Hermione closed her copy of "Broomstick Riding for Dummies" and took a look around the castle grounds. It was deserted, as expected since it was Christmas holidays. She had told Harry and Ron to go on to the Burrow as she had 'research' to do. Research being trying to overcome her acrophobia, before anyone found out that Hermione Granger, academician extraordinaire, dare not use broomsticks as transport due to her fear of heights. Endurable when she was Harry in Polyjuice, paired with George with him leading the broomstick but by herself, Hermione had to admit, she was like a beginner driver driving stick.
With a deep breath, she swung her leg over the school issued broomstick and kicked her legs up. It rose obediently on command, and Hermione adjusted her body weight to compensate for the slight wobble and balance shift. As the grass underneath her feet grew smaller, she closed her eyes.
"I can do this. I can do this." she muttered to herself, her heart beating like a jackrabbit in her ribs.
After a moment, she opened her eyes and saw she was already level to the castle's highest turrets, and still rising.
"Oh shit, oh shit," Hermione shrieked in panic, forgetting everything she had read in the book about halting ascension. She made a sudden movement and the broomstick jerked forward, dislodging her from her seat.
Hermione fell. She closed her eyes, anticipating the sickening crunch of her bones as her body collided with the ground. Impact never came. She felt her body fold and she was engulfed by a dark set of robes. Tentatively, she opened her eyes just a teeny bit.
Snape looked down disapprovingly at Granger. He was picking herbs in the garden when he had looked up and saw the foolish girl going up on the broomstick. From her shaky movements, he was correct in deducing her only experience with broomsticks was cheering Potter and Weasley in Quidditch. Knowing it would not end well, he ambled to the field, his pace turning to a run when Granger slipped off the broomstick in mid air. He slowed her descent with a spell but it was not quick enough. So he had stepped in right under and Granger had fallen..into his arms.
They remained that way for a few seconds. His hands cupped under her knees, the other supporting her back. Her hands on his chest, one palm flat against his chest, the other clutched the lapels of his black robe. His face was so close to hers, she could see the beginnings of evening stubble on his chin and upper lip.
Snape cleared his throat. Hermione was entranced by the bob of his Adam's apple. She could feel his heart beating rapidly under her hand.
"I should..umm..." Hermione made to get down and Snape relaxed his grip on her.
"There are other far less messier ways to kill yourself that would spare others the gory sight of your cracked skull than to fall off a broom at 30 feet high. And have the decent sense, Ms Granger," his eyes narrowed and looked down at her disheveled skirt that had ridden up a few inches up her thighs, "to wear trousers when you're on a broomstick and flying above line of sight. Believe it or not, some of us abhor the sight of knickers while enjoying the evening sun and sipping Earl Grey."
Hermione blushed crimson at his sarcastic remark. She didn't think anyone would be out and about especially the Dungeon Bat who usually stayed holidays.
"Professor..." she called out on impulse at his retreating back. "Could you show me how to ride?"
A surprised, raised eyebrow.
She sputtered. "I mean, if you know how to. Outdoors and broomsticks might not be your thing. We've never seen you actually ride a broomstick before..."
Uh oh, wrong thing to say. Snape was stomping back to her.
"Just because you've never seen a person ride, doesn't mean they cannot. And just because they can, doesn't mean there is a need to show off."
He held up his hand. "Accio Firebolt."
A magnificient Firebolt flew out through an open castle window into Snape's open hands. It made Harry and Ron's look like toys. Snape's was almost as tall as he was, the oak a polished deep brown, thick and solid. The stirrups looked like it was made from pure gold. The handle was ornately designed with dashes of silver and green. Embossed on it in small silvery letters: Prince.
Snape got onto his broomstick, rested a boot on one of the stirrups.
"Well?" He motioned her to get in front.
Hermione gulped and straddled the front of the broomstick awkwardly.
"Ms Granger if you don't want to fall off again, I suggest you scoot further back."
Timidly, Hermione eased to the back, nearer to him until she could feel the warmth radiating from his body. She could feel Snape's thighs grazing her slightly.
"Relax," he leaned forward and whispered, "I won't let you fall."
As the Firebolt rose in the air, Hermione let out a small eeep, one hand clutching the handle for her dear life, the other digging into Snape's thighs. A panic attack was setting in and Snape could sense it. Hoping to reassure her, he pulled Hermione closer, long legs bent at the knee, his inner thighs pressing against her trembling outer ones.
One hand settled on her waist. His other hand gripped her thigh to steady her.
"Hermione" Her first name uttered like liquid silk from his lips startled her out of her panic. "Trust me."
His thumb caressed her tummy just above the navel as he leaned back to stop the broomstick's ascension. Snape then leaned gently forward, his chest pressing to Hermione's back. Hermione followed his cue and the broom slowly flew forward.
"Use the handle to control where you want to go." His breath tickling her ear.
Hermione gripped and pulled right. The broom jerked towards the direction, while Snape's grip on her tightened as she wobbled on the Firebolt. Slowly she got used to the height. Snape's protective presence behind her helped a lot to boost her confidence.
They passed a few owls on their way to deliver parchments. They hooted at the couple on the broomstick in greeting.
"It's beautiful up here," she exclaimed, looking at the sun setting on the horizon.
"Yes it is," Snape said, looking at the woman in his arms, admiring how the rays bounced of her hair. How she found joy in the simple things in life.
Hermione shivered under his embrace.
"Cold?" His voice was gentler, deeper. She had never heard him use such a tone before, at least not to her.
To her delight, he pulled her closer to him and felt him wrap his cloak around both of them. Her stomach did nervous flips at his actions. His cloak smelled of his scent, masculine with a hint of musk. She breathed in, never wanting to forget this moment.
"Thank you sir."
She felt him nod behind her. His head was so close to hers, she could feel his warm breath trailing down her neck. He nudged her long hair aside with his nose and nuzzled her. His stubble rasped on her sensitive neck. She risked a hand away from the handle and grasped his hand encircling her waist. He planted a chaste kiss on her neck.
"We should go," he muttered with a hint of regret, "it's almost dinnertime."
Snape instructed Hermione in landing and soon they were back on solid ground. They stood facing each other, unsure of what to say. What had happened in the air felt surreal.
Hermione broke the silence. "Thank you sir for the flying lessons." She stood on a tiptoe, using the lapels of his front jacket as leverage, pulled herself up higher and gave him a peck on his chin. It was the only part of his face she could reach.
Snape tucked a stray strand of her hair behind her ear, his fingers lingering on her jawline. A small smile that he knew he would be reserving only for her from now on.
"You're most welcome."