Summer is almost over which hopefully means that life will slow down!
Which hopefully means that I can write more! :D
My beta-reader FreeSpiritSeeker hasn't been able to edit this chapter so this chapter will go forth as unedited! I hope it's still acceptable! Thank you guys for reading! You guys rock!
~ Also, there will be some elements of potion-making in this chapter. I don't know exactly how it works so I just winged it. XD Forgive me if there are obvious mistakes! ~
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter or any of it's characters. They are property of JKR. If I did, however, Snape would not have died.
"Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angry—but don't use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don't stay angry. Don't go to bed angry. Don't give evil that kind of foothold in your life."
- Ephesians 4:26-27, The Message Translation
Hermione didn't remember how she got into her bed but as her face hit the pillows, it all seemed to rush at her. Ron had been cheating on her. And not just for one night - deep down in her heart, she knew that it had been going on for quite some time.
Nothing could stop the tears from coming at that point. All her emotions - betrayal, fury, overwhelming sadness - reduced her to nothing but tears and sniffles.
How could she have been so stupid - so utterly blind? Of course Ron was cheating on her! It was only obvious. All of the signs were pointing to the evidence of an affair! Only, sadly, she did not realize it until just now. Everything that had happened - between the lack of visits and communication to the awkward encounters in between Ginny's Quidditch games - in the past few months suddenly made sense. The only way to describe what it felt like was being hit by lightening- almost like an epiphany.
The witch felt something brush against her legs and she knew it was her beloved cat but she made no efforts to pull him close. Her chest was so heavy that it was even hard to sit up properly. Burying her face in her pillow, she let out a soft sob she could no longer contain. She tried to brush back her chestnut hair but it simply clouded her eyes and she left it there. There was no point to it.
She hadn't felt this way and years and she couldn't say that she missed it. Every single part of her body ached with grief. How could someone who was so close to her hurt her like this? She had trusted him with her back and with her heart and he had stabbed both of them.
How could he do this to me? her thoughts couldn't help but ask, making her heart thud painfully in her chest.
Perhaps she was just an idiot.
Of course Ron wouldn't stay with her.
What did she have to offer? She was just a silly teacher. She wasn't fun or sexy or exciting. She spent her days teaching and her free time reading books. Of course he would go after someone much more appealing, attractive and more of a pleasure to be around. Of course he would go after someone he could shag all the time...
Ohh, even the word hit 'shag' hit her hard.
With a shaky hand and a heavy heart, the witch reached over to the chest and withdrew a phial of Dreamless Sleep. She didn't want to be awake anymore. She didn't want to think about Ron and his new lover and the pain he caused her. Uncorking the phial, she drank what she could until her vision blurred.
I just need to sleep... To sleep and forget...
She just managed to set the phial back into the chest. As darkness clouded her thoughts and the warmth of her bed pulled her under, the only thing she remembered feeling was anger.
"Hermione, stop. Do it again."
The witch groaned. The older wizard glanced at her and was surprised at what he saw. Her hair - once in an elastic band - now sprung free of its bonds, sticking out in every direction.
"What did I do wrong this time?" Hermione whined as he waved his wand over her cauldron, the purple elixir vanishing into thin air.
"You stirred counter-clockwise." Severus replied, agitated. "By doing so, you have disrupted the natural flow which was going clockwise until you ruined it. Also, the potion by now should be delicate color of indigo, not lavender. Do it again."
At the word 'lavender', Hermione tossed aside her stir stick with an unnecessary force onto the desk. She then proceeded to roll up her sleeves again, looking more flustered than he had ever seen her. "Ridiculous..." She murmured heatedly under her breath as she haphazardly added a tablespoon of tree sap to her empty cauldron.
When he had suggested to her that they should have an experimental potion trial that upcoming Sunday morning, he had expected a certain amount of joy and enthusiasm from the young, aspiring woman. Instead when she came in to his classroom in the early morning, her eyes unfocused and tired, he should have made her leave then and there. Why he didn't, he did not know. Throughout the experimental potion trial, she missed adding the dung beetle legs at the fourth minute. Not too soon after that, she was missing many ingredients and making third-year mistakes such as adding wings of a dragonfly rather than moth wings.
Of course, after each mistake, he would correct her and empty her cauldron. With each and every time he emptied the cauldron, he would inwardly cringe at the wasted components inside. Precious, hard-to-come-by ingredients that took time and money to collect were wasted in a matter of seconds. It was almost painful for the Potions master to witness but he managed so far.
He hadn't seen Hermione since the party at the Burrow and something was very off about her. Where she was once bursting with energy and enthusiasm, now she was quiet and reserved, her joy replaced with something darker and depressing. She wasn't at all like herself. The Hermione who was fascinated with learning and had joy in experimenting - the Hermione who gave his stomach odd feelings and made his heart race - was beaten down by the woman standing next to him. This woman before him was distracted with something heavy upon her he only wished he could take away from her.
