Title: There's a Good Girl
Author: cathedral carver
Spoilers: Up through HBP
Disclaimer: These characters do not belong to me.
Summary: See? Over there: The one weeping into her pumpkin juice.
For one weird and wondrous week during her sixth year at Hogwarts, Hermione Granger took complete leave of her senses.
Impossible, you say? Perhaps. Yet it happened, all the same. And it brought about some unforeseen — but ultimately sweet — results.
Nothing in particular caused this unusual lapse in judgment. She hadn't been knocked in her head, or received a wayward hex. She hadn't inhaled the steam of a noxious potion or ingested any poisoned foodstuffs.
She simply arose that particular Monday morning, bright and early as usual, did 100 stretches and deep-knee bends, as usual, then dressed, brushed her hair and teeth, read 20 pages of Confronting the Faceless, also as usual, and smiled brightly at her perky reflection in her hand mirror. Then she stopped. She froze in the middle of her dormitory, hand on Advanced Potion-Making 6, which she'd just been about to place in her book bag, and she had a revelation:
What the hell am I doing?
Everyone else in the room was sound asleep. Parvati was breathing lightly, her head just visible above the mound of blankets and Lavender was outright snoring and…giggling…from time to time.
Hermione stared at them, wide-eyed: foreign creatures in a foreign zoo.
I'm…tired, she realized suddenly, out of the blue. I'm tired. I should be sleeping, too. But I'm not. I should…I shouldn't be…I should…I…
She moved her head briskly, as if shaking water from her ears. She closed her eyes and pressed her fingers to the bridge of her nose.
What the hell am I doing?
But there was no answer, which terrified her.
She looked around the room and found everything as it should be; floor swept, bed made, books and clothes and shoes and personal belongings in their rightful place. The sun was just staring to rise, gold streaks spilling across the floor, almost touching her foot.
Something wasn't right.
She sat down suddenly where she stood, fell, really, her heavy book bag thudding beside her. Lavender mumbled and turned in her bed, then was silent once more. Hermione bit her lip, hard. She touched her hair — messy, yes, but braided, mostly contained. She touched her face, bones and skin familiar beneath her fingers. No makeup, as usual. Good. Conservative, practical clothing beneath her robes. Sensible, low-heeled shoes. Homework completed and, all modesty aside, exceeding expectations, as usual.
So, what was wrong, then?
She felt wrong. Everything felt wrong. She didn't want to be perfect or conservative or exceeding expectations anymore. And, that particular Monday morning, Hermione Granger decided, then and there, sprawled on the floor of her dormitory, that she wanted instead to be: messy, imperfect, illogical, wild, unreserved and impetuous.
Hermione Granger, in effect, decided to stop being Hermione Granger.
When she was six years old, Hermione did a terrible, horrible thing.
She lied to her parents.
It was Christmas and there was a tree and there was tinsel and twinkling lights and presents and there were carols and turkey and it was all horrible.
Her detested cousin Agatha was visiting with her new doll. Her new doll Araminta that walked and talked and burped and pooped, all with the assistance of no less than four double A batteries.
Hermione had no such doll. She had a Science Is Fun! kit. And yes, Science was bloody fun, but still.
"What did you get for Christmas?" Agatha asked, knowing the answer full well.
"Well, uh…I got…a book…and…"
Agatha put her doll down on the floor between them. It burped. Then it said "Excuse me." Then it pooped. Agatha grinned.
"Fix that with your science kit," she said, her blonde curls bouncing on her taffeta-clad shoulders. Hermione pounced. She pushed Agatha, hard, then kicked Araminta, harder. The doll hit the bedroom wall, then burped, then vomited, then did a spasmodic dance, then stopped moving altogether.
There was a lot of movement and fuss and discussion after that, and Agatha's parents and Hermione's parents asked her, repeatedly, what had happened, and Agatha said it was all Hermione's fault, and Hermione swore it was all an accident, and Agatha's parents felt she was fibbing and her parents, who had no reason not to, believed their dutiful, loyal, honest daughter.
Hermione knew better. She had become the thing she had desperately avoided for six long years: She was a bad girl.
That evening her father had come to kiss her goodnight. Hermione was inconsolable, hiccoughy, moist.
"Hermione, it's Christmas," he said.
"I know," she said.
"Think happy thoughts," he said.
She did. She thought of kicking Agatha. Hard.
"Buck up, stop crying."
"Here," he passed her a tissue. "Blow your nose."
He hugged her, touched her cheek.
"Smile, pet," he said.
"There's a good girl."
