Title: Some Bind of Wonderful
Author: cathedral carver
Word count: 2,456
Summary: Can I get a witness?
Author notes: Many thanks and undying gratitude to my wonderful muse, beta and Punmistress Extraordinaire CSINut214
Written for the 2010 hp_ssc_fest.
They never touched.
Not an odd fact in and of itself, perhaps — they were colleagues, after all — but decidedly odd in their particular case, because they were head over heels in love with one another.
They were workmates, friends, sometime confidantes. They sought out each another's advice, traded bits of information no one else in the world would find even remotely interesting or valuable (Did you read in this month's Weeds and Seeds that the Ministry is considering removing Venomous Tentacula from the grounds entirely?" "Really? What on earth for?" "Probably because of what happened to Ramona Ruffkin last week." "Ah, yes. Unfortunate incident, that. Hope her face heals quickly."), and generally looked forward to laying eyes on one another each and every day.
Despite being desperately in love, they were not lovers. They never touched. Once, she recalled, her hand happened to swing against his, quite by accident, and he'd reacted with a small gasp, jerking his hand away as if he'd been scalded by bubotuber pus. And well, that was the end of that.
Several times a month they walked together, in the evening, around the Hogwarts' grounds, where Snape would point out herbs and plants of interest, always with a good six inches of space separating any of their various body parts.
September, October, and November. Near the end of the bleakest month, Hermione was bundled against the bitter winds, shaking slightly despite several layers of woolen clothes.
"We won't be able to do this much longer," she said as they moved back towards the Castle.
"Probably not," he agreed and she thought, for a moment, that he sounded bitterly disappointed.
"I'll miss it," she said.
His head jerked towards her. Her words, she wondered, or a particularly bitter gust of wind in his ear? Why would the man never wear a hat? She tucked her chin lower into her muffler, shoved her hands deeper into her coat pockets.
"Will you?" he said quietly, but loud enough that she heard him over the wind.
"Sometimes—" she began, but didn't finish. She could see, peripherally, that he was watching her, an intent expression on his face.
She shook her head. "It's silly."
She could not face him. She spoke to the Lake. "Sometimes I think I care more for you than for anyone else in the world."
"Ah," he murmured. She swallowed hard.
"See? I told you." Her cheeks were red. And the tip of her nose. He suddenly wanted to kiss it, but they Never Touched, so.
"I'm honoured," he said instead and she smiled, "but I hardly dare think myself held in such esteemed company as say, Potter or any of the various and sundry Weasley offspring."
She shrugged beneath her heavy coat. "Of course we're all still friends, of a sort," she said. "But it's different, now. Everyone has…moved on to follow their own paths. I'm so busy here with work, I don't talk to Harry very often anymore, and ever since Ron married, I've just been so—" She swallowed. "Busy."
She'd been going to say lonely.
"Well then," Snape moved ahead and she followed, wondering what on earth prompted her to tell him any of that. He was obviously horribly embarrassed and probably rather repulsed.
"Well then," she said at the Castle entrance, barely able to meet his gaze. "Good night." She tilted her head, shoved her hands deeps into her pockets.
Oh, to put her cheek against his, to wrap her arms around him, to press her lips to—
"Good night." He bowed ever so slightly and she smiled, her cheeks protesting against the sudden movement. As he stepped away, she moved, almost involuntarily, to touch him, but of course, did not.
Seating arrangements placed them at opposite ends of the Head Table, but they managed to always make eye contact at some point during the meals, smiling or nodding, lifting a hand, tilting a head, anything to acknowledge one another's presence in a sometimes cold and callous world. It always warmed her somehow to catch a glimpse of his black robes, black hair, black coat, and helped her make it through until the next meal.
Tuesday morning Hermione had Double Charms with the Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws, followed by a free period before lunch. When Snape failed to make an appearance for the noonday meal, she was curious, but not concerned. Perhaps he'd been delayed by a wayward student, or had become engrossed in reading a particularly detailed article in this week's Delightful Draughts. Her afternoon was full, and she looked forward to seeing him at dinner. When he failed to show up for that meal, as well, her concern blossomed to fear. She knew Thursday afternoons he had free, and usually used them for his own brewing. Had he simply become caught up in a finicky experiment? Was he ill? Was he hurt?