He felt many things for her in that moment but he was not quite sure how he should bring it up. He felt concern, for one. She wasn't herself at all and he hoped that she would get a hold of herself but it wasn't happening. That part of him, however, was very small as he also felt quite irritated with her. If she was in no condition to be creating potions and around dangerous ingredients, why was she even here? She was wasting time and valuable ingredients with each and every batch.
Severus watched her struggle again to work on her fourth concoction. After adding the main ingredients and was stirring clockwise, she distractedly snatched a handful of Whomping Willow blossom petals from their jar without counting them properly.
Panic seized Severus as he lunged forward and snatched her wrist just before she could toss the petals in the cauldron. He sighed with relief when her hand remained closed and the petals did not touch the liquid.
Often, when he would touch her, he always felt many odd emotions - tenderness, sentimental, concern - and as always, he was always sure to be careful and effete when handling her. The wizard was ever sure to use light touches when coming into contact with her. But now those odd and unfurling emotions occurring were not present.
He shot her a dark glare, and she looked rather bewildered. He was right. She was completely unfocused.
"You idiot," he snapped at her and she blinked at him, surprised. "Read the instructions I set out for you. I put them there for a reason!"
He was irritated with her carelessness and he sure as hell hoped that she could tell. She was narrowing her eyes at him, her once warm chocolate eyes now cold and hard.
"It says to add the Whomping Willow blossom petals and that's what I'm doing!" Hermione retorted with a raised voice and tried to tug her wrist free. He gripped her wrist tighter, she let out a gasp of surprise. "Let me go." She demanded and tried to free her wrist with no success. He kept an iron grasp on her tiny wrist, not at all ready to release her.
Not just yet, anyway.
"You did not count them out." Severus retorted, glaring at her.
"I have seven, you git!"
A strange anger like never before licked at his insides, clawing at his stomach until it was almost unbearable. He was just trying to protect her - the stupid, foolish girl - and all she cared about was being right?
"You know very well what happens when these things are not done properly, Hermione." He told her slowly, his voice completely dead-panned. "Do it right or we don't do it at all. Now-" he thrust the thin parchment instructions under her nose, right in front of her eyes. "What does it say? Read it aloud."
He did not care how close they were as friends. He did not even care about the strong feelings her possessed for her. She was behaving like an child. She could have hurt herself and it would have been his fault. Didn't she see that? Didn't she see how dangerous this was?
"Seven petals..." Hermione muttered quietly, her eyes now darting along the instructions in perplexity.
He guided her wrist away from the mouth of the cauldron to the open counter top. He did not release her wrist.
"Count them. Now."
She let the petals drop from her hand onto the table. Her brown eyes darted from one petal to the next, counting them.
"... Four... Five... Six... Seven..." She visibly swallowed when she counted out two more petals. "Eight... And nine."
Severus felt his jaw clench, his irritation spiking. "Do you know why I counted out seven petals on the instructions and only seven Whomping Willow blossom petals?" He spoke through clenched teeth in an attempt to keep his voice even.
Hermione's wide eyes weren't even on his. They were staring down at the petals on the counter top.
"I counted out seven for a reason, stupid girl. I counted out seven because I conducted experiments last week with nine, seven, and five petals. Any number more than seven petals with the combined mixture of limestone, nightshade, horsefly urine for this potion creates a deadly cloud that nearly asphyxiated me within five seconds."
He released her wrist. The red imprints of his fingers flushed on her pale skin but he found himself not caring all that much. It was so much less of an injury than what she could have had. She should be grateful that was all she got away with.
"Because of your scattered brain, you were about to poison yourself. Those few extra petals could have sent off any sort of reaction that we wouldn't have been prepared for!"
Looking quite exasperated and annoyed, Hermione waved a hand at him. "I'm sorry, a'right?"
Severus felt disbelief at her words. She was sorry. She could have injured herself and she was sorry?
She could have been hurt beyond repair and under his watch. If she had hurt herself it would have been his fault because he was supposed to be looking out for her. He had promised the Weasley's that no harm would come to her and yet it almost happened, and under his very nose...Images of Hermione's mangled, limp body caused him to shiver from a sudden chill in his lower back. He did not want to imagine it. It was not a pleasant thing to think about. In fact, it only riled him up even more. Severus felt his heart racing at the very thought. The slight irritation he was feeling was becoming something else - something deeper and darker...
Without another thought, he grabbed the cauldron and snatched it way out of her reach.
"We're done for today."
Hermione's eyes widened and she reached out for the cauldron. "H-Hey, give it back!"
"No. We're done for the day! Keep your grabby hands to yourself, witch!"
The witch's warm hands grasped his, startling him, and a strange warmth spread throughout his entire body. He had felt this before when she had touched him but he did not expect it to happen more than a few times. He reluctantly met her eyes, and despite her weariness, they were burning like fire.
"I can do this!" Hermione's voice was shrilly, almost sounding like she was whining.