Hermione, as always, did as she was told, she smiled, but then she thought, wildly, frantically:
She'd never really, knowingly, willingly broken a rule until she came to Hogwarts, until she met them.
Harry and Ron.
And even then, even with their considerable influence, it had taken substantial time and doing to get to the point where she felt even vaguely comfortable with the notion of doing something, anything, that was not what The Powers That Be expected of her.
She still wanted, desperately, to be a Good Girl.
And even while she'd been battling the troll, when she'd been sure that at any moment her head, or Ron's or Harry's, could have been smashed finally and forever into the floor, she'd been thinking only of Agatha and Araminta, and how she, Hermione, was doing something bad.
That she wasn't a Good Girl, after all.
That Monday morning at breakfast it all came to a head, her entire life and existence. What was the point? What was she doing, trying to be perfect all the time? The best marks, the smartest. The Insufferable Know-It-All moniker that Professor Snape had bestowed upon her and that had stuck, damn him, even now. Even her clothes: safe and conventional. She was so…predictable. She lowered her head, let one, two, salty tears drip into her pumpkin juice. Then she swiped her arm across her eyes, sniffled and made a decision. A rather drastic decision.
She looked at her classmates, guffawing and happy, not a care in the world. She looked at the head table, at the carefree professors. Then her gaze found Snape. Ah. He was dark and brooding, scowling into his plate, ignoring everyone around him.
She studied his fierce and angry expression for five long minutes, then cast her eyes downwards, scowled into her own plate.
I want to be like him.
She scowled harder.
No one noticed.
On Monday she disregarded Professor McGonagall's instructions to transform her shoe into a horklump and instead made it a blast-ended skrewt, much to her classmates' delight and McGonagall's consternation. When McGonagall asked her what had happened, she simply grinned and said she had no idea. She also decided, that night, that showering was a waste of time and water and that her hair would benefit from a much-needed reprieve of shampoo or conditioner of any kind. Not that it helped much in the first place.
Tuesday she was late for Herbology, told Professor Sprout to "stop being such a bloody fuss-budget" when she inquired about Hermione's whereabouts, and then started a short-lived food fight during lunch. It took an hour to scrape the boiled potatoes from her hair.
On Wednesday she knocked her entire pile of books onto the floor in Ancient Runes and proceeded to fall asleep (or at least doze) during Professor Babbling's lecture on Eihwaz Defence.
On Thursday she skipped Arithmancy class altogether, circled her eyes in thick, black liner ("borrowed" from Lavender while she slept), wore a tight red sweater under her robes and kissed Snape.
The tight sweater was an accident, washed in too-hot water while at home and packed by her mother. Hermione had meant to resize it once she'd returned to Hogwarts, but hadn't, and found it, quite by accident, on that particular Thursday morning. It was woolen, and bright lipstick red, one of her favourites and she'd thought, Why the hell not? as she'd forced it over her head, her shoulders, past her breasts.
Hermione never gave too much thought to her breasts — they were sort of just inevitable, perched below her collarbones, small and perky — and yet, there they were, staring back in the mirror, upright, looking larger than usual in their red housing. She recalled, unbidden, when Viktor had attempted to grasp one — the left one — after the ball in year four, his large, heavy hand creeping up over her ribcage as his large, heavy lips assaulted hers. She'd fought him off at the time, successfully, but now she wondered, why? Why? Why hadn't she let him touch her? What harm could it have done? She'd been moderately aroused, she'd found him moderately attractive. Why had she halted his clumsy advances?
Because she was Hermione Granger, and that is what Hermione Granger did.
She was a fun-wrecker.
Well, no more.
So, she hadn't planned to wear the tight, red sweater, but she also hadn't planned to kiss Snape, so her plans pretty much meant shit that entire week and she had to just go with whatever happened to happen.
She walked into Potions that afternoon and found Slughorn mysteriously absent and Snape mysteriously in his place, standing at the front of the classroom and positively glaring at them. Something hot and sharp bloomed in her tight red chest, and spread up and out through her body.
Now, there was someone who hadn't spent his life trying to be someone he wasn't. He was true to himself: ornery, snarky, angry, downright mean. All right, so no one liked him, but did he care? No. Because he was Snape and he didn't give a shit.
She glared back openly, causing his eyes to widen very slightly in surprise, then she slammed her book bag down on her desk and flopped into her seat.
I am nonchalant, she thought. I am blasé, dispassionate, unflappable—
I am not a fucking thesaurus.
Oops. I used a bad word.
He saw her smile. He frowned.