"Have you seen Professor Snape?" she asked Neville, who sat to her left.
"Sorry, Hermione," he said, blushing as always when she spoke directly to him.
"Have you seen Severus?" she asked Minerva, seated to her right.
"I have not," she retorted, drawing herself up. "But if you locate him, tell him I waited almost an hour this afternoon and I'm not amused. Not amused in the least. We had an appointment for his performance review. This," she sniffed, "will not look good in the Tardiness portion."
"I'll be sure to tell him," Hermione smiled past the lump in her throat. As much as Snape loathed authority figures, he would never deliberately skip a meeting with Minerva. "Excuse me," she said as she tossed her napkin on her half-finished plate and all but jogged from the Hall.
The door to his classroom stood slightly ajar.
"Professor Snape?" she called, her voice loud in the quiet. She felt uneasy, as if someone was watching her. Her footsteps sounded too loud in her ears. The student supply cupboard door was also slightly open. She peered inside.
"Severus!" she said, her voice loud in the gloom. He was lying on his side, eyes closed, hands behind his back. Her heart in her throat, pulse fluttering in her neck and wrists, she knelt beside him. Was he breathing? She leaned down, her hair swinging against his face. She leaned closer, could hear the faintest whisper of air from his lips.
Then, she touched him.
Her fingers, trembling, moved to his face, his neck. He was warm. He was alive. She exhaled loudly. She hadn't realized she'd been holding her breath.
He opened his eyes.
"Severus!" she said. "What happened?"
"I'm…not sure…" His words were slow, his speech slurred. He blinked in the darkness, then focused on her.
"Hermione," he said. He smiled a little, then winced.
"Here," she said. She wrapped her arms around his shoulders and, with some difficulty, hoisted him to a sitting position. He leaned back against the shelves, head hanging down, legs splayed in front of him. Her heart leapt.
"Oh, Severus. Who did this?"
He shook his head, as if to clear away befuddled thinking, and looked up at her.
"Bloody fourth-year Gryffindors, I believe. Insolent twits, the whole lot of them."
She knew the students could be cruel to him, had heard the stories which he, of course, had vehemently denied, but this, this was deplorable.
"When I find out who—"
Snape shifted with difficult, his face twisting in pain.
"Here," Hermione said, flushing at her thoughtlessness. "I'll untie you."
A shadow of a smile. "If you would."
He leaned forward and turned slightly so she could move behind him. The ropes, she realized, were intricate, much more so than she initially thought. They not only bound his wrists thickly but criss-crossed over his chest several times. She slid her fingers lightly along their trail, but try as she might, she could find neither beginning nor end.
"How on earth—" she muttered.
"What is it?"
"Wait a moment," she said, pulling out her wand. "Finite Incantatem."
She pushed slightly sweaty strands of hair back from her face, bit her lip, pondered for a moment.
"How did they do this?" she asked, aware of Snape's eyes on her face, following her every move. "This is more than a simple Incarcerous spell, and more advanced than any fourth-years could conjure. What do you remember?"
"I'm…not entirely sure." His voice was weak, and something else, unidentifiable. "I was rendered…slightly unconscious."
Even in the near dark she could see his blush.
"What?" she gasped.
"Non-magically, of course," he said. "They wouldn't dare attempt a full-out magical attack on a Professor. Just a good old-fashioned whack to the back of the head with a copy of Encyclopedia of Potions, I believe. Everyone complains about how heavy it is." He winced. "And I am now in full agreement."
Her hands abandoned the ropes then, and moved to his head, her fingers sliding deftly through his hair, tracing the smooth, hard planes of his skull. He groaned and shivered and she stopped.
"I'm sorry. Am I hurting you?"
He shook his head. "No. No. You can touch—" He coughed, rather violently. "You may…continue."
Near the back she found the raised bump and he flinched against her.
"Sorry," she said. She paused. "Perhaps we should involve Poppy."
"Poppy!" He was horrified. "Surely you're not suggesting I parade myself to the Infirmary amongst the students in this predicament."