Severus wrenched her hands off of his and took a big step backwards so that she could no longer touch him. Her very touch made him unable to think his own thoughts and it drove him absolutely mad!
"You cannot!" he fought back, his tone coming off harsher than he had expected. "For whatever reason, you didn't come prepared. You should have sent me a note or a Patronus if you were not up to the task, rather than putting yourself in danger! It is not brave, it is stupid! If you cannot focus, do not come!"
The witch suddenly threw her hands into the air. Her face was suddenly flushed, probably embarrassed. "Okay, okay! I get it, okay? I made a mistake!"
He felt his hands grip the iron cauldron in his hands. "A mistake? Hermione, your focus today is everywhere else! Merlin's balls, you almost added ingredients that could have potentially killed you! Calling it a 'mistake' is an understatement! If you cannot come in and give all your attention, then do not bother to show up at all! I first believed that you were more than capable of handling this, now it is clear that you cannot!" He felt his blood pumping through his brain, his head throbbing as he continued to correct her. "And do not come back until you can actually take what we are doing seriously!"
He strolled over to his desk and slammed the cauldron down on it, the very legs of his desk shaking at the force. He waved his wand over the liquid inside until it vanished. More wasted additives but at least no one was hurt. He felt only slightly appeased at this before shooting her another glare.
"What the hell has happened to you in the past twelve hours that has made you this way?"
Hermione didn't answer him. She stood her spine rigid at his comment with her arms limp at her sides but he saw her hands clamp into fists. Apparently, his words had infuriated her.
"You know what? You're right - I shouldn't come back here!"
Severus leaned forward. "Fine, don't come back. See if I give a shit!"
She strolled towards the door in a huff. She was almost gone and out of his hair... And even though he knew he shouldn't, he couldn't help himself. "Fine," he sneered at her.
Hermione spun around, her wild hair whipping her in the face and her eyes wide. "FINE!" Grasping the door, she swung it with all her might. But instead of a loud slam, the door simply hit the doorjamb and remained slightly open.
Relief flooded Severus. Finally.
After a few moments of much-needed peace, the silence closed in around him. He felt his blood still pumping from the arguing and the screeching and he longed for a cigarette.
Should he have been that harsh with her? Perhaps not. But it seemed that she was not emotionally or physically prepared for the challenges he had laid out for her. It appeared that she was more than emotionally compromised. Something truly must have gotten to her if she were to act like a first year towards him. Not only to mention her sour attitude and inability to pay attention.
His eyes fell into the bottom of the pitch black iron cauldron. Odd emotions such as regret and guilt rested on him, making him feel utterly contrite. It was not his fault that she couldn't concentrate and it was certainly not his fault that she couldn't keep those damn Gryffindor emotions of hers under control.
And yet... He still felt those strange emotions that did not want to leave.
Should he chase after her? No... No, she needed time to herself. He couldn't always pursue and try to right the wrongs between them. She needed to come to that resolve on her own.
As he thought of these things, a soft noise like a sniffle resounded in his classroom. He glanced up at the doorway and was surprised to see Hermione standing there, as he had not expected to see her again for a while. Her hand raised at her eye in the form of a fist, wiping what looked like tears away. He felt his spine grow rigid at the sounds of her crying.
I took it too far, he inwardly panicked. She's crying.
Looking at her from head to toe, he did not understand why he did not see it sooner, but now - in this very moment in time - he could see it all.
The dark circles under her eyes were the only contrast against her abnormally pale skin. Had she been sleeping at all? Judging by her red-rimmed eyes, he supposed that she hadn't been. With hunched shoulders and a lowered head, more tears fell and the sobbing continued.
Any negative thoughts or feelings he had towards her disappeared and were replaced with something softer that he couldn't quite characterize nor categorize. His assumption was correct. She was quite upset. He had seen her tear up before but he had never seen her get so upset as to start crying in front of him. It was disturbing and alarming at the same time.
A voice in his mind urged him to go to her but just as he set the heavy cauldron upon his desk, she hurried straight towards him. He half-wondered if she was going to strike him or yell at him. Instead, what she did startled him even further.
She scurried around his desk and straight into his chest, nearly knocking the wind out of him. Her arms enveloped around his torso and pulled him against her into a tight embrace.
No warm emotions or physical changes resulted during this embrace. This was different from any other physical encounter he had with her before and yet, it was completely mandatory. She was having an emotional crisis and it seemed that what she needed right now, in this moment, was to be held by someone. And so, his arms, moving of their own will, wrapped around her small thin frame and pulled her close to him. He felt her bury her face into his collar bone, her shoulders shaking from underneath his arms. Not knowing what else to do to calm her down, he rested his cheek against her untamed hair, waiting for her to collect herself.
The physical contact was becoming much easier for him but it he illogically desired that the circumstances were different. Having a sobbing witch in his arms was something that never wanted but it was happening none-the-less. His hands instinctively rubbed up and down her back in soothing circles in a piss-poor attempt to calm her down. No intelligent phrases or words came to mind so he kept his lips still and his hands constantly moving over her small back.