She'd never in her life purposefully messed up a potion, but today, well, it just felt like the thing to do. Two drops of sneezewort? Not today! Three clockwise stirs followed by one counter-clockwise? Don't. Think. So.
"What are you doing?" Harry hissed out of the corner of his mouth, halfway through class. "That doesn't look right. It's supposed to be light green!"
"Mind your own bloody business," she hissed back, dumping in an entire bottle of lovage. (Half a drop!)
"Light strokes across the surface, Hermione!" Harry mouthed ten minutes later as Hermione violently wrenched her ladle to and fro.
"Shut up!" she mouthed back.
She felt very bad. Which made her feel very good.
Until she handed in her potion sample.
"Miss Granger. Stay behind," Snape purred at the end of class.
For a split second terror gripped her, until she remembered her goal. Right. Bad Girl. Right. Snape was displeased. Good.
"What do you want?" she snarled as she sidled up to his desk.
"Pardon, sir," he snapped.
She shrugged. "Whatever."
His mouth dropped open, then shut, almost as quickly.
"This draught…" he began, holding the flagon up to the dim light. Its contents looked…dismal. She fought a grin.
"Yes?" She folded her arms across her chest and glared at him. He glared back.
"What," he demanded suddenly, "have you done to your eyes? You look like you've been beaten about the head by a bludger."
Hermione narrowed her eyes until they became sooty, black slits.
"I see." His lips twitched. He looked like he was trying to not laugh. "It's within my limited understanding that makeup is supposed to make one look more attractive, not like death warmed over."
"I wouldn't expect you to understand," she said stiffly.
"Perhaps you are auditioning for the role of Hogwarts Most Intellectually and Yet Tragically Misunderstood Ghoul?"
She ignored the veiled backhanded compliment and continued her well-practiced scowl.
"This," he continued, swirling the flagon's contents distastefully, "is probably the worst example of Confusing Concoction I've ever had the displeasure of encountering."
"Oh?" she said, attempting to toss her unwashed hair imperiously. It didn't move.
"And?" she countered.
Maybe it was the sweater pressing almost uncomfortably against her breasts; maybe it was the offhand comment about her eyes makeup, maybe it was because it was Thursday, she didn't know; but she did know that he had risen from his desk and was leaning forward towards her, that his mouth kept moving and she kept watching it move; that his lips were moist with indignant spittle, that all the anger and frustration and hurt and pain she'd been battling all week was bubbling up through her veins, down to her fingertips and up through her mouth and if she didn't physically turn around and leave in three seconds, something inexcusable would happen—
"And—" he replied, his eyes narrowing the same as hers, his breath hitching the same as hers—
—she leaned forward and pressed her mouth against his. She could hear him breathing, heard her own breaths, light and fast. She reached up one hand — her left one — and let it rest against his cheek, two fingers sliding under his jaw. He twitched, but didn't pull away. His lips were much softer than she ever would have imagined, and much warmer — somehow she'd always envisioned Snape having ice flowing through his veins — and for just a second she imagined that he responded, that his mouth moved, just a fraction, beneath hers.
He smelled like the woods.
He smelled good.
She pulled back. Her hand dropped to her side. Her eyes snapped open. She licked her lips. Her brain registered hellebore and moonstone. His eyes were as dark and unfathomable as ever, but something flickered in the depths; something that resembled the colour of her sweater.
He drew himself upright.
"Detention, Miss Granger," he whispered and his voice caught on the last syllable. "Tomorrow, 8 p.m."
"Yes," she stammered. "Yes. I know. Yes. I'm…sorry."
Then she turned and fled.
Her teachers, of course, noticed the alarming change in behaviour and called a rather impromptu emergency meeting that evening, Dumbledore presiding over Minverva, Filius, Septima, Pomona and Snape.
"…completely out of character…"
"…her essay the Uses of Fanged Geranium was only one page long!"
"…called Draco Malfoy a git, in front of the entire class! And she refused to say sorry!"
"…incorrigible! Not like her at all!..."
"…next thing you know she'll be getting her nose pierced…"
"…her what what?"
"…oh, a Muggle atrocity…a sign of adolescent rebellion…most unattractive…"
"…or a tattoo!"
"…wait a moment…I have a tattoo..."
"Never you mind!"
"All right, all right," Dumbledore broke in. "Let's not get ridiculous." He paused, noticed Snape standing against the wall, one finger running idly over his lips, his expression unfocused. "Severus. You've not said a word about Miss Granger's recent…transgressions."
Snape started, crossed his arms tightly over his chest and sneered. "No. I have not."