"Well, no," she said. "I could always bring her here—"
"Professor," he cut in, jerking slightly. He would have grabbed her hand if he'd been able. "Hermione. Please. You must see…you must understand my reluctance to involve any outside party in this most embarrassing—"
"Yes, yes, I do see," she said. "I just…I'm not sure what I can do. They must have used some kind of magic on these I've never encountered. Perhaps something from Weasley's Wizard Wheezes—"
"Once more, please?" he said.
Her hands moved deftly along the ropes, her fingers, no longer shy or hesitant, slipping between and beneath, rubbing against the cloth of his coat and, at times, pushing against what lay beneath that: the hard planes of his chest and arms. She was very close to him now, all pretense of propriety abandoned. She would get him free. She would! She was approaching her task from the front now, leaning against him fully, her hands moving along his arms, over his shoulders, down his back. She became aware, hyper-aware, of just how closely they were situated and she stopped. Her breathing was elevated, naturally, but she noticed his was, as well, and really, why should he be out of breath? He was just sitting there while she did all the bloody work.
"Well, I'm gobsmacked," she admitted. Sweat was beading along her upper lip and hairline. She frowned. Something was not right. "Only someone with very advanced skills and a superior grasp of—oh."
She sat back slightly. Her face was still very close to his.
She stopped him with a finger, laid light as air across his lips. She replaced her finger with her own lips then, light, gentle. His moved very slightly beneath hers, almost not at all, until she increased the pressure bit by bit. He responded in kind, leaning towards her, straining against the ropes and she smiled.
"Quite the predicament," she breathed against his mouth. She kissed him again, her tongue moving brazenly then (he tasted sharp and strong, like coffee, or smoke), and her hands moved to his shoulders, then to the sides of his neck, over her jawline, gripping the back of his neck hard as she leaned into the kiss, pushing him back against the shelves.
"Severus—" she gasped. He only moaned as her mouth touched the skin of his face, as her hands stroked his hair, his cheeks, the soft flesh beneath his chin.
He could not touch her. She did not mind.
Not another word was spoken until it was all over. She straddled him then, lifting her teaching robes as high as she could, bunching them around her thighs. She pressed herself down, grinding until he groaned, while her hands and lips moved up and down his arms, along the oh-so-sensitive skin of his neck. Her lips touched his cheeks, his eyelids, when they fluttered closed, his earlobes, then his mouth. He strained against her, and she knew he wanted to touch her, as well. She continued to push down, side to side and as she reached her peak, too, her breath blew across his face in hot, quick gasps, until she spasmed down and, oh—
—and he gasped, hips jerking up against her.
They sat like that for a long moment, her head on his shoulder, their breaths finally dying away.
"Well," she said at last as she pulled back, straightened her robes, smoothed her hair pointlessly.
"Yes, well." He cleared his throat. "It's a good thing you're the one who found me, after all."
"A very good thing," she agreed.
"You really are a clever witch."
"So I've been told."
"An interesting curse, this one," he added conversationally.
"Really? Do tell."
"Nonnullus redimio of mirus," he whispered, staring directly at her. The ropes glowed a light red, then dissolved. He moved his hands to his lap, flexed his wrists, rubbed his arms, all the while staring at her face.
"Ah," she said, smiling with lips red and swollen. Her hair fell over her eyes and this time she didn't push it away. "I should have known."
The Castle was deadly cold in the winter months and for many it was a downright chore to find ways to keep warm.
For others, not so much.
"Has anyone seen Professor Snape?" Minerva demanded on a stormy morning in mid-January. "He missed lunch today and we had a meeting at two."
"Really?" Hermione raised her eyes from her cup of tea, curled on the couch by the largest window in the lounge, enjoying the view of the white, wind-swept grounds.
"It's so rude of him to do this. That's the third time this month. Honestly. The man needs to be taught a lesson about common courtesy. Perhaps some demerit points would solve the problem." She laughed at her wit.
Hermione smoothed back a stray strand of hair.
"I think I know where he may be. He mentioned something earlier about a potion he was trying to perfect. I'll go fetch him for you, if you'd like."
"Thank you, dear, ever so much." Minerva shivered. "It's so dreadfully cold in the dungeons this time of year. Are you sure you don't mind?"
Hermione smiled, shook her head, put down her tea. She dabbed her mouth.
"Not at all."