Her crying continued for at least a few minutes and he could feel her tears starting to leak through his robes. Not that he minded, knowing how upset she must have been, but it made him wonder how such a small woman could produce that many tears. He also pondered on what had made her so upset but for the better, he held his tongue. Now was not the time to pester her with unnecessary questions.
She pulled away, dabbing her eyes on the sleeves of her robe. "I-I'm sorry..."
"It is alright..."
"No, no, I meant that I'm sorry for everything." Her bloodshot eyes peeked up at him from behind her sleeve. "I-I acted unprofessional and completely mental. I shouldn't have acted that way. I could have h-hurt you because I was being careless!" More tears welled in her red eyes and spilled down her cheeks. "I'm sorry, Severus, I really mean it!"
The more tears leaked down her red cheeks the more awkward he felt. What on God's green earth was he supposed to say? "Hermione... Stop crying." He lifted a hand to her cheek and wiped her tears away. "It doesn't suit you."
She hiccuped and sniffled and made all sorts of crying noises. When he realized that talking working, he pulled away from her and turned to one of his shelves along the walls. Withdrawing a small, yellow-painted phial from the shelf, he handed it to her.
She hiccuped and looked at the small phial in wonder.
"Wh-What is it?"
With shaky hands and lips, she opened the phial and took a long sip of the yellowish elixir. Her face scrunched up for a moment.
"I... I can't cry anymore."
"I should hope so." the wizard remarked, feeling much better now that he wouldn't have to see any more of her tears. "I gave you a very effective concoction that contains both Calming Draught and Pepper-Up potion components. It has taken away your anxiety and has made your body no longer produce tears for the time being."
Even as he said it, the young witch before had lost all need to cry. In front of his eyes, her entire body relaxed. All tears and sniveling had stopped the moment the liquid touched her lips. She pulled the phial away, blinking rapidly a few times to adjust to it's symptoms, then glanced at it.
"I... I feel infinitely better." she said in awe, staring at the potion phial in her hand.
Severus felt a bit of pride at the way he could make her feel better - in an instant, too.
"There." He told her, taking a step away from her warmth and strangely found himself missing the closeness. He opened his lips, a command on his tongue ready to send her out of his classroom to the Great Hall but another idea pushed the words out of his mouth and without asking, he took her small hand in his and pulled her around the desk. "Come."
He didn't look back at her face but he could see a clear image in his mind of the bewildered expression she must have had. Pulling her along to his office and the behind his office desk, he turned to the wall and held up his hand against the stone wall. The stones on the wall lit up briefly before opening up, revealing a stairway. He turned and glanced at her, who was staring back at him with wide eyes.
"Where are you taking me?" she inquired quietly.
"To my quarters." he replied and didn't delay in tugging her down the dark spiral staircase. She did not ask questions, she only followed him, which also slightly unnerved him. It was so unlike her to just go along without pestering him with unnecessary questions.
Then again, she hadn't been herself for the past few hours, either.
The temperature dropped degree by degree with each step, meaning they were heading lower into the Dungeons. He felt her cool hand shiver in his but he knew she wouldn't have to be cold for too long. They came to the bottom of the staircase, where a tall, dark wooden door stood in their way. On the door was no handle, but a cleverly crafted silver snaked bolted where the door knob should have been. The wizard rested his hand over it and just like that, the door swung open for him. He glanced at Hermione, who was staring at the door knob with wide eyes.
"Come." he repeated.
He led her into his quarters. With a snap of his fingers, the door behind them shut and the fireplace sprung to life, the light from the flames filling his dim quarters with light and warmth. He guided the Head of Gryffindor towards the black leather sofa, his hands on her shoulders. He pushed her until her knees couldn't support her until she reluctantly sat on the sofa. When she parted her lips to object, he held a hand up to silence her. He didn't want her interrupting with that big mouth of hers.
"Sit there," he commanded in a quiet tone. He saw that she was about to protest so he turned his back to her and he headed to his tiny kitchenette. Reaching into one of the higher cabinets, he pulled out his treasured bottle of Old Ogden's Firewhiskey and two small teacups.
"It's nice in here..." She must have been looking around, speaking about his quarters. "Mine looks similar, except it's Gryffindor colors... Wait, what are you doing, Severus?" he heard her ask from the sofa.
"Use your eyes, Hermione." He poured an even amount of the strong liquor into each of the teacups.
"We... We can't have alcohol!" The witch argued, causing Severus to roll his eyes. "It's a Sunday! It's bad luck to drink on a Sunday! And the students will notice if I-"
"You have an hour before breakfast in the Great Hall," the raven-haired man replied, handing her one of the teacups. "You have more than enough time for a drink. And you can take a Pepper-up potion before you go about your day so that none of the alcohol will effect your inhibitions and your students will be none the wiser."
Instead of sitting next to her, he crossed over and sat in his comfortable armchair. He didn't want to be too personal with her despite that they were friends. This was not frivolous get together. Hermione was having some emotional issues that he hoped he would resolve here in the next hour before class.