"Well. You saw her this very afternoon, I believe. You filled in for Professor Slughorn's potions class?"
Snape nodded tersely.
"Horace partook a little too freely in the Firewhisky last night," Dumbledore explained to the others, who nodded knowingly. Minerva rolled her eyes.
"Well?" Dumbledore pressed. "How did she seem?"
"She seemed…" Snape paused, as if unsure how to proceed. He felt the eyes of every teacher on him. How to explain? They would never understand. He could still feel Granger's lips on his; his own mouth still tingled, as if lit from within by electrical sparks. He remembered her eyes — her eyes! — she'd looked like a bloody deranged raccoon, but it wasn't the makeup, it was the depths of sadness within that had touched him. He knew that sadness. He knew it. "She seemed confused," he finished rather lamely.
Minerva snorted. "Confunded, more like it," she said.
A babble and chorus of voices rose, louder and more indignant:
"…we need to consult her parents…"
"…they're in bloody Australia, far as anyone knows…"
"…I think we need to consult some professional counselors…"
And then Snape broke in, surprising everyone, especially himself:
"I think she needs to be bloody left alone."
"I mean," Snape shifted uncomfortably under the sudden attention, "the bigger fuss we make…the more she'll realize…it's the attention she wants, is it not? We should just…let this… this most unfortunate phase run its course. And it will…run its course," he concluded, almost sadly.
"My thoughts, exactly, Severus," Albus smiled. Minerva sniffed, clearly disapproving.
"As if you even care," she muttered under her breath.
The meeting dispersed then, teachers retreating to their various hidey-holes. Dumbledore grabbed Snape by the elbow as he attempted to escape, leaned close, confidential:
"Well done, Severus. You would have made an excellent father."
Snape bared his teeth and, mortified, turned and fled.
Hermione arrived for her detention precisely at 8 p.m., dressed in a very conservative grey sweater and jeans, her hair pulled back in a completely respectable plait.
Her face was pale and clean. She looked very young and quite defeated.
Snape wanted to hug her.
"Cauldrons cleaned, by hand, thirty of them, now," he barked instead, pointing. She nodded and set to work without a word.
He watched her out of the corner of his eye, for 45 minutes, while he pretended to mark deplorable first-year essays on how best to deflect a bogey hex.
"You've had quite the eventful week, Miss Granger," he commented as she attempted to clean a nasty Bulbadox Powder potion from her thirteenth cauldron.
"I suppose I have." She sighed, shoved her sweater sleeves up higher, pushed stray hairs away from her slightly sweaty face. "I…need to apologize, sir," she said, "for my behaviour earlier. I was horrible."
"You were," he agreed. "But, was it worth it?"
She started, looked at him with narrowed eyes. Did he…understand?
"Was what worth it?" she asked carefully.
He shrugged. "This elaborate…charade…you were perpetuating."
She stiffened. "It wasn't a charade. At least, not at the time."
He nodded. "No. I'm sure it was not. At the time."
The back of her neck stiffened.
"I wanted…I wanted to try something…new."
She looked at him.
"Yes." He studied her. "I'm familiar with…charades."
She nodded clearly wanting to say, to ask, more, but resumed scrubbing instead. He couldn't let it go, however, not completely.
"And…" he said into the silence. She looked up. He didn't dare breathe and his eyes never left hers. "…and the kiss?"
She smiled, just a little. What did she have to lose? Her reputation was in shreds anyway. She lifted her chin.
"Something new I've wanted to try…for awhile."
He didn't laugh, he didn't sneer or smirk. He merely nodded again.
"You…" She held her breath. "You didn't mind?"
One corner of his mouth twitched and he was infinitely grateful for the dimness of the room.
"It wasn't horrible."
They both smiled then, a tiny bit.
Ten minutes later:
"Don't you ever wish…"
He watched her silently. He raised one eyebrow.
It was very quiet in the room. The two of them stared at one another, and for once, Snape's face held not contempt or disgust; it was smooth, his mouth relaxed. He just watched her, his eyes calm and almost…gentle.
"Don't you ever wish that you could just…be someone else. For even a little while? Someone else not you."
He considered the girl before him. He thought about Death Eaters, and Voldemort. He remembered Cruciatus curses, almost unendurable pain, almost unendurable loneliness. He thought about Lily. Then he remembered Hermione's lips on his, their softness, gentleness, their warmth. He hadn't felt something that warm in so long. He remembered the irrefutable and maddening fact the he was a teacher and she a student. His heart constricted.
"Every single day of my life."