either in the Head Girl's Suite, or in the apprentice quarters. She accepted with gratitude, and moved into a modest two-room suite down the hall from Vector's quarters.
That search for a countercurse had to be delegated, once Poppy discovered just how badly Harry was reacting to the stasis charm.
Desperate to create a modified spell that wasn't such a drain on Harry's magic, Hermione and Septima had worked nearly non-stop on a solution for more than two weeks. They took little time to eat the meals that they took in Septima's quarters, where large blackboards filled with chalked equations hovered in nearly every room. They took little time to sleep, catching a few hours here and there when dead ends were reached in their work.
And that is how it came to be that Septima Vector woke up one morning naked, and under the covers with her would-be apprentice.
It happened the first night of their collaboration, when Hermione had fallen asleep leaning against a chalkboard. Vector had levitated Hermione's body into the guest bedroom, and covered her with a sheet. She then went into her own bedroom, changed into her normal night wear (i.e. nothing) and slipped into an uneasy sleep of her own. That sleep was interrupted when nightmares produced screams that pierced the night. It was Hermione, experiencing a horrific mental reenactment of the Final Battle. The only thing that seemed to soothe the young witch was being held in a close embrace. So that's what Septima gave her, thinking little of negative consequence.
Until morning, that is, when the Arithmancy professor found Hermione peacefully asleep, with her lips against the older witch's neck, and her hands on the older witch's breasts. There was embarrassment all around once Hermione woke, but Vector's apologies were refused, and Hermione had admitted that it was the first semi-restful night of rest since the attack.
Septima offered to help Hermione however she could, day or night. While this bold offer was genuine, she hadn't expected it to be taken up fully. But that second night there was a knock on the door to her bedroom. Septima had just turned out the lights, and was wearing what she normally wore to bed (i.e. nothing), so when she answered the door she only opened it a crack. On the other side was a nervous witch dressed in a thin dressing gown. Once admitted inside, Hermione dropped the dressing gown to the ground, revealing as much as Septima was presently wearing (i.e. nothing). She explained that it was only polite to wear what her host wore if she were to share her host's bed.
The third night (and every night since then), Vector didn't bother to be modest when she opened the door. She did, however, start wearing knickers and a t-shirt to bed...not because she was embarrassed about her own body, but because she was so tempted at the sight of Hermione's.
When Septima head the door to her bedroom open this night, she turned towards the lavatory door and realized that it was almost a foot ajar. More than open enough for Hermione to notice that she was still starkers if she looked. No effort was made to close the door, or to slip on the knickers and t-shirt that had become her nighttime armor/attire.
"Be right there, Hermione."
"No worries, Septima," Hermione called back.
Taking the reassurance to heart, the Arithmancy Professor took a hard look in the mirror. She was reluctantly pleased...at age 45, she was clearly enjoying the benefits of a witch's lifespan, and look no different than she did at age 30. Her face was soft-skinned and wrinkle free, with a slightly longish nose balanced by plump lips and warm hazel eyes. As she nodded her head, the black hair that she kept in a short bob framed first one side of her face, then the other. She had thought of growing her hair long...even down to her back, until Hermione had mentioned that she thought Septima's long neck to be one of her most attractive features. There was little chance that she'd cover her neck after that.
A flick of her wand expanded the mirror so that she could inspect more than just her head and neck. Her breasts were firm, and sat high on her chest, well-proportioned for her 5'9" frame. The nipples on those breasts were as wide as the length of her thumb, and as long as her thumbnail...but then again, her nipples were always hard and tight at the thought of snuggling with Hermione. Her stomach was flat, if not muscular. Flatter than she had the right for it to be, given the richness of the Hogwarts menu and the relatively sedentary life of an academic. She imagined that she had her bean-pole sized mum and a high metabolism to thank for that.
Below the flat belly was a mass of black short and curlies that was an forest when compared to Hermione's well-trimmed single tree. Again, the temptation to tame that jungle to better match Hermione's preferences was shot down by a comment from Hermione. The young witch wasn't so bold as to openly admire Vector's mound, but did say (when asked) that she saw no need for her to teach Septima her favorite depilatory charms. And that was more than enough for the older witch to leave well enough alone. Vector's hips and bum were round and curvy...more so than Hermione's slightly more boyish frame. No real complaints or concerns about sagging or cellulite (it was good to be a witch!). Her legs were long (as they should be, given her height) and supported by feet that were easily the worst feature of her body. Those feet were, in a word, gigantic. Almost half-again longer than Hermione's and far out of proportion to her frame. There was, unfortunately, little that could be done magically about this, short of developing metamorphic skills. About the only good thing that could be said was that magic made it far easier for her to find good-fitting shoes in her size than if she had been a muggle women faced with a similar situation.