He raised his teacup to her and waited until she acknowledged him before taking a sip of the Firewhiskey. The alcohol touched his lips and send a warm feeling coursing through his blood almost immediately, causing an involuntary shiver of sorts.
Hermione must've noticed as her eyes were fixated on him.
"I've never seen Firewhiskey do that to anybody..."
"That is because chances are they have never had Old Odgen's before," Severus answered her non-vocal question. "It is one of the oldest and most expensive kind of Firewhiskey. Many people cannot afford it. This was a gift, given to me by one of my oldest friends."
Hermione's warm brown eyes fell to the teacup in her hands, her jaw slacked in horror. "I-I can't drink this! This was... This was a gift! And a very expensive gift that!"
"Do not be stupid," the wizard told her. "It may have been a gift but I only have it so often. It is many years old and if you were not to drink it it would be a waste. Drink it."
The bushy haired girl shook her head. "I can't possibly-"
"Shut up and drink the damn Firewhiskey, Hermione." Severus told her with a hint of menace to his voice. She must have caught onto it because it was then that she took a very tentative sip of the teacup. Her shoulders shook involuntarily and slowly her shoulders began to relax. "Mm..."
"It is very strong. I have never had a drink like this before. It… it warms me to my very toes!"
"Olran Ogden wanted to create a drink that would do just that." Severus explained when her eyes met his again. "A drink that would relax the most frustrated wizard, warm his coldest bones, and bring the most peaceful sleep to him. The rumor has it that Olran Ogden placed a special potion ingredients into the Firewhiskey so that it would be the most ideal alcoholic drink for any hardworking Wizardfolk to have."
Hermione leaned forward, interest sparkling in her eyes. "And?"
"Of course, that's why it's called a rumor. There has been no such proof found that Olran Ogden has ever put potion ingredients into the drink itself. But the rumor still stands to this day and because of it, it has increased popularity. Thus why it is so expensive."
"People believe it does something for them, therefore they buy it and in their minds it works."
"It is all a trick of the mind, Hermione." He told her. He watched her as she took another sip and then another. After nearly half a minute, he leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees. "Hermione, I want to know what happened today."
The witch instantly looked up at him. She bit her lip, a sign of uneasiness.
"It is not like you to be so scatterbrained or to make the mistakes you had made today. I don't know what has happened, but I want you to tell me."
Sighing, Hermione set her teacup on the coffee table in front of her.
"I… I just had a bad day that's all." She gave him a smile that was not genuine. She was not telling the truth. "Guess I had a busy weekend. Had a bit of wine at the Burrow. Guess it's still seeping into today."
Her relaxed composure was now slowly easing back into hunched shoulders and lowered eyes. If he knew anything about women it was that they needed to be in a state of amenity and knowing that whatever is spoken is spoken in confidence. He was going to have to get her to trust him, and if he was going to get anywhere near the problem, he was going to have to change his approach.
He moved out of his arm chair and sat next to her on the sofa. It felt odd, not just sitting on an unfamiliar couch, but sitting so close to her with the intention of coaxing information out of her. It was not going to be like the one time he had seduced her to get her to obey his wishes. This would have to be handled meticulously and with care.
"I will not pretend to know what you're going through. But pretending that you are alright and the lying to your self isn't going to work for very long." He kept his tone soft and light and most importantly, not accusing. "I want to help you."
Hermione kept her eyes on her teacup for what felt like hours before she finally raised her head and her eyes met his. "It's not something you can fix, Severus." Her tone low and depressed. "It's something that I'm not sure you're familiar with."
"I may not have been through the same things you have been through, but at least I can try to help. The only way I can help is for you to talk."
The which looked conflicted but with a resigned sigh, she set her teacup aside. "You know that Ronald Weasley and I are in a relationship, right?"
He felt an uncomfortable twist in his gut. "Yes," Severus replied through clenched teeth. What is taking Weasley so long? I told him to end the relationship...
Hermione's lower lip trembled a little. "Well, I… I just found out that he had been cheating on me."
He expected her to say many things but this was the only one he didn't see coming.
"Are you certain?" He asked. Had Weasley already told her, when he had only found out of the affair the night before?
"Yes." Hermione replied, wiping her eyes on her sleeve. "I don't know for how long it's been going on but I think it's been going on for a while."
"How did you discover this?" He couldn't help but ask.
"I… I haven't been happy with our relationship for a long time." She confessed with rosy cheeks. "With Harry's encouragement, I was able to see how unhappy I was with Ronald. I Floo'd him after I got home from the Burrow. I was going to ask him over for tea so that I could end it with him properly... So I contacted him through the Floo network and I waited for his face to show up in the fire... I waited and I felt so scared... "
Severus unconsciously leaned closer to her, listening to her tale.
"But Ronald did not come to meet me. Instead, I saw a woman's face instead."
Curling in on herself as if she had a stomach ache, Hermione rested her elbows on her knees and her chin in her palms. "He had been lying to me... I don't know for how long… I don't know much of anything… But what I do know is that he betrayed me..." She sniffled and her shoulders shook, making Severus feel bad for her all over again. "He betrayed my trust. He betrayed my feelings. He and I were together..." Her voice grew louder with each sentence, her emotions overtaking her. "Whether he wanted to be in a relationship anymore or not, he had no right to go behind my back and do that to me! He should have just told me, the stupid idiot! And with Lavender Brown of all people!"
She leaned against him, sniffling and sobbing into his arm. Pulling her until she was resting against him, he could only hope that the physical contact would cheer her up.
"If you were going to end it with Weasley, why are you so upset?"
"Because!" She took in a shaky breath to calm herself. "Because... Why couldn't he just tell me? Why couldn't he just say 'Hey, I'm sick of you. Let's break up so I can go shag other people.' Is that so hard?"
He rubbed her shoulder comfortingly, his fingers caressing her through her robes.
"He hurt you." He stated as softly as he could. He had never felt so bad for a teary-eyed woman before. Perhaps he thought of them as troublesome and that was why he never bothered to give them much sympathy. But now, it was different. This woman - this soft, kindhearted woman who he had taken the time to get to know - was completely and utterly heartbroken by the one person who was supposed to treasure and protect her.
"I don't know what to do..." She murmured against his robes. "I don't know if I can face him... Lavender must have already told him about me... But he hasn't come talked to me... What'm I supposed to do?"
Severus pressed his lips to her hair thoughtfully. "What do you want to do?"
"Hey," Hermione let out a soft laugh. He mentally compared her laugh to the sound of summer wind chimes. "I asked you for advice, not a question."
"And I gave you the best piece of advice you'll ever need to know. You cannot ask me what you're supposed to do with this situation, as I am not you. You must make decisions that will ultimately make you happiest in the end. I cannot make these for you. You must do them yourself." His free hand rested upon hers. "It hurts for now. Let it hurt for a while longer, then decide what you want to do. Do not let your anger, hurt, or disappointment consume you. Make wise choices to push you forward on a better path. Your hurt has become anger and it will soon become other darker emotions unless you choose to put it behind you for the time being. I'm not asking you to pretend that it didn't happen, but that you choose to not let it affect your life and the decisions you make."
"D-Do I just... Let it go?"
He ran his fingers comfortingly through her hair and down her back. "Is that what you'd like to do?" He pondered aloud.
"It would make my life easier, wouldn't it?"
"Of course. But it all depends on you."
"Have you ever hurt someone close to you, Severus?" She asked.
His grip on her tightened only a little when an image of a certain red-headed, green-eyed beauty flitted through his mind.
"Yes..." He answered honestly. "But the fault was mine. I had made many mistakes in the past and it brought the person who mattered the most to me to ruin. I am still not over it to this day, but I am doing my best to let go of it. It is taking me a long time but that is all I can do."
"I'm an idiot, aren't I? I hurt Ron and it's all my fault... Ronald was right to cheat on me... I didn't give him what he wanted... I wasn't a good girlfriend."
Feeling a twinge of anger, he pulled away a little and cradled her blotchy face in his hands. Using his thumbs, he wiped her tears away and caressed her cheeks.
"Listen to me because I am only going to say this once. Ronald Weasley is an idiot for turning his affections to another woman. He had you - someone he had known and had a relationship for years - and he tossed it aside as if it were nothing. You didn't give him what he wanted but he didn't give you what you needed, either. If he was to be unfaithful to you behind your back then he was never worthy of you at all." He stroked his thumbs along her cheeks again, his eyes wandering over her face. Even when she was upset, she still managed to look lovely. "He is a dunderhead who was never worthy of you. You deserve so much more than what he could ever give you. Do not think so lowly of yourself and do not settle for a boy like him. He is not worth getting upset over, let alone becoming angry and bitter over. He cannot make you happy so you should be happy to be free of him. Move onward and look to the future."
Something in the air between them changed in that moment. Combined with the close proximity of their bodies, the vulnerability they each expressed, his hands cradling her face, and the way she was staring at him, something definitely shifted in the atmosphere around them.
His eyes flickered down at her lips and then back up at her eyes. She was looking right back at him with eyes full of longing, tenderness and... Hope? Did she feel it, too?
In a moment of being indecisive, a pang of panic caused him to jolt, dropping his hands from her and stood quickly to his feet to create distance between her and him. "There is some Pepper-Up potion in my office. Take some before you leave. I shall see you soon in the Great Hall for breakfast."
Summoning the tea cups to the kitchenette, he stood in front of the fireplace with his hands clasped behind his back as Hermione stood to her feet.
She smiled at him with a look in her eyes he had never seen before. Her brown orbs reflected tenderness and affection and he felt his ears grow hot. "Sorry about all the drama." She told him as she straightened her robes and her hair unnecessarily.
"Don't let it happen again," he teased with a small smirk.