Deciding that she had better things to do than fret about her ugly feet, Septima slipped them through the legs of her knickers and pulled the slip of clothing up to her hips. The t-shirt came next. As usual, it was far too thin to hide the perky nipples underneath. She had tried to fix this magically the first few nights, until she realized that Hermione had the same problem and wasn't making an effort to hide it. And so she stopped trying, as well.
It was, as Septima checked her appearance one last time, amazing how much she was tailoring her life and molding her responses to satisfy a witch who well less than half her age. But Hermione wasn't just any witch, and you were supposed to do silly things when you were in love, right?
In love. In love with Hermione Granger. It shouldn't be right, but Merlin it felt that way.
When Septima returned to the bedroom, she discovered Hermione sitting up in bed, with a smile on her face and a twinkle in her eye that in no way squared with her despondency a few minutes past.
"What's...you look rather happy?"
Hermione nodded. "I had an idea come to mind whilst washing my face."
Vector sighed. "Hermione, we really should get some sleep, but if you want to hover a board over the bed, I'll be happy to push forward..."
"No, it's not arithmancy," Hermione replied. "It's a different approach to the problem at hand."
"Simple, really...can't believe I hadn't thought of it sooner," Hermione replied. "The stasis charm is draining Harry's magic. The salve that could replenish that magic can't be applied because Harry's encased in mud. But he can't breathe air, or have his skin exposed, due to the curse, so he needs that covering. That's why we were trying to create a modified stasis charm that drew energy from external sources."
"Yes, it's a rather vicious circle of problems," Vector replied. "So what's the new approach?"
Hermione nodded. "Came to me when I leaned over a basin full of water. Water would protect Harry's skin, and if the salve isn't water soluble it can be applied while he's submerged."
The recent graduate then let out a sound that was close to a "squee!" and added, "And that's not the best part."
Septima smiled, having become infected with Hermione's enthusiasm. "What's the best part?"
"The best part is that Harry could breathe underwater...and if he can breathe, then he doesn't need to be in stasis, or have that salve applied."
"But how can Harry breathe underwater?"
"Oh, my...the Second Task!"
"Exactly!" Hermione stated.
"So then...we throw Harry back into the lake?"
Hermione shook her head. "The conditions are too uncontrolled. We need a small isolated pool of water, free of squids, and mermen, and grindylows."
"You have a place in mind, I imagine?"
Hermione nodded and grinned.
Catching on, Septima answered her own question. "Your parents' house...there's a pool in the backyard."
"Yes!" Hermione shouted. She then jumped up onto her knees, crawled over to the edge of the bed, and pulled the taller witch into a tight hug. Kicking her feet up and down against the bed as if she were a young child, she said, "If it weren't for the hour, I'd be off to the house now."
"But because of the hour, we're going to stay here and get some sleep, right?"
Hermione reluctantly nodded, and dived backwards onto the bed with a giddy smile. "Oh, if it works...to be able to wake Harry, and talk with him, and..."
"And tell him how you really feel about him?" Septima asked quietly.
Hermione quickly calmed down, and bit her lower lip.
"There are a lot of talks to be had all around, I think," she admitted. "I'm sure that I'm getting ahead of myself though, and making overly optimistic assumptions..."
Septima shook her head. "It sounds rather brilliant to me. That said, we should try to get some sleep."
Hermione nodded, and pulled down the covers.
"Think you'll need my help chasing away nightmares tonight, Hermione?"
The young witch looked up and saw some vulnerability in her former professor's eyes.
"I'd rather not risk it, if you don't mind," she replied.
It was Septima's turn to bite her lip. She eventually nodded, dimmed the lights, and slipped legs underneath the covers. Chances were good that there would be scant opportunity for her soothe Hermione's nightmares in the days ahead.
Septima turned in the dark towards Hermione and said, "Sweet dreams."
Hermione smiled, and pulled the other witch into a firm embrace. After another kiss to Septima's cheek, she leaned a bit forward and whispered into her ear.
"If I do, it will all be because of you."
Hermione then turned to her other side, and pushed back into the spooning position that they both favored.
As much as Septima Vector appreciated the thought (and the snuggling), she could only wish that it was so.