Hermione stepped around the coffee table. He didn't realize she had reached for his hand until he felt her warm fingers brush against his. He instinctively glanced down but his eyes met hers too soon.
"See you at breakfast?"
She squeezed his hand.
"I... I was going to go for a walk later to clear my head later after breakfast. Would you care to join me?"
"Just... Just a walk. I haven't had much fresh air for a while. I was just wondering if you'd like to come with me?"
Severus thought about it. He did have a lot of papers to grade, and he did want to check on his House's Quidditch team and their progress... But when he looked at Hermione's face and he saw the anticipation, he relented. "I can spare a bit of time. Shall we go after breakfast?"
"Yes, please!" Hermione beamed like the sun. Before she turned to leave she leaned forward. He saw it coming and yet he did not find he desire to move. He felt her lips press against his cheek in a soft kiss. Unlike the previous kiss, this one caused a heat like none he had ever felt before to wash over his face and down his neck, causing his hands to sweat and his face to burn.
"Thank you, Severus..."
"There's no need to-"
"I know. But I wanted to thank you anyway."
He watched as she pulled away with that same smile on her lips as she left his quarters.
He knew it was the potion and the Firewhiskey that really helped calm her down, but he irrationally hoped it was the man who gave her these things that really cheered her up. After all, it couldn't have been either of those at this point.
Hermione had disappeared for about thirty minutes and was late for breakfast to the Great Hall. When she had finally arrived at the table, the colors of her face had returned, redness in her nose and eyes were gone, and untamed hair was pulled back into a long braid. She was smiling and chatting with Minerva just before she had joined them at the table. She sat next to him, chatting adamantly with Longbottom. It was a beaming, free smile that he hadn't seen in a long time but he wouldn't deny that he was just as content to see her like that again.
After breakfast of toast and sausage, the two took a stroll along the Hogwarts grounds, as he said he would. It was unusual to walk with anybody in broad daylight like this but it wasn't uncomfortable in the least. In fact, it was completely enjoyable, especially now that she was practically skipping beside him.
"Beautiful day, isn't it?" The witch asked in a light tone.
"Says the witch who thought it was going to be the end of the world not an hour ago." Severus remarked, earning a nudge from Hermione's elbow.
"Hey, I was in distress and now I'm all better!"
"So it would seem." The wizard's eyes scanned the grassy ground of Hogwarts, taking in everything.
Students of all ages were gathered in scattered clutters throughout the grounds, enjoying the remainder of their weekend or - to his hope - catching up on homework. He couldn't blame them for spending the day outside. The weather wasn't too chilly just yet but it was still comfortable enough to be outdoors for the time being. Fall was coming in quickly in cooler breezes and shorter days. The children were simply taking as much time as they could to enjoy the weather while it was satisfying.
"I see some of my students over there!" Hermione pointed towards one of the hills. She gasped in horror. "They aren't studying at all! They're just... mucking about!"
What she said was true. No books, quills or parchment paper were anywhere in sight. Just a few younger students sitting on the hillside, pointing their wands at random flying insects. Severus felt a pang of nostalgia at the sight but found himself smirking.
"Let them be. Just means I can embarrass them in front of all their classmates tomorrow when they don't turn in their parchments tomorrow."
Hermione turned to him, her eye wide but her smile ever wider. "That is horrible!"
"That it may be, but it teaches them to never be late on their homework again."
The witch cast a look of longing in the direction of the students once more. "But... Can't they learn the first time? That way they don't have to learn the hard way?"
"Some students have to learn the hard way, Hermione. They have to go through failure to learn how to succeed."
"Yeah... I suppose you're right, Severus." Hermione's tone fell, drawing Severus' attention back to her. The breeze just picked up, tossing her hair a little in her face. Tucking her hair behind her ear, she turned her back to him, looking out over Hogwarts and all it's glory. "Some people just have to learn the hard way..."
He took the time to look at her and take her in.
A few months before, it had always been about the bond. Everything about her - every single thing - was about the bond. It wasn't about getting to know her, spending time with her, learning her habits and her personality. But now, in this moment, the bond was the furthest thing from his mind. When he looked at her now, he didn't even see the bond anymore. He saw a confident, brilliant, sometimes snarky and stubborn, but all-around amazing woman who had been through a lot but had come out stronger every time.
He took a step forward so that he was standing next to her. He knew exactly what was on her mind. "You didn't have to learn the hard way if Ronald had just talked to you first."
"You think so?"
"That situation was out of your hands, Hermione. Don't dwell on it any more."
"I'm not. I'm just... Thinking about it."
Reaching into his cloak, he withdrew a cigarette and lit it. "So you're saying that you are over it?"
"Well... I mean, it still stings quite a bit, but Ron made his decision, right? And in the end, neither of us were happy and he went out and found someone who made him happy. I..." She wrapped her hands around her opposite elbows, hugging herself. "I can't be angry at him for that, can I? I mean, here I am doing what I love and it made him upset, but I wouldn't let him get angry at me so I can't have a go at him for doing the same thing."
Severus flicked his cigarette before taking a puff. "It isn't the same situation and you are well aware of that. Do not give him an excuse."
Hermione gave a soft, humorless laugh. "I'm not giving him an excuse, Severus. I've just decided to move on. I'm done trying to make our highschool relationship work out." Her brown eyes met his, and while there was a hint of sadness, it was dominated by determination. "When you gave me that potion... I felt totally fine. I felt like everything I was worried about and fretting over and all the pain I was feeling was completely gone. And I realized that I want to feel like that all the time and I can't... I can't feel happy like that if I'm worried about stupid things like relationships. Or, at least, this one."
The wizard couldn't help the incredulous look he knew he was giving her at his moment.
"You discovered all of this from a simple potion?"
Hermione gave him a thoughtful look and pressed a finger to her chin. "Or... I could give credit to the Firewhiskey? Since I've never had it before?"
"Hermione..." The wizard hesitated at first but moved beyond feeling unsure. He had been doing that quite a bit these days. Damn these feelings... "I am... Pleased that you are moving beyond this. It is the best option for you, especially now at this point in your life where you will be constantly busy and you won't have time for a relationship."
He waited for Hermione to agree with him, to nod her head, to even say something along the lines of "Yeah! Who needs relationships, anyway!?" But instead, what she did shocked him to his core.
She tucked her hair behind her ear and peeked up at him, as if she had a bashful secret she was containing.
"Actually... I think I... I think I may actually feel something with someone else. It's nothing right now, but... It could be something in the future."
His stomach dropped like an anchor. He shouldn't have felt the shock, but he did. He should have expected this. A woman like Hermione would not stay in her sad, sorry-excuse-for-a-relationship forever. Of course she was bound to find someone else who could make her happy... And sure as hell wasn't going to be him. She wouldn't want someone like him, anyway.
Feeling more irritated and disappointed than he ever felt in his life, he flicked his cigarette into the grass before crushing it with his heel.
"If that's what you want..." he growled, his eyes on the grass and his temper just below the surface. "As pointless and foolish as that idea is."
"It's not completely hopeless..." Hermione's voice was quiet. "But I won't worry about it now. You're right. I have a lot I have to do. I have a wedding to plan, I have students to teach, and we both have Cruciatus victims who are depending on us to make an effective potion to get their minds back. I can't be in a relationship for a while." Her voice raised a little, almost cheerfully. "But I can at least hope it'll work out in the end."
His anger hadn't quite disappeared but he was relieved to hear Hermione say this. She wasn't going to pursue any sort of relationship with anyone for now. That meant he could spend as much time with her as he desired to without fear of her pursuing a suitor.
Meeting her eyes, he nodded his head. "We'll be busy for a while, then."
"And... Severus? I really am sorry about before."
"Do not apologize. What's done is done. It is over for now. We will just have to look forward to next time and do better."
The witch nodded in agreement before turning her head in another direction. "Would you like to go to Hogsmeade with me? I could use a new quill or two."
"Hn. I may as well. I need to buy some things as well."
Hermione kicked her heel against the grass, beaming at him happily. "At least I'll be in good company!"
Indulging her, he held out his arm to her. "Shall we then?" With a giddy smile, she looped her arm in his. They walked towards Hogsmeade together and Severus felt those damn butterflies fluttering about in his gut over and over.
Although nothing was going according to plan today, it was all working out on it's own. Not to mention that he was going to be spending the day with her. It wasn't a total loss after all.
Then... He had a sudden thought.
"Any reason why you were late to the Great Hall this morning? It's not like you to be late for breakfast."
A smile he hadn't seen all morning glued onto her lips. "Oh, I just went back to my quarters. To write Ronald a letter."
Ah yes. That explains the cheerful mood. Severus felt interested and leaned towards her and lowered his voice. "And what was said?"
"Oh, nothing too terrible," Hermione said with a high-pitched tone. "I wrote a very nice, long letter about all the ways that I hope that he's happy with Lavender and I hope they have a wonderful life together..."
Her lovely smile became a wide, toothy grin full of mischief.
"And what else did you say?" Severus inquired, knowing full well that her tale was not over.
"At the end of the letter, I wrote 'And I hope that your children have HER brain and YOUR nose!'"
Despite himself, Severus laughed.
The witch laughed as well and it was music to his ears.
Aaaaaand that's a wrap for this one!
What do you guys think?
Hermione's done with Ron! (finally!) She's ready to move on with her life. Question is... Who is this gentleman she now fancies? ;) Okay, we all know who it is. But I look forward to it developing for the future!
Again, FreeSpiritSeeker was unavailable to edit this chapter but I hope it was still acceptable! Please leave a Review, as it is the only way I get paid for all my hard work :P Thanks again and I hope you have a great day!
Random fact of the day: There is a somewhat Friends quote in here. Did you find it? If you did, don't spoil it